Exclusive: Is the First Amendment Under Assault by the U.S. Government?
by THE EDITORS
April 2, 2010
As the debate over health care continues to rage in the public forum, other news is flying under the radar – news that could have as big an impact on Americans as government-run health care.
CNSNews.com reported earlier this week that “an adviser to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to see an increase in government-funded journalism and is an advocate for a “public media” that could serve as a “filter” and a “megaphone” for a network of government-funded journalists competing with other, non-government-backed reporters.”
Professor Ellen Goodman of Rutgers University is a law professor and visiting scholar with the FCC’s Future of Media Project, the aim of which is to shape government communications policy in the new digital age.
Universal broadband Internet, the primary goal of the FCC’s national plan, is the key to correcting the nation’s civic “deficits” Goodman argues, calling for a new public media to create, curate, and connect new government-funded journalists with each other and the country.
“We have identified three core functions of digital public media, based on the directives of the Public Broadcasting Act and research on best practices in the field,” she says. “These functions are (1) to create content – particularly narratives in the form of journalism, long-form documentaries, oral histories, and cultural exploration – that markets will not and that is important to individual and social flourishing; (2) to curate content, serving as both a filter to reduce information overload and a megaphone to give voice to the unheard; and (3) to connect individuals to information and to each other in service of important public purposes.” (emphasis ours)
We have a few questions for Professor Goodman and the others involved in the FCC’s Future of Media project:
- Who determines what information is important to individual and social flourishing? How does one define “social flourishing?”
- Who determines how much information constitutes “overload,” who determines whose voice is considered “unheard,” and how is it government’s responsibility to make these decisions?
- Who determines what an important public purpose is, and how is it government’s responsibility to connect individuals with information it deems important?
The First Amendment clearly states:
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.
There is nothing specific within the Constitution that prohibits the government from “creating content,” but the idea that government agencies would serve “as both a filter to reduce information overload and a megaphone to give voice to the unheard” seems to violate the First Amendment in the sense that “filtering” online content would indeed be interfering with freedom of speech. The Founders surely couldn’t have dreamed of today’s methods of lightning-fast information dissemination via the Internet, but we can’t help imagining that they would be appalled at the idea of government serving as some kind of information filter and giving speech opportunities to certain individuals over others.
We also question how this project ties in with the notion of government bailing out failing newspapers if those receiving taxpayer dollars reorganize as nonprofit organizations.
More from the CNSNews.com article:
Public media is necessary, [Goodman] says, because while information is “abundant” today, “wisdom and knowledge remain hard won.”
This may be true, but the idea that wisdom and knowledge repose in the exclusive domain of government is beyond laughable. In fact, it’s downright frightening.
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” – John F. Kennedy (emphasis ours)
What this says to us is that the Progressive movement is moving forward with a plan for propaganda – to brainwash citizens – that will mirror whatever we have seen in communist countries. Could a U.S. version of Pravda or Granma be far behind?
Like you, we are afraid to find out.