Net Neutrality

Ron Swanson Slams Fan Ajit Pai Over 'Duplicitous Handling of the Net Neutrality Issue'

But would TV's favorite libertarian really favor federal regulation of the Internet?


It all started with Michael C. Moynihan, fittingly enough. The former Reasoner and current Vice News correspondent (and Fifth Columnist!) went to the office of Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai this week to talk about the fallout over last month's highly controversial announcement that the FCC would soon be voting on whether to rescind its 2015 Title II "net neutrality" regulations. Try to ignore the Judge Judy atrocities at the opening, and focus in on the pyramid on the wall beginning at about 0:46:

That's right, libertarians' very favorite government official is on the wall of one of their least favorite federal agencies; no big surprise, given Pai's ideological inclinations.

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But one viewer who didn't enjoy the sight was Nick Offerman, who yesterday fired off a tweet saying:

Dear @AjitPaiFCC , I noticed your Pyramid of Greatness and thought it felt strange in your office, given your stance. So I went to see Ron Swanson to ask if he'd care to weigh in & he dictated the below to me

"I'm flattered that my pyramid of greatness has inspired you. I will remind you that the top category is Honor. Sadly, based on your duplicitous handling of the net neutrality issue, and the way you are willfully ignoring the public you claim to serve, I feel you may need that term defined. Which means, of course, that you don't have it."

Internet regulation is admittedly a complicated issue, but it's hard to square this sentiment with Swanson's stated belief that "all government is a waste of taxpayer money," and that the "perfect government" would be "one guy who sits in a small room at a desk."

Pai has discussed his net neutrality changes at length recently with both Nick Gillespie and The Fifth Column; Reason's work on the issue can be found here. Our Ron Swanson file, too, is as thick as a fine piece of carving wood.

And how is Pai reacting to the actor playing one of his fictional heroes trash-talking him on Twitter? "At this point," a spokesman told me this afternoon, "we don't have any comment."

NEXT: More Details in the Trent Franks Scandal Emerge, Trump's Travel Ban Has Its Day in Court, and Tim Pawlenty Considers a Run for Senate: P.M. Links

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  1. But would TV’s favorite libertarian really favor federal regulation of the Internet?

    Get that son of a bitch Macklin on the case.

    1. I thought he was dead? Plane exploded over the Bermuda triangle and he got eaten by a shark?

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  2. Offerman has to live with his wife and her colleagues from Will & Grace. You can’t blame a man for not wanting to rock that boat.

    1. Sure I can. He could have just kept his mouth shut since Ron Swanson is, you know, a fictional character. No one expects, for example, the various actors who played Batman to chime in every time a real life politician has a piece of comic book memorabilia in their office.

  3. Remind me now… my memory is a little foggy, which agency fines you for inappropriate content on broadcast television and radio?

  4. THE DEATH OF THE INTERNET!!!!!!!!!!!!11!!!1!!!

  5. The more ludicrous they wrote Ron, the more true to home his message became. I don’t think the writers realized this though.

    1. The ending was upsetting though. How he learns to love big brother.

      1. I thought the development of the characters over the life of the show was interesting.

        At first, Leslie was an object of satire – a tedious busy-body mired by an agency where her fellow workers were incompetent and apathetic.

        At the same time, Swanson was also a satirical figure – I remember in the first season, they visit his house and it’s a mess of dangerous building code violations, which is of course what a libertarian’s house would look like, and he winds up having to flee a building inspector.

        By the third season, both Knope and Swanson had become sympathetic characters – Knope had become hyper-competent and well-intentioned, while Swanson strolled past a Home Depot person confidently declaring “I know more than you.”

        That was when the show got most interesting – when it showed honest points of disagreement between pro- and anti-government viewpoints.

        By the last season it just settled into a “gosh we love all of our characters, and in the end, when the rubber hits the road, they’re all good Progressives at heart.”

