Quick, let’s fast forward to the end of this non-controversy

Here’s a challenge to CNET – Prove there is a “coming crackdown on blogging”: Somebody at CNET has decided to put this ridiculous headline on an interview with a Federal Election Commissioner: 

“The coming crackdown on blogging”

Reading the story, the “crackdown” is a hypothetical, possibility of
maybe there being a chance perhaps that the FEC may try to place a
value on the link bloggers make to a candidate’s website and then
perhaps maybe try to treat those links as an unfair contribution.

If the columnist or anyone at CNET or anyone who is going to be
screaming about this today can produce one member of Congress who will
go on record supporting any such measure, I will head to the streets
along with anyone else who wants to protest this “coming crackdown.”

Produce that member of Congress who will support “cracking down on bloggers.”

Not a member of Congress who says the other Party wants to crack down on bloggers.

Not a member of Congress who says, “we need to look into this.”

Not a member of Congress who says, “the other Party is abusing this.”

But one member of Congress who says, “I’ve looked into this and I
support specific regulation and a specific new law that will crack down
on bloggers who link to a candidates website….”

If CNET can produce one member of Congress who will go on record saying
they support specific regulations by the FEC that crack down on
bloggers who link to a campaign website, then, and only then, will this
be more than another faux controversy.

Update: Finally, after all these years of wishing and hoping, I’ve been instalanched…where you’ll also find links to other views. (Background: instalanche)

Update II: I
fear this meme is going to turn into a cause that’s based on a strange
headline of an interview of hypothetical conjecture. (Right up there
with Congress is going to tax e-mail, or something) The exploration of
a theory — that blogger’s links have some monetary value and should be
treated as in-kind contributions — is merely that, an exercise in
hypothesis. Produce a member of Congress who says, specifically, they
believe the practice of linking to a campaign website should be banned
or fined or regulated, then I’m right there with you, brother. Hand me
my picket.

  • Mike Krempasky

    Rex, the problem is that it doesn’t have to go through Congress.

  • Walter Stromquist

    The trouble is that once congress passes a sweeping act like the campaign finance act, the regulatory agencies and courts are on automatic pilot. Many of our small regulatory idiocies would lack support in Congress, but they have too much inertia to stop.

  • rex

    I worked in a congressional office for three years and I can say with some confidence, this is a tempest in a teapot if there is no one of the Hill steps forward to say, specifically, “I support the FEC’s effort to crackdown on bloggers.” I agree that momentum and inertia take over in regulatory agencies, I can’t tell you how much I agree, but there has to be some inertia to begin with. “Cracking down on bloggers” in the way described has no inertia unless someone can produce a real live lawmaker who wants to identify him or herself and the leader of the inertia-leader in the movement to crack down on links to campaign websites. Again, I think I was clear. If one such member of congress can be produced, I’m right there with you. Just don’t talk to me about crises until it’s something more than a fear of a potential probliem.

  • Seafarious

    Seriously, if the issue is hyperlinks, then no hyperlink to a candidate’s home page will ever appear on a blog. In fact, the blogger will be ever so careful to tell his/her readers to “Never, ever go to ‘mycandidate dot com’, ever.”

    As a matter of fact, during Election ’04, I don’t remember *ever* going to any candidate’s website.

    I don’t think the issue is hyperlinks. And not even money, necessarily. Blogs left everyone in the dust in terms of IDEAS. And ideas cannot be regulated. But access to the ideas might be…

  • superhawk

    I sincerely hope your analysis is correct. I’d hate to think that I wouldn’t be able to link to an opponents web site to point out some ridiculous inconsistency without incurring some kind of limit on my contributions to his campaign.

    So far, our government appears to be silent on whether or not it will be illegal to try and make people laugh.

  • Stephen

    Time to repeal campaign finance reform.

  • scarhill

    Read the article. Congrescritters can say “Oh how awful”, but unless they change the law, the FEC and the courts are liable to come up with some rediculous set of restrictions on online political advocacy.

    From the standpoint of professional politicians, this isn’t a bug in McCain-Feingold, it’s a feature. Politicians (of both parties) *hate* the idea that ordinary citizens can criticize them, or support their opponents. That’s the real appeal of McCain-Feingold to the political class, and the press goes along because it has a narrow exemption that makes them a privileged class.


  • Losing Faith

    We have to remember how much power corporations have in our government now. We also must note that media consolidation has created massively powerful media conglomerates who have all been pissed recently about bloggers. This could gain momentum pretty easily. I see no problem with killing it before it’s an issue that gains momentum in the government from the corps.

  • Social Libertarian

    You want names? I got ’em. John McCain, Russ Feingold, and Barney Frank.

    John McCain and Russ Feingold: first created the idea of two classes of speakers, “journalists” who have the right to free speech, and the rest of us, whose speech is regulated.

