3 min read
Are you old enough to recall when left-of-center commentators argued against any restrictions on speech or “expression” in the public square, insisting that the only proper remedy for “bad” speech is more speech?

I am, and I’m still a ways from a half-century.

Yet these days, that side of the political spectrum seems endlessly inventive at concocting ways to mold or curtail citizens’ speech. Here’s a partial list:

●  The Fairness Doctrine (or, “Get Limbaugh and O’Reilly off the air”)

●  Civic Journalism (or, “Let the folks at Pew shape your political news coverage”)

●  Campaign Finance Reform (or, “Make the New York Times and National Public Radio even more powerful, while limiting political speech from private citizens and groups”)

●  Net Neutrality (or, “Limit speech over the Internet, too”)

The latest target is the charitable tax deduction, which sometimes involves donations to 501(c)(3) charities that – gasp! – report facts and express opinions that are unsupportive of the political agenda of the persons trying to reduce the charitable deduction.

I’ve posted here and here on net neutrality and will write this week on the campaign against charitable deductions. Meanwhile, our friends at the Capital Research Center have just published a longer piece of mine on these free-speech issues and the wealthy philanthropies involved.

To whet your appetite, here are a few highlights from that new article.

On civic journalism:

Pew’s justification for its meddling in journalism was to “re-engage” the public with the mainstream journalism provided by newspapers and television. Perhaps Pew should have hired Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, the entrepreneurs behind the Fox News Channel, to consult with them about just why many Americans felt alienated from mainstream media and what the public actually wanted from journalism. Of course, that’s unthinkable, because of Pew’s bias against the actual views of ordinary citizens.

On net neutrality:

Tides at least makes little effort to deny its partisan orientation in support of left-wing causes, and for many years Pew has been one of its biggest benefactors. Nor does Tides do much to hide its promotion of net neutrality. . . . Tides’ Center for Independent Journalism sponsors the Open Internet Reporting Fellowship in order to create articles advocating net neutrality. How does Tides define journalism that is “independent”? Easy. That would be journalism that flows from $500 rewards to writers whose publishers or producers promise to publish a pro-net neutrality story in “their ethnic/community media outlet.”

On radical leftists’ powerful critique of liberals who use “media reform” to cloak self-interest:

[Scott Sanders and James Owens] have impeccable left-wing credentials . . . [and] warn that left-liberal media reformers should not be trusted: “Professional journalists themselves are engaged in a desperate struggle to maintain their social position as elite interpreters of daily life through controlling access to the occupation of reporting. . . . [Sanders and Owens criticize] a December 2009 workshop held by the Obama administration’s Federal Trade Commission to ponder “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” None of the speakers lived up to their own rhetoric in Sanders and Owens’s view: “Even Josh Silver, Executive Director of Free Press, did little to challenge the clearly self-serving assertions raised by news producers and industry representatives but instead reinforced their frames and ideas.” Worse, Silver cast the participants “as legitimate decision makers over community needs: ‘we need to figure out . . . what do communities really need’ so that ‘we’ can ‘really engage the public.’” That was too much for Sanders and Owens, who understandably want to know, “Who is this ‘we’ that stands apart from the public yet decides what that public truly needs?”

(Full text available here.)