Democrats on the Federal Elections Commission have begun the process of monitoring speech and press on the internet in order to supposedly tackle the issue of “too much money in politics.” The claim is that powerful corporations and rich “fat cats” are anonymously influencing elections through support of various blogs, news sites, and video publications online.
The internet has turned the entire political dynamic in the United States on its head. People now have access to an unlimited wealth of information about every topic pertinent to policymaking. They don’t have to wait for an elected official or the mainstream media to explain an issue through the lens of his or her opinion or position of political expediency. Voters can instead form their own educated opinions on issues and access relevant information without a biased middleman. This is great for our democracy, but liberals fear unfiltered information because their policies are so unpopular.
Experts and professionals in all fields can use the internet to instantly reach wide audiences without having to wait for a precious opportunity of 30 seconds on the evening news or 500 words in the city paper. Passionate bloggers and organizations can take this expert-produced content, analyze, praise or critique it, and push the combined content out even further into the reaches of cyberspace. Democrats, however, despite their claimed “liberal” beliefs, seem to have a problem with all this free speech and are seeking to cut it off at the source.
Democratic FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel now wants bloggers and YouTubers that are talking about politics and all things related to comply with onerous regulations and disclosure requirements. She wants individuals and organizations that post things even remotely political online to register with her federal agency, disclose their funding sources, and stamp disclaimers on all of their content. The regulatory net they are set to cast wouldn’t just cover overtly political advertisements hosted on YouTube. Their pending plans could even censor things like an economist’s online video of a lecture criticizing a given policy or the personal blog of a concerned mother, should they not comply with FEC standards. These rules will apply to people without any funding to disclose in the first place! This will have a chilling effect on free speech, of which the internet has become the leading platform.
But the FEC’s plan will completely and utterly backfire on its stated intentions.
While strict and confusing federal guidelines impose insurmountable costs on the average citizen or small organizations simply trying to get their point across and share information, the content being pushed by the rich and powerful will only gain additional volume. Moneyed interests, such as large corporations, will be uninhibited as they can hire the best lawyers and purchase political influence to keep their stream of online political content uninhibited. If you don’t think federal rules can be all that confusing to average folks, please explain why people hire companies like H & R Block to fill out their taxes for them.
What liberals don’t understand is that a free and unrestricted web is the best check that we have against the rich and powerful. Just as much as companies can post web ads pushing one view, activists have just as much power to post content poking holes in it. Of course, liberals need not even be reminded of the dozens of websites already dedicated to exposing the funding behind various organizations and campaigns on the left and right. What role does the FEC have to regulate the Internet, an arena that is already self-regulating? Try posting something patently false on Wikipedia and stand back in awe at how quickly it gets changed. Nothing in Washington moves that fast.
The ability of the powerful entities, from unions to corporations, to purchase political influence and rig the rules of our economy to their advantage is undeniably a massive problem. This is not capitalism and democracy. It is cronyism and it must be stopped. But forcing citizen activists, independent experts, and advocacy organizations through a regulatory maze that the powerful can simply stride over isn’t going to help. We’ll be right back to where we were before the blessings of the Internet, when powerful corporations did actually control the flow of all the information about politics... or have we already forgotten who owns NBC, ABC, CBS, and the New York Times?