Patterico's Pontifications

3/16/2005

What To Do About the Tyranny of Government Regulation of Speech

Filed under: Civil Liberties — Patterico @ 6:48 am

We all agree that FEC regulation of political speech on the Internet is something to be fought. But how?

I have repeatedly argued that asking the FEC for a media exemption is nothing more than asking our masters for permission to speak. We shouldn’t have to do it. And I’m not going to.

Fine, you say. So what’s your plan, Patterico? And how is it superior to asking for a media exemption for bloggers?

It’s fairly simple. I plan to do nothing. But doing nothing could end up being the most important step of all.

Here’s what I mean:

Quite simply, I intend to go on blogging like I did before. Regardless of whether the FEC promulgates rules for political speech on the Internet, I plan to express my opinions just as I did before. If I need to link to a politician’s campaign web site in order to make my point, I’m going to do so. If I decide to endorse a candidate, I will. If I think my readers should send that candidate money, I will encourage them to do so.

I’ll do this during the next congressional election, and during the next presidential election. I will engage in this core political speech whenever I feel like it. And I will not change my behavior in the slightest, regardless of any FEC regulations.

For example, if the FEC warns me that one more link to a certain politician’s web site will not be permitted, but that link is necessary for me to make my point, I am going to include that link.

I am not going to sign any petitions asking for government’s permission to do this, and I am not going to seek out media credentials to obtain special permission to do this.

If we actually reach the point where my engaging in such core political speech might subject me to arrest — something I believed unthinkable before the BCRA was upheld by our spineless Supreme Court — then I’ll make sure that television cameras are there to watch the authorities slap on the cuffs. Let the authorities prosecute someone for telling the world that someone should or should not be President.

I would welcome such a case, because it would expose, once and for all, the fraud that is campaign finance reform. If the American public saw a citizen dragged off to jail for expressing his political views, maybe this insanity would finally end. Maybe even the editorial board of the New York Times would finally see the light! Since the Supreme Court is little more than a puppet of elite opinionmakers, we might get a ruling upholding our God-given right to free speech.

And if we don’t get such a ruling, maybe we’ll get a Constitutional amendment overruling McCain/Feingold.

I fundamentally don’t believe that Americans, who routinely fight and die for our basic liberties, are just going to stand by and watch someone imprisoned for expressing political beliefs.

But we need to shake them awake.

Let me quote the inspirational words of William Dyer once again:

But speaking just as one crusty old trial lawyer who also happens to write a blog with his bemused observations and occasional rants about politics, I’m damned sure not going to change my blogging style, nor start running disclaimers every time I blog about a political issue or a politician/candidate. It’s business as usual at BeldarBlog.

If the F.E.C. wants to make me their test case — and a test case somewhere outside the Beltway may be appropriate, given the F.E.C.’s decision not to appeal Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s district court ruling to the D.C. Circuit — I’ll gladly waive personal service and/or arrest. I’ll meet ‘em at the courthouse steps with my pocket copy of the Constitution in one hand and my keyboard in the other. Here’s my wrists, boys — cuff me if you dare.

When I first read that, I said: “Damn right, buddy. I’m right there with you.” We need such a test case, and I stand shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Dyer in these sentiments.

But such a test case will be less likely to occur if we don’t take the fight head-on. If we ask for a special media exemption, we empower the government to decide who is a “legitimate” blogger. And the definition could change at any time, at the whim of a politician or bureaucrat. As a result, many will be discouraged from criticizing the FEC, or folks like Russ Feingold or John McCain.

This is intolerable. Our freedom of speech cannot be held hostage by government bureaucrats and politicians. John McCain and Russ Feingold have engineered the most serious attack on Americans’ most fundamental rights in recent history. We have to fight it.

Don’t go hat in hand asking the government for permission to speak.

Fight!

