Wednesday, February 15, 2006

They're Moving To Shut You Up

Brian C. Anderson, author of South Park Conservatives, has an essay in this quarter’s City Journal. If his premises are correct, it is chilling to consider the conclusions.

In The Plot to Shush Rush and O’ Reilly , Mr. Anderson makes the claim that if the Left has its way, conservative radio and other media — including blogs — will either be severely regulated or banished from the public forum.

City Journal Quarterly
The rise of alternative media—political talk radio in the eighties, cable news in the nineties, and the blogosphere in the new millennium—has broken the liberal monopoly over news and opinion outlets. The Left understands acutely the implications of this revolution, blaming much of the Democratic Party’s current electoral trouble on the influence of the new media’s vigorous conservative voices. Instead of fighting back with ideas, however, today’s liberals quietly, relentlessly, and illiberally are working to smother this flourishing universe of political discourse under a tangle of campaign-finance and media regulations. Their campaign represents the most sustained attack on free political speech in the United States since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts. (emphasis added)

Mr. Anderson places the blame directly on the McCain-Feingold monstrosity that is continuing to spawn its ill-conceived and illegitimate grotesqueries whose sole raison d'être is to stifle the free expression of ideas. As we continue down the slippery slope to enforced silence we ought at least to look behind to see the forces determined to shove us there.

They include the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, and, George – of course – Soros’ Open Society Institute. If Soros has his way, the open society will go the way of the dodo bird.

And here’s a bit of research you probably didn’t know:

Campaign-finance reform has a squeaky-clean image, but the dirty truth is that this speech-throttling legislation is partly the result of a hoax perpetrated by a handful of liberal foundations, led by the venerable Pew Charitable Trusts. New York Post reporter Ryan Sager exposed the scam when he got hold of a 2004 videotape of former Pew official Sean Treglia telling a roomful of journalists and professors how Pew and other foundations spent years bankrolling various experts, ostensibly independent nonprofits (including the Center for Public Integrity and Democracy 21), and media outlets (NPR got $1.2 million for “news coverage of financial influence in political decision-making”)—all aimed at fooling Washington into thinking that Americans were clamoring for reform, when in truth there was little public pressure to “clean up the system.” “The target group for all this activity was 535 people in Washington,” said Treglia matter-of-factly, referring to Congress. “The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot—that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform.”

In other words, we’ve been had.

Want to know what is in the works for blogs? According to Mr. Anderson’s scenario, it’s ugly:

Campaign-finance reform now has the blogosphere in its crosshairs. When the Federal Election Commission wrote specific rules in 2002 to implement McCain-Feingold, it voted 4 to 2 to exempt the Web. After all, observed the majority of three Republicans and one Democrat (the agency divides its seats evenly between the two parties), Congress didn’t list the Internet among the “public communications”—everything from television to roadside billboards—that the FEC should regulate.

Further, “the Internet is virtually a limitless resource, where the speech of one person does not interfere with the speech of anyone else,” reasoned Republican commissioner Michael Toner.

“Not so fast,” say these “reformers”:

...when the chief House architects of campaign-finance reform, joined by McCain and Feingold, sued—claiming that the Internet was one big “loophole” that allowed big money to keep on corrupting—a federal judge agreed, ordering the FEC to clamp down on Web politics. Then-commissioner Bradley Smith and the two other Republicans on the FEC couldn’t persuade their Democratic colleagues to vote to appeal.

The FEC thus has plunged into what Smith calls a “bizarre” rule-making process that could shackle the political blogosphere. This would be a particular disaster for the Right, which has maintained its early advantage over the Left in the blogosphere, despite the emergence of big liberal sites like Daily Kos. Some 157 of the top 250 political blogs express right-leaning views, a recent liberal survey found. Reaching a growing and influential audience—hundreds of thousands of readers weekly (including most journalists) for the top conservative sites—the blogosphere has enabled the Right to counter the biases of the liberal media mainstream. Without the blogosphere, Howell Raines would still be the New York Times’s editor, Dan Rather would only now be retiring, garlanded with praise—and John Kerry might be president of the U.S., assuming that CBS News had gotten away with its last-minute falsehood about President Bush’s military service that the diligent bloggers at PowerLine, LittleGreenFootballs, and other sites swiftly debunked.

Yes, that is what happened and that’s what the Democrats want to smother, as quickly and as quietly as possible.

