Media as the conservative heart

Steve Benen wonders why conservatives are so adamantly opposed to codified net neutrality:

I suppose it’s possible that these Republicans are just deeply confused, have absolutely no idea what net neutrality is, and are spewing nonsense just to rile up right-wing activists. It’s also possible these Republicans know the truth, but are shamelessly lying as part of a larger campaign to scare unsuspecting conservatives about a “big government” bogeyman.

But it’s worth appreciating the fact that the rhetoric from prominent GOP voices really is unhinged. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) insisted that “unelected, unaccountable Democrat [sic] FCC commissioners are taking over the Internet.” Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the policy “another government takeover.” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) told a national television audience yesterday, “[W]e’re starting to see the FCC say, ‘You have to come to us to get permission to manage your own website.'”

This is complete nonsense, of course, and it’s not even the kind of complete nonsense you might get by taking reality and spinning it. It’s the kind of thing you might get if, in Benen’s formulation, you knew nothing about the policy other than that liberals like it, and that you hate liberals. But it’s also the kind of position you might reach if you see the 1987 abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine as central to the rise of the modern conservative movement. Indeed, a Google search for “net neutrality” and “fairness doctrine” comes up chalk-a-block with right-wingers equating the two policies and warning of the imminent government takeover of online speech — one notable exception, by Art Brodksy, points out that the policies are actually quite opposite.

Those conservatives who see media as the life’s blood of their movement (correctly, I’d say) ultimately trace its origin to talk radio, and conservative talk radio really took off once the Fairness Doctrine was gone. Net neutrality — and broadly speaking, the Internet itself — is a much more complicated concept than broadcast technology and the old equal time rules, and I wouldn’t expect most political operatives to understand what it means or what it does. But if you give any random conservative two heuristics — liberals like it, and it gives government “power” over some communications medium — they’re going to oppose the policy.

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    • Candy

      For most people who know little or nothing about “net neutrality,” the points the Republicans make seem valid. This is a confusing topic, made all the more so by the mystique of the Internet itself. Most users simply want to be able to access information, music, games, Facebook, email, without difficulty. The FCC (and Democrats who support the net neutrality concept and recent rulings) needs to do a better job at communicating what net neutrality is and is not, what it means to the average person online and why they should care. The longer they sit back saying nothing, the farther the conservative “they’re taking over your Internet” speech will reach.