The cyclone of legislation and engineered destruction of freedom and capitalism being whipped up by President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress (the Republicans, a.k.a. the GOP, or Grand Old Pathetics, as I am want to call them, no longer can be said to count for opposition to anything) cannot help but be accompanied by an aggressive assault on the freedom of speech to suppress all spoken and written dissent and opposition, to silence those whose ideas the administration and Congress do not want to hear and do not want others to hear. This assault represents the logical amalgamation of Left and Right.
Historically, and by necessity, one of the first casualties of a collectivist “revolution,” such as we are witnessing today, has been the free press by either its complete abolition or its takeover by the usurpers. The goal of such physical force serves a number of purposes: to silence those whose ideas are a threat to the totalitarians’ ideological and economic hegemony; to impose conformity on the public, and thus create a population of passive, yeah-saying or silent slaves; to regulate the minds of the public by suffocating them with propaganda and with a fear of the consequences of open, public dissent.
In such circumstances, the guiltiest party is a “free” press which voluntarily parrots the government line, either from agreement with the government’s ends or from ignorance. The American news media today can be charged with a combination of both offenses.
But Congress and the federal government are not the only parties stealing a march on the First Amendment of the Constitution. The Jerusalem Post of March 12 reported:
“The Islamic states circulated a new resolution at the current session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that could criminalize defamation of Islam as a human rights violation and encourage the imposition of Sharia.
“According to the nonbinding governmental resolution, titled ‘Combating Defamation of Religions,’ anything deemed insulting to Islamic sensitivities would be banned as a ‘serious affront to human dignity’ and a blatant violation of religious freedom.”
The Post reports that the only religion named in the resolution is Islam.
Of course, given the moral relativism of the Obama administration (not to mention that of the Bush administration), such a “law” would be granted legitimacy if it ever came to having to take an official position on Islam. “Defaming” Islam by identifying its brutal, anti-mind nature, by cataloging the crimes committed in its name, by highlighting the Koran’s invitation to murder, genocide and enslavement, and by reporting its pathological hatred of freedom and free minds and its barbarous conduct towards its own adherents, can be deemed “criminal.” It is the brother of secular “hate speech.” And the fact that hate speech laws exist in several states and are condoned by the judiciary does not bode well for anyone who wishes to tackle the issue of jihad.
“Introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), it passed by a 108-51 margin, with 25 abstentions….The resolution decries ‘the negative projection of Islam in the media’ and voices ‘deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.’”
I cannot recall the last time any member of the news media “negatively projected” Islam. Nor can I recall the last time the news media reported any of Islam’s “human rights” violations, either abroad or here in the U.S., such as the “honor” killings of teenage girls who stray from the deadening Muslim subculture. The news media’s knee-jerk deference to all things Muslim is rooted in non-judgmental fear. The Western press has been intimidated and practices self-censorship. Pakistan is an alleged ally of the U.S. in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The resolution was also supported by our other “allies,” Egypt and Iraq. It is payback for all the billions of dollars in aid the U.S. has sent to those countries.
A more visceral method of censorship occurred in Fairfax County, Virginia, when over 600 Muslims packed an auditorium for a hearing of the county planning commission on whether or not to allow a Saudi Wahhabist school (or a mind-killing, anti-Western madrassa) to expand on property already leased to it by the county. The commissioners extended every courtesy to the Muslim mob, and none to the few who questioned the wisdom of allowing an incubator of jihad to grow in the “community,” who were bullied, shouted down, and surrounded by hostile Muslims with the sanction of the commissioners.
The Virginia of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason and James Madison -- the colony and state in the intellectual forefront of championing individual rights and limited government -- is not the Virginia that exists today. Its governor not only endorsed Obama and signed a bill banning smoking in bars and restaurants (in an exercise of eminent domain, or the partial seizure of property to benefit others), but went begging to Washington for a cut of the stimulus billions.
Here in the U.S., the federal government and its enablers in Congress are working frantically to suppress or discourage any kind of speech they deem “offensive” or “unfair.”
“Senior FCC staff working with acting Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps held meetings last week with policy and legislative advisers to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to discuss ways the committee can create openings for the FCC to put in place a form of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ without actually calling it such.”
Waxman, one of the most power-lusting congressmen in politics, who also wants tobacco put under Food and Drug regulation, and who is practically a caricature of an Ayn Rand villain, “is also interested, say sources, in looking at how the Internet is being used for content and speech purposes.”
“One idea Waxman’s committee staff is looking at is a congressionally mandated policy that would require all TV and radio stations to have in place ‘advisory boards’ that would act as watchdogs to ensure ‘community needs and opinions’ are given fair treatment. Reports from those advisory boards would be used for license renewals and summaries would be reviewed at least annually by FCC staff.”
Those “advisory boards” would function as the Politburo did in Soviet Russia, to enforce compliance with federal criteria of what constituted “community needs” and to decide whose opinions were to be given “fair treatment.” (Are you ready for an all-Muslim version of “Dancing with the Stars” or a La Raza-approved interpretation of the Alamo?) Forgotten by the likely victims of this looming legislation is the fact that the FCC is already a component of the welfare state, having the authority to ration out the airwaves to the highest bidders and those with political pull in the name of “public service.”
The Internet poses a particular threat to the statists, because it can now replace not only newspapers and the airwaves, but serves as an alternative to those media for information, opinion, and objective journalism. The Waxman-Pelosi-Reid-Obama coalition and its allies wish to regulate it and tax it. The Internet cannot be controlled and taxed except by either the FCC or another, newer government body. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Outlook and other Internet “providers” or “common carriers” could be forced to have “advisory boards,” as well. And given their cooperation with totalitarian regimes such as China’s, not much opposition to regulation should be expected from them.
