When it comes to infringements on American freedom that liberals have launched during the coronavirus crisis, lockdowns are the least of it.
It’s true that across the country, governors have ginned up powers to limit the freedoms of assembly and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Those are battles that are not only being fought on the ground in real-time, but are also almost certainly destined for court cases where – once the fog of war lifts – reason and American values will win out.
More insidious are the left’s attempts to use the “national emergency” to enshrine the kind of authoritarian limitations on American freedom that leftists have instituted in every country unfortunate enough to fall under socialist doctrines – and a petition smacked down by the FCC this week is a case in point.
Pretending concern about misinformation regarding COVID-19, the potentially fatal disease caused by the coronavirus, a group that calls itself “Free Press” sought a Federal Communications Commission investigation of any broadcaster that has “aired hoaxes and false or misleading information about COVID-19, and immediately issue an emergency policy statement or enforcement guidance recommending that broadcasters prominently disclose when information they air is false or scientifically suspect.”
Fortunately, the FCC has a Republican majority, and its chairman, Ajit Pai, issued a ringing public statement along with a five-page letter rejecting the petition.
“The federal government will not – and never should – investigate broadcasters for their editorial judgment because a special interest group is angry at views being expressed on the air as well as those expressing them. In short, we will not censor the news,” the statement said.
Under my leadership, the @FCC has always defended Americans’ 1st Amendment freedoms, including freedom of the press. That’s why we’ve rejected a special interest’s demand that we investigate broadcasters for their editorial judgments. @FCC staff decision: https://t.co/2DGUjwTw9P pic.twitter.com/MUCyLUj39R
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) April 6, 2020
Like any liberal idea, like any leftist propaganda, like the serpent’s temptation of Eve, the petition is couched in ostensibly reasonable language – but its ultimate goal is more deadly than any viper’s venom.
Its target was not just any broadcaster and not just any material, of course. By the petition’s plain language, it was aimed at President Donald Trump’s national briefings on the coronavirus.
“When the president tells dangerous lies about a public health emergency, broadcasters have a choice: don’t air them, or put those lies in context with disclaimers noting that they may be untrue and are unverified,” it states. “And certainly the FCC has a duty to rein in radio broadcasters that seed confusion with lies and disinformation.”
That should be some heady stuff. One would expect that an activist group with the Orwellian name of “Free Press” would have a pretty strong case before it asked a powerful regulatory body to establish a precedent undermining the First Amendment — and attacking a duly elected president to boot.
But the best the group comes up with is the now-infamous case of an Arizona couple who ingested fish tank cleaner – reportedly under the illusion that one of its ingredients was identical to a prescription medication Trump has talked up as a possible cure for COVID-19.
“The president’s mischaracterization of the efficacy of chloroquine phosphate is an acute example. Broadcast of that statement led to a nation-wide shortage of a drug integral to treating other ailments — exacerbating this health crisis,” the petition states.
“It also precipitated the death of an Arizona man and hospitalization of his wife earlier this week, when they ingested the drug because they said they had ‘watched televised briefings during which President Trump talked about the potential benefits of chloroquine’ and believed it was safe because ‘it was all over TV.’”
That’s nonsense on stilts, and even the authors of this insultingly obvious petition have to know it.
If anyone has missed the story, the short answer is, Trump never advised anyone to drink fish tank cleaner. And the actual drug he mentioned is being used by doctors around the world as a treatment for COVID-19.
However and why ever this couple chose to do so – the man died, his widow survived – might not someday be known, but it’s a rock-solid bet that no sensible human being can hold Trump responsible for it.
But that wasn’t really the goal of the petition. As is made clear by the other targets of the Free Press complaint, the actual details of the Arizona death were unimportant.
What the petition was seeking was to silence Trump and his supporters like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo, radio voices for the conservative movement that reach millions of Americans daily.
The coronavirus saga has already demonstrated in spades the fact that liberals “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” in the immortal words of former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (who went on to serve as mayor of the never-ending serious crisis known as the city of Chicago.)
That liberal M.O. has never been more maliciously on display, from state and local government engaging in constitutionally questionable attacks on individual liberty and religious freedom, to congressional Democrats’ determination to use coronavirus relief packages to push a progressive agenda that’s abhorrent to sane Americans.
In the long run, the lockdowns will be a thing of the past. An American people that doesn’t like to be told what to do in principle will push back on overeager sheriffs, tin-pot despot governors and opportunistic Democrats – that’s what the ballot box is for.
But if liberals manage to use the crisis to inject their poisonous brand of politically correct tyranny into a body like the FCC, which has a duty to guard American liberty while maintaining its statutory mission of making public airwaves available to all, the damage will be lasting.
The ludicrous petition by the so-called Free Press is a joke, an insult to anyone capable of critical thinking unblinded by politics.
But the ramifications are nothing to laugh at.
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