        1. I thought it got to that point early on in season 4. That’s why I BAILED.

          1. I’m slow to give up on things. A show has to annoy me for a long, long time before I stop watching it. I even watched the first several episodes of the final season of True Blood.


            1. And, I stuck with Lost to the very end.


              1. Did you watch seasons 5-7 of Dexter?

                1. Did you watch seasons 5-7 of Dexter?

                  That one I stopped following once John Lithgow murdered his baby-mama. “Dexter as single parent” wasn’t something I was interested in watching.

                  That’s one where I count myself as having stopped at just about the right moment.

                  But if I’m being honest, partly it’s just because I switched cable services about then, and it dropped off of my DVR schedule.

                    1. On the other end, I’m still not over the cancellation of Deadwood.

                      *stifles quiet sob*

                    2. I liked season 5 of Dexter, with what’s-her-face going after the bros who raped her. I think I was let down by the hype for Lithgow’s season, so it seemed better in comparison.

                      I stopped watching about 20 minutes into the season 6 premiere.

                      Last I heard, the Deadwood movie(s) are officially on, I think Milch even delivered a script. Fingers crossed it’s not an embarrassment.

                    3. Because of the current climate Milch Had to rewrite the script to remove every use of phrase “loopy cunt.”

                    4. I’m always happy to work in a field where one of our technical terms has “Loopy” in it.

                    5. I’d been exposed to no hype about Lithgow – I was actually caught by surprise, so I went in with no expectations. I do think Lithgow is a very over-rated actor, but he was a pretty good fit for that part.

                      I’m not sure at this point what you would do with Deadwood. I don’t think you could really pick up the story where it left off, and I think historically all those people were about to scatter and/or get killed, anyway. IIRC, the historical Swearingen wound up homeless a few years after that, and I want to say he died of starvation on a train or some such.

            2. Lost is good tho

              I’ll usually continue watching schlock, and I did stay on with P&R until the first few episodes of season 5. I think we have different expectations with comedy and drama. It’s easy to know when a comedy feels tired or doesn’t make you laugh any more, while you might slog through bad storylines on a drama.

              1. I’ll usually continue watching schlock…

                I actively seek it out to watch it. Do I detect that you might be a fan of

                1. RLM is probably why I used the word schlock, but I generally don’t seek it out. The occasional ‘guilty pleasure,’ that’s about it.

                  1. I use schlock because I used to like the “Gore Schlock” genre of films. Burning Moon, still great.

              2. Lost had its virtues. I thought the entire last season was pretty much a cop-out, though, and it pissed me off.

                It’s pretty much what happened with the original Twin Peaks – the first twelve episodes were awesome, but I think Lynch was counting on it freaking people out and being cancelled, leaving a nice little “what if.”

                People then didn’t find him as freaky and incomprehensible as he liked to think, and his show got re-upped, and suddenly he had to find ways to tie up those loose ends and try to explain things, and the show went to shit almost immediately. In my opinion, he never recovered.

                Had Lost been cancelled after, say, Season Four, we would still be arguing about what it was all about.

        2. Fortunately I didn’t watch the last season. I didn’t see any point.

          1. You dodged a bullet – it was downright painful.

    2. I think you’re right.

      Maybe the very best episode was the one where Leslie tries to save the bookstore and it turns into a government-subsidized porn-rental outlet, at which point Swanson gives her a little lecture starting out “Capitalism is the only way.”

      Maybe the very worst was the series finale where he abandons his principles because a thinly-veiling Google is collecting data on people, and that’s an outrage the way the private sector keeps people under surveillance like that.

      One of Parks & Rec’s creators was Greg Daniels, who co-created King of the Hill, so I think that’s where some of the libertarian cred came from, but I don’t think he pressed it as hard as Mike Judge will tend to.

      1. It’s sad that all you need for libertarian cred is some doubt of government, and some faith in the average person to live their lives, and that this is a relatively rare quality.

        1. Yeah – that Parks & Rec counts as a kind of great victory for libertarians in that it had a libertarian character who sometimes expressed actually libertarian viewpoints and who wasn’t either the villain or always the clown is kind of a sad reflection on our society.

