Monday, April 5, 2021

More Censorship-by-Proxy: Totalitarian Congressional Threat to Media Companies

Walter Olson posted an article titled House Democrats Go Fox Hunting in which he covers a horrific letter sent by two powerful Democratic congresspersons to the major media companies:

When elected officials browbeat the executives of regulated telecom, video, and app companies trying to get them to drop the main news channel of the political opposition—which also happens to be the most popular channel in its market—you may think you’re living in an arbitrary strong‐​arm regime. But it’s happening this week in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both California Democrats, sent a letter on congressional letterhead to top executives of various cable, satellite, and communications companies, including Alphabet, the parent of Google, which distributes video via its YouTube TV streaming service and Google Play app.

The letter denounces Fox News, as well as newer competitors to its right such as Newsmax and One America News Network, as purveyors of misinformation and extremism. And it gets directly to the point with its demands: “Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News [and the others] … both now and beyond any contract renewal date? If so, why?”

The tone of threat is not idle. Both Eshoo and McNerney are majority members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which draws up legislation and oversees regulation relevant to cable and telecom providers and technology firms generally.

This is shocking coming from American elected officials, who pledge upon being sworn in to uphold the U.S. constitution. This threat is directly contrary to the First Amendment. They should be impeached. 

It’s also shocking, though in this day and age not surprising, that some Americans agree. Here is one Comment left at the The Dispatch, where Olson’s article was originally published:

I’m all for this idea. Rights come with responsibility, Including the right to free speech. It’s time to stop letting corporations pour poison into the ear of the public for profit.

A middle ground is to separate news and opinion channels, and have regulations for what can be labeled news and what ombudsman policies must be in place in a news organization.

Here is the comment I would have posted if I were a paying subscriber:

If you gave this spiel to a hall full of dictators, you’d get a standing ovation. 

The only responsibility that accompanies individual rights is to respect the same rights of others, especially those who disagree with you. Using the government as your hired gun to silence, fine, and jail people who express views you disagree with is not respect. It is Al Capone politics.

So how do people in a free society sort out news from opinion, misinformation from truth, or oppose so-called “extremism?” Get off of your lazy mental ass and do the intellectual work yourself, then use your own free speech to counter, rebut, dispute, and correct, or in the worst case of libel or defamation, take to the civil courts. That’s how civil people deal with others. Turning to and empowering the politicians, with their coercive legal powers, to decide what is true, or extreme, or to target political adversaries is totalitarian cowardice. 

There is no “middle ground” between authoritarianism and liberty; between evil and good, or between an anti-American and an American. It’s either/or.

Related Reading:

The Banning of Alex Jones: Facebook Choice or Regulatory Extortion?

Facebook Backtracks on Free Speech Policy; Political Extortion?

The Life and Death of a Hollywood Blacklist: Sometimes censorship is a public-private partnership, by Jesse Walker for Reason.

Dem Rep Malinowski Reprises Trump in Proposed Legislative Attack on Social Media and Free Speech.

No, AOC, It's Not the Government's Job to 'Rein in Our Media': The First Amendment doesn't come with an exception for "disinformation," by Robby Soave for Reason

A Conversation About Facebook, the First Amendment, Antitrust, and “The Electronic Octopus”

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