Presidential Press Police
February 18, 2014
Sending food inspectors to make sure our meat is not contaminated is constitutional. For the president to send FCC inspectors into the newsrooms of United States media organizations is decidedly unconstitutional. Obama claims to be a Constitutional scholar. He must have been absent the day they discussed the First Amendment.
Fortunately the good guys won this one. Before the first Administration spy was sent out to enforce Obama’s idea of proper news, one of the five FCC Commissioners blew the whistle on this gross violation of the free press, and the FCC backed off – for the time being. But don’t think for a minute that they have given up. They lost this battle, but they still intend to win the war. They still intend to control the news Americans are allowed to see.
When the story broke that the government planned to implant inspectors in TV, radio and print newsrooms to enforce “information equality” my first thought was to wonder whether the newscasters were talking about Red China or the still mostly-Communist Russia. When I realized that they were talking about the nation that first enshrined freedom of the press as one of the most important of all liberties, I was floored.
Communist nations have always run the news, or, in the rare instances where independent (even foreign) news organizations existed, they were always heavily censored. Every Communist military unit had a “political officer” in addition to its titular commander. Guess who had the final say concerning what news was released?
But this is America.
One of the few truthful things I ever heard Obama say was, “We live in a democracy where a free press, free expression and open flow of information helps hold me accountable.” These are nice sentiments. If only he lived by them.
Instead he has repeatedly attacked and tried to discredit reporters who disagreed with him. He spied on Fox news reporter James Rosen as well as his parents. He has tried to imprison reporters who published information that was not covered under national security rules. His "Justice" Department has hacked into e-mails and phone calls to and from both newspaper and TV reporters.
Richard Nixon has been properly criticized, and was forced to resign for spying on his political opponents. But Nixon would never have stooped as low as Obama has. Obama's White House and administration have the worst record of trampling on freedom of the press of any US president.
In fact, United States, once known for having the freest press in the world, under Obama has dropped to 46th among all nations in terms of freedom of the press. The just-published 2014 World Press Freedom Index has Finland as number one. Botswana and South Africa are two of the 45 nations that have more freedom of the press than the United States of America.
What started this FCC mess? The Obama administration tried to quietly push through new rules that would have effectively created Presidential Press Police who would infiltrate radio, TV, magazine and newspaper press rooms to monitor the stories they reported on, as well as their political leanings.
All of this would've been done supposedly to support “media equality.” Somehow the News Police would insure equal access to news. The last time I checked every American had equal access, either by buying a newspaper or turning on the radio or TV. The FCC also stated they wanted “media equality” for women and minorities. What would that look like? Would some media czar decide how many stories had to be written about women or Hispanics? That's just a short slide down the slippery slope to deciding how many stories had to be done about Democrats or Republicans.
You may say, "What's wrong with that?" Shouldn't the media be “fair?" If "fair" means being honest, of course. But if "fair" means writing complementary articles about people on both ends of the political spectrum, it's ridiculous.
There've always been TV and radio stations that have leaned right or left in their commentary. And from the beginning of our nation the same can be said of newspapers. This is a vital part of our political discourse.
If people don't like the commentary of their media outlet they can go elsewhere. But if the president doesn't like it, and he succeeds in grabbing the power to do so, he can crush any media outlet he chooses. That is why his statement, which I quoted earlier (however insincere he was when he made it) is so crucial.
The scary part about this whole episode is that it made it all the way from the White House, through the FCC bureaucracy, and to the Federal Communications Commission itself before anyone questioned it. Of the five Commission members only one brave man, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, spoke out strongly against the program. He should receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his courage. But he will have to wait until we have a president who believes in freedom.
The 78 page mandate included these among the many questions that would be asked of media owners, managers and journalists:
“What is the news policy of this station?”
"Who decides which stories are covered?"
"Have you ever suggested coverage that was rejected by management?"
Commissioner Pai continued, "The agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. As a consumer of news, I have an opinion. But my opinion should not matter more than anyone else's, merely because I happen to work at the FCC."
Within hours after the story broke in the Wall Street Journal, FCC head Tom Wheeler said that he planned to remove some of the more controversial questions. But he did not agree to end the entire program.
After Fox News broke the story nationwide, Wheeler issued yet another statement: “Media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the study.”
But he still defended the program itself, claiming that some areas of the nation have news outlets that are dominated by one political party or another. Really? I know whole states that are dominated by one political party; New York and California come to mind.
But that is not the mission or the mandate of the FCC. In other words, it is illegal for them to be involved in these matters. That's why they backed down so quickly when the program was uncovered. If it had not been for Ajit Pai, this could've been another of the thousands of unconstitutional programs that become part of the fabric of the monster that we know as the Nanny State.
The irony is that none of this matters if the goal is truly a free and fair press. When I was a child I lived in a large town, West Palm Beach, Florida. There were only two TV stations and one newspaper. I don't remember how many radio stations there were. And of course Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet.
But today, the tiniest hamlet in the smallest county of the smallest state has access to hundreds of TV and radio stations, as well as millions of websites purveying more points of view than any human could ever possibly assimilate. So the stated reason for this violation of the First Amendment and intrusion into the news process does not hold water.
The only reason for this multimillion dollar expenditure of taxpayer money is the obvious: Control. Supposedly, compliance with the program would be voluntary. But when a government agent from the commission that issues your license asks you to voluntarily answer questions, you're going to answer the questions.
Using the information they gather enables them to decide which news outlets to target with various forms of harassment: IRS investigations, phone tapping, and the myriad of other abuses of power in which this administration has engaged.
It is interesting to note that the five media outlets that typically howl in outrage at the slightest hint of intrusion on press freedom have been strangely silent on this issue. The New York Times, the Associated Press, and the evening news programs of the three major networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) all ignored this story. Only Fox News raised the issue.
Why would the Big Five media sources ignore this trampling of the First Amendment by Obama? Could it be because they were his biggest cheerleaders in both elections? Or am I just being cynical?
Now that we know about this, we need to keep a close watch on the FCC. Remember that freedom isn’t free. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
FCC Official Warns Agency Could Stifle Freedom of the Press
A Grim Report on Press Freedoms Under Obama
In the Obama Administration Officials are Increasingly Afraid to Talk to Press
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