54 Responses to “What To Do About the Tyranny of Government Regulation of Speech”

  1. [...] Patterico @ 7:13 am Yesterday I said that, if the FEC regulates blogs, I wi [...]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Question for Bloggers About FEC Regulation of Blogs (0c6a63)

  2. I’ll be there with you, Patrick!

    Flap (0299bd)

  3. Sounds like Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged. I’m not a huge fan of Rand, but some of the things in that book really opened my eyes. Watching Rearden tell whats-his-face to simply walk in and steal rather than to grant him permission to steal from him is exactly what you’re suggesting here.

    I don’t do serious political blogging. Sometimes when I feel like it, but that’s about it. So I’m sure I’ll fall under that ‘illigitimate’ category easier than you. And I will blog extra political the day they say I can’t. Maybe I’ll be first in line at the courthouse.

    Sharp as a Marble (154d25)

  4. Somehow, I am getting the urge to buy another gun, make some punji sticks, and so on.

    The other day I realized that I was always acting/thinking as though I was about to be arrested for a thought crime, if not for some other “physical” infraction. It’s getting pretty illegal around here, in my opinion. Tonight I will be possibly faced with another “situation” involving free thought = “doing nothing”.

    J. Peden (ffccb8)

  5. The problem with your plan is that they won’t attack YOU, they’ll find some bit player who not only speaks, but backs up their speech with action; i.e.: volunteers at party or candidate events, no matter how menial the task. They’ll make it look “plausible” that he’s actually a campaign stooge on the take, so everyone will go “aha! see, he was a lawbreaker!” And the press will play along to get those pesky pajamadeen out of their hair and off their ankles.
    Start stockpiling the guns, matey. We’re gonna need them before it’s over…

    ubu (02e071)

  6. reporting from Canada here. Somehow I think seeing someone dragged off to jail over this is the only way it’s going to be solved.

    I just can’t wait for His Great and Glorious Majesty Paul Martin to stick his nose into our internet access up here.

    Taoye (7fd964)

  7. Peter Gibbons did nothing and it was everything he hoped it could be.

    Leopold Stotch (17344a)

  8. Consider this idea: the simple and predictable rule of law inevitably degenerates into the opaque and arbitrary rule of lawyers.
    Further, we are tending away from democracy and toward what the Iranians call velayet-e-faqih, or ‘rule of the jurists’. That is, democracy is allowed within the limited areas allowed by the lawyers, and even there is always subject to being overruled by the jurists. Having the courts overrule the Constitution, as well as the laws democratically passed by legislatures, seems to fit the definition velayet-e-faqih pretty well. They do it for religious reasons, we do it for secular reasons, but we are both doing it now.

    Laocoon (d997fb)

  9. It seems to me that there’s already tacit agreement among bloggers to resist this nonsense. What’s called for is massive online civil disobedience. On any attempt to enforct Mc-F against any blogger, everyone else should engage in exactly the same activity that led to the arrest. If 100,000 or so bloggers linked to a candidate, endorced a candidate, and encouraged donations to a candidate…what are they going to do: arrest us all?

    Mineral (78075a)

  10. Gang of 4′ll be there.

    chris muir (122914)

  11. I am Spartacus!

    Spartacus (a7c5e6)

  12. Let’s start a movement to AMEND THE CONSTITUTION with an NEW AMENDMENT which protewcts ALL SPEECH very very clearly. I’d word it soemthing like this:

    “The government shall make NO laws 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.”

    Oh. You’re right: THAT’S THE FIRST AMENDMENT!

    Nevermind… I guess we just need a SCOTUS that will ENFORCE THE CONSTITUTION! Sheesh!

    reliapundit (a38535)

  13. SCOTUS, Bloggers, McCain-Feingold and the FEC

    The Astute Blogger (a38535)

  14. Patrick,

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve even CREATED a blog for the express purpose of violating whatever rules the FEC lays down.

    I intend to taunt them into arresting me as an act of pure civil disobedience.

    slim999 (564c96)

  15. The enforcement agency for the Constitution of the United States is the people in arms. It always has been. It can never be anything else. When criminals invade the halls of power and represent themselves as “legitimate authority,” only the people in arms can evict them.

    By all means arm yourselves. A time of trial is coming, and you’ll need all the tools you can get. But also, more important, ready yourselves. What’s coming will not be pleasant.

