Monday, December 22, 2003

Rights & Reason: Googling Leftism

The Adam Smith Institute, a British free market group, warns that Google will be the next major target of anti-corporate leftists. ASI’s Alex Singleton cites an interview with a reporter for the state-subsidized BBC, who bemoans the selfish motives of Google’s leadership:
BBC Online journalist Bill Thompson met Google co-founder Sergey Brin in 2000 and found the man "completely devoted to making a better search engine rather than making himself rich... Now his search engine is the equivalent of programmes on ITV, there solely to attract eyeballs for advertisers."
Thompson wants the British government to regulate Google and other for-profit search engines—he actually calls for an “Office for Search Engines”. Before you dismiss this idea as ridiculous, consider the British government’s record on protecting commercial speech rights. In November 2002, CAC’s second amicus brief in Nike v. Kasky discussed the UK’s campaign to cleanse public affairs television of commercial influence:
Recently, the British Government’s Independent Television Commission banned the further telecast of “The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board with Stuart Varney,” a current affairs discussion program produced in the United States, and initially aired in Britain on CNBC Europe. In a letter to CNBC Europe, the ITC “sharply reprimanded” the network for airing the program, because British policy prohibits current affairs programming from having commercial sponsors. The Wall Street Journal was accused of sponsoring the program in order to promote sales of their print newspapers. The ITC reasoned: “The finding against CNBC Europe has nothing to do with…‘the ability of a commercial TV network to exercise free speech,’ but everything to do with the right of viewers to have access to news and current affairs that is, and can be seen to be, free from commercial influence.”
The automatic association of commercial motives with intellectual corruption is a cornerstone of modern leftist ethics. It explains campaign finance reform, media ownership restrictions, and similar policies that the nation’s Founders would have condemned as naked assaults on individual rights. Sadly, the left has largely succeeded in convincing a large plurality of the western world that commercialism equals evil.

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