Censoring Sinclair

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The Democrats, still reputed in some quarters to be the party of permissiveness, have asked the Federal Elections Commission to prevent the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of 62 TV stations, from airing a program based on the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Dems are also mulling "whether to challenge Sinclair when licenses for its local stations come up before the Federal Communications Commission for renewal."

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  1. Liberalism only exists because of the control of information by those who advocate liberalism. With honest information, most well-intentioned, non-professional liberals would become conservative. Good article on this in http://www.logictimes.com – The Importance of Rathergate.

  2. Oh, give me a break. This goes way beyond partisan bickering… Read what Reed Hundt, former FCC chair, says on this issue.

  3. What Doug said.

    Yeesh.

  4. I agree that this goes beyond partisan bickering. I dislike Sinclair and despise Bush, and I probably won’t care for the program. But I think freedom of speech is more important than any of that.

    I saw Hundt’s comments earlier today. Reed Hundt has never been a friend of the First Amendment; it’s no surprise the tiger hasn’t changed his stripes.

  5. Yes, the lesson to be taken from this whole Sinclair thing, and the Bush reelection campaign more generally, is that DEMOCRATS are a danger to freedom of speech, the free exchange of ideas, etc.

    I repeat. Yeesh.

  6. How exactly is this any different than Republicans going nuts over the CBS show about the Reagans? Or the implied threats of Republican Congressmen to CBS about the outcome of de-regulation if they didn’t pull that mini-series?

    Dan,

    You have slipped into true believerism mode. You sound a bit like Martin Luther arguing that only if everyone read his work, people would become Lutherans; however, much to his surprise, of course, people took from his work what they wanted, or rejected it in whole – pissing him off so much that he by his later years he was advocating genocide against Jews, Anabaptists, Catholics, etc.

  7. Sinclair is about to become Janet Jackson’s other nipple.

    I think the Michael Powell is in a real bind philosophically on this one. Powell and the FCC has already played their hand by deciding to fine broadcasters for their programming because their stations are public airways and not private like cable stations or the web.

    Either broadcast is public and regulated or it isn’t. I’d prefer that it isn’t, but you can’t have it both ways.

    I suggest for now that Sinclair put their program on a cable station. In fact, I would love to see a week where two competing cable networks played nothing but opposing partisan documentaries — sort of a docu-slug-fest.

  8. How exactly is this any different than Republicans going nuts over the CBS show about the Reagans?

    Well, I didn’t approve of that either. But there’s a very big difference: As far as I’m aware, the Republicans never asked the government to stop CBS from airing the miniseries.

    Even if they did, of course, that wouldn’t excuse the Democrats’ behavior here. I realize that the hardcore Bushbots and Kerrybots think any misbehavior can be justified by the suggestion that the other party does the same thing. I don’t.

  9. skippy,

    They are no more of a danger than the Republicans are. Hell, witness that crap about the subway advertisements in D.C. if you disagree with me.

  10. Yeesh is right. Contrary to the usual self-congratulatory rhetoric, Democrats have long been hostile to freedom of speech, at least in the political sense. Republicans aren’t perfect in this department, either, but the worst that can be said of them is that a few of them (e.g., John McCain) are just as bad as almost all Democrats are.

  11. I’m going to quote a part of this post from morons.org:

    Federal election law defines “electioneering communication” as “any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that… Refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office; Is publicly distributed within 60 days before a general election for the office sought by the candidate” which generally can be received by 50,000 or more people. There is a specific exception for news coverage.

    Federal election law prohibits corporations and labor unions from engaging in or funding “electioneering communication” within 60 days of an election.

  12. Xlrg,

    They are equally bad in this arena.

    Indeed, recall how rabid Republicans (and some Democrats) get over banning flag burning.

  13. Flag burning is a lousy analogy, a bit like saying “sure I killed 50 people but you stole an apple once, so there.” Besides, the U.S. Supreme Court opinion that struck down the flag burning law was penned by Antonin Scalia, not exactly the staunchest Democrat on the Court.

  14. Ummm, I think you misread me Jason.

    I was agreeing with you.

    Jesse, disagreeing with both sides is all well and good, but deciding where and when to pick your fights is relevant as well. If what ticks you off most about the Sinclair incident is the Democrat’s response to it, you really haven’t been paying close enough attention.

    Forest for the trees.

  15. JonBuck:

    Why wouldn’t this documentary qualify as news coverage?

  16. Jesse Walker,

    Several Congressmen who have power over de-regulation made sharp comments about the CBS mini-series and stated that they were displeased with its content; they further intimated that this might have negative consequences for CBS. CBS took the veiled threat to heart and proceeded to send the series to Showtime.

    Clearly my remarks were directed to those stating that the Democrats were somehow worse in this area, and implying that this is a good reason to vote for Republicans; which is absolute non-sense. Republicans are as anti-free speech as the Democrats are when it suits them.

  17. RC: That’s easy. It favors the wrong candidate.

  18. Xlrg,

    Its not a lousy analogy at all; Republicans who support that Constitutional Amendment want to ban free speech. And to be blunt, if you are accusing me of providing only anecdotal evidence, then might I suggest that is that you have provided as well. We have equal numbers of data points in other words.

  19. Ah yes, and here we are again at the ubiquitous evil “other side”, who control neither the White House, the Senate, the House, or the Supreme Court.

    Xrlq wrote:
    RC: That’s easy. It favors the wrong candidate.

    Yes, the poor giant broadcasting company that runs tv broadcasts in 62 markets (and is demanding that all its affiliates pre-empt there normally scheduled programming) is in danger of having its puny little voice drowned out by those evil, powerful “Libruls”.

    You guys should go into comedy.

  20. Jason: Point taken. Still, there’s a leap from such semi-subtle pressures to the direct prohibition being proposed here.

    Skippy: When a powerful interest group asks the government to censor a TV show because of its political content, that’s a fight I’m happy to pick. And if the Dems manage to persuade the FEC that this is verboten, you can be sure the Republicans will use the same weapon in the future. This may look like a partisan issue this month, but next year its ramifications will cross party lines.