    The government will try salami tactics. It will try sweet words and offers to grandfather existing voices. It will try a P.R. campaign such as you’ve never seen before. It will try let’s-you-and-him-fight. It will try things I can’t imagine.

    This is the dealbreaker for the whole Constitutional experiment. We have to win.

    Keep your powder dry.

    Francis W. Porretto (0d0969)

  16. In addition to your planned passive protest, the stirring of a “blog-alanche” pushing more pominenelty the dispicable utterances of J. Kerry in his most recent presentation on the subject is warrented.

    Brian F (c5c6a3)

  17. Right on! All we have to do with this one is keep talking. And if anyone does get arrested, fined, sued, whatever then that event needs to be publicized on every blog from here to Calcutta until media and government take notice and this situation gets rectified.

    csh (4a69fe)

  18. Doing Nothing Is Doing Something, Too
    Patterico’s Pontifications What To Do About the Tyranny of Government Regulation of SpeechWe all agree that FEC regulation of political speech on the Internet is something to be fought. But how?Petterico then answers his own question….

    Daily Pundit (f342d6)

  19. The best thing to do about this is nothing. The sky is not falling.

    Ladainian (91b3b2)

  20. It’s fairly simple. I plan to do nothing. But doing nothing could end up being the most important step of all.

    Don’t just do something, stand there!

    Xrlq (5ffe06)

  21. Patrick,

    Good on you, mate. Your battle is far from over, but at least you recognize it for what it is.

    BTW, might it make a diff if everyone were to link, as often as possible, to McCain, to Feingold, and to any other politician who supports the M-F act in the future?

    IIRC, those links would count as contributions to their campaigns, right? And if they’re only allowed to spend so much … or am I missing something here?

    ras (482403)

  22. Personally, I think the day they take in a blogger who makes around minimum wage so they can “keep the money influence out of Politics” will be the day everyone realizes they’ve been shovelling dung all along…

    Robert (25ea0f)

  23. Ladainian,

    It disturbs me that you can be so utterly blase about this whole mess. It’s shocking, frankly.

    Do nothing because the sky is not falling? That sounds almost like Neville Chamberlain.

    I’ll be there too if this abomination is passed and the FEC comes after a blogger, Keyboard in hand, with my Poster-sized copies of the First and Ninth Amendments. I, for one, won’t stand by and let them restrict my speech.
    I signed the petition, and I stand by that, as a means of telling the legislators how I feel.
    Feingold is my Senator, and I am, at this moment, writing him a scathing letter.

    I don’t care if the sky isn’t falling. Tickle Atlas’ knees too long and it’s gonna come down anyway.
    This is perhaps one of the best times to remember the old saying:
    “All it takes for Evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.”
    Evil is not some single, monstrous entity. It is a thousand small wrongs allowed to pass uncontested until they fester into something far worse and unforeseen.
    The sky may not be falling, but I’ll be damned if I wait for it go that far.

    Truesilver (23efca)

  24. Doing nothing is exactly the right thing to do.

    Freedom.

    EagleSpeak (0d84c2)

  25. When Nothing is the Right Thing to Do
    Patterico has the right idea in
    What To Do About the Tyranny of Government Regulation of Speech.

    EagleSpeak (59ce3a)

  26. While I agree with Pat about not needing permission to speak, I believe in doing something a little more than nothing about the FEC.

    See, I’m a full-disclosure kind of a guy. So I think we ought to make a political-speech-trackback-to-the-FEC system like I blogged about here: FEC, protect us!

    I think it’d be pretty easy to hack up an existing trackbacker to do it. Anybody else interested?

    Carpe Bonum (3016bf)

  27. I see a lot of action here, as opposed to complaining. Good! I’m trying to rouse rabble against bad court decisions (McConnell v. FEC being one of the worst). You can help by signing this petition.

    Karl Maher (910b19)

  28. Patterico,

    Just a thought, but if you are gonna be the poster boy for M-F resistance – and it could be shaping up that way – you might wanna rename the FAQs on your site, as they make an easy sound-bite for anyone who wants to misrepresent you, y’know?

