I want to congratulate Redstate for its four year anniversary and the launch of this great new iteration of the website. Redstate has proven to be an essential way for elected leaders to communicate with their constituents and Erick Erickson and his team deserve praise for creating such a forum.
It is ironic, then, that on the fourth anniversary of Redstate’s launch, some in Congress are working to build a digital wall between Washington and the American people. I know this has been covered here already, but for those unfamiliar, the Chairman of the Committee of House Administration (CHA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), is trying to regulate members’ use of video sharing sites like YouTube. However, there is no reason the legislative precedent could not set the stage for similar laws that would apply to non-video social media websites as well (especially considering most social websites feature all manner of media).
Congressman Capuano and Senator Diane Feinstein will reportedly introduce legislation, supported by many of their left-wing allies, which would empower CHA or another House entity to determine what websites can be used by members and which cannot. The truly Orwellian aspect of their effort is that it is under the guise of making it easier for members to post videos.
It is difficult to imagine rules so contrary to the spirit of the entire concept of social media websites than laws determining who can and cannot use them and in what manner they can be used. (The proposed rules also seem to fly in the face of the spirit of free speech in a representative democracy, but we may have crossed that bridge a long time ago when so-called campaign finance laws were first enacted.)
Aside from the affront to free speech, several of the proposed guidelines are extraordinarily impractical. One would prevent videos from being posted on sites where it may appear with “commercial or political information or any other information not in compliance with the House’s content guidelines.” One must wonder if Congressman Capuano and Senator Feinstein are aware of the ubiquity of banner ads on the internet. Now, large, rich social networking sites like YouTube or Facebook may be able to set up special, commercial free zones for Congressmen, but what about start-ups and niche sites that need all the revenue from ads just to continue service?
But let’s be clear about what this effort is. It is not a misguided attempt at good government; it is a first step toward reasserting the fairness doctrine and continuing the strangling of free speech. It is part of a disturbing erosion of the capacity for average Americans without great wealth or status to fully participate in the political process.
The internet had emerged over the past decade as a realm refreshingly free of this sort of oppressive government tampering. As a result, online activism and political discussion have flourished. Thanks to websites like Redstate, YouTube, and a host of others, average Americans without lobbyists can gain access to their representatives that they never had before, and our elected leaders and non-incumbent candidates can reach more people, easier, and cheaper. They have allowed activists to quickly organize and petition their government.
In sum, the openness of the internet has leveled the field between those entrenched in government power and those seeking real change. It is no wonder then that those on the Left who constantly yearn to maximize the power of the state over the lives of Americans would seek to start enacting laws to protect them from the “whims” of their constituents.
I encourage the members of Redstate to fight back against this direct attack on our rights. In doing so we should work with bloggers and other online activists on the Left, who, despite our many differences, do share with us a belief that the internet should be kept a free speech zone. And who knows, a victory in stopping this government intrusion on our rights online could lead to a rollback in the many intrusions on our free speech offline.
Congratulations again on your fourth anniversary. The new website looks wonderful. And I look forward to engaging you in the future.