  21. It really doesn’t matter because what will get Sinclair to change it’s mind on this matter is the free market. Pressure on advertisers will hurt Sinclair a lot more than the FCC can.

  22. Xrlg,

    Let’s note here that many of the main backers of that affront to liberty and free speech known as the CDA were Republicans.

  23. Jesse Walker is absolutely right.

  24. Jason, give me a break. Not all Republicans support a flag-burning ban (I don’t, for instance), but even those who do are merely seeking to ban one very specific, obnoxious and generally worthless form of expression, while leaving all other avenues open. None want to prohibit you from saying “I hate America,” or whatever the hell else you might be trying to express by setting Old Glory ablaze. The effect of a flag burning ban on the free exchange of ideas falls somewhere between infinitesimal and nonexistent.

    By contrast, asking the FCC to shut down a TV documentary because it documents facts that might influence an election is a very serious, content-based restriction on freedom of political speech, which is the most important kind. To equate or even compare the two is silly. You might just as well equate Florida’s (or Texas’s, or Arizona’s, etc.) concealed carry law with D.C.’s handgun ban, on the theory that both impose restrictions on a law-abiding citizen’s right to bear arms. Which they do, but…

  25. Well skippy, ya convinced me. Since its a big bad corporation getting the smack down (hey, they probably actually make money too the BASTARDS!) it’s a-ok. I’ll have to pencil that into my copy of the 1st. “Ifn’ you gots money and you favor something that I disagree with, please disregard the previous amendment. Thank you for your attention.”

  26. Jason, I assume you are right that more Republicans than Democrats supported the CDA. I also agree CDA was, for the most part, a turkey. However, my comment (and, I believe, this thread generally), was about political speech, not all forms of speech. It’s one thing to bleep out all the dirty words and cover up all the boobies. It’s quite another to bleep out the political content. CDA did nothing to chill political speech, and in fact helped to foster it by shielding webmasters from liability for defamatory comments posted by third parties. Without it, we’d probably see a lot more private censorship of fora like this one (basically, everything that might be defamatory if not true, and which is not known by the webmaster to be true).

  27. Xlrg,

    Not all Republicans support a flag-burning ban (I don’t, for instance)…

    And presumably not all Democrats support this manuevre against Sinclair. So what?

    …but even those who do are merely seeking to ban one very specific, obnoxious and generally worthless form of expression, while leaving all other avenues open.

    Whether those qualities apply to it or not, the very fact that they want to ban a form of speech is repulsive. Your attempt to apologize for said actions is also repulsive. But then again, you are a partisan; expecting something else was foolish on my part.

    However, my comment (and, I believe, this thread generally), was about political speech, not all forms of speech.

    What a load of crap. I have repeatedly said “free speech” over and over again. Quit playing the sophist. The CDA was an affront to liberty; get over it.

  28. Xlrg,

    Also, didn’t that Republican group Citizens United try to get the FEC to stop promotion of Moore?s film Fahrenheit 9/11?

    http://www.citizensunited.org/moore.html

  29. RC:

    Would you support the commercial-free airing of Farenheit 9/11 by another broadcasting corporation the way Sinclair is the anti-Kerry documentary? Using public airwaves? Isn’t F 9/11 news coverage also, because it’s a documentary?

    While individuals have the right to free speech, corporations do not. If an individual or political group had paid to air this documentary, I don’t think there’d be any question of legality. But broadcasters, because of what they are and the control over the airwaves that they exercise, have restrictions on them.

  30. This is an all-around dumb move by the Democrats, when you think about it.

    Let’s say the Democrats fail to ban this documentary — they’ll have given it free publicity while casting themselves in the role of political censors. Sinclair can advertise the documentary as “the movie the Democratic Party tried to keep you from seeing” without having to exaggerate at all.

    But that’s a minor setback to the Democrats compared to what will happen if they *win*. Reporters and documentarians lean heavily to the left; on average, documentaries are a lot more likely to be skewed in a pro-Democratic direction than in a pro-Republican one. If the Democrats manage to obtain a ruling banning politically-tilted documentaries from being aired during elections, they are the ones who will, in the long run, get nailed the hardest.

    (side note: the “Dan” pitching logictimes.com in the first post of this thread isn’t me)

  31. Dan,

    I wonder if they are thinking that this will “get out the base” somehow? I seriously doubt that the “documentary” will sway the minds of many (partly because we’ve been hearing much of the same stuff that it contains for the good part of two months).

  32. I’m not apologizing for anything. What is truly repulsive here is your insistence on equating that which is not equal, nor even comparable. It’s fine to argue that both the CDA and the Democrats’ harassment campaign of Sinclair are bad. It’s not fine to pretend that the two are “equally bad” (your words, not mine), and it’s even less fine to suggest that one justifies or excuses the other. If you think your right to see boobies on the Internet without being occasionally inconvenienced by a filter designed to keep children out is every bit as important as your right to be informed on issues relevant to an upcoming election, then all that proves is that your priorities are screwy. It doesn’t say word one about how the Republicans’ imperfect record on the First Amendment stacks up against the Democrats’ perfectly awful one. “Fairness” doctrine, anyone?

    And spare me the crap about how anyone who doesn’t share YOUR bias is a partisan. You’re as “partisan” to your cause as anyone else in this discussion is, so get off your high horse already.

  33. I’d really like to hear what McCain has to say about all this. Somebody stick a microphone in his face and let’s get it over with.

    P.S. “…the “Dan” pitching logictimes.com in the first post of this thread isn’t me…”

    I didn’t think it was possible for someone else to post that way.

  34. JonBuck wrote:

    While individuals have the right to free speech, corporations do not.

    I beg to differ. In the eyes of the law, a corporation is an entity much as a person, and pays taxes, etc. It also has many of the same rights as a person.

  35. The CBS “Reagans” analogy isn’t the best comparison. The FEC complaint lodged by GOP operatives in an attempt to get “Fahrenheit 9/11” pulled from theaters on campaign regulation grounds is more like it.

    The kinda good news for Democrats is that the Democrats no longer sit idly when the GOP plays dirty.

    The bad news is that they’re choosing to do so on something like this, bringing bipartisanship to what was until now a GOP exercise in erosion of the First Amendment.

