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Internet free speech enthusiasts, know thy enemy. Leftist professors are fighting to keep news behind the iron curtain. 1/29/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Free speech.
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Newspapers’ self-justifying claims of being “voices for the voiceless” are quickly becoming irrelevant in a new world where everyone’s voice, from the lowly to the celebrated, can now be heard on the Internet. But, if you believe that every American would immediately recognize this as the historic, positive development that it is, you must not be familiar with the idiocy that takes place on many college campuses and the creepy totalitarian streak that still exists among many of their far-left faculty.

For example, there is University of Illinois’ Robert McChesney, who under the Orwellian rubric of “media reform” continues to apply what the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) correctly labels as Marxist principles to keep broadcast news under the control of government. Seeing the world through red-colored classes, McChesney views government control of news as good, and control by the private sector (paranoically labeled “powerful corporate interests”) as bad. But the founding fathers knew we had nothing to fear from citizens and their private interests competing in a marketplace that corrects itself. Their fear — their whole reason for writing the First Amendment — was that it was government that had all the power and no counterbalance, requiring citizen vigilance to keep them from encroaching on our rights to speak, publish, and in all other ways pursue happiness.

Of course, since we are talking about the university-published CJR — we could not have expected their article to show an understanding that it was not a “freedom-of-the-press [victory]” when McChesney helped block an FCC overhaul that would have reduced government’s license-renewal-based control over broadcasters’ speech. Nor was it a victory when he helped keep Net Neutrality legislation alive — legislation that would set a precedent for government control of the Internet. As the Internet lifts the iron curtain of monolithic center-left, government-controlled broadcast news, so that alternative voices can finally be heard, it will be our nation’s faculty who will be tugging back at the ferrous fabric.

Comments»

1. Fresh Air - 1/30/08

Not sure I follow on the Net neutrality issue. Isn’t consistent pricing for bandwidth a good thing? Doesn’t this benefit the blogger/independent journalist?

2. Steve Boriss - 1/30/08

Fresh Air,
Any law that gives the federal government permission to regulate the Internet will open a pandora’s box that will ultimately lead to federal regulation of free speech on the Internet. They can’t help themselves. This has happened with every new technology, including the printing press, radio, broadcast TV and soon, given new FCC regulations, cable TV. This is a piddly issue to set that precedent — there is no known problem, and it may be better for marketplace development if Internet pricing actually does reflect the true costs of emerging services. The Orwellian language police are fooling us by using the nice-sounding term “net neutrality.”

3. Fresh Air - 1/30/08

Actually, my understanding was that net neutrality was something being fought by the likes of AT&T, which would like to charge more for bandwidth to some (read: smaller) users. Sometimes the Commerce Clause is a Trojan horse, but sometimes it’s just part of our evolving economy.

I understand your point, but I think the potential for mischief is unlikely to go very far, as regulating Internet content would be impossible in our country, IMHO. Also, as far as the printing press goes, I can’t recall any regulations in this country outside of the Alien & Sedition Acts pertaining to content. Really, except for the dumbass “fairness doctrine,” and spotty bans on adult programming and language, there hasn’t been much in the way of real content regulation for the broadcast media either.

4. Steve Boriss - 1/30/08

Fresh Air,
The printing press was regulated by governments in Europe almost from the moment it was invented, as rulers engaged in censorship and prior restraint. These types of laws carried over to America (the first paper ever printed here was shut down after its first issue), were first challenged in the Zenger trial, and it literally took a revolution to get rid of them. Broadcast outlets have to get their licenses renewed by the government every few years and they go out of their way not to piss-off politicians so they do not put their licenses at risk. If you don’t believe me, compare the hot political talk on relatively unregulated cable vs. the government-suck-upping on broadcast news shows.

The fairness doctrine was a proven speech-killer and several Congresspeople want it restored. Any kind of hate-speech-type laws could prevent free expression here, and intimidate ISP’s into dropping certain accounts — it is already happening in Britain, from lawyers threatening legal action. We simply cannot trust the government to regulate the Internet. Especially for an esoteric problem that has not even been shown to be a problem.


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