If you ever want to know just how close America could be to becoming a nation of social justice tyranny, just look at what some members of Congress tried to do this time. I don’t mean some ordinary folks shutting down free speech on a campus. I’m talking about a dozen U.S. senators who just went on a liberty-infringing rampage. These senators, led by Maria Cantwell (D-WA), tried to use federal law to shut down speech with which they disagree.
Apparently, the senators are concerned about “broadcast licensees [Sinclair Media Group (SMG)] deliberately distorting news by staging, slanting, or falsifying information (traditionally known as the news distortion standard).” This accusation is coming from Democratic senators!
It is what these politicians are saying, ironically, in the interest of free speech, shown in what the senators wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai: “As strong defenders of the First Amendment, guarantees of free speech and freedom of the press, we are alarmed by such practices.” What practices? Free speech?
Now, these senators know very well what staging, slanting, and falsifying information—news distortion—looks like. After all, they appear on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN all the time. Yet I can’t recall any similar letter aimed at revoking any of those media outlets’ licenses.
Signatories to the letter to the FCC chairman include the usual suspects: Senators Maria Cantwell, Tom Udall (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Surprised by anyone on this list? Me neither.
The senators asserted their staged, slanted, and false outrage declaring, “Multiple news outlets report that Sinclair [Broadcast Group] has been forcing local news anchors to read Sinclair-mandated scripts warning of the dangers of ‘one-sided news stories plaguing our country,’ over the protests from local news teams.”
Sorry to have to be the one to inform the senators, but there are indeed dangers to one-sided news stories and the media outlets listed above do it all the time. Additionally, private companies can require their employees to do things they might not like doing. As a cop, it happened to me all the time.
Sinclair has 193 television stations in 89 markets. They also own four radio stations. While I generally dislike broad mandates that force people to do corporate-mandated things they don’t want to do, the station may certainly require its employees to broadcast its promotional materials. And, as I alluded to above, “one-sided news stories are plaguing our country.” I mean, how do you argue against that when over 90 percent of mainstream news coverage of the U.S. president is negative?
As a retired cop, I’m offended when I see my political leaders trying to use the law to push an ideological agenda. However, my affront soon turned to delight. After these intrepid (or should that be insipid) senators tried to get the FCC to revoke the SMG’s broadcast license because the senators didn’t like the corporation’s free speech, Chairman Pai handed them this constitutional butt-whooping:
“Thank you for your letter requesting that the Commission investigate a broadcaster based on the content of its news coverage and promotion of that coverage. In light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press, I must respectfully decline.
“A free media is vital to our democracy. That is why during my time at the Commission I have consistently opposed any effort to infringe upon the freedom of the press and have fought to eliminate regulations that impede the gathering and dissemination of news. Most relevant here, I have repeatedly made clear that the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast.
“I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts, but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage or promotion of that coverage.”
Think about just how dangerous such an effort is—especially when done by sitting U.S. senators. Most conservatives simply say, if you don’t like the speech, change the channel. In fact, I didn’t support President Trump when he threatened to try to have the FCC revoke NBC’s license. But, I’m not sure how serious he was about it. He’s well known for his off-the-cuff remarks. Frankly, he’s got every reason to be upset with the biased coverage he receives.
Not with liberals though. Channel changing is not good enough. They won’t stop until all speech which they oppose is snuffed out as distorted news or hate speech. What they tried to do here is the political class equivalent of protesters who shut down free speech on college campuses. Only, the senators, if they’d had a more politically friendly FCC chairman, can be much more dangerous to our liberty than rioting liberals.
Proof of the aforementioned senators’ overreach is contained in every one of FCC Chairman Pai’s words in the lucid answer we read above. Mr. Pai obviously takes his oath more seriously than the senators do.