    If they want to pressure Sinclair’s board or their advertisers, that’s one thing, but complain to the FCC?

    Idiots.

    Much better would be a push to get “Fahrenheit 9/11” on broadcast TV or at least basic cable before the election. I have a feeling Mr. Moore and his production company would charge very little for that kind of thing.

  36. Everyone has speech they don’t like (and want to suppress), and I don’t think either party has a monopoly on ignoring the First Amendment (or anything else in the Constitution) when it suits their political ends. I’m a little surprised that the comments here are focusing so much on partisan “sins”, because the real problem is that the federal government is regulating political speech (or at least chilling it) at an increasingly high level. It doesn’t seem to matter who is running the show from where I’m sitting, and I don’t give a flying flock of seagulls about which particular party happens to be attacking my liberties this week.

    Incidentally, the Supreme Court has done a terrible job on the various campaign finance “reform” laws over the years. Look at the way things are going today–what’s the real difference among the speech of, say, the Sinclair stations, Limbaugh, or Moveon.org? I can probably parse out some legalistic arguments for distinguishing among different “speakers” (be they corporate or otherwise), but I think free speech only works for a polity when it’s pretty much unregulated. Where campaign regulation makes sense is when it requires full disclosure concerning contributions and the like. While we’re at it, the whole justification for regulating the airwaves is obsolete and should be tossed out, too.

    As for Mr. Webb’s (Jason Bourne, indeed) CDA comments. . . . The Senate added the CDA amendment to the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 by a vote of 84-16. The amended TRA passed the Senate 91-5 and the House 414-16. It was signed by President Clinton. Obviously, a majority of Democrats supported the CDA. I was actually working at the White House during this whole mess, and the attitude of the people I ran across who were concerned about the Constitutionality of the provision (both Republicans and Democrats) was. . .wait for it. . .let the Supreme Court sort it out–we gotta pass this bill. Fortunately, the Supreme Court acted correctly that time, but I never fail to get angry when I hear that sort of reasoning. The president and the members of Congress have no less of a duty to honor their oaths to uphold the Constitution than the nine justices do.

  37. Xlrg,

    I’m not apologizing for anything.

    Sure you are; you apologized, and even tried to justify, a ban on flag burning. You lost all credibility right there.

    It’s not fine to pretend that the two are “equally bad” (your words, not mine)…

    They are equally bad. They are attempts to limit freedom and liberty. Unlike you, I don’t place a prejudice against other types of speech in favor of political speech.

    …and it’s even less fine to suggest that one justifies or excuses the other.

    Who exactly stated this? I didn’t, and if you are implying that I did, you are a liar.

    If you think your right to see boobies on the Internet without being occasionally inconvenienced by a filter designed to keep children out is every bit as important as your right to be informed on issues relevant to an upcoming election, then all that proves is that your priorities are screwy.

    Nice strawman. I think that all forms of speech and free expression are equally important. You apparently do not.

    And since you narrowly want to confine the discussion to political speech, again I state:

    Also, didn’t that Republican group Citizens United try to get the FEC to stop promotion of Moore?s film Fahrenheit 9/11?

    http://www.citizensunited.org/moore.html

  38. Pro Libertate,

    I think you prove my point; when it comes to speech issues, Democrats and Republicans are a wash.

  39. Listen to the Republicrats and Demopublicans bray over who’s screwed over the First Amendment the worst. (“No you screwed it harder!” “But you screwed it longer!”)

    That’s like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles arguing over who’s more blind!

    There’s something both of these ridiculous compromise parties will never understand: “Congress shall make no law…”

    What part of that don’t you understand?

    Would a Republicrat care to go first?

    Or a Demopublican?

  40. kmw:

    I beg to differ. In the eyes of the law, a corporation is an entity much as a person, and pays taxes, etc. It also has many of the same rights as a person.

    This is part of the problem. Exactly how much of a person should a corporation be? Should they be allowed to vote and run for office? I believe that this issue goes back to a Supreme Court ruling in 1886. (Located here. This is the first site that came up in a Google search, and contains the full text of the ruling.)

  41. I have a friend who is very liberal. We disagree on a whole lot of things (I think he believes that Bush is a member of the Saudi royal family, for instance), but there is one thing we agree upon: Don’t trust the government, no matter who is in power. That distrust is the one great American virtue we have left (I exaggerate for literary effect), though even that’s getting weakened by all of the free candy both parties like to hand out. The whole problem is with trusting Kerry to behave one way or Bush to behave some other way. We’re only safe when any politician’s options are severely restrained (i.e., with limited powers and strict accountability). This isn’t just idealism–the last two centuries have shown the utility of a free society with (mostly) limited government.

  42. I seriously doubt that the “documentary” will sway the minds of many (partly because we’ve been hearing much of the same stuff that it contains for the good part of two months).

    I doubt most Americans are familiar with most of the charges levelled against Kerry. The only thing that has really gotten any coverage at all is the medals controversy, which is pretty trivial compared to some of the other stuff. VVAW’s plans to assassinate US government officials and Kerry’s meeting with the North Vietnamese communists are both considerably more damning than the possibility that he fudged his Purple Hearts, and unlike the medals controversy there’s no doubt that they really happened.

  43. Deja vu all over again!

    I thought I remembered seeing McCain’s name and the Sinclair Group’s somewhere in close proximity, and courtesy of the Drudge Report, here it is:

    “There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.”

    This was taken from a letter John McCain wrote to the Sinclair Broadcast Group denouncing CEO David Smith’s decision to censor an episode of Nightline.

    http://209.157.64.200/focus/f-news/1127411/posts

    So how’s life on the other side of the fence Mr. Smith?

    Still McCain’s right. Whether it’s Nightline trying to show America the enormity of the sacrifice of our troops or the Sinclair Broadcast Group trying to show America what John Kerry did way back when, censorship is unpatriotic.

    So somebody, please, stick a microphone in John McCain’s face and ask him the obvious questions!

  44. “It’s fine to argue that both the CDA and the Democrats’ harassment campaign of Sinclair are bad”

    Whoops, X. You lost the high ground.

