There's been a rip-roarin' discussion going on here at Riding Sun about whether failed presidential candidate John Kerry really wants to restrict or regulate what he calls America's "sub-media" and in particular, the blogosphere.
Kerry set forth his concerns about the issue in a February speech, described here.
I've taken the view that Kerry, while smart enough to know that the pesky ol' First Amendment bars a direct attack on news sources he doesn't like, nevertheless wouldn't mind seeing some limits and controls placed on who's allowed to report the news, and how they're allowed to do it.
Others have argued that Kerry was simply complaining about the trend towards mixing, or even replacing, hard news with entertainment. They point out that Kerry didn't seem to be singling out blogs for special condemnation, and indeed benefitted in the last election from the efforts of liberal bloggers.
In an article published yesterday on Tech Central Station, James D. Miller, Assistant Professor of Economics at Smith College, considers the same Kerry speech and weighs in on my side of the debate:
The Democratic Party will likely assist the MSM in their attack on blogs, not because most blogs are pro-Republican but because blogs are not as consistently liberal as the MSM. John Kerry, for example, is calling for the government to do something to protect the MSM. As he said in a recent speech:It's nice to see that I wasn't the only one who found a hostility to bloggers buried between the lines of Kerry's speech."The mainstream media, over the course of the last year, did a pretty good job of discerning. But there's a subculture and a sub-media that talks and keeps things going for entertainment purposes rather than for the flow of information. And that has a profound impact and undermines what we call the mainstream media of the country. And so the decision-making ability of the American electorate has been profoundly impacted as a consequence of that. The question is, what are we going to do about it?"The Republicans will, I hope, realize that on average their interests are served by protecting blogs. But the Democrats and the MSM will still use the courts and regulatory agencies to attack bloggers, and if the Democrats ever retake the Presidency and Congress expect "media reform" to become a top priority.
Professor Miller argues that Democrats, despite the protections of the First Amendment, could go after blogs by pursuing stricter, and more rigorously-enforced, laws on campaign finance reform, libel, and copyright protection. He argues that the mainstream media has the resources to research the impact of, and to comply with, tough new laws in these areas, as well as to defend themselves in court should they be sued. Individual bloggers, however, would likely be cowed into submission or abandon blogging all together.
It's a chilling vision, and one I hope doesn't come to pass.
Interestingly, while some Democrats may be siding against bloggers, the Bush administration appears ready to treat them as legitimate information sources, even inviting a blogger to attend the White House's daily press briefings.