March 13, 2005
In my illegal opinion . . .
What part of "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech" don't they understand?
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman is claiming that "ideological extremism" reigns on the Internet, while seeming (in my view, at least) to manage an unconcealed wink at the proposed blog crackdown:
....there are also new storm signals about the Internet and its future potential for degrading public dialogue.Online political devotees? Is that a new synonym for bloggers?
It's tough to tell whether Polman is talking about blogs or the Internet, as he puts the word "blogosphere" in quotes. But he seems not terribly concerned about the obvious threat to free speech:
Aides to former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle are still smarting over his narrow November defeat, which can be attributed in part to the dogged work of two conservative bloggers who were secretly being paid by the Republican campaign.Much is made of the $35,000 paid to the pro-Thune bloggers. A recurrent, unsettled question in my mind is: how does money alter a message?
I mean, I'm not looking in the mail for my check. But suppose Republicans paid me $35,000. How would that change what I'm saying or what I think about anything? I don't see how it would -- any more than it would change anything if I gave $35,000 to the Republicans. Or the Democrats. Or the Libertarians.
Besides, I thought one of the chief complaints about bloggers is that (in O'Reilly's words), they "work for no one and can't be fired." Tough to have it both ways.
For what it's worth, I think the pro-Thune bloggers should have disclosed that they took the money. It wouldn't have altered my natural skepticism about anything, nor would it have changed my mind, but it would have helped their credibility, which has suffered accordingly. That's how things should be. They're still free to write anything they want, and they always will be.
If all readers used logic and reason, who paid who wouldn't matter. I am frequently told that the Cato Institute takes money from the lumber industry -- as if that taints their philosophy. I don't see how it does, as their work stands or falls on its own merit; whatever logic or statistics are used neither increase nor decrease in value depending on who contributes. There are, of course, people who contribute to causes they believe in out of perceived self interest.
I'm a life member of the NRA, and I've given money to gun causes over the years. This, I am told, makes me a member of the "gun lobby." I defy anyone to tell me how this contaminates or changes any of my opinions about the Second Amendment or guns. If the NRA decided (for whatever bizarre reason) to pay me to write what I think about guns, and I took the money, how would that devalue, refute, or defeat my thinking in any way? In all honesty, I can't see how it would. What we're talking about are appearances. This "disclosure" business strikes me more as a game of "gotcha!" than anything else. The really devious and sneaky people will take steps to assure that they don't take anything which might have to be disclosed, and if they did disclose it, they'd do it in a skillful way to avoid the appearance of impropriety. (This whole appearance-of-cleanliness mindset is discussed in detail in this excellent book which I highly recommend. No one paid me to recommend it, either!)
The FEC angle is even more interesting, because if McCain-Feingold is applied to bloggers, then the words I write can be magically transformed into "campaign contributions." This means that my opinions become donations subject to regulation by bureaucrats.
While I can't speak for others, I'd go to prison before I'd comply with such nonsense.
This is the biggest threat to free speech I have seen in my 50 years living in the United States. It's one of those "we must hang together or we'll all hang separately" things that everyone -- old media, new media, bloggers, MSM journalists, Republicans, Democrats, Neocons, religious conservatives, socialists, gun nuts, Marxists, Homocons, you name it -- should resolutely oppose.
Better hurry -- because at this rate, working to defeat the new speech regulations will itself become illegal!
posted by Eric on 03.13.05 at 09:25 AM
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» Carnival of the Vanities #130 from Bird's Eye View
Welcome to the weekly meeting of the Blogosphere Boys Club. What's that? you didn't know this was a men's club? Don't you read Newsweek? Lot's of noise amongst the blogs about this "guys only" perception. I don't really think the [Read More] Tracked on March 16, 2005 2:45 PM
» Carnival of the Vanities #130 from Bird's Eye View
Welcome to the weekly meeting of the Blogosphere Boys Club. What's that? you didn't know this was a men's club? Don't you read Newsweek? Lot's of noise amongst the blogs about this "guys only" perception. I don't really think the [Read More] Tracked on March 16, 2005 4:02 PM
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