    Petitioning the FCC is weak, unprincipled, and probably politically suicidal in the long run. The only possible argument you could make for it is that the alternative is disarming in the face of Republican mendacity.

    However, you lose it with ‘harassment’. I fully endorse the boycotts and complaints to advertisers being monitored by Dkos, et al. People have every right to make purchasing decisions based on whatever standard they choose, and to make those choices and standards known to purchasees. And if the Sinclair stock price is any indication, the market doesn’t like broadcast entities that make themselves political. And there are rumors bouncing around about investor suits contending that Sinclair’s management is acting counter to investor interest, which is also perfectly principled.

  45. Jason: if you can’t/won’t tell the difference between pointing out that X is worse than Y, on the one hand, and “attempting to justify” Y, on the other, then with all due respect you are either an idiot or a liar. In either case, you’re unworthy of debate. Have a nice day.

  46. JonBuck-
    How about 3/5’s ?

  47. Ken Shultz,

    Are you saying that John McCain, a private citizen, had no right to write to ABC to express his views on what ABC planned on broadcasting?

    Further, did John McCain, U.S. Senator, try to sic the FEC, or some other governmental agency, on ABC for what it planned on broadcasting?

  48. Dan,

    The Swift Boat ads already dealt with the meeting(s); indeed that ad was released in late September (22nd or 23rd as I recall). Acting like this is some, previously unexposed allegation is extremely disingenuous.

    As to the VVAW, was Kerry in support of such assasinations? Or is this some sort of guilt by association fallacy? Indeed, as best I can recollect, the allegation is that Kerry quit the VVAW after a vote was made (which the would-be assasins losts), that is, after he voted against such an assasination policy. I can think of a lot of reasons not to vote for Kerry (Reason details some of them in its article on his civil liberties record), but that ain’t one of them.

  49. Xrlg,

    Jason: if you can’t/won’t tell the difference between pointing out that X is worse than Y, on the one hand, and “attempting to justify” Y, on the other, then with all due respect you are either an idiot or a liar.

    Is that all your claims have been reduced to? Sounds about right. Everything you’ve stated was undefensible, so now you are quibbling with me over whether you justified flag burning. And you didn’t point out that X is worse than Y; you specifically tried justify a vote to ban flag burning by minimizing its importance, and stating that such a ban was meaningless anyway because there are other ways to express the ideas behind flag burning. Again, you stupidly try to prejudice one type of speech over another; presumably one type that you like over another that you don’t like. You’re just as bad and as vile as the Democrats trying to censor Sinclair.

  50. About that assassination vote, did Kerry do anything to alert the authorities about a conspiracy to commit murder? That’s a rather serious omission for a presidential candidate if he didn’t. I’ve always thought that presidential candidates should have a pretty spotless record on character issues (within reason–everyone has their moments in their personal lives). Of course, that hasn’t been the case with the jokers we’ve elected in a while. Oh, well.

    On the issue of whether the CDA is as bad as attempts to ban certain kinds of political speech, I definitely think that protected speech is protected speech is protected speech, but there actually is a long line of cases that create a protection hierarchy, with political speech at the top. Libertarians with the utilitarian school would generally agree with that, I’m sure, and I guess I do, too, to the extent that such distinctions are ever necessary.

  51. I don’t like seeing any political party dictating policy or threatening lawsuits over this type of thing. Good won’t come of it for the 1st amendment rights of any of us. Whoever is elected, let’s guard our rights as best we can.

  52. In my view, though, a “protection hierarchy” just allows for people to start saying, “well, this kind of speech is at the bottom of the list, so we could ban it and it wouldn’t be a big deal; look at all this other kind of speech, which is more important anyway, that remains”. And yes, I’m a very big “slippery-slope” kind of guy. It’s just that in my short 30 years living on this planet, the slippery-slope arguement seems so valid. Give people an inch and they’ll take a mile and all that.

  53. Lowdog, I’m pretty much in agreement with you. I think the big question is whether speech is protected or not (unprotected speech being perjury, whatever we’re calling obscene this week in Peoria, singing “Fire” in an Elmer Fudd voice in a theater, etc.). Once speech is determined to be of the protected variety–which it should be in most cases–then the government’s ability to regulate it should be strictly limited, if not prohibited entirely, depending on the situation.

    Over the last twenty or thirty years, there has been a move by the Court in the direction of eliminating much of the speech hierarchy. For instance, commercial speech is now treated much more like other kinds of speech than it once was. There is a slippery slope that we need to worry about, but the good news is that we occasionally manage to climb back up it a bit, at least as far as speech is concerned. Get your Ouija board out and ask Eugene Debbs about the rights of people protesting World War I, if you don’t agree.

  54. Jason Bourne / Gary Gunnels,

    Just because two actions both violate some principle, does not make them equally odious. Murder and assault are both violations of the right to bodily integrity. Does that mean they’re equally serious violations?

  55. The Swift Boat ads already dealt with the meeting(s); indeed that ad was released in late September (22nd or 23rd as I recall).

    My claim was that Kerry’s involvement with would-be assassins and enemy powers has not gotten any real coverage. You want to play word games and pretend that an attack ad that most Americans have never seen counts as “real coverage”, you go right ahead. I’m bored already.

  56. “While individuals have the right to free speech, corporations do not.”-JonBuck

    The overwhelming majority of media outlets(newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, etc.) are owned by corporations. As a practical matter excluding corporate entities from free speech protection annihilates any pretense of freedom of press. The logical consequence this notion is that the NY Times, Newsweek, Fox, and if I am not mistaken this very website are only free of censorship because the government at this time does not choose to exercise its legitimate authority over them. No, this is a dangerously stupid idea, and must be rejected.

    Also, let me point out ,corporations are owned by individuals. As a matter of principle the rights a corporation has are simply an extension of the rights of the owners.

  57. It’s rather amusing to watch you people act as if the petition to the FCC is going to change what gets broadcast and what people are going to see. Oh no, save me from the FEC! They’re such ferocious watchdogs, merely crossing them is Death!

