Monday, September 26, 2005

Courts Fear Bloggers, Attempt To Muzzle Free Speech

Here's one thing that all bloggers can agree on. "Amid the explosion of political activity on the Internet, a federal court has instructed the six-member Federal Election Commission to draw up regulations that would extend the nation's campaign finance and spending limits to the Web." No matter who you are or what side of the aisle you inhabit, all political bloggers argue that free speech rights will be violated by this unconstitutional court order. Originally the internet was not covered by such abominations as the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Self Employment Act. Now some court wants to impose limits on what bloggers say and do by making the opinions and support for candidates limited by such campaign laws.
Amazingly, during a hearing in front of the US House Committee on House Administration, even the FEC vice chairman doesn't agree with the courts action. "'I strongly believe that the online political speech of all Americans should remain free of government review and regulations,' said Michael E. Toner. Toner argued that political activity on the Internet fails to meet the campaign finance law's threshold to stop corruption or the appearance of corruption. Toner urged Congress to pass a law that pre-empts the court's action and ensures that the Internet remains exempt from campaign finance rules." Pretty clear thinking on the part of a government bureaucrat. Also, completely correct. The courts have no business regulating web speech. Where are all those "penumbras and emanations" people when blog speech is attacked? One claim is that the web isn't covered by the first amendment, because it isn't mentioned there. How can the courts find all these other "rights" in the constitution, yet think that the internet must be regulated in matters of political speech? Unfriendliness to real free speech by anonymous bloggers? Hatred of ridicule aimed at them from those who aren't part of the accepted political punditocracy? Hatred of the unwashed daring to make their opinions known? Perhaps, and probably, all three.
What will happen if the court has its way and forces the dead hand of government regulation on blogs? Listen to Michael Krempasky of RedState, "'the reaction will be completely predictable: rather than deal with the red tape of regulation and the risk of legal problems, they will fall silent on all issues of politics.'" Yes, bloggers will stop speaking on political issues. Their plan indeed? As usual, some bureaucrats seem to agree that political speech must be regulated. The FEC Commissioner said, "his agency's original exemption for the Internet was a mistake and the FEC should come up with rules for Internet campaign ads in light of the $14 million spent on Internet ads in the 2004 campaign." A measly $14 million dollars and this man wants political speech muzzled? According to a Washington Post article, the average cost of a Senate seat was $3,765,000 and the price of a House seat was $675,000, and this was for 1996! There are 34 Senate seats up each campaign cycle and all 435 House seats, that makes the total spent $421,635,000 for 1996, imagine the cost today! And yet, some bureaucrat and some rogue judges want to shut you down for accepting $14 million in political advertising.
This is clearly a danger to the internet and free speech. What would happen if Congress actually did something about it? No one since the days of Andrew Jackson has anyone stood up to the courts and told them they will not comply with a ruling. If the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rules bloggers must be muzzled, where will the next hero come from? It will have to be the bloggers themselves. Bloggers must make themselves heard and stop this unconstitutional attack on real first amendment rights.
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