Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) said that Democrat efforts to censor dissident media are “eerily similar” to communist China’s during the House Committee hearing on “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media.”
“Just two weeks ago, China’s national radio and television administration banned BBC World News from broadcasting in China, because it found BBC’s reports, I quote, ‘seriously violate’ broadcast guidelines, including, and I quote again, ‘the requirement that news should be truthful, and fair, and not harm China’s national interests,’” said Johnson during the hearing on Wednesday.
“So I have to say, I am disappointed and seriously blown away by my House Democrat colleagues’ letter to the broadcasters, pressuring them to remove conservative news channels from their networks — a letter that looks eerily similar to the statement released by the CCP when it banned BBC,” the congressman added.
“So, this begs the question,” Johnson continued. “Does the American government have the authority to dictate what can and cannot be broadcast to the American people? I suggest it does not, but Democrats here on this committee seem to think that it should.”
The congressman went on to ask Professor Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School if it is “constitutional for members of Congress to pressure private businesses to do what Congress cannot legally do itself.”
Professor Turley acknowledged that the Democrats’ behavior is “an attack on free speech.”
“Well, it’s constitutional in the sense that the First Amendment doesn’t expressly prohibit it,” said Turley. “But it is an attack on free speech. We should be concerned when members are trying to do indirectly what they cannot do directly.”
The professor continued:
And this creates what is sometimes referred to as the “little brother problem.” We do have an excellent system in dealing with “big brother” and avoiding state media. But what we’ve seen in the last few years is that the use of private companies like Twitter and Facebook is far more damaging to free speech. It’s no accident that recently, Vladimir Putin called out Twitter and Facebook and said, “You’re endangering Democratic institutions.” This is one of the most authoritarian figures in the world, he obviously cares nothing about Democratic institutions, but he seemed to indicate an almost begrudgingly respectful view that Twitter and these companies could achieve this level of control, something that exceeds his own abilities.
Rep. Johnson responded by mentioning that, “from the other side of the aisle, if I didn’t know better, I would think that Fox News or Newsmax issued a direct rallying call to storm the Capitol on January 6.”
“But all of us know nothing even close to that happened,” the congressman added. “In fact, all of the intelligence suggests that any planning for the riots occurred predominantly on social media, including on Facebook.”
Can the U.S. Government Ban the Media?
The Constitution gives Congress responsibility for promoting the general welfare. While it is difficult to define what this broad dictate means, Congress has used it to protect citizens from media content it deems inappropriate. Although the media are independent participants in the U.S. political system, their liberties are not absolute, and there are rules they must follow.
Media and the First Amendment
The U.S. Constitution was written in secrecy. Journalists were neither invited to watch the drafting nor did the framers talk to the press about their disagreements and decisions. Once it was finished, however, the Constitution was released to the public, and almost all newspapers printed it. Newspaper editors also published commentary and opinions about the new document and the form of government it proposed. Early support for the Constitution was strong, and Anti-Federalists (who opposed it) argued that the press did not properly cover their concerns. The eventual printing of The Federalist Papers, and the lesser-known Anti-Federalist Papers, fueled the argument that the press was vital to American democracy. It was also clear the press had the ability to affect public opinion and, therefore, public policy.
As part of the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment’s approval demonstrated the framers’ belief that a free and vital press was important enough to protect. It said:
“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.”
This amendment serves as the basis for the United States’ political freedoms, and freedom of the press plays a strong role in keeping democracy healthy. Without it, the press would not be free to alert citizens to government abuses and corruption.
The media act as informants and messengers, providing the means for citizens to become informed and serving as a venue for citizens to announce plans to assemble and protest actions by their government. Yet, the government must ensure the media are acting in good faith and not abusing their power. Like the other First Amendment liberties, freedom of the press is not absolute. The media have limitations on their freedom to publish and broadcast.
Does anyone besides me see a deep problem with THIS government “assuring the media are acting in good faith and not abusing their power?” OMG! Imagine giving the partisan hacks in Congress a go-ahead to determine “good faith” in the Mainstream Media.
Who would this Congress “rein-in?”
That’s really a silly question. There’s little doubt that any conservative media outlets of every kind would quickly be determined by Leadership in both the House and the Senate are definitely NOT to be “acting in good faith and are egregiously abusing their power.” Media outlets such as ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, the Washington Post, New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune would all have the perpetual green light from Congress to continue to “let-‘er-rip” when it comes to attacking any of the political opponents of those Leftist government leaders. FOX News, Newsmax, One America Network, Sean Hannity, and Limbaugh’s EIB Network would quickly be toast.
World History is full of examples of heavy-handed governments that grew tired of a segment in the populace who published news in various ways. People reported things that happened among the populace, sometimes in interactions with members of those governments. Sometimes those interactions were ugly. Sometimes they devolved into violence against those citizens for their disagreements with those governments.
The beginning of the Naziism style that played out in Europe in the ’40s actually began in the early ’30s. The German people watched as a young military officer rose through the military ranks, spreading his political philosophies with which tens of thousands of Germans identified. His rise to power put his specific perspectives about Germans and immigrants who called Germany their home front-and-center.
Some disagreed with this man. And there were newspaper publishers who disagreed with his ideas. And they published stories about some of the atrocities that resulted from Germans acting on his ideas. And sometimes, they published editorials speaking against his actions and those of many who agreed with him.
As this man’s power among Germans grew, he began a process in which the German military on his authority began to demand these newspapers not to write stories or editorials dissenting with him. Eventually, Adolph Hitler, with the military in total support of his edicts, forced every newspaper to publish stories that Hitler approved. And if any other stories were published, those newspapers would be shut down.
Honestly, throughout history, government and the media in whatever forms it has existed at best have tenuous relationships. Consider the conundrum these two sectors of society always have: the news media’s only job is to give readers information about all important matters. Government has all the power of control of pretty much everything, including what and how the media report to the people! There’s a natural rub that evolves into a confrontation between the government and the media in almost every case. Historically, the government always wins.
This current U.S. government is under the heavy-handed control of one political party: the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the White House. Don’t forget within this political party are true adherents who, at heart, are actually totalitarians. And within that political structure, the government controls EVERYTHING. To those in Congress today of that ilk, the Media are in their bullseye. And the “Kracken” of Totalitarianism has been loosed!
Will Americans allow the U.S. government to grab control of the media, picking winners and losers? Leftists are going to do their best to do that. In fact, they already are.
Come to think of it: we are now in the middle of a Leftist “control experiment.” This same group has used the COVID-19 pandemic to see just how much of our freedoms Americans are willing to cede to the government in the name of keeping us safe. And, honestly, we’ve given up a much larger portion of personal freedoms than I expected would occur.
But the Media question has yet to be answered: Are we witnessing the demise of conservative media at the hands of the government with the complicit actions of the Leftist media outlets that are little more than the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party?