    The FEC petition, in which the Democrats ask the government to regulate an especially long campaign ad as the law directs it to regulate campaign ads, is a PR ploy to get this issue on the front burner.

    I think I can rightfully claim the title of biggest silverback Kerry gorilla in this particular bit of highland rain forest, and I’ve got one thing to say about this “issue”: Bring It ON!

    If the Bush campaign and their Texas buddies (and let’s be adults, and speak forthrightly about what’s really going on here) want to define themselves as the party that still supports the Vietnam War, still considers opposition to that war treasonous, and wants to tell everyone who has anything negative to say about the ongoing war that they are traitors who are hurting the troops, then have it. The repulsiveness of the people propagating this smear, combined with the backlash from the last smear campaign, is going to provide more fodder for supporters of John Kerry than a reality TV crew following around Dick Cheney.

    Sinclair and their revolting allies have discovered that they have enough rope, and I for one am going to enjoy watching them spend the next three weeks kicking. Fellas, you chose the ground, and we’re going to kick your ass anyway.

    BTW, this is my favorite quote so far, from RC Dean: “Why wouldn’t this documentary qualify as news coverage?”

    This is about as much of a documentary as those shows where the car wax guy asks the other car wax guy, “You’re not going to put ACID on that CAR, are you?”

  58. I wonder if they’ll ever figure out that McCain-Feingold isn’t working? It’s too bad someone can’t plant a rumor that Ashcroft supports it or something. It might get the attention it deserves.

    “The kinda good news for Democrats is that the Democrats no longer sit idly when the GOP plays dirty.”

    Criminy. Talk about true believerism.

  59. No, I understand you, Pro Libertate. It’s not all downhill, I agree. But better to just keep everything level instead of letting things slide at all.

    Then again, maybe I’m just an idealist.

  60. “The FEC petition, in which the Democrats ask the government to regulate an especially long campaign ad as the law directs it to regulate campaign ads, is a PR ploy to get this issue on the front burner.”

    Ok, now *that* is some true believerism!

  61. But Joe, isn’t this quibbling over whether the 90-minute piece is a documentary or not exactly the problem? What business is it of the government to make that determinination? What if Rush Limbaugh (or Al Franken) spent the same amount of time on the issue? What’s the difference in real terms? And please, if anyone out there feels an urge to discuss the metaphysics of the McCain-Feingold Act, refrain. I’m still recovering from God’s wrath here in Florida and can’t handle the stress 🙂

    I have no doubt that Sinclair is making a politically biased statement in running this docuwhatever, but I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to do just that. As with the recent situation at CBS, they risk their credibility and the possible loss of audience share by airing the piece if it really is inaccurate and misleading. Of course, if the RNC or the Republican candidate is behind this, that’s a different issue, one which would raise equal time questions. In any event, an attempt to use the FEC to stop this is as unprincipled as using it to stop Fahrenheit 9/11 from running (and yes, I’m well aware of the special regulatory situation broadcasters find themselves in).

  62. The lamestream media leans way to the left. Someone comes along with a documentary attacking the current prince of leftism, John Skerry and all hell breaks out. This is all rather absurd on the face of it. A good example can be summed up like this. In 1992, a couple weeks before the election, 60 minutes runs a piece with the Texas twister, H. Ross Perot where he says the Bush campaign had nude pictures of his daughter and were going to turn them over to the tabloids. Also they had a secret plot to storm his daughters wedding with goons. This is just standard OP for the media elite. The monopoly they’ve enjoyed for years has been broken and they don’t like it.

  63. Pro Libertate,

    About that assassination vote, did Kerry do anything to alert the authorities about a conspiracy to commit murder?

    Since the vote was ultimately against such, there was no conspiracy. Indeed, its slightly strange to call an act where people decided not to commit a crime (if indeed the allegations against Kerry are true, and the only evidence that I know of to favor such a conclusion comes from two eyewitnesses decades after the fact) a “conspiracy,” especially a criminal conspiracy.

    …but there actually is a long line of cases that create a protection hierarchy, with political speech at the top.

    So? I happen to disagree with said cases and I draw no such distinction. I’m principled that way.

    crimethink,

    Just because two actions both violate some principle, does not make them equally odious.

    I find the CDA and what the Democrats have done regarding Sinclair’s effort to broadcast this “documentary” to be equally odious. If you have a problem with this, then tough shit.

    Dan,

    My claim was that Kerry’s involvement with would-be assassins and enemy powers has not gotten any real coverage.

    Au contraire, they have gotten “real coverage”; ads were aired which remarked on at least the allegations of Kerry meeting North Vietnamese officials (he admits to meeting some in Paris in 1970, presumably during the ongoing peacetalks there). Now, maybe they didn’t get the full spectrum of coverage that you wanted, but that’s a different matter entirely, and not something that anyone (IMHO) has any guarantee to.

  64. If this thing gets pulled before it’s scheduled to air, it will be the result of the highly organized boycott that has started kicking into gear, not some FEC ruling.

  65. BillyRay,

    In 1992, a couple weeks before the election, 60 minutes runs a piece with the Texas twister, H. Ross Perot where he says the Bush campaign had nude pictures of his daughter and were going to turn them over to the tabloids. Also they had a secret plot to storm his daughters wedding with goons.

    Which damaged Perot’s campaign more than anything else.

  66. Delta (I can’t help using these David Webb/Jason Bourne aliases–I just read the danged books),

    I understood that Kerry saw a vote for assassination get defeated before he quit. Defeated that time. Forget about this election or whether Bush must be removed at all costs. Don’t you have a problem with anyone who hears discussion of a murder who doesn’t do anything about it? Remember, these guys weren’t just kidding around.

    As for the speech hierarchy issue, I didn’t say I agreed with it, though I suppose there could be situations where it might be necessary (e.g., when the specific exercise of one speech right might conflict with the specific exercise of another). Obviously, most of us here believe that there is a legal and political system superior to the one that’s in place today, but the fact remains that there are certain trends and interpretations of the First Amendment we should keep in mind. Not that I agree with all of those cases, as my disgust for McCain-Feingold suggests.

  67. I find the CDA and what the Democrats have done regarding Sinclair’s effort to broadcast this “documentary” to be equally odious. If you have a problem with this, then tough shit.