          1. ^ This.

            Although maybe it says something about me that I usually root for the villain…

            1. I rooted for the Captain Planet villains when I was a kid

              1. Great, now I’m attracted to you.

              2. I rooted for the Captain Planet villains when I was a kid

                Well, that’s only natural.

                I feel blessed to have been a child in the 70s, when the content was expected to be mindless and amoral.

  6. Notably, the pyramid also has a cell for property rights.
    For those who don’t know, government regulation is a soft violation of property rights because it restricts what you can do with your property, even in cases where there is no victim harmed by the activity.
    The fact that this property provides an essential service to customers doesn’t change the second-order effects of regulation, most notably hindered innovation due to the difficulty of making every innovation compliant.
    Offerman, like most people on the subject, is simply uninformed and regurgitating the well-propagandized business interests of Netflix and Google.

    1. Soft? Violate a regulation and tell me how soft it is.

  7. Oh look. An actor being a run of the mill statist prog.

    Quelle surprise.

    1. It is almost as if an actor is not the character he plays.

      1. Exception: Jack Nicholson.

        1. Here’s Johnny!

  8. The best part of Free Speech is that idiots not only out themselves, they display their ignorance in grandiose fashion.

  9. “I’m not a doctor libertarian, but I play one on TV.”

  10. Seems everyone gets Nick Offerman and Ron Swanson mixed up, including Offerman.

    1. willfully ignoring the public you claim to serve

      I guess it’s been a while since Offerman’s seen the show, because willfully ignoring the public is one of Swanson’s key traits. One of the funniest scenes in the show’s history has him turning his chair away from a member of said “public” that he’s supposed to be serving.

  11. The other day I explained to my kid why the law is sometimes wrong. The missus told me I sounded like Ron Swanson. I’ll take it as a compliment.

    1. “Why, Dad?”

      “Because the people who write them are just like us.”


  12. Of course, he could just be focusing on the process and not necessarily taking a stand against “NN” itself.

  13. As a courtesy to others who also had no idea what all of this meant:

    “Ronald Ulysses “Ron” Swanson is a fictional character portrayed by Nick Offerman from the situation comedy television series Parks and Recreation on NBC, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur.”

    Maybe if I spent more time in the dentist’s waiting room, I’d be more ‘in tune’ with the fictional opinions of fictional characters.

  14. Nick Offerman is the last person I’d look to for advice on technology.

  15. I thought Kennedy was TV’s favorite libertarian?

    1. I thought it was Stossel.

      Or perhaps The Judge is the favoritest libertarian on TV?

  16. “I’m flattered that my pyramid of greatness has inspired you. I will remind you that the top category is Honor. Sadly, based on your duplicitous handling of the net neutrality issue, and the way you are willfully ignoring the public you claim to serve, I feel you may need that term defined. Which means, of course, that you don’t have it.”

    After this and the West Wing bullshit in regards to Sanders — do these fucking monkeys not realize that THESE CHARACTERS AREN’T REAL PEOPLE?

    Nick, rest assured, nobody — not even your own family — gives two shits what you think about anything.

  17. Swanson had a lot of great lines that libertarians could agree with, but in the end, he is just a progressive caricature of libertarians. Offerman’s comments are nothing more than pandering, and poor character analysis, given that “Swanson” was supposed to be a libertarian that hated govt. interference, and knew next to nothing about the internet, let alone computers.

  18. Facts seem to mean less than ever, especially when it comes to Net Neutrality.
    What it seems to boil down to is that many on the left equate government regulation with freedom and actual freedom with tyranny. So removing or limiting government restrictions is, to them, an act of fascism.

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  20. I used to like Offerman. But it is increasingly obvious that he, not unlike Norman Lear with Archie Bunker, thought he was creating a character that people would hate and didn’t realize the character’s message would resonate with a lot of normal Americans.

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