by Jon Decker
This week, the FCC rejected a petition from the far-left organization “Free Press” demanding media companies censor President Trump’s coronavirus press briefings. You read that right — a group called “Free Press” is actively lobbying for more government control over speech. Only in DC.
But it gets wackier. The rationale Free Press used to justify its case was that during the March 19th coronavirus briefing, President Trump touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment, and, shortly thereafter, an Arizona man ingested fish tank cleaner and died. His wife, a prolific donor to Democrats and anti-Trump PACs, said she and her late husband both ingested the fish tank cleaner because they thought it was the drug recommended by President Trump. Free Press claims, on this basis, that government censorship is needed to stop “deadly misinformation.”
On the one hand, nobody in their right mind would ever have interpreted President Trump’s remarks as an endorsement of ingesting tank-cleaning chemicals, so this seems like a shameless attempt to stifle the speech of a president they don’t support.
But on the other hand, these are Free Press employees we are talking about. It’s certainly not beyond imagination that they are capable of this level of idiocy. Maybe when President Trump holds his future briefings he can make a special disclaimer solely for Free Press staff to ensure there’s no confusion.
But Free Press’s attempt to censor television content reveals more than stupidity, because while it might seem easy to dismiss them as a radical fringe-left group they have significant policy influence during Democratic administrations.
In fact, Obama’s plan to tax-and-regulate the Internet via a mangled form of “net-neutrality” was adopted by his FCC tool Tom Wheeler in an order that cited Free Press an astonishing 46 times.
During this debate, Free Press alleged that more government regulations were necessary to prevent Internet Service Providers from potentially blocking content. They claimed to be champions of the First Amendment. Of course, there was never any credible threat that ISPs would do any such thing, but that didn’t stop Free Press from claiming that the Internet-as-we-know-it would collapse if these rules weren’t enacted. We warned that larger, more intrusive government regulation was the greater threat to free speech, and the fact that Free Press’s founder was a big Hugo Chavez fan was a hint at where they were headed.
Here we are, years after Trump’s FCC repealed these regulations, and the Internet is literally better than ever. Thanks to repeal of Free Press and Obama’s mangled net-neutrality rules we can now watch President Trump’s coronavirus press briefings online with faster speeds than ever before — while over-regulated Europe chokes on surging Internet demand and throttles video traffic. And Free Press has helpfully outed themselves as proponents of outright suppression of political speech they dislike.