    I don’t have a problem with you having that opinion — I have a problem with your attempt to present it as fact.

  68. It might have. But that wasn’t 60 minutes intent. They wanted to damage Bush senior. I don’t want to get in a long debate about media leftism, but John Stossell has done a pretty good job of documenting it. The left has lost control of the monopoly on political debate they’ve long enjoyed. I have no doubt, if Skerry would have run for Prezzz in say, 1988 or 92 before the internet, talk radio, or Fox News, the Swift Boat Veterans would have never been heard from. It was a time of ABC, NBC, CBS, New York Times, CNN, Washington Post and LA Times. All lean way left and are just another faction of the Democrat party.

  69. Pro Libertate,

    Just read them!?!?!?! For shame. 🙂

    I understood that Kerry saw a vote for assassination get defeated before he quit.

    He may have actually voted against it (that is if you believe the eyewitnesses – Kerry says he wasn’t there – its a he said, she said thing as far as I can tell).

    Defeated that time. Forget about this election or whether Bush must be removed at all costs.

    I think you confuse me with a Kerry partisan. I’ll tell you right now that I am not voting for either Bush or Kerry.

    Don’t you have a problem with anyone who hears discussion of a murder who doesn’t do anything about it? Remember, these guys weren’t just kidding around.

    I don’t know whether Kerry was really there or not. He states that he left the organization prior to the vote; some other people involved claimed that he didn’t, but not the majority of the folks who were actually there (who I haven’t heard anything about one way or the other). I think – as the facts stand – forces me to be somewhat agnostic on the issue. And since I am neither supporting or voting for the guy, it ultimately doesn’t matter.

    I admit that the questions concerning the past of both Bush and Kerry are interesting from my twisted perspective as an ex-historian; but that’s a different matter entirely.

  70. crimethink,

    The one claiming “facts” here are you and Xrlg.

    BillyRay,

    How do you know the intent of 60 Minutes? Are you a mind reader or something?

  71. And the worst part is that I have (well, had) a family connection to Robert Ludlum–my dad’s wife’s parents lived next door to him in Naples (FL). Dad told me that Ludlum was one of those guys who stood out as a writer the minute you met him–he’d make a story about laundering his clothes into an adventure yarn.

    I don’t care much for either candidate and am very likely voting Libertarian. Again. That should scare the RNC folks in Florida.

  72. Simple. Everyone at 60 minutes leans way left. They wanted Clinton to win in 1992.

    The Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates in 1960 showed the power of television as an instrument of political manipulation. Lighting, make-up, camera angles, and personal charisma all favored Kennedy. But those who had listened to the televised debate on radio favored Nixon. The TV producer who created a president that night was Don Hewitt.

    Thirty-two years later another presidential candidate was in trouble after allegations by Gennifer Flowers of adultery. “They came to us because they were in big trouble in New Hampshire,” Don Hewitt told a TV crew years later. “They were about to lose right there and they needed some first aid. They needed some bandaging. What they needed was a paramedic. So they came to us and we did it and that’s what they wanted to do.” According to columnists Germond and Whitcover, Don Hewitt told Bill Clinton just before the interview: “The last time I did something like this, Bill, it was the Kennedy-Nixon debates, and it produced a president. This will produce a president, too.”

    But this time, not only lighting and camera angles were used to manipulate the image. The editing and the questions provided by Clinton spinmeisters to interviewer Steve Kroft in advance, allowed Clinton to get away with an obvious lie on television. He would later admit under oath that it was a lie. As Hewitt says:

    “You know it was strong medicine the way I edited it but he was a very sick candidate. He needed very strong medicine, and I’m not in the business of doctoring candidates but he got up out of a sick bed that night and walked to the nomination and as I said to Mandy, ‘You know if I’d edited it your way, you know where you’d be today? You’d still be up in New Hampshire looking for the nomination.’ He became the candidate that night.”

    http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=6561

  73. “This is about as much of a documentary as those shows where the car wax guy asks the other car wax guy, “You’re not going to put ACID on that CAR, are you?”-joe

    “This,…, looks an awful lot like an admission that your objection is based on the political orientation of the film. You’ll forgive me if your claims of unfairness are viewed through that lens.”

    Comment by: joe at June 24, 2004 11:20 AM (on another poster’s criticism of “Farhenheit 9/11”,thread entitled “Moore’s Big Night Out”)

  74. I don’t disdain the miracle car wax infomercials because of their political orientation, MJ. I just don’t like being clubbed over the head with self-serving propaganda.

    It’s a big attack ad. It’s like an infomercial gone negative. Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom made documentaries. This full-length ad may be made in a documentary style, but it has much more in common with the airtime the car wax guys buy on weekends.

  75. Written by the regular of this forum with the biggest self-serving club.

    joe, it is obvious you’re only objecting to this attack “ad” because it is attacking your guy. Everything you wrote above can be equally applied to “Fahrenheit 9/11”.

  76. “Are you saying that John McCain, a private citizen, had no right to write to ABC to express his views on what ABC planned on broadcasting?”

    “Further, did John McCain, U.S. Senator, try to sic the FEC, or some other governmental agency, on ABC for what it planned on broadcasting?”

    John McCain has the right to express his views, and the Sinclair Group, so long as it’s within its contract, has the right to broadcast or not broadcast what it sees fit. Neither John McCain nor the DNC nor anyone else should be able to go to the FEC and prevent Sinclair from broadcasting or not broadcasting something like this.

    However, John McCain continues to champion the campaign finance law that makes it likely that someone will petition the FEC to prevent a broadcaster from broadcasting something like this. The First Amendment doesn’t provide for a body to decide what I can and can’t see. This is John McCain’s baby, and he should answer for it.

  77. Jason Bourne,
    I appreciate that you are a principled libertarian. I do however think it is not unreasonable for most people to maybe be weary about laws that prohibit flag burning or cross burning. Yet not be diehard against them.

    However, if you are not a diehard against them laws on those two particular forms of free speech, you can still be a diehard against any government control of politcal speech.