    Barney Frank: attempted to permanently codify this, including official government licenses for “journalists”, in a Constitutional Amendment. This was to my knowledge the first time the First Amendment has ever been under direct threat of repeal.

    However, that repeal was later made redundant by the Supreme Court, which weakened the First Amendment enough that the FEC no longer needs a Constitutional Amendment to censor political speech. Barney Frank’s vision of two Constitutionally separate classes of citizens, the journalists and the censored, has come to pass.

    The one thing we don’t have to do is be silenced by McCain-Feingold. “Approved” journalists might constitute a de-facto aristocracy, but they’re still Americans, and so long as we can find one patriotic journalist who will offer his or her website as a “bomb shelter” for blogs, a “free speech zone” if you will, blogs can soldier on under the protective “legitimate journalist” credentials of their patron. If it comes to that.

    What’s amazing is that this new censorship is championed in large part by the Left. While the Right obsesses over naked breasts, the Left is aiming straight for the jugular: regulation of political speech.

    I think left-wing politicians have lost so consistently and often they’ve come to believe the system is rigged, and the First Amendment, being part of that system, must also be rigged. “Money = speech” is their shorthand for this belief. The Left has thus abandoned social libertarianism in favor of a broadened theme of Marxist class struggle.

    The belief that money, speech, and power are interchangable is not so much a nuanced understanding of capitalist exploitation, though, as of cognitive dissonance at work: the Left doesn’t want to believe that their message is what is costing them legitimacy. That MoveOn outspent the Swift Vets by something like 10:1 is a fact they block out of their minds.

  • Social Libertarian

    What the he** happened to my paragraphs? Lame software.

  • rex

    Zev Sero made the following comment…I have edited out his first sentence as it detracted from his ability to get his argument across…(Rex, you’re so full of ….)

    Here’s what he said after that opening:

    This isn’t ‘somebody on CNET’, this is Brad Smith, one of the six FEC commisioners, saying that they are going to do this. That they’re going to have to do this.

    “Produce one member of Congress who will go on record supporting any such measure”? What’s it got to do with members of Congress? This doesn’t need any members of Congress to do a damn thing. Congress has already made the law, the judge has already ordered the FEC to enforce it, and the three Democrats on the commission refuse to appeal that order. Unless Congress does something, this is going to happen. So the onus is on you to produce one member of Congress who will go on record calling for the repeal of McCain-Feingold, or amending it to exempt web sites, email lists, etc.

  • rex

    CNET chose the headline “The coming crackdown on blogging” and a columnist fashioned the piece. I believe you will see an uprising on members of congress going on rrecord for a measure to exempt bloggers from being fined for linking to campaign websites. Are you kidding? Members of Congress are the linkees.

  • Blue

    Rex, Zev is right, in that it will take an affirmative action by Congress of actually passing a new law or amendment to the existing law to prevent the FCC from doing just what Brad Smith warns of. Hyperbole aside, the headline isn’t what matters. It’s the fact that McCain and Fiengold already petitioned the court to end the “loophole” for the internet. I hope you are right that there would be a backlash, but I fear politicians are more interested in keeping their jobs than free speech (which is how M-F got passed in the first place). Restricting free speech only helps the incumbents, the same people we trust to protect our rights.

  • JohnM

    The issue is not whether there are sufficient representatives to support Feingold. It only takes one — a proper leaning judge. Since the passage of the bill it has become the law of the land. As a consequence a judge has pervue to rule on it’s application. And by extension to expand or contract provisions therein based on WHATEVER.

    So the fuse was lit several years ago. It just takes the right judge on the bench to make it so.

    Be very afraid.

  • Tom Blumer

    This is close enough for me (too close), and represents the mentality of those who would regulate Internet speech:

    –The Net needs “gatekeeping,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton to a select group of important people and special reporters last week, demonstrating yet again the government’s tendency to be wrong.


    –“We are all going to have to rethink how we deal with this,” she answered, “because there are always competing values. There’s no free decision that I’m aware of anywhere in life, and certainly with technology that’s the case.”

    Although technology’s new developments are “exciting,” Hillary continued, “There are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function. What does it mean to have the right to defend your reputation, or to respond to what someone says?”

  • pennywit

    I would point out that when the FEC initially decided not to regulate the ‘Net, Rep. Shays pressed suit in the courts to force the FEC’s hand.


  • Brian H

    I look forward with interest to the first attempt to establish a monetary value to such a hyperlink. The varibles involved truly boggle the mind! Traffic on the site, nature of the usual readership, number of actual clicks — all compared to what? Paid ads on websites? Blogads on the sidebar?

    Oh, this will be fun!

  • Joshua Chamberlain

    Brad Smith is already telling you what the regulation the FEC proposes is going to contain. Congress doesn’t have to do anything. Once the regulation is passed by the FEC, do you have any reason to think a federal court will uphold a challenge of the reg as overbroad after SCOTUS upheld McCain-Feingold? No, you don’t.