    But if you wanna refuse to make any changes at all as a matter of principle, ok, but I think you should expect that if this whole thing escalates, they’re gonna wanna tar you. I mean, they tar everybody else.

    And, as I’ve noted before, I think it will escalate. They need a biased media to stay in power, which means they’re backed into a corner. They’ll fight if they have nothing to lose by doing so.

    ras (482403)

  29. I guess, once again, I’m the first commenter not to break out in triumphalist hosannahs. I grow old, I grow old…

    In the first place, Patterico, I think you are certainly correct not to change your posting style, as Beldar insists he won’t. A very good first start — you can never win by defeating yourself! All victories must begin with the refusal to accept defeat.

    However, this part is just naive:

    If we actually reach the point where my engaging in such core political speech might subject me to arrest – something I believed unthinkable before the BCRA was upheld by our spineless Supreme Court – then I’ll make sure that television cameras are there to watch the authorities slap on the cuffs….

    If the American public saw a citizen dragged off to jail for expressing his political views, maybe this insanity would finally end…. Since the Supreme Court is little more than a puppet of elite opinionmakers, we might get a ruling upholding our God-given right to free speech.

    Pat, you make a terrible mistake here: your enemies are not utter fools. And they, far more than you, know the value and use of imagery. (And an intriguing inconsistency on your part: if, as I believe you argue, the MSM supported McCain-Feingold because they got a big “media exemption” that expanded their power at the expense of the rest of us; then why do you imagine that same MSM will put you on TV and help you destroy the BCRA?)

    Simply put, you’re not going to get your big, publicized arrest; instead, you would simply be fined, or you would be told that you were going to be fined unless you showed good cause blah blah blah, and you’d either have to hire a lawyer to stop the FEC from leveling a crippling fine (which they would tart up by “calculating” it based upon the number of posts you made, the number of links, and the size of the readership of PP) or else be pecked to death by ducks — $2000 here, $1500 there, $3248.57 next week, and so forth.

    It’s like the IRS: by the time they get to the point of actual arrest, a person has to have failed to appear for so many hearings and court dates that most people will side with the taxman instead of the victim. Typically, they just seize his bank account and make him go to court to get it back.

    So “doing nothing” is a good first step; but by itself, it will be of null effect, as the FEC has extrajudicial powers to destroy without giving you any great footage of being dragged off in irons, singing “la Marseillaise.” We must take affirmative steps to force the issue, because inertia is always on the side of stasis.

    We need to start filing court challenges that raise other issues than the precise ones adjudicated in the BCRA cases so far. For example: freedom of speech includes not only the right to speak but the right to hear… if you were silenced, it would not only violate your First-Amendment right to speak but also my First-Amendment right to hear what you have to say. This is also true for my right to hear what 527s like the Swift-Boat Veterans for Truth have to say and even what the Democratic and Republican parties have to say.

    So if the FEC begins a serious crackdown, shouldn’t we file a federal lawsuit as readers, listeners, and watchers charging violation of our First-Amendment rights to read, listen, and watch?

    The point of this exercise is that the Court did not hear this issue last time, so it’s a legitimate new way to attack the BCRA itself… and if the Court has begun to regret its decision by the time the case works its way up to the Supreme Court again — or if the Court has changed in a meaningful way, say by O’Connor or Kennedy resigning and being replaced by a pro-freedom of speech justice — it gives them a whole new opportunity to strike down this wretched law.

    What do you think of this idea? If it won’t work, let me know… I’m not a lawyer. But in any case, this is what I think we need: creative approaches that haven’t been tried yet.

    Dafydd

    Dafydd (df2f54)

  30. By the way, Patterico, I think you misunderstand the online petition… or else I do. You seem to be under the impression that the petition is a way for individual bloggers to seek specific exemptions for themselves, at the expense of other bloggers:

    But such a test case will be less likely to occur if we don’t take the fight head-on. If we ask for a special media exemption, we empower the government to decide who is a “legitimate” blogger.