    I really don’t think that would show hypocrisy or a lack of devotion to free speech. Come on man. Bless you for your 1st ammendment crusade, but allow us to pick our battles, and concede that one is maybe perhaps a tiny bit more important.

  78. Pro Libertate,

    I like Ludlum’s work a lot, but not all of it is great. I thought that Ultimatum was just silly for example.

    kwais,

    Maybe, but I still don’t see a dime’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats regarding the issue of free speech.

    Ken Schultz,

    What is interesting is that the media are the only type of business officially protected from government meddling by the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment. Just think what non-sense we would be facing if that protection didn’t exist (and remember, there was some resistance to create the Bill of Rights in the first place – some stating that it was superfluous).

  79. also, not to beat a dead horse, but to say that a corporation doesn’t have a first ammendment and that the government can therefore restrict what it puts out is ridiculous. Idiotic.

    That would be like saying that paper doesn’t have have rights so the government can what the Times says.

  80. Jason,
    I guess that is hard to argue, given that McCain/Feingold was signed in by a republican president.

    So I guess I will justify voting for Bush in that I believe that he is against it, and only signed it in because he picks his battles. And I would like to think that he believes that by ceding that ground he would appoint constitutional judges and they would strike that law and others like it down.

    Is that blasphemy, or wishfull thinking?

  81. kwais,

    Clearly the media are a specially protected business in America; that’s spelled out in the First Amendment with regard to freedom of the press (which is a type of speech protection in all reality). Other businesses don’t merit this special sort of protection, but that doesn’t mean that they should be denied the general protections against government censorship of speech.

  82. kwais,

    You know, if your statement is true, that simply means Bush lacks cajones, which makes me even less likely to vote for him; especially in light of the image that Republicans have tried to sculpt of being a “man of principle.”

    You don’t have to justify your vote to me. 🙂

  83. Ken Schultz,

    Are you saying that there was a specific item in the McCain-Feingold CFRA that will allow this action by the Democratic Party that did not exist prior to the passage of that act?

    The Democratic Party press release says:

    “Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe and DNC Legal Counsel Joe Sandler will host a conference call today at 1:30 PM ET to announce the DNC’s decision to file an FEC complaint against Sinclair Broadcasting’s illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush-Cheney campaign.”

    Notice the phrase “…illegal in-kind contribution…” I’m pretty sure that charge could’ve been leveled under the campaign finance laws that existed in the 30 years prior to McCain-Feingold.

    That being said, rather than trying to lay this problem solely at the feet of John McCain, you should probably lay it at the feet of any and all the Congressmen or Senators who, in the last 30 years, voted for any campaign finance law, and any and all Presidents that signed them into law.

  84. The doc is 40mins, but SBG hasn’t put together the final broadcast. They say it might just include a few minutes of the doc; the rest of the hour or whatever would be given to Kerry to answer the charges.

    The Dems say SBG should pay for the time since this is clearly a political ad.

    SBG says not so; they’re doing their newsie job to get information out there, information that the MSM hasn’t been good about revealing.

  85. David Crawford,

    I am not a lawyer, nor do I claim to be an authority on campaign finance law. However, it is my understanding that the DNC is contending that the Sinclair Broadcast Group is contributing airtime to the Bush Campaign in violation of McCain-Feingold, specifically, as it regards electioneering communications.

    From the BCRA Supplement of the FEC, it appears that the DNC can argue that the program in question is an electioneering communication and that Sinclair is in violation of the provision prohibiting corporations from making or financing electioneering communications within a certain time frame. Please see pp. 8 of 24 through pp. 10 of 24 at the following link, and tell me what you think.

    http://www.fec.gov/pdf/guidesup03.pdf

    I know it’s a summary document, but if it’s in any way indicative of what the law says, it’s indefensible in light of the First Amendment.

    I don’t remember hearing John McCain defend this law as being in accordance with the First Amendment, but he may have done so for all I know. I do remember hearing McCain speak of the way money influences elections in horrified terms, and in his zeal to fix that problem, I’m afraid that he may have thrown a baby or two out with the bathwater.

    Please note that I respect and admire Mr. McCain. If he had won the nomination instead of Bush, I surely would have voted for him. But he’s wrong on this issue. Having a free press and free speech is more important to me than regulating the parasites that feed on democracy.

    P.S. I didn’t lay this problem solely at the feet of John McCain. Once again, this piece of legislation is John McCain’s baby; it has his name on it. McCain fought to get it passed, and he continues to champion it. It’s only right that he should lead the charge to fix what he broke, and considering that it’s blowing up in our faces right now, someone in the press should stick a microphone in his face and ask him what he thinks.

  86. The laws of the previous 30 years didn’t work either. That is why they tried to pass McCain/Feingold, to fix it. And that obviously isn’t working.

    So I think the only thing to do would be to forbid taxpayer money or taxpayer contracts going to anyone involved in campaigning or championing a candidate.

    Would that work I wonder? Would it help?

  87. I am curious.

    Here’s my hypothetical:

    Adolph Schikelgr?ber is running for president of the US.

    A group of his supporters has made a documentary: The Elders of Zion.

    Sinclair obliges the stations it owns to air the documentary a few weeks before the election.

    My questions –>

    1. Is each station a “legal person”?

    2. Corporations own other corporations. Do owned corporations have any “rights”, or are they always subservient to the wishes of their owners?

    3. Would “The Elders of Zion” documentary be protected speech under the 1st amendment and so considered appropriate for election-eve airing?

    4. Accepting that the 1st amendment protects the expression of unpopular opinions… Is the use of lies and twisted facts protected expression?

    5. If M&Ms makes a documentary proving that the red ones cure cancer and airs it a week before Hallowe’en, is that protected speech?

    6. If the makers of Smarties object to the airing of the M&M documentary, are they enemies of free speech?

    7. If I object to the airing of The Elders of Zion, am _I_ an enemy of free speech?

    8. How much faith do you put in the “common man”‘s ability to judge with discernment?

    9. When the Constitution was written, how much faith did the Congress put in the intelligence of the “common (non-land-owner) man”?

    All these quetions are serious. I am not trying to make a point.

