In October of 2009, the White House stepped up its argument that FOX News was not a 'legitimate news organization' with Axelrod and Emmanuel appearing on some weekend taking head shows and commenting on it. Both of them had the same talking point; FOX News was not a news channel at all.
Now for most people those remarks were taken lightly as an attack on FOX, and it's clear that the White House and FOX News, well, they just don't plain get along. I wrote a blog on the conflicts between them at that time, after Anita Dunn went public with the conflict and her comments that Mao was her favorite philosopher.
The casual news follower probably missed the significance of those comments back then, but I didn't. The two men didn't just say we 'disagree' with FOX's handling of the news- which would have been a more appropriate response. No, they questioned the legitimacy of the FOX actually calling themselves a news organization. When government officials do this, it takes on a darker implication.
Why is that significant? Because with the revelations that the government has been intimidating conservatives and conservative groups its shows that this administration has had a long history of using fear tactics to get their way. It’s not just a scandal involving the IRS.
Remember, this is the same White House that is quietly pushing the agenda of the Fairness Doctrine, This is a policy of the FCC introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was (in the Commission's view) honest, equitable and balanced. Although the Supreme Court has upheld the FCC's right to do so, it did not rule on Constitutionality implications of the rule, and its implications on 1st Amendment rights. Enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine and the White House attitude about content leads me to believe they may now be considering moving forward on that front.
I take the 1st Amendment very seriously, as I believe that all of our rights that are protected under the Constitution essentially come from the ability to speak freely. If the waters of liberty spring from the Constitution, most certainly, the right of free speech is the cistern from which it flows.
Even since early childhood, and then through college when I worked on the school papers and then continued on into adulthood, I wrote everything from creative work to opinion work. To me, the freedom of speech is essential to quality work as a writer, and now a blogger. To compromise the content of that work in any way, in order to satisfy the onus of government is a distasteful and horrifying prospect. I would imagine the people over at FOX or any news or media outlet, would feel the same.
If the government moves forward with this attack on free speech and gets away with intimidating conservatives with the IRS into not donating or joining these groups, or makes media change its content to suit its political agenda, it will be a dark day for the defenders of the 1st Amendment and our country. It would also sow seeds of resistance in the American people, much in the same way it did when Nixon cut off the New York Times from content years ago. It leads people not to trust their leaders and that distrust leads to more dangerous and twisting paths which we, as a nation, should not tread.
Make no mistake, other media stations might be under the same pressures of IRS intimidation and prosecutions (such as the AP wiretaps). We must consider the possibility that the mainstream media might not be complicit. They might be intimidated into reporting favorable stories.
The White House has never said anything about other stations being something other than news organizations, nor discussed the Fairness Doctrine as it applied to them. This may be the deal they brokered.
An attitude of hostility and intimidation to the Tea Party, and conservatives in general, could also lead to the early germination of resistance movements to the government and their plans. This is a place we do not want to go to.
The White House should drop all attempts to deny and stymie the IRS and AP wiretap scandals, and appoint a Special Investigator. The White House needs to lessen the tensions right now, not add to them.
Unless of course, many FOX shows are correct, and this government is actually hiding the truth about their political agenda from the American people. By opening the doors of information and dropping the rhetoric, it would go far in repudiating that argument.
If you would like to read more from Thomas Purcell, you can visit his website at www.libertyneversleeps.com