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March 14, 2005
Free Speech Threatened: Augusta Free Press

Living up to its name, the Augusta Free Press runs a guest column this morning by Bruce Kesler that details the the threat to free speech that the pending FEC regulation of the Internet portends. He notes the same problem that I have:

Under McCain-Feingold, complaints are brought by the public, to which the accused must respond. The complaints of partisans against potent bloggers, almost all being one or a few individuals, can only burden them to end blogging or to restrain their ability to freely blog. It is difficult, at best, to define and to delineate "paid." Is it being paid to accept political ads or to also work for the wide range of organizations considered political entities under McCain-Feingold and similar laws? Are the mainstream media's reporters and commentators to also be so measured, piercing the current media exemption?

Of course not; the media exemption got written into the BCRA itself in order to appeal to the statist media and garner their support. Had the BCRA targeted the relaying of campaign materials and references by so-called legitimate media outlets in the same manner that the FEC now has license to do with the blogosphere, they would have hounded John McCain and Russ Feingold out of office at the first possible moment. In fact, the BCRA would have never passed Congress, let alone get signed by George Bush. The media exemption allowed the MSM to cheerfully support the most significant dimunition of the First Amendment, which they have traditionally fought to protect, in exchange for a privileged seat in the final days of elections. For now.

That retreat has been self-serving, and shameless.

World Magazine also covers the BCRA threat in its lastest issue. Mark Bergin interviewed a few bloggers, including me, for his report on the threat and the reaction it has received from the blogosphere:

Edward Morrissey, known as Captain Ed on the popular conservative blog "Captain's Quarters," told WORLD that such restrictions could prove fatal for his blog and others: "If we had to start accounting for our time and defending ourselves every time we got accused of coordinationsay by simply excerpting from a candidate's position paper in order to make a pointwe'd incur legal fees that would intimidate most people into shutting down."

When President Bush first signed McCain-Feingold into law, the six-member FEC granted a blanket exemption to the internet by a 4-2 vote. Last year, however, a federal judge ruled the commission must reexamine that exemption. Mr. Smith and his two fellow Republican commissioners sought to appeal the ruling, but the three Democrats blocked that from happening.

Read all of the two articles. Both are well-written and cover the salient points of debate, and both demonstrate that even some in the exempt media have reservations about regulating speech. Perhaps they might foresee where the courts could, at some point, challenge the MSM exemption on the basis of FEC regulations on the Internet and the principle of equal treatment under the law.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 14, 2005 5:57 AM

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» IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF THE FEC from Right Wing Nut House
UPDATE: The Captain links to two excellent MSM columns defending the free speech rights of bloggers. The Captain is quoted in World Magazine talking about the same issue I raised in my post above: [Read More]

Tracked on March 14, 2005 8:06 AM



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