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Silencing the opposition: Dems want Fox, OANN, others 'canceled'

by Mike Nichols, Publisher | February 23, 2021 | 13:47 CT

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California Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Jerry McNerney sent a not-so-veiled threat to several cable and satellite companies Monday demanding conservative news media be deplatformed or forced to change their content. (Photo: Tom Williams/Newscom)

Monday two Democrats in the House sent letters to the presidents of Spectrum, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Dish, and other cable and satellite companies implying that they should either stop carrying Fox News, One America News Network, and Newsmax or pressure them to change their coverage. According to the lawmakers, these conservative channels are responsible for promoting misinformation and political violence.


"To our knowledge, the cable, satellite, and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets," wrote Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both of California.


Released in advance of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Wednesday hearing on "Disinformation and Extremism in the Media," the letter makes clear that some lawmakers do not want television providers to let their customers watch conservative news channels.


Eshoo, 78, who represents California’s 18th Congressional District including Santa Cruz, and McNerney, 69, who represents the 9th Congressional District centered around Stockton, cited “experts” as declaring the “right-wing media ecosystem” – specifying Newsmax, One America News Network (OANN) and Fox News as “much more susceptible…to disinformation, lies, and half-truths.”


Eshoo and McNerney ask the companies to explain the "moral and ethical principles" that undergird their decision-making with respect to which channels are carried, how many viewers tuned in to these channels during the four weeks before the Capitol riots on January 6, 2020, and what steps were taken to "monitor, respond to, and reduce the spread of disinformation." The committee members also sent the letter to Roku, Amazon, Apple, Google and Hulu, digital companies that distribute cable programming.


FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr vilified Eshoo and McNerney for asking the chief executives of the companies seven questions with regard to policies on how they determine whether or not to carry particular channels — as an “effort to censor newsrooms.”


“By writing letters to the cable providers and other regulated entities that carry these news media outlets, the Democrats are sending a message that is as clear as it is troubling — these regulated entities will pay a price if the targeted newsrooms do not conform to Democrats’ preferred political narratives,” Carr wrote in a statement on his website. “This is a chilling transgression of the free speech rights that every media outlet in this country enjoys.”


Carr went on to blast Eshoo and McNerney as savagely attacking the First Amendment protection against free speech.


“Debate on matters of public interest should be robust, uninhibited, and wide open. More speech is better than less,” Carr wrote. “Yet the concerted effort by Democrats to drive political dissent from the public square represents a marked departure from these First Amendment norms. A newsroom’s decision about what stories to cover and how to frame them should be beyond the reach of any government official, not targeted by them.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr accused Eshoo and McNerney for a "chilling transgression of free speech rights" by threatening cable and satellite companies if they didn't drop conservative media of force them to change content. (Photo: Ying Li/Newsmax.com)

False claims appear with far more frequency in The New York Times, on CNN, and in other so-called “legacy media” than it shows up on conservative networks and websites. The traditional and acceptable remedy to misinformation is to tile a defamation lawsuit, and even that rarely works as the plaintiff must prove malicious intent in the reporting of a story.


The federal government does not need to involve itself in monitoring the supposed accuracy of media. Certainly it has no business censoring any media. On the contrary, the First Amendment prohibits Congress from infringing on free speech. Politicians are not in charge of setting the parameters for acceptable speech on the internet and television.


Make no mistake: The letter to television providers was an act of intimidation. This behavior would be equally unacceptable if Republicans were to do it. However, it is the conservatives in Washington who are defending First Amendment rights, not trying to take them away. The Left constantly attacks conservatives as being intent on wielding their power to curb the speech of their adversaries. Nothing could be further from the truth, and that is in fact the aim of the New Marxist-Fascist Left as is now embodied in the Democrat Party..


Under President Donald Trump, most of the Republican Party saw the wisdom in his populist view of conservatism as being primarily for the benefit of the people. Conservatives are becoming the voice of the American people: The farmer, the shop owner, the restauranteur, the blue-collar worker. That advocacy expresses the viewpoint that government does not — and should not — have the power to compel or censor speech.


"As the most watched cable news channel throughout 2020, Fox News Media provided millions of Americans with in-depth reporting, breaking news coverage and clear opinion," said a spokesperson for Fox News in a statement. "For individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent."


No content provider nor any social media platform should be allowed to deplatform a network or a public or private figure, for that matter. Unless a news or information channel is broadcasting insurrection — and no, my dear little liberal idiots, that is not what Fox, Newsmax or OANN is doing —there is no reason any viewpoint should be silenced. It isn’t even appropriate under the First Amendment to ban so-called “hate speech” — desirable, perhaps, but not appropriate. The First Amendment protects all speech, even that speech we don’t like or want being spoken aloud or put in print.


Words such as "misinformation" and "disinformation" no longer refer to clear falsehoods. The Left has weaponized those words to describe facts or opinions that are contentious, disputed, or highly partisan but nevertheless true. It is therefore incumbent on the consumer — no one else — to reject the idea that there is a "fake news" exception to the First Amendment.


If a statement is libelous, then an outlet can be sued for printing it. If it contains a call to violence, that is the responsibility of the Department of Justice or states’ attorney generals to address with legal action or sanctions.


First Amendment protections are extremely robust, and the government may not criminalize the dissemination of information that is merely disagreeable to some group or individual, nor even if it is wrong or uninformed. Such a move would imperil not just conservative news channels, but all speech that criticizes the government, regardless from where it comes.

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