    But the online petition demands a blanket exemption for all internet bloggers and journalists, all unpaid campaign workers on the internet, and indeed “every American” speaking out on the internet except those specifically being paid by campaigns as professional campaign workers:

    Under the current rules, “any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication,” is exempt from reporting and coordination requirements. It is not clear, however, that the FEC’s “media exemption” provides sufficient protection for those of us in the online journalism community.

    As bipartisan members of the online journalism, blogging, and advertising community, we ask that you grant blogs and online publications the same consideration and protection as broadcast media, newspapers, or periodicals by clearly including them under the Federal Election Commission’s “media exemption” rule.

    In order to ensure that there are sufficient measures taken, we also request that the FEC promulgate a rule exempting unpaid political activity on the Internet from regulation, thereby guaranteeing every American’s right to speak freely and participate in our democratic process.

    That is a far cry from what you implied. You are correct that if we depend only upon the FEC’s definition, they could change it at any moment and leave us out in the cold; that’s why we need a favorable Court ruling, and also why we need Congress to repeal the law.

    But it’s also true that if the FEC does, for the moment, grant such a sweeping exemption, then the BCRA itself will seem ineffective and burdensome, and it will be more likely that Congress will repeal it, as it will be seen to be a failure.

    Contrariwise, if it seems to be working to keep “negative” campaigning off the internet and the airwaves — negative meaning anything the incumbent doesn’t want to see — then the incumbents in the House and Senate will be much less likely to get rid of it.

    We must make the BCRA completely ineffective, so it will have no defenders. That is the most important point… much more important than the beau geste of chaining oneself to the host server and hoping to be hauled off to the pokey together.

    Dafydd

    Dafydd (df2f54)

  31. Like many bloggers….
    ….Patterico has been blogging about the FEC and Campaign Finance Reform. He warns about asking the government for…

    Media Lies (11ee8e)

  32. Dayfdd,

    I appreciate your comments as always.

    When I say:

    If we ask for a special media exemption, we empower the government to decide who is a “legitimate” blogger.

    I am linking, don’t forget, to my post about Russ Feingold’s comments. He clearly is not in favor of your proposed blanket exemption for the Internet. He wants one only for bloggers he considers “legitimate” — and he reserves the right to change his mind.

    By seeking an exemption, rather than demanding that the law be repealed, you and the other signatories of the petition make it acceptable for people like Feingold to propose a compromise that provides a limited exemption for “legitimate” bloggers — with the definition of “legitimate” to be determined by the FEC. After all, you are already proposing a compromise; he is simply proposing a different one — one which allows government to determine what speech is legitimate and what isn’t.

    I am often in favor of compromise, but I think there are times when one must reject compromise. This is rare, but when we are insisting on our rights to core political speech, I think that is one of the rare occasions when compromise is not an option.

    I am not a fervent disciple of doing nothing, if doing something can be shown to be productive. I wouldn’t be opposed to measures such as seeking the repeal of McCain/Feingold, or seeking a constitutional amendment that clearly overrules McCain/Feingold. But I don’t think the political will for either will exist until the public has it brought home to them, in a clear and unmistakable fashion, that people are being fined/arrested/otherwise punished for expressing core political beliefs.

    If someone like me is arrested (or, less dramatically, fined) then there will be a court challenge — bet on it. And I think it would make a great media story. As cynical as I am about the mainstream media, I am perhaps not as cynical as you. Media goes for a good story almost before anything else, and this would be a good story.

    Patterico (756436)

  33. FEC Commissioner, Scott E. Thomas recently said, “There is no reason to assume gloom and doom…We haven’t make up our minds yet.”
    I think I speak for most of our community of bloggers when I say, “Mr. Scott, there is nothing to think about. There is no need to make up your mind. Whatever you decide is going to have zero effect on how we conduct our own freedom of speech. So, save your agitation over this agonizing decision to which you are about to give birth. Our free speech does not depend upon the wisdom, the goodness, the oversight, or the opinions of the FEC.”

