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Thursday, February 25, 2021

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Progressives who think they’re clever recently hatched a scheme to eliminate conservative views and balance from the American media. The first step is to now deny there are at least two sides to every story and to label anything with which they disagree as being “disinformation.” 

They were going to call it “fake news,” but former President Trump expropriated the term for himself and then turned it on the house organs of the left like The New York Times and CNN. 


Now that he’s out of office, however, the idea has come back with a vengeance, with an expanded target list. Unlike before, when shutting down Fox News, One America and Newsmax was the goal because of their center-right editorial outlook, members of Congress are now trying to deplatform them by going after the providers who bring these channels into America’s homes. 

They may think they’re not doing anything to inhibit freedom of the press but they’d be wrong. A letter recently sent to 12 cable, satellite and streaming providers by Democratic Reps. Anna G. Eshoo and Jerry McNerney reads like an interrogation rather than inquiry. 

In it, they ask whether the providers will continue to offer Fox and the other networks to their subscribers. Ms. Eshoo and Mr. McNerney asked companies, including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Apple and Roku, “What moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?” and if they were “planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN” on their systems “both now and beyond any contract renewal date? If so, why?”

Are these questions and the others in the letter, coming as they do from influential members of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology which oversees the issues of greatest concern to the multi-billion-dollar companies to whom their letter was sent, veiled threats? Probably. 

On Wednesday, the full committee held a hearing, “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media.” The rhetoric flew fast and furiously as the majority brushed aside concerns about encroaching on the First Amendment to score political points with the folks watching. The companies that got the Eshoo/McNerney letter weren’t asked to tell their side of the story. 

When liberals monopolized the three major broadcast networks’ news coverage, the American people were told repeatedly by politicians, academics and by the media itself that the Fourth Estate was adversarial by design. This was the excuse for the seemingly constant barrage of critical coverage of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. 

Now we know that to be fiction. The proliferation of channels has led to a proliferation of viewpoints that have invigorated the national debate. The people are hearing more than one side and the people whose arguments are, in the marketplace of free ideas, losing cannot tolerate it. 

The progressives have determined debates they cannot win should not be allowed to happen. Contrarian voices are suppressed on college campuses all the time. It’s now normal but it’s not right — and the impulse to similarly suppress speech and information in the news is spreading. 

The Democrats argue, incredibly, this initiative is a matter of public safety. They blame center-right news outlets for creating the environment that led to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Notice that social media companies are not criticized nor are television news channels not obviously left of center like MSNBC and CBS. Nor is anyone looking into whether television news might have abetted any violence occurring in furtherance of the progressive agenda. 

Make no mistake about it: The First Amendment is under attack from inside Congress’ hallowed halls. Politicians can do a lot to mess with the media. The media darlings who shape American opinion called Mr. Trump out on it every time he did. When progressives do it, the media agenda setters are silent and, for this, they should be ashamed. Their silence equals consent. If publishers, network executives, editors and reporters do not speak out against this horrible turn of events, it will not be long before the censors will go in search of new targets. Much to their surprise they may then find themselves in the same crosshairs now focused on Fox News, OANN and Newsmax. 

• Peter Roff is a former UPI and U.S. News & World Report columnist who is now affiliated with several Washington, D.C.-based public policy organizations. He appears regularly as a commentator on the One America News network. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@GMAIL.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.


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