  88. All Sinclair is ariing is a Documentary on Kerry’s speech in 1971 and its effects on the POWS in Vietnam at the time. I thought Terry McAuliffe and DNC loved Documentaries. Or do they only love certain ones?

  89. Has anyone even seen this film? A lot of people seem to be a bit hasty in jumping to conclusions about whether the film is newsworthy or a partisan smear. I haven’t heard anything from Kerry’s side (or even the blogsphere) criticizing even one frame of this film.

    If someone wants to make a case that the film is full of inaccuracies while trying to score political point, I’m willing to listen, but, I haven’t heard anyone do that yet amid all the noise about Sinclair’s airing of it.

    Oh, and Michael Moore probably won’t permit the broadcast of Fahrenheit 9/11 because doing so would disqualify it from an Oscar nomination next year, iirc. And we know what a principled guy Michael Moore is, right?

  90. Isn’t this a libertarian site?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    All politicians that have voted to impose restrictions on speech (especially political) have subverted the US Constitution. Period.

    Why can’t we simply require disclosure of those that commit speech and/or pay for it–no anonymity? If people say or show stupid shit, they can suffer the consequence of harsh criticism.

  91. Donkeys: “If we can restrict speech to prevent someone from yelling ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, we can surely restrict this form of speech. It is clearly in the public interest not to be trampled in a theater, and it is clearly in the public interest for Kerry to be elected.”

    Elephants: “Ha! I thought you guys supported the first amendment! Whadidyousay about Reagan?!! I sue your ass!”

    Me: “I’ll have another shot.”

  92. Bill,
    Full disclosure is also a restriction of speech. I hold numerous views that my in-laws don’t approve of. For my wife’s sake, I’d rather them not know if I had contributed to Michael Newdows case on the pledge. And, if I had a boss, he’d probably take my contributions to NORML as a signal to submit me to a potentially damaging drug screen.

    No, my causes are none of anybodies business. Bought politicians are unavoidable, we eventually figure out who’s done the buying, if we don’t like it, that’s what the ballot box is for.

  93. Those of you opposing and FEC action on the grounds of principled opposition to the restrictions in the McCain-Feingold bill raise an important point. Personally, I’m still on the fence on the restrictions on independent ads. I can grok the free speech argument – as my “bring it on/give them enough rope” comment suggests, I think the answer to speech is generally more speech. But I also think there is another important principle in play – the need to have fair, open elections, including the campaigns.

    Whatever the ultimate answer to these questions is, independent campaign ads that close to the election are illegal – maybe they shouldn’t be, but they are. This is not important because we should all worship the law, but because changing the rules at this late date would undermine the fairness of the electoral process. The ground rules have been established, everybody knew them going into this and should have based their strategy around them. If you know the spot where you want to build you shed straddles the property line, and you build it anyway, you really don’t get much sympathy from me when your neighbor makes you take it down. Dems da roolz. Letting this one massive violation of the law stand, while the rest of the campaign has been carried out under those regulations, is not the answer here.

  94. Freedom of anonymous speech. Pardon me, but that sounds rather silly. It would have to include the freedom to send out anonymous poison-pen letters. It would remove the element of accountability from speech.

    Not that I think donations to NORML should be made public. I just don’t think secret donations should be considered “speech” in terms of the amendment.

    btw, My religion requires the anonymous sacrifice of virgins. It’s a new religion, and the derth of virgins makes it extremely difficult to practice. But we are accepting donations, so if you’re interested…

  95. As you may recall, Sinclair Broadcasting is the same company that refused to run Nightline’s tribute to the fallen in Iraq, because doing so might reduce the public’s toleration of George Bush’s steadfast determination to have other people’s kids die for his Middle Easter Great Game. Here’s what Sinclair said at the time:

    “We do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content.”

  96. Jesse:

    I strongly agree with everything you have written on this thread.

    Shame on everybody who would squelch free speech. You should all just shut up!!!

    [That last bit’s a joke 🙂 ]

  97. The answer to speech you don?t agree with is more speech, not censorship.
    One of our local TV stations, WAAY, is owned by Sinclair. Earlier this year Sinclair forced WAAY to preempt Nightline because Sinclair thought, I guess, that Nightline?s program showing pictures of the US Servicemen who had been killed in Iraq up to that time was somehow disparaging of Mr. Bush. Now, they are forcing their affiliates, including WAAY, to run a program that is, I guess since I haven?t seen it, disparaging to Mr. Kerry. I sent our local station an email stating that I didn?t care that they may be forced to run ?Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal?, but that they should also show ?Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy?, or any of many other ?Documentaries? that tell the history of the Bush family. I did not like the fact that they forced their affiliates to censored Nightline, and I don?t like the fact that they are forcing their affiliates to preempt regular programming to run ?Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal?, but hey, Sinclair owns the stations and they can force their affiliates to run, or not run, anything they want.

  98. DanInAlabama makes a good point. I also much prefer corporate decisions like this to be provacatively out in the open for criticism or praise than be quietly arranged behind closed doors and then sneaked in. Halperin’s memo is more insidious than Sinclair’s decision.

  99. Dude, could Jason Bourne make it any more obvious that he is Gary Gunnels/Jean Bart?

  100. So, joe, yet again you think that, because we’ve been doing things wrong the entire time we should keep doing them wrong in the interest of “fairness”. And don’t you say you “grok” anything, because if there is anything you are not, it’s a Heinleinian libertarian.

  101. you people need to get out more. jeez.

  102. you people need to get out more. jeez. don’t you people have lives to atttend to?

  103. “…DNC’s decision to file an FEC complaint against Sinclair Broadcasting’s illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush-Cheney campaign.”

    The apologists for campaign finance reform rationalize their intrusion on 1st amendment protections on the basis that they are regulating money transactions, not speech. They epitomize their logic by their infamous mantra “money is not speech”. The Democrats justify their attempt to censor Sinclair’s airing of this documentary on the argument that it is an “in kind” contribution, no money is changing hands between Sinclair and the Bush campaign. The “contribution” is the message of the doc which disparages Kerry’s record as an anti-war protester. Or to put more simply, the Dems argument boils down to…”speech is money”.

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