    Boman (84eae1)

  34. OK, I Said It. “Uncle” Now What?
    These five questions are for Uncly-Wuncly. Patterico is on deck. Two openings remain.

    What’s your take on the proposal to arm judges in Illinois? Support as a baby step in the right direction, or oppose under the time-honored legal doctrine of…

    damnum absque injuria (38c04c)

  35. By seeking an exemption, rather than demanding that the law be repealed, you and the other signatories of the petition make it acceptable for people like Feingold to propose a compromise that provides a limited exemption for “legitimate” bloggers – with the definition of “legitimate” to be determined by the FEC.

    I haven’t signed the petition, Patterico; but you’re still mischaracterizing it if you imply that it envisions the sort of “compromise” that Feingold suggests (which is, as you note, no compromise at all). I doubt that any of the signers would accept the FEC deciding which bloggers were legitimate and which were rubes who had no freedom of speech.

    I haven’t signed it because I reject petitions as misleading: the signers think they’ve found the lazy man’s way to effect change, when in fact all they have found is a new avoidance technique and a scheme for assuaging their consciences, while actually doing nothing constructive at all.

    But this is a completely different reason for rejecting the petition than the one you cited, which I don’t buy at all: signing the peition will do nothing positive — but nothing negative, either. It’s just a form of moral… well, for politeness’s sake, you can imagine the alliterative ending to that metaphor.

    I was really hoping you would comment, favorably or un-, on my suggestion for another round of lawsuits, this time based upon the First-Amendment rights of the readers and viewers, not the writers and ad-creators. That was the gravamen of my post. Have you had a chance to think about it?

    Dafydd

    Dafydd (df2f54)

  36. I should note that my rejection of petitions does not extend to petitions mandated by law that have a definitive, real-world effect, such as petitions that will put propositions onto the ballot. Those are completely different fauna. I always sign any of those I agree with.

    Dafydd

    Dafydd (df2f54)

  37. Why I Did Sign the Blogger Exemption Petition
    There are people out there who firmly believe that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it simply illegal for the government to regulate anything whatsoever about private ownership of guns. Whether they are right or wrong is secondary to…

    Yippee-Ki-Yay! (2fb2f0)

  38. The FEC is not going to publicly arrest a high-profile blogger. As Mr. Porretto said above, they’ll use salami tactics. They did it with guns.

    When the firearms laws were first passed, they chose their targets carefully. They didn’t raid the head of the NRA, no, they caught a bootlegger with a sawed-off shotgun. When they went after affordable handguns, they labeled them a “Saturday Night Specials” and prosecuted lots of cheap hoods caught with them. As time rolled on, they became less available and then unthinkable to the poor widowed ladies and such who could legitimately use them.

    Nobody needs an assault rifle! They restrict size, components, then the whole class of guns. Just try to buy a .50 cal rifle in California, you terrorist, you!

    All done slowly. With extra attention paid to the obviously unworthy hard cases.

    They won’t try to take down Patterico on camera. No. It’ll be an order to an ISP by a judge to bring down a “David Duke” or neo-Nazi site, pending hearings. Maybe a fine, no jail time, involved. What awful things they said! And all that support for that terrible kook running for an office he can’t possibly win!

    Who among us will spring to their defense? Will you then “Do Nothing?”

    Ranten N. Raven (cb0612)

  39. I haven’t signed the petition, Patterico; but you’re still mischaracterizing it if you imply that it envisions the sort of “compromise” that Feingold suggests (which is, as you note, no compromise at all).

    I didn’t say or imply that it “envisions” such a compromise. What I said was that suggesting a compromise like this makes it politically acceptable for Feingold et al. to offer a deal that they will characterize as a compromise. Feingold and his pals will say: okay, we’ll meet you more than halfway, and give you (for now) the exemption you seek — only for “legitimate” bloggers, of course! And people will buy that. Read the comments to his diary entry. All the leftists there totally fell for it.

    Therein lies the danger of the petition. We surrender our right to speak to the whims of technocrats and legislators.

