September 12, 2010
Silencing the OppositionBy John Griffing
The Obama administration has been itching for a way to control the flow of information for almost a year, and multiple approaches have been tried. But all of these approaches have run into the same snag: the First Amendment.
President Obama began by creating his own Ministry of Truth, headed up by Cass Sunstein, a man who had this to say of the First Amendment,
Sunstein would admittedly like authority to ban what he deems "falsehoods," all of which suspiciously tend in the conservative direction. Apparently, conservative political opponents are the only ones capable of lying.
Not content with that Orwellian step, Democrats then attempted to resurrect the outdated "fairness doctrine," which required dual perspectives on every broadcast. This approach would make maintaining the current market balance difficult, as radio stations would have to go against consumers and force liberal viewpoints into the fore. The re-ascendancy of the obsolete policy was temporarily halted when the GOP squawked. But Americans can't breathe a sigh of relief, because the FCC has gone through several less direct proposals that would have the same effect, like mandating "diversity" in local radio station ownership, which would severely curtail conservative viewpoints on radio and artificially create a market for liberal perspectives. Judging by the failure of Air America, such perspectives are not in demand.
Add to this the FCC plans to implement "net neutrality," which could at some future date obliterate the alternative media by giving the FCC direct jurisdiction over internet content. Thankfully, courts have ruled against this proposal, but American citizens should not have to rely solely on the courts to protect something as basic as free speech.
To understand the radical nature of these moves, examine the views of Mark Lloyd, the new FCC Diversity Czar. Lloyd went as far as contending that conservative journalists should step down and move out of the way for their liberal counterparts, indentifying Hugo Chávez as a suitable model for desired "social change" in media. Lloyd also has no problem taxing private, and mostly conservative, broadcasters out of house and home, advocating license fees equal to total operating costs of private broadcasters. The First Amendment and the total lack of jurisdiction to even implement such changes are wholly ignored.
Proposals seeking to grant President Obama power to tax specific websites are also on the table. A new bill before Congress would give the president the power to shut down the internet under the pretense of an "emergency," potentially sabotaging public debate by limiting access to those with conservative views, who, in the current climate, must rely heavily on alternative media sources. Obama is already instructing the TSA to block "controversial opinion" sites to federal employees. When did free speech become a civilian privilege instead of a right enjoyed by all Americans?
Even more dangerous is the newly proposed media slush fund from which the Democrat-led Congress would be empowered to "save" economically suffering media outlets. Is it surprising that the most financially troubled of these outlets tilt to the left in coverage of the news? Newspapers and networks are losing customers. This is not just the result of the economic downturn. In fact, most of the loss is due to two factors: the internet and Fox News. When given a choice, Americans generally choose more conservative coverage. And without accomplices like CNN, NBC, and the New York Times to manufacture public opinion, the political left has a hard time selling its message.
It is for this reason that Americans should see Obama's drive for "diversity," internet regulation, and media bailouts as the cold, calculated attack on free speech it represents. If government controls newspapers, TV, and the internet, Americans will have little but newsletters to inform them of government intentions, destroying the historical accountability supplied by the press. If Obama is successful at what he is attempting to do, he will have entered truly totalitarian territory.
A state-run media is the hallmark of tyranny, and it has no place in a free society. Government has no business "saving" ailing media outlets. If there is consumer demand for a product, the product will succeed, even during economically perilous times. Why would government seek to save failing businesses, if not to gain some measure of control over a valued industry? If there is one thing history has taught us, it is that all should be suspicious of government help. And recent attempts at media regulation show that this latest act of government charity is about power, not about advancing an important part of the American economy.
In any case, the rationale for a media fund is irrelevant. Government should not be touching the press with a ten-foot pole. Somehow the words "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom speech" come to mind. That prohibition includes any agencies or positions created by Congress, e.g. the FCC. The courts agree.
The inconsistency between government media ownership and the First Amendment is obvious. It is hard to imagine that government, having purchased a controlling stake in multiple media outlets, would not possess some controlling influence over the "journalists" making the news. Parent companies like General Electric (GE) certainly do not appear to hesitate to use media ownership to advance political agendas. GE used its ownership of NBC to catapult Obama into office in return for taxpayer-funded kickbacks in the billions. Why should government be any different? Government has not hesitated in telling GM what to make. Why would it not tell newspapers what to print?
The recent JournoList revelations revolving around the former listerv community for prominent journalists and academics (mostly liberal) confirmed what many had already guessed: the political left have consistently manipulated facts and information to silence debate and deceive Americans. The JournoList scandal also reveals that many journalists, having abandoned professional integrity and intellectual honesty, were doing the work of government censors quite efficiently and needed no help.
The left is losing followers, and its leaders are attempting the selective abolition of free speech. This attempt must be counteracted immediately. Any of these moves, if not defeated, could set precedents for the virtual silencing of political debate and the elevation of one manufactured perspective. Some on the left have already announced rewards for any citizens who come forward with the private phone records of private citizen and prominent commentator Glenn Beck. Apparently, criminal action is needed to halt the work of a man so successful in demonstrating the criminality of the Obama regime. Speech codes are the next logical step.
Freedom of speech is the substance of liberty. If people are not free to think and express their ideas publicly, they are not free.
The press must ever be a thorn in the side of government, else government will be free to construct reality according to its own designs. The worst atrocities in history took place in a media vacuum. Will we allow President Obama to operate in such a vacuum?