If the Baron is correct, then entities like Pajamas Media will protect lone bloggers from the worst of the extremes of this execrable legalistic strong-arm thuggishness. Further, if he’s correct, then let a thousand Pajamas Media enterprises bloom. We will need them all to protect ourselves.

Go read the rest. See how they plan to cage O’Reilly and Limbaugh. It’s not pretty, but at least you’re prepared. If the media since 9/11 have done nothing else, they have taught us to see that they are not prepared to act in America’s interest unless it co-incides with its own prejudices. Have you noticed how seldom our interests and theirs happen to intersect?

Lovers of liberty should expose calls to restore the Fairness Doctrine for the fraudulent power-grab that they plainly are. And the Right, in particular, needs to understand how much it has benefited from a deregulated media universe. It should be confident that it has the right ideas, and that when it gets the chance to present them directly to the American people—as the new media have allowed it to do—it will win the debate. [emphasis added]

City Journal , Winter 2006


Baron Bodissey said...

Xiaoding --

If you read Gates of Vienna regularly, you know that we are not Republicans. We are appalled by most of the legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Congress.

Because of the national security issue, I will not vote for a Democrat for the foreseeable future. But that doesn't mean I'm a Republican.

You all should remember that McCain-Feingold wasn't designed to protect liberals, it was designed to protect INCUMBENTS. Of which there are many Republicans.

The Democrats benefit disproportionately from it because the Democratic rascals would be more likely to be thrown out if political speech were completely free.

Dymphna said...

Xiaoding --

The mechanics of the thing still belong to the Dems. Read the article.

Justice Thomas filed his dissent, but look at the evidence: it was the DEMS at the FEC who refused to file an appeal.

And it is definitely the case that the Congress and Prez. don't run the bureaucracy...or the influential trust foundations who spent 123,000,000.00 to get that law passed.

Clink the link. Read the bloody article. I put the precis up so people would RTWT --read the whole thing -- not so they could cherry pick the little that's here...

And the Dems aren't evil, they just don't have the same philosophy of government that I do, so I will endeavor to keep them out of power long enough that the actual bureaucracy in Washington has the opportunity to change.

They never had to worry about it before because they controlled the access and they were starting to lose that control -- voila, McCain and Feingold.

I agree with Mr. Anderson: this is the most serious threat to free speech since 1798.

Go read your history. But you could start with Anderson's article. Sarcasm only works when you know what you're talking about.
And you very obviously don't.

Wally Ballou said...

Nat Hentoff (definitely NOT a republican) has an article on the same topic in the current Imprimis (publication of Hillsdale College). Here's a link.

BTW - I am usually a Republican voter - but I think by far the single worst thing Bush has done was to sign McCain-Feingold even after expressing his opinion that it was unconstitutional. He was assuming that the Supremes would supply the guts and principle the other branches couldn't muster - he was wrong, and was in violation of his oath of office, in my opinion.

The difference for a Libertarian (at least, my variety) between the dems and repubs is that some Republicans (a minority) are sometimes friends of real civil liberty - but a much smaller minority of democrats are. Democrats tend to support civil liberties only when they are trivial (topless dancing), or are injurious to the state, as long as Republicans are in power (stop spying on Al Qaeda).

They strongly support the abridgement of civil liberties by means of hate crimes legislation, free-speech stifling political "reforms", and racial preferences.

John Sobieski said...

I think that the Democrats and the liberals are planning to regulate the political blogs without a doubt. It is important that when this starts making the buzz, we email your Congressmen.

cathyf said...

Well, there is a certain part of me that is like Sponge Bob "listening" to Plankton's plans for world domination. When Plankton finishes, he smiles politely and says, "Well, good luck with that."

Do some politicians want to regulate the blogsphere out of business? Sure they do. But there are lots of smart people out there trying to "regulate" such things as penis-enlargement spam, internet gambling, viruses, and all other varieties of internet obnoxiousness. Even though virtually everyone wishes them well and hopes they are successful, every day I get at least one email which contains an X-rated piece of advertising art. The Chinese are trying, and they are discovering that in a world where there are a million ways to mispell Tienaman, you can't censor them all.

I figure that the censors in this country will learn that "controlling" the internet is ultimately futile. Blog hosting services can move offshore pretty easily. (The folks at Hosting Matters have awesome customer support. Heck they deserve to be able to do business out of the Caymen Islands!)

On the other hand, I have this gut-sinking fear that maybe assuming that the techno-weanies of the internet will outsmart any censors is like Bush assuming that the Supremes would bail him out when he signed the unconstitutional campaign-finance law. Who woulda thunk???

cathy :-)