By Lon (Alonzo) Hosford
You are reading a heavily taxed electronic document. For you to read this, the distant tyrannical government in Washington DC and my equally tyrannical State of New Jersey collects a bunch of taxes. Is that Free Speech? In 1765 we said no!
The Stamp act of 1765, also called Duties in American Colonies Act 1765, required that many printed materials in the colonies be taxed. These included legal documents, magazines, newspapers and various types of paper used at the time. In other words all media for Free Speech was taxed. Americans would have nothing of it and revolted.
Toll Road to Free Speech
The Stamp Act was done by the British Parliament to only its colonies. The justification was for a military presence to protect the colonies. This is one of those “user tax” concepts of government that you know best as a toll on a highway. In the case of a toll road, we say “if you use it you pay more for it”. In the case of this document, we are expressing our freedom of speech where both the writer, me, and the reader, you, pay a toll for it and plenty. Paying a toll to speak is NOT FREE SPEECH! You can try to deny it but the issue is the degree you accept taxes on speech before it becomes free is in your mind.
We pay a tax on internet access. We pay a tax on the electric needed to process, store and present these cyber free speech words. We pay a tax on the telecommunications lines needed to transmit freedom of speech. Business providing conduits for exercising free speech such as an ISP, a radio station or a busy web site pay a tax on profits, pay a tax on employees, pay a tax on benefits and pay for a license all charged to you. Tax tax tax tax tax tax tax tax and then some free speech slithers through. At what tax threshold speech becomes free? How about zero, thank you?
Regulation of Free Speech
Go beyond taxes and you have regulatory functions in DC, in particular the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), but also you have the hidden “czar” functions, that work to control freedoms including speech. These regulatory functions are a distant government determining the rules of free speech; an oxymoron definition for freedom.
We had the experiment with Fairness Doctrine first introduced in 1949. This act was in the name of Free Speech and in a era of growing government control required broadcasters to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner honest, equitable and balanced. All of these qualitative terms, “controversial issues”, “honest”, “equitable” and “balanced” were defined by the FCC; that is, the government, and are not covered in the constitutional provisions of free speech.
Here is the First Amendment to the US Constitution regarding free speech:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
To extend this to cover the States from cutting free speech the 14th amendment is used
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . .
Mark Fowler, the FCC Chairman under Ronald Reagan, eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in August 1987 based on these amendments. Up until that date television broadcasting was limited to three television stations and we may well still just have had that many up until today. In fact all three were the same as they parroted their formats and content.
This is also true about radio stations. There were a limited number with limited content; mostly music. With Fowler following Reagan following Reagan’s belief in free commerce applied to media, a wide variety of competitive radio shows including talk radio appeared. The best content attracting audiences prospered and the worse did not. Government does not control it, people do. There are many more examples that can be extracted from the rapid demise of television and cable as well. Now we come to the age of the internet.
Free Speech Regulation is on the Way Back – Net Neutrality
The FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is ready to restrict the First Amendment. This under the banner of Net Neutrality disguised as protecting Free Speech as in 1949. Net Neutrality tells internet providers they must allow all content regardless of cost. It also is a plan to tell them what technologies to use and how to interface with their customers. Does this sound like Health Insurance reform?
Video: Obsolete FCC Trying to Justify Its Existence in A Modern Age
Here you see Genachowski, a young nerdaucrat, discussing the plan of bypassing the Congress and reaching out to the people to change free speech in a modern age and to justify its disappearing relevance. Take care to listen for how random selections of people will provide input in how free speech will be regulated. Notice how they have set rules of debate and discussion and without the thought that Congress should revisit the FCC purpose and relevance and be responsible for citizen input. The FCC is an area we can cut the budget without any loss.
In the video the young nerdaucrat thinks business needs to be transparent while our Obama government is not. Notice how he raises markets to entity status as if they have the legality of a corporation or person. This doublespeak implies businesses are evil, need regulation and are not made of people. The “market” is an alias for FCC relevance to define what is equitable and establish control.
The concept of government getting out of the way of the internet is the reason we have progressed further in the US. This is a fast moving world Genachowski identifies and proposes the slow stodgy government to run it. More bothersome is Walt Mossberg in the video looking to the FCC to determine how businesses respond to consumer needs. Its a trap, Walt, that government nerdaucrats like Genachowski set to control and eventually lead us into a history of bad interventions of Government into Free Speech. All the pointing, Walt, you do to the rest of the world having better broadband is mainly the fault of the out of date unnecessary FCC and the acts of Congress empowering it leaving the “market” restricted.
Near the end of this video Genachowski talks about the benefits Reagan and Mark Fowler gave us by getting the Fairness Doctrine out of the way and allowing capitalism to move us in a direction that the world is following in telecommunications. The FCC still provides restrictions keeping the US behind in developing infrastructure.
At the very end you see the nerdaucrat warning of a “crisis” looming that could happen in 40 years to justify the FCC. There you go again progressives another crisis.
This intervention is what happened to radio under the Fairness Doctrine. The radio stations found providing music the best way out of providing any other forced content and so little free speech flowed. Bottom line is that the Government, pushed by the Googles of the world, is now moving to set the competitive rules for information flow between Americans. Google, becoming the evil empire, wants the government to force internet providers to take all its content. This is something you do not want. It will lead to offering less options and businesses leaving the market, limiting innovation (perhaps there is something better than the internet for example) and raising the cost to transmit. Raising costs is a skill above all else that government excels second to taking property from one American like Verizon and giving to another like Google.
Your YouTube or Facebook Accounts Under Government Control?
Once you give a sliver of a freedom away where does it stop. Take this sliver and the next FCC overstep of Free Speech may require bloggers, YouTube channels, Facebook and just about any internet speech to provide alternative points of view. How? Well software can be developed to force other content onto your pages. For example YouTube could be required to show a video response to your public videos. Right now that is an account choice you have to allow, review or disallow. Giving that choice to the FCC is the same as the Fairness Doctrine we swept away. It suppresses increased communications and free speech. The latter is strictly prohibited by the Constitution as quoted above.
Government Stay Out of Our Internet
Your understanding of the Constitution helps you identify what appears as great ideas on the part of government to be actually infringement on rights of someone and eventually on you. Be careful what you give away because you may have to give more. The internet grew fine without government and needs no more regulation. If anything it needs removal of regulation and immunity to any taxation as it embodies the modern version of Free Speech envisioned by our founders.
Keep the internet free, yes, but as in the Constitutional sense!
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