In his book, The New Road to Serfdom, Daniel Hannan contrasts American and European attitudes toward government. He reported that in America, “for all the grumbles and the scornful jokes, most people have faith in the system… Behind the sarcasm,’” he finds “an underlying confidence.“ Not so in Europe, “’It doesn’t make any difference how I vote,’ people complain. ‘Nothing ever changes.’“ The differing attitudes, Hannan believes, have to do “with the location of sovereignty.” In the America designed by Founders, it resides in “We the people.”
However, confidence is surely lessened when “we the people” see the growth and power of government becoming oppressive. It fosters the suspicion that elected officials, and the bureaucracies they oversee, are more interested in pursuing their own agendas than in keeping faith with the people who elected them.
Senator Jay Rockefeller validated that suspicion in a November 18 statement in which he expressed the wish that the Federal Communications Commission would shut down Fox News and MSNBC.
“I’m tired of the right and the left,” West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller said Wednesday during a Senate hearing on retransmission consent. “There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, ‘Out. Off. End. Goodbye.’ ”
“It would be a big favor to political discourse; to our ability to do our work here in Congress; and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and, more importantly, in their future,” said the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
It apparently did not occur to the Senator that statements like his, not the media whether right or left, are what erode faith in government. It appears that it is not political discourse he wants to protect, but political dissent he wants to suppress. He is obviously irritated with communication entities that have the ability to hold the organs of government accountable. His obvious disregard, if not disdain, for the First Amendment does not inspire citizen confidence.
Unlike George Washington who, although repeatedly subject to vituperative attacks in the press, understood the impropriety of an elected official criticizing a free press for freely disagreeing. Senator Rockefeller has no such understanding. Fortunately for the nation, he is not empowered to indulge his inclinations, as he refers to the “little bug” inside of him. One has to wonder what he might do if he were. There are plenty of modern-day politicos like Hugo Chavez, who indulged their “little bugs”.
Thomas Jefferson understood the importance of a free press,
Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it. –Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786
It is of more than passing interest that in 2009 Senator Rockefeller expressed the view that “the internet is the number one threat to national security.” Apparently, terrorist bombs and a nuclear Iran don’t count.
Senators Rockefeller along with Olympia Snowe proposed the creation of an Office of a National Cybersecurity Advisor as part of the Executive Office of the President. It would have the power to shut down the Internet by declaring a risk of cyberattack. The FTC also put forth a draft of a similar plan with the Orwellian title: “Potential Policy Recommendation to Support the Reinvention of the Internet.”
Cyber terrorism is one kind of threat to the security of the nation, but the desire of some within the present administration to shut down outlets critical of government is another.
Senator Rockefeller was correct when he stated that getting rid of those outlets would enhance the ability of Congress “to do our work.”
Now that’s a really scary thought.