    By taking the absolutist position, we set ourselves up for the perfect test case. Your suggestions of other lawsuits are fine, but none will have near the impact of the test case that would be created by following my suggestions. The danger in signing the petition is that it would deprive us of that test case.

    I think bold action inaction is called for here.

    My proposed (in)action is not rooted in some desire to be an anarchist or rabblerouser. I am not seeking a fight; the fight has come to me. All that is required of me is that I not back down.

    I do find this a little scary. I have staked out a very public position on this. In addition, I tend to be stubborn on matters of principle. Tangling with the federal government is not something that I am seeking out, as such. I am merely defending the bedrock principle of our society: the right to speak our minds about political issues.

    Patterico (756436)

  40. What To Do About The Egregious FEC?
    Join the discussion at Patterico’s!

    The View From The Nest (3b408f)

  41. Righting the law by writing it ourselves
    [...] So I offer a suggestion. Since an overabundance of members Congress are blind to the fundamental rights about which this nation was founded, and the President is [...] it behooves us to take matter into our own hands. [....]

    The Dusty Attic (3a658a)

  42. Taking Back My Rights and My Name
    I recently added my name to the letter sent to the FEC by The Online Coalition asking that the FEC’s exemption from rules for speech during federal elections be extended to cover online media and bloggers. I have been thinking…

    Hold The Mayo (1483fa)

  43. Patterico, I did in fact know what you meant anent the petition… but I believe what you wrote originally was ambiguous, and I was hoping you would clarify it, as you have. We have no particular disagreement on that, save that I don’t think anyone at the FEC or in the Senate will care enough about the online petition for it to have any impact whatsoever, good or bad.

    This is the heart of the matter, however:

    By taking the absolutist position, we set ourselves up for the perfect test case. Your suggestions of other lawsuits are fine, but none will have near the impact of the test case that would be created by following my suggestions. The danger in signing the petition is that it would deprive us of that test case.

    I think bold action inaction is called for here.

    My proposed (in)action is not rooted in some desire to be an anarchist or rabblerouser. I am not seeking a fight; the fight has come to me. All that is required of me is that I not back down.

    Yes, all that is required of you is that you not back down… but for the tactic to work, something is required of the bad guys, too: that they act like utter fools and fall right into your frankly obvious trap.

    Read comment 37 above by Ranten N. Raven, who is actually doing neither but instead making a lot of sense. We’re not dealing with children; any member of the House or Senate is a professional propagandist, baiter, and dirty trickster; how do you think they got there in the first place?

    I simply doubt they will fall into your trap by loudly and publicly arresting you. (And by the way, if they did — which they won’t — have you considered how that would affect your employment as a prosecutor or even your license to practice law?)

    The virtue of my suggestion is that it doesn’t require blind stupidity on the part of people like McCain, Feingold, the commissioners of the FEC, or the federal marshalls. I would be the actor, initiating the action, along with whomever would join with me.

    This is where I’m still trying to get your response: as an attorney, you know far better than I whether a case could be made that I have a First-Amendment right to hear ads from the SwiftVets (or MoveOn.org) and read bloguments from Patterico’s Pontifications or Juan Cole in the last sixty days before a general election.

    If I can plausibly argue that I have that right, can’t I sue to overturn the BCRA? I mean, would it simply be laughed out of court before even getting to the stage of a district-court ruling?

    Next step would be to find some anti-BCRA public-interest law firm — Pacifica Legal Foundation? or something based in D.C.? — that would take the case pro-bono or perhaps raise funds from conservative and liberal-libertarian sources. But first, I want a general sense whether this would be worth a shot or would just be more of that wheel-spinning that I despise.

    Dafydd

    Dafydd (df2f54)

  44. As far as the government telling me what I can say or advocate, my answer is this: In my left hand you will notice my extended middle finger; In my right hand you will notice a loaded/cocked 44-magnum. Take it from there, wimp!