For an excellent comment on the rise and possible fate of the Internet under Obama, see C. August's Titanic Deck Chairs site here.
From rationing out the airwaves, a power it should not have, the government may be moving to rationing out newsprint.
“With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday [March 24] introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.
“Cardin’s [Benjamin Cardin] Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting systems [that is, to the various units of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting system, or PBS].”
There is an instance of beggar thy looting neighbor.
“Cardin’s office said his bill was aimed at preserving local and community newspapers, not conglomerates which may also own radio and TV stations. His bill would also let a nonprofit buy newspapers owned by a conglomerate.”
Except for government departments and agencies, big is always “bad.” And here is the logical catch to winning a government-granted “nonprofit” status:
“Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.”
And there you have it. Newspapers bailed out through the ruse of being dubbed “nonprofit” organizations would be required to gag themselves, in exchange for tax-exemptions on their revenue. The power to not tax can be as destructive as the power to tax, if the bribe or inducement is tempting enough to those who do not think ahead or who do not care to think at all. Of course, that would leave TV, radio, and the Internet as sources of news and opinions Americans want to search for, read or hear, and not what politicians and the government would prefer them to read or hear.
Theoretically, Americans would be compelled to listen to opposing viewpoints and opinions under a resuscitated “Fairness Doctrine,” a mongrel concept that purports to advance “diversity” in politics and culture but which was declared unconstitutional by the FCC in 1987 and abandoned. In reality, Americans would not listen to or watch what the government and “public service” advocates wished them to audit. The failure of Air America, a left-liberal radio station created to counter popular conservative talk radio, testifies to the power of volition. Radio stations across the country did not wish to syndicate or carry Air America because their owners or managers knew that their audiences did not wish to listen to it. (Americans already get enough of left-liberal perspectives and talking points in their newspapers and from politicians.)
“Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told radio host Bill Press yesterday when asked about whether it was time to bring back the so-called ’Fairness Doctrine’: ’I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else -- I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves….”
Which means: Any station that allows someone like Rush Limbaugh to publicly hope that Obama’s policies fail, would be held “accountable” and presumably penalized, taken over, or driven out of business. Stabenow, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and their cohorts are not working to see Rush Limbaugh debate someone like Bill Moyers (of PBS) on important issues; they know that Limbaugh, whatever his faults, would wipe the floor with Moyers and that countless Americans would cheer Limbaugh on with all the raucous gusto of a crowd watching a prize fight. The last thing the advocates of “fairness” and “balance” want is confrontation. They know they would lose.
But the fundamental purpose of the “Fairness Doctrine,” or whatever its new name might be, is not to establish “fair standards” or to enforce ‘accountability” or to “serve” the public. Its goal is to destroy the very concept of free speech, to reduce it to a contest of “he said-she said,” to give insupportable, arbitrary assertions the same weight as statements of fact -- in short, to sully the value of the freedom of speech, to nullify the role of ideas and to inculcate in one’s mind a cloying indifference to whatever anyone says about anything.
In June a ruling is expected from the Supreme Court on whether or not a documentary film, “Hillary: The Movie,” produced by a conservative group, Citizens United, is political speech or a political ad. It was shown in eight theaters during the primaries in 2008 and intended to criticize Hillary Clinton, then regarded as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. The Federal Election Commission subsequently prohibited it from being aired on television.
“Government lawyers argued that conservative group Citizens United’s 90-minute documentary…is a political ad just like traditional one-minute or 30-second spots and therefore regulated by the McCain-Feingold law, the popular name for 2002 revisions to the nation’s campaign finance laws [the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act].
“The FEC’s conclusion that the movie was nothing more than an overt attempt to persuade voters not to side with Hillary Clinton was affirmed by a three-judge panel last summer which ruled the film had ’no other interpretation’ other than as an advocacy message to voters that Clinton should not be elected.”
Whether or not the Court rules for or against the film, its decision will likely be grounded on non-fundamental reasons. The Court will not challenge the validity of McCain-Feingold, only the utterly arbitrary rules by which it is enforced and whether or not they are practical or “fair.” It will not venture to rule McCain-Feingold and every other statutory or legislative abridgement of the First Amendment unconstitutional. It will simply count beans and measure concretes and second-guess the intent of the film and of its producers.
Helping the Court dodge the issue is Citizens United itself:
“Citizens United appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that ‘Hillary: The Movie’ should not be considered a political ad. The group says there is nothing in the movie urging people to vote against Clinton. The group says the film is more of a documentary comparable to critical television news programs such as ‘Frontline,’ ‘Nova,’ and ‘60 Minutes.’”
No political principle I know of was ever defended by artful insinuation, which is what the group’s argument before the Court amounts to. “It really isn’t what you think it is, it’s something else entirely, and shouldn’t be called a political ad. It is an ‘express advocacy’ of nothing. Clinton just happens to be the subject.”
Cringing is not an efficacious method of persuasion. Far be it from Citizens United to insist that the government has an obligation to defend anyone’s right to persuade voters about candidates and issues in any style or medium he wishes or thinks the most effective, at any time before, during, and after a campaign, paid for with as much funding as possible by whatever any individual or group is willing to provide it. Far be it from Citizens United to insist that the Court uphold the First Amendment.
With friends like that, freedom of speech does not need enemies.