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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogs Threatened by McCain-Feingold

Suffocating the First Amendment
The Washington Times
October 12, 2005


What is perhaps the one thing the left-wing DailyKos.com and the right-wing RedState.org, both political blogs, agree on? That when it comes to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold), the government has no business telling them what to do. The Federal Election Commission has tried to keep this anti-free speech legislation out of the Internet, even after a federal judge ruled that it must apply the law equally to cyberspace. The judge's ruling, however, has put the FEC in the unfortunate position of rewriting the rules so that a blogger can still do what he wants without angering the campaign-finance police.

Some members of Congress are rightly pessimistic that the FEC will be able to do that. Lawmakers ranging from Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, on the right to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on the left have drafted legislation to shield bloggers and political news sites from McCain-Feingold's "public communications" clause, which regulates political advertising coordinated with political campaigns. Essentially, the Online Freedom of Speech Act would grant bloggers and political sites the media exemption McCain-Feingold bestows on such outlets as The Washington Post.

But while The Post editorial page claims sympathy for the free speech of bloggers, it nevertheless thinks an unregulated Internet is "dangerous" and the popularity of the OFSA legislation "disturbing." "The concerns about the potentially corrupting influence of six-figure donations apply just as much if that cash is spent in cyberspace," The Post editorialized yesterday.

But The Post's analysis displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how blogs and political sites operate. Political blogs aren't widely read because they are funded by some multimillion-dollar company through political advertising. As Michael Krempasky, director of RedState.org, testified before Congress last month, money has very little to do with it. "Bloggers don't have influence because they start with large chunks of capital -- in fact, most if not all start out as relatively lonely voices with tiny audiences. By delivering credible, interesting, and valuable content, their audience and influence grows over time, " he said. In other words, blogging is an endeavor subject to the rules of the free market. Inside this unbridled exercise in free speech, the good rise to the top, while the hacks and frauds go ignored or quickly disappear.

Arianna Huffington's recent foray into the blogosphere reveals, if anything, that having millions of dollars at your disposal and a celebrity roster on hand could still result in a lousy blog. But applying McCain-Feingold to the Internet, even if diluted to protect bloggers, would mean that only millionnaires like Mrs. Huffington, or those funded by them, could afford to start a blog. Everyone else, like those who pay nothing for a site at Blogger.com, would have to have some way of knowing if their blogging is violating the briar patch of campaign-finance laws which only lawyers know how to navigate. Forcing a potential blogger to hire a lawyer would effectively kill the blogosphere as we've come to know and appreciate it. That would be a far more "disturbing" scenario than The Post envisions.


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9 comments:

i eat puppies said...

I'm not sure I understand this proposed law very well, but if you don't take money from political groups, than you can say whatever you want, right?


I don't see where money to start a blog matters. As you've shown, you can get a free blog.

Show me what I'm missing

i eat puppies said...

Just out of curiosity, do you find it at all ironic (or disgusting) that when Dems oppose a Bush SC nominee, the administration and the right-wing noise machine trumpet that a person's religous faith is off limits, but when conservatives oppose the nominee, they can't get to the microphone fast enough to presen that person's religious faith as the primary justification for their confirmation?

This stinks of hypocrisy.

James Howard Shott said...

Pupp, you've probable seen the new post that explains the threat to blogs.

RE: religious faith, Repubs/conservatives see religious faith as a plus, so they cite it as an asset, and criticize those who treat it as a negative.

Mr. Middle America said...

Hmmmmm... what is truly amazing about that philosophy, James... is that the country that has allowed the Protestant brand of the Christian faith to grow... did so by having that separation we hear of so much.

Every single thing is cyclical... or at least sine wavish! The Chrisitan Faith is up right now... But I really believe it is peaking. People kind of have (let me draw from pop culture) religion fatigue at this point in time.

If they go down the road of making it okay to base political decisions on religious ideology... don't they realize that any other faith (however that is defined) could very easily come into power 50/100 years from now... where they will be the minority... And you can bet they won't be promoting this religious ideology.

We have Feast or famine. We need a little balance.

James Howard Shott said...

… the country that has allowed the Protestant brand of the Christian faith to grow... did so by having that separation we hear of so much.

Well, MMA, that was the idea from the start: To prevent through the Constitution any state-sponsored religion from being forced upon the people, and the strong religious feelings (not just Christianity) prevalent in the mid-eighteenth century would flourish or die of their own volition. It should be no surprise that religion is still far stronger in the U.S. than secularism, or atheism.

True enough that some people do have what you termed “religion fatigue,” but I think that feeling belongs to a minority. It is a loud minority, and it attracts a lot of attention, partly because of the large number of fellow travelers in the MSM, but it is nonetheless a minority. It may be a growing minority, but the people who identify themselves with some form of religion still vastly out number them. And, I think that rather than religion fatigue, it is fear of religion.