    Mescalero (90f9f1)

  45. Talking the walk
    Patterico pontificates that the FEC’s noises about political expression on the Internet mean a significant new stage in the erosion of personal liberties: Yesterday I said that, if the FEC regulates blogs, I will continue to blog the same way…

    The White Peril (51988c)

  46. Patterico, today, Sen. Harry Reid (I keep wanting to call him Sen. Henry Reed, for some odd reason) came out swinging: he proposed a bill in the Senate that would completely exempt all internet communications of any kind from the BCRA restrictions.

    I doubt this had anything to do with the online petition. More likely, he heard from the only bloggers who count in his universe: DailyKos, Democratic Underground, Juan Cole, and Atrios.

    But regardless, it’s now hugely more likely that Congress will act to exempt the internet from the reach of the legislation. It’s only a partial victory: I want to be able to see TV ads and listen to radio pitches as an election nears, not just read about the candidates online!

    But it’s a start.

    If this passes Congress, and if Bush signs it — I can’t see the president choosing this bipartisan issue on which to make his first veto stand — then we’ll have solid grounds to argue to Congress that, with the internet restriction (which would, by definition, enjoy majority support), the Act itself is useless and counterproductive and should be repealed.

    We can say “been there, tried that, didn’t work.” Time to try something else… such as no restrictions but full disclosure — on the web.

    Dafydd

    Dafydd (df2f54)

  47. Sometimes Nothing Is A Real Cool Hand
    Patterico makes an astute point about possible FEC regulation of blogs under McCain-Feingold: I have repeatedly argued that asking the FEC for a media exemption is nothing more than asking our masters for permission to speak. We shouldn’t have to

    JustOneMinute (af7df9)

  48. Talking the walk
    Patterico pontificates that the FEC’s noises about political expression on the Internet mean a significant new stage in the erosion of personal libe…

    The White Peril 白禍 (11ee8e)

  49. FEC Intrusion
    As ITA works to unearth the truth surrounding alleged “GOP” talking points, my friend Mike Krempasky is leading an even more significant investigation into the Federal Election Commission’s proposed rules for internet activity. ITA offered a summary…

    In the Agora (523901)

  50. Any regulatory attempt is destined for failure. Following is the message I sent to the FEC this morning:

    Instead of an attempt to slog my way through the 48 pages (pdf) of “proposed rules”, I’ve decided to go straight to the bottom line.

    Not only are our founders spinning in their graves at this attempt to further suppress and regulate political speech, you might as well seek to catch lightening in a bottle. It serves no one to make rules that are virtually unenforceable. Any attempt to regulate speech on the Internet will be answered by a wave of civil disobedience heretofore unexperienced in the known universe. Millions of people like I will establish blogs for the sole purpose of flouting your rules. What then? Will you fine us all? Arrest us? Can you even find us? And what about the blogs hosted offshore?

    I know that you are a regulatory body and no doubt see your mandate to regulate as something just short of Divine right, but I warn against overreaching in such a manner as you propose. Do not embarrass yourselves. Do not attempt to control political speech on the Internet. You can not stop it, you can not control it and you can not regulate it. To attempt to do so and fail as miserably as you are destined to fail will do irreparable harm to the authority of the FEC. And, while I might consider this to be a good thing, you no doubt would think it catastrophic.

    Kyda Sylvester (87e44a)

  51. Exempt The Internet From McCain/Feingold By Patterico
    I am inclined to support the new proposed amendment to McCain/Feingold, exempting the Internet from any regulation whatsoever under campaign…

    Right Wing News (444150)

  52. I’m with Patterico

    In case you were wondering, if when the FEC comes to tell me that bloggers like me can no longer post on political topics or within so many days of an election, I will not obey their rules. I will

    Forward Biased (af7df9)

  53. This is absolutely horrible. What I can do, as a dual identity MSM/blogger, is to raise hell myself, on my blog, and ask the Society of Professional Journalists to get involved. They understand the importance of keeping the First Amendment intact, and that any government role in deciding who is a “legitimate” journalist is de facto government licensing.

    And you should keep writing about this. It’s a great blogger/MSM coalition builder. And it’s far past time that this coalition got organized.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  54. WTH — Ignore that last post – didn’t notice it was 3 years old! Still a useful reminder . . .

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)


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