ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of May 31, 1999
While asleep, have you ever dreamed you were in some sort of mortal danger and when you attempted to cry out for help, you had no voice, no sound would come from your mouth? If so, you have had a personal glimpse at the terrifying helplessness that is in store for you if, in reality, statists continue to succeed in their forced march toward censorship. They are now poised to aggressively pursue this goal.
Many undoubtedly believe that censorship will never happen in America, that it just can’t happen here, that the American people would never stand for it. Well, if you are one of those who have thought this, you had better think again.
One of the most alarming developments in decades is contained in the results of a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. In it, 65% thought the federal government should regulate "violence" on the Internet. A majority, or near-majority, thought the federal government should do the same for video games, television, movies and popular music.
Emboldened by this sea change in public opinion, statists have taken off their masks, openly calling for what has heretofore been implicit: federal control of the content produced in various media. Take a look at what a leading statist had to say: "Lieberman said the content of a TV station's programming should help determine whether its federal license is renewed. ‘I think it's time we look directly at programming content.’"
A regulation is a legal command and/or prohibition of certain action, enforced by the state’s initiation of force. To regulate the content of television and other media is to forcibly command and/or prohibit the expression of certain ideas. Such regulation is, in fact, censorship by the state (although statists will not call it censorship, but simply regulation).
But what statists are really after is not so much the control of television, since most in that medium are already willing supporters of statism. What they are really after is the establishment of the precedent of censorship as such. This gambit is a move toward a goal that is several plays down the road: silencing their opposition, particularly on the Internet and in talk radio.
Once statists begin to overtly control the content of various media, they will begin with limitations on the kind of violence permitted in programs. "Violence" will be defined loosely in order to allow regulators maximum discretion. Just as they did with ratings, they will soon claim that the restrictions on violence are not enough and that more needs to be done. They will then begin targeting, not just violence, but the things that supposedly cause violence: certain ideas. Each new crackdown on programming content will be the springboard for the next.
But the turning point in the suppression of their opponents will come after there is another violent attack of some sort against a government building and/or personnel. When this occurs there will be a tidal wave of outrage against those who promote "anti-government" ideas. There will be a flood of statements at press conferences, on the morning and weekend TV shows, declaring that something has to be done to tone down these anti-government shows, those promoters of "hate." They will argue that the FCC has been regulating the content of television, so we now need to do the same for radio. They will declare these purveyors of hate, radio talk show hosts, mustn’t be allowed to continue to infect others with their hatred of government. This will be the beginning of the end of conservative/libertarian radio talk shows. They will quickly disappear from the air, as the owners of radio stations begin to fear the loss of their license.
So-called anti-government web sites will suffer the same fate. There will be calls for regulation of Internet Service Providers, mandating that ISP’s block access to "hate" sites, effectively shutting down such sites.
Will the Supreme Court prevent all of this from happening? No. It may slow it down, but it will not stop it. After all, it has already sanctioned the validity of the FCC and its licensing powers. Eventually, it will succumb to the same ideas that have been driving America toward tyranny.
Once all of this happens—and it will, unless enough wake up—your voice will extend no farther than to your next-door neighbor. Statists will have, for all practical purposes, no vocal opposition. All of the media will be singing the same statist tune.
Can America avert this approaching night of silence? Yes. But only if enough speak out while they are still free to do so. If you wait until statists achieve their sought-after monopoly over the expression of ideas, that silent scream of your nightmares will effectively become a reality.
May 31, 1999
To read more by Fulton Huxtable, go to Fatal Blindness.
GALLUP POLL: MOST AMERICANS THINK THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD REGULATE VIOLENCE IN THE MEDIA
Senator Lieberman's comments calling for control of programming content.
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© Copyright 1999 Fulton Huxtable
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