Port: Democrats recruiting corporate giants to silence conservatives is all kinds of wrong
Americans need to make better choices when it comes to how they get information. There is too much reliance on the cranks who populate mediums ranging from the fever swamps of social media to the rarefied air of cable news primetime. But better Americans making bad choices than politicians making those choices for them.
MINOT, N.D. — In 2016, in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump's win in the national election, Kevin Cramer, today a senator but then a member of the House of Representatives, wrote a letter to the broadcast television networks threatening congressional hearings over biased election coverage.
Cramer's (rather thin) justification for congressional involvement was that broadcast networks use airwaves regulated by the FCC.
I thought the move was foolish.
"Not only would the hearings be a waste of time and money, the government simply has no business dictating content standards to broadcasters, whether it’s regulations for language and nudity or mandated balance in political coverage," I wrote at the time .
Nothing much came from that bad idea, thankfully.
But, by way of proving that authoritarian impulses are bipartisan, some House Democrats are casting a much wider net in their quest to put their foot on the neck of right-wing programming. They're targeting online streaming as well.
Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both Representatives from California, sent the letters to AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Charter, DISH, Cox, Altice, Hulu and Google.
"What moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information, and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?" they ask in their missive , also inquiring as to whether these services plan to continue carrying programming such as Fox News, OANN and Newsmax.
Cramer's initiative, wrong-headed as it was, at least had the virtue of being quixotic. Given the left-wing political inclinations of those in the news media industry, it was never likely that the broadcasters he targeted were going to cave to a Trump supporter from North Dakota.
But when Democrats come calling? I suspect that left-leaning corporate America is going to be more inclined to listen.
Congress has no business pressuring these companies about content.
That's not a defense of the content.
Along with its left-wing counterparts like MSNBC and CNN, which these Democrats didn't mention in their letter, Fox News is an abomination. The primetime lineups on these channels exist not to inform but enrage. On the right, the rise of Fox alternatives such as OANN and Newsmax identifies a market consisting of people who don't think Fox News' coverage is outrageous enough.
Still, I'd rather have Americans mainlining partisan hate from the likes of Rachel Maddow and Tucker Carlson than have politicians joining arms with corporate behemoths in an unholy alliance to decide what we're allowed to see and hear. "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it," as Thomas Jefferson once put it (I'm assuming we're still allowed to cite the wisdom of old white guys).
Americans need to make better choices when it comes to how they get information. There is too much reliance on the cranks who populate mediums ranging from the fever swamps of social media to the rarefied air of cable news primetime.
But better Americans making bad choices than politicians making those choices for them.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com .