The Center Square [By William Haupt III]-
“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”
– John Gilmore
The Roaring Twenties was a period of gaiety, novelty and modernity made possible by many new inventions. It was a decade of growth and prosperity that brought us new technologies like moving pictures, new communication devices and the radio. These inventions changed our lives forever. After World War I, manufactured and homemade radios could be found in almost every home in the world.
By 1927, when radio dominated public information forums, Congress passed the Radio Act. This was to protect the public’s interests. As stations expanded and with TV on the horizon, in 1934 the Federal Communications Commission was created. It issued licenses, monitored aired content for decency, and ensured all forms of electronic communication co-existed under implicit guidelines.
By 1947, when KTLA TV in Hollywood made its first 21 minute broadcast, the FCC told founder Gene Autry that the same FCC guidelines for radio would apply to commercial television.
“I just can’t believe that the cowboy is trying to put pictures on a light bulb.”
– Ronald Regan, President, SAG
Although during World War II all radio stations freely donated air time to support the war, in 1949 the FCC bowed to political pressure and passed the Fairness Doctrine. This obligated TV and radio stations to grant equal air time for opposing views on controversial topics that they aired due to the threat of Communism.
“I think that government makes sure that everyone is treated fair.”
– Barack Obama
For years, radio and TV stations fought the “unfair” Fairness Doctrine. And after numerous court challenges, the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987. But surely it did not please everyone. As conservative talk radio blossomed and liberal talk radio stations tanked, the left has been squealing for the FCC to bring back the Fairness Doctrine; because conservative talk radio is unfair to them?
As liberal copywriters invaded newsrooms, the media moved further left. But conservatives didn’t ask the FCC to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Since telecommunication is market driven and liberal media is losing market share to sources considered more reliable, the leftists’ demands to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine are nothing more than an attempt to censor competitive media.
“Both free speech rights and property rights belong legally to individuals.”
– Thomas Sowell
By 1990, when internet search engines appeared, the internet was left unfettered by the FCC. But in 1996 when the personal computer made its way into U.S. homes, the FCC, under TCA section 706, regulated the internet as a common carrier. This included access and content. This did not censor content or limit access but it allowed it to grow as a free enterprise with few restrictions.
But it suffered a setback in 2015. Barack Obama espoused the FCC to impose 1930s regulations on broadband under the guise of net neutrality. This was a cover up for more government control of internet providers. Broadband investment dropped historically for small providers, cable operators, and startups. When global internet expansion outpaced the U.S. by double digits, in 2018, the FCC passed the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. This removed all restrictions on internet providers.
But with the rise of U.S. socialism, the only thing spreading faster than COVID-19 is leftist calls for more censorship! Harvard law’s Jack Goldsmith wrote that China is “largely right and the U.S. largely wrong” in not limiting internet speech. He opined, government must censor free speech to make sure it’s compatible with society’s norms. But he failed to quantify “who determines these norms”?
Liberals also dislike the 2018 internet reforms since they can’t block content that criticizes radical views on social media. To circumvent the law, popular social media websites single out members who post comments and links critical of their views by “shadowing” what they are posting. This is their “fairness doctrine” to limit sharing posts to their friends and hiding them from public viewing.
Recently Twitter, Facebook and Google admitted they’re censoring conservative speech and the FCC is taking action. Although for years the left has tried to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in an effort to silence conservative talk radio, they’re silent about them limiting content that criticizes their radical views.
“Talk radio stations are unfair. They only present conservative views!”
– Nancy Pelosi
The most disturbing act of censorship came from NPR, which admitted it would not post news about the Bidens’ shaky dealings in the Ukraine. NPR is “privately and publicly funded” and sends news and shows to 797 public FCC controlled radio stations! A recent 2015 FAIR study found that NPR falls short in reflecting diverse public opinions and has a board dominated by leftist liberals.
Congressional socialists said they want increased censorship of what is considered “hate speech or fake news” on the internet if they take control of Congress. This is what they’ve been doing in socialist and communist countries for years! They can’t afford to expose people to the truth. Once they learn about it, they will seek reforms like what happened in 1989 in Tiananmen Square.
“Our view of democracy is to make sure people see facts and truths.”
– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Hillary Clinton recently demanded that political speech be regulated to avoid the “manipulation of information.” She claimed that is what cost her the presidency in 2016. In socialist Europe, people are losing free speech rights in Italy, France and Germany. The same is happening in many Asian countries. Penalties designed to censor speech across the globe have damaged democratic liberty.
The left has abused our free speech since the Chinese hid information about the coronavirus from the world. They refused to call a UN conference when Donald Trump requested it months before it hit the U.S. Yet Rep. Adam Schiff blamed “Donald Trump” and demanded the executives at Google, YouTube and Twitter, censor everything that Congress deemed “false information” about COVID.
“We can’t allow voters to decide if this president is fit for office. We must do it here!”
– Adam Schiff
Adolph Hitler said, “A ‘strong leader’ determines the truth.” The left could not control talk radio by bringing back the Fairness Doctrine so they did the next best thing: they are judge and jury what is “fair” on popular websites. But this is an oxymoron: The only sure cure for inaccurate speech is to defend a position with rebuttal speech; not regulation. To the left, fairness is declaring all opposing views as “misinformation or false” and refusing to allow them to be seen on the internet by others.
The left’s new definition of free speech is what our founders eradicated with the First Amendment. The colonies were against ratification unless they were guaranteed a bill of rights. And the very first one was “freedom of speech.” We would not have a nation without our bill of rights. Censorship is not “being fair.”
“Free speech is not regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter. The audience that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance.”
– William Douglas