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Friday, February 21, 2014

The Face of Tyranny

File:Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpg
(Source: Wikimedia)
In the Bible, Christ teaches:
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth devil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
 (Matt. 7:16-20). There is much that I could point to from this Administration, but let me focus on an op-ed from yesterday's Washington Examiner (h/t Instapundit). Bryon York writes on a new Orwellian "initiative" by the FCC:
The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…" But under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to send government contractors into the nation's newsrooms to determine whether journalists are producing articles, television reports, Internet content, and commentary that meets the public's "critical information needs." Those "needs" will be defined by the administration, and news outlets that do not comply with the government's standards could face an uncertain future. It's hard to imagine a project more at odds with the First Amendment.

The initiative, known around the agency as "the CIN Study" (pronounced "sin"), is a bit of a mystery even to insiders. "This has never been put to an FCC vote, it was just announced," says Ajit Pai, one of the FCC's five commissioners (and one of its two Republicans). "I've never had any input into the process," adds Pai, who brought the story to the public's attention in a Wall Street Journal column last week.

Advocates promote the project with Obama-esque rhetoric. "This study begins the charting of a course to a more effective delivery of necessary information to all citizens," said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn in 2012. Clyburn, daughter of powerful House Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, was appointed to the FCC by President Obama and served as acting chair for part of last year. The FCC, Clyburn said, "must emphatically insist that we leave no American behind when it comes to meeting the needs of those in varied and vibrant communities of our nation -- be they native born, immigrant, disabled, non-English speaking, low-income, or other." (The FCC decided to test the program with a trial run in Ms. Clyburn's home state, South Carolina.)

The FCC commissioned the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy to do a study defining what information is "critical" for citizens to have. The scholars decided that "critical information" is information that people need to "live safe and healthy lives" and to "have full access to educational, employment, and business opportunities," among other things.

The study identified eight "critical needs": information about emergencies and risks; health and welfare; education; transportation; economic opportunities; the environment; civic information; and political information.

... The FCC awarded a contract for the study to a Maryland-based company called Social Solutions International. In April 2013, Social Solutions presented a proposal outlining a process by which contractors hired by the FCC would interview news editors, reporters, executives and other journalists.

"The purpose of these interviews is to ascertain the process by which stories are selected," the Social Solutions report said, adding that news organizations would be evaluated for "station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs, and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
 
... the FCC also proposes to regulate newspapers, which it has no authority to do. (Its mission statement says the FCC "regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable…")
Due to intense criticism, the FCC has backed down ... a bit. According to the Washington Post:
Faced with an outcry, the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman said Thursday that he would amend the effort — intended to assess whether the news media were meeting the public’s “critical information needs” — by removing questions that critics had deemed invasive.

... FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to the growing furor Thursday by ordering the removal of questions about news philosophy and editorial judgment.

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