Exactly whom do you see as making it okay to base political decisions on religious ideology, and what exactly are you talking about?

If you are talking about John Roberts and Harriet Miers using their religious beliefs on the Supreme Court, I think you have a misconception about judicial conservatives, or a more appropriate term, originalists. Originalists do not base their decisions upon religious beliefs, but on the language and original intent of the framers. If those two things happen to coincide, it is because during the time the Constitution was written, and considering the people who lived in the United States and their high degree of religious conviction, the Constitution reflected the prevailing thought at the time.

The Constitution reflects what the framers believed would be the best set of rules for a small, non-intrusive federal government that would protect freedom. It does not contain provisions for abortion, or for welfare, and other such “modern” constructions, because the framers did not believe in abortion, and there was no need for the government to take care of people. It would have been contrary to the concept of a small, non-intrusive federal government to address either of those (and other similar) issues. Similarly, a right to privacy is not mentioned, because doing so would have protected all manner of “private” activities, including crimes committed in “private.”

But back to the subject of religion: There really is no strong movement to impose religion on the people, but there is a strong movement among religious people to strengthen religion as an essential part of the lives of Americans. You don’t need government to do that, and, of course, government can’t do that. The majority of Americans say they are religious, and they are fed up with the loudness, if not the number, of voices promoting secularism. What you are seeing is an anti-secular rebellion.

Mr. Middle America said...

"Exactly whom do you see as making it okay to base political decisions on religious ideology, and what exactly are you talking about?"

*chokes on food* James! Miers. Bush. Public statements. 'nuff said.

Nothing about John Roberts... he can be religious all he wants, as can you or I. But it was NOT the identifying issue.

"Originalists do not base their decisions upon religious beliefs, but on the language and original intent of the framers."

We have to be honest here... Neither you nor I can know what Miers will do... other than but go by Rove (through Dobson) and Bush have already stated.

"The majority of Americans say they are religious, and they are fed up with the loudness, if not the number, of voices promoting secularism. What you are seeing is an anti-secular rebellion."

I am forced to take issue with that. I consider myself a religious person. But that is my private life. Occurring in my home... In the public sphere I do not want those issues to impose their bliefs upon me.

Mainly because there are as many interpretations of religious code as there are interpretations of what the "Original Framers" intended.

James Howard Shott said...
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James Howard Shott said...
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James Howard Shott said...

MMA:

So you mean that because Mr. Bush noted that Ms. Miers is religious, you believe that was the basis of his decision? Do you think there are no other factors influencing his decision, or just that religion was the most important?

…other than but go by Rove (through Dobson) and Bush have already stated.

But what they have stated is that they believe she will strictly interpret the Constitution. Is that a bad thing, from your point of view?

In the public sphere I do not want those issues to impose their bliefs upon me.

If you are strong in your beliefs, no one can impose their beliefs on you. But the premise you set forth assumes that some group is attempting to impose their beliefs upon you, and even to the limited extent that that may be true, there is no effort on the part of government to allow that to happen.

What I see happening, as I said previously, is that the majority of Americans are starting to take a stand against the increasingly brazen liberal/secularist agenda that has already pushed through abortion on demand (for any reason, at any time), is trying to normalize homosexuality and gay marriage, has pressed for removing all references to the Christian God from the public square, has to a frightening degree replaced punishment for crimes with “understanding” of the cause (think about the huge number of soft sentences for those who sexually abuse children), has blamed society for criminal behavior and the poor, has removed the ability of both schools and parents to discipline children, and a host of other dangerous and/or undesirable societal changes. These changes weaken the culture that we inherited from those brave and wise men and women in the mid 18th Century who fought for our freedom, and carved our rights in stone through the Constitution. Remember that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and also remember that there are “rights” we don’t, and shouldn’t, have.

Mainly because there are as many interpretations of religious code as there are interpretations of what the "Original Framers" intended.

You’re right about religion, of course. There are many different ways of being spiritual. That is because God/the Supreme Being is not manifest; we can’t put our hands on Him and hear or read His own words to know what the truth is. But that is a far different situation than knowing what the framers intended, because we can put our hands on the very documents that they wrote that tell us what they intended, and we can further ascertain what they meant in areas where the intent is somewhat vague through our knowledge of the times in which these fundamental ideas were expressed.

This is why the only suitable people to sit on federal courts are originalists. Otherwise, we lose our connection to the underpinnings of our nation, our society and our way of life. We have to have a stable set of rules to play by, and we have to be very careful about changing those rules. If we are going to change the rules every time some group doesn’t like something, or someone’s imagined "right" to do whatever they want to is challenged, we may as well throw out the Constitution. To use the analogy of Walter Williams, how would you like to play poker with a “living” set of rules when, at some point, the rules might be changed so that my pair might beat your flush?