During the last week of October, when media attention was focused on the impending midterm elections – and President Obama’s forthcoming executive action on amnesty – an issue of critical importance slipped almost unnoticed into the news cycle. Democrats on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) are getting serious about stifling free speech on the Internet.
At issue is an obscure anti-Obama ad from Ohio that wound up on YouTube. Because the spot was placed for free, it fell within the “Internet exception” the FEC has recognized – across party lines – since 2006. Internet ads of a political nature would seem the very embodiment of “free speech” contemplated by the Founders in the Bill of Rights. Democrat members of the FEC – and the American Left in general – see criticism of their Dear Leader as a serious matter, however, and in need of government regulation. They’re going to need to see your papers.
Once elected, the post-partisan president let it be known he’d brook no second guessing, let alone dissent. In 2009, vocal critics of the healthcare takeover could’ve found themselves on the flag@whitehouse enemies list, had they spread information deemed “fishy” by the administration. After Robert Gibbs’ feeble insistence that of course the White House wasn’t keeping names and email addresses, the site was dismantled.
Obama uses the bully pulpit to let his subjects know what a danger the First Amendment poses to his post-partisan agenda, and the 2010 State of the Union address was an ideal setting. Displeased with the recent Citizens United ruling, he took the unprecedented step of rebuking Supreme Court justices as they sat on the front row. Separation of powers and even basic rules of courtesy and decorum take a back seat, when the Cult of Personality needs to see its enemies’ donor lists.
Following his 2010 mid-term “shellacking,” (and while his IRS was systematically targeting his perceived enemies), President Obama stepped up his assault on dissenters. In an absurd, "middle school hall monitor meets police state" story, Attack Watch was born. Concerned supporters of the president everywhere were asked to monitor and report any and all derogatory information. Knowledge is power, especially when informing on your neighbors. And again, they certainly kept no list of names…not the folks who ask folks to document the content of group prayers.
While it’s comforting that Attack Watch died relatively quickly (and mostly from ridicule), the sentiment behind the buffoonery is both serious and scary. The Left views criticism of their president as dangerous; the Bill of Rights is secondary.
Democrat FEC Vice Chairman Ann Ravel is unambiguous about both the perceived threat to her president and the way to combat it. When her attempt to overturn the 2006 “Internet exception” ruling failed on a 3-3 party line vote, Ravel took serious offense. Because the FEC wouldn’t force free Internet advertising into the same classification as paid ads on radio or television, she needs to shake things up. “A reexamination of the commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue,” she said, as if regulating political speech is the logical next step.
This is not Ravel’s first attempt to wipe her feet on the Bill of Rights. Two years ago in California, she attempted to bring bloggers and "online commentators" under state regulation. Unbowed by her failure at the state level, she now wants to take her speech-stifling act national. If Ravel and her Democrat FEC colleagues have their way, bloggers and websites like The Drudge Report will answer to the federal government. Attack Watch was silly; these proposed new regulations are deadly serious.
Ultimately for the Left generally and for Obama in particular, this is about control. Their nationalization of the health care system was a means to get the government more involved in people’s individual lives. Things that get in the way of that control – like the Constitution – are mere impediments to be dealt with. The President shredded Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution so he could control immigration.
Does anyone think he sees the First Amendment as an obstacle to his controlling the Internet?
People are criticizing him, after all.
Martin is co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.