Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Spider Addresses The Flies

Here is the "trust us while we laconically continue to sharpen the guillotine blade we'll be using a little bit later" joint statement from Senators McCain and Feingold, obviously intended to spin and calm the blogstorm that has erupted over the anti-blogging direction the FEC recently took:

As the primary Senate authors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, we have spent years fighting to clean up elections and ensure that powerful monied interests do not drown out the voices of everyday Americans in our political system. Those interests don't want to give up any of their power, and their main tactic has been to try to whip up fears, however unfounded and unrealistic, about reform.

Sorry, I can't resist a little fisking. Such as that being a "powerful monied interest" doesn't forfeit one's First Amendment right to unfettered political speech, now matter how "powerful and monied" is defined. Indeed, one could argue that it's the BCRA's architects who fit this description and who don't want to give up any of their power. But instead of "trying to whip up unfounded and unrealistic fears," they're attempting - perhaps with a bit more alacrity of late - to pooh-pooh fears that are entirely bona fide and justified.

Back to the joint statement:

The latest misinformation from the anti-reform crowd....

IOW, bloggers. the suggestion that our bill will require regulation of blogs and other Internet communications. A recent federal court decision requires the Federal Election Commission to open a new rulemaking on Internet communications. The FEC will be looking at whether and how paid advertising on the Internet should be treated, i.e., should it be treated differently than paid advertising on television or radio. This is an important issue - since BCRA outlawed soft money, we need to make sure that the FEC doesn't try once again to subvert the law by creating loopholes. So far, the FEC has not even proposed new regulations. When it does so, there will be ample opportunity for comment and debate about whatever proposal the FEC makes.

What a concept - the anti-free speech crowd is trying to dictate when bloggers can "comment and debate" about its plot to rescind their right to comment and debate.

This issue has nothing to with private citizens communicating on the Internet. There is simply no reason - none - to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens. Suggestions to the contrary are simply the latest attempt by opponents of reform to whip up baseless fears. BCRA was intended to empower ordinary citizens, and it has been successful in doing so. We will continue to fight for that goal.

Except, of course, that the court ruling (Shays-Meehan v. FEC) the FEC declined to appeal leaves the door open for precisely the regulation of blogs and other Internet communications by private citizens. The anti-free speech crowd sued in no small measure in order to batter open that door, which the judge's opinion calls a "loophole."

Ed Morrissey again delves into the details, and Jim Geraghty weighs in this afternoon. My take on it is that the anti-free speech crowd (sorry for the repetition, but it's just such an effective blanket term for those people) was caught off-guard by this latest blogswarm and is administering some emergency PR anesthetic by pointedly pointing to professed intentions in the hopes that bloggers will be distracted from the ominous direction its "reform" has taken, all in the hope that this will all blow over.

To quote the noted philosopher Bugs Bunny, "He don't know us vewy well, DO he?"

You know what the blogosphere is? Remember Richard Nixon's "silent majority"? It now has an outlet and isn't silent anymore.

"Sailor" and his band of First Amendment pirates may win this battle, but if they do, the casualties (as it were) they suffer will make it a pyrrhic victory indeed.