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Gutting Net Neutrality Is A Win For Conservative Media

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now in Republican hands, it has moved quickly to reverse rules that guarantee free and open access to the internet, giving conservative media outlets exactly what they have been asking for.

During an April 26 speech, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed rolling back a key provision of the 2015 net neutrality rules enacted by his agency, citing research from an industry-funded front-group to support his claim that open internet protections are a burden on internet service providers. Pai claimed the common carrier rules that enshrined net neutrality were “regulations from the Great Depression meant to micromanage Ma Bell” that should not be applied to the internet. The Wall Street Journal reported that the rollback of net neutrality rules would allow internet service providers to create preferential treatment of data speeds for certain users and corporations linked across their networks. The Journal noted that the Internet Association — a trade group representing many content providers, including Facebook, Google, and Netflix — is gearing up to oppose the proposed changes:

Critics said Mr. Pai’s changes could damage the internet ecosystem, however, by opening the door to paid fast lanes for some services and relegating others to slower speeds. That could increase costs for some big internet companies and their customers, and hurt smaller businesses that can’t afford to pay, critics added.

[…]

The net-neutrality rule adopted by the FCC in 2015 basically required internet providers such as cable and wireless firms to treat all traffic equally. One big aim was to prevent internet providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. from using their outsize leverage to disadvantage internet firms such as Netflix or Facebook.

The Republican-led FCC’s decision to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections is a major win for conservative media outlets. When the FCC authorized net neutrality rules in 2015, Fox News attacked it as a government power grab. Fortune pointed out how gutting net neutrality, combined with Trump’s proposal to slash corporate taxes, counts as a “double win” for “the nation’s largest communications companies.”

The proposed roll-back of net neutrality rules is now the third decision by Pai that seems to ameliorate complaints from conservative media. In February, he decided to impose cuts to the Lifeline program, which conservatives have assailed for years as so-called “Obamaphones,” and his decision earlier this month to ease merger restrictions on certain media companies could materially benefit Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, conservative outlets firmly allied with the Trump administration.

Criticism of Pai’s looming decision started before the proposal was even announced. On April 26, The Verge reported that it was “ready to rumble” to keep the protections in place and noted that rescinding the rule would be great for service providers and “terrible news for the rest of us.” The following day, The Verge reported that 800 tech start ups signed a letter opposing changes to net neutrality guidelines, which they believed would dismantle the rules “that allow the startup ecosystem to thrive.” Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also strongly opposes ending net neutrality and was a founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, an open internet advocacy group committed to net neutrality.

 

5 Ways Trump Is A Living Parody Of Conservative Beliefs

Who shows up at the opening of a nursery school opened to care for AIDS patients, demands to speak as if he were an honored guest, and then leaves without ever offering a donation?

The man who would eventually become the current Republican nominee for president.

That’s the stunning opening ancedote of a new blockbuster account of Donald Trump’s charitable giving by The Washington Post‘s David A. Fahrenthold.

Fahrenthold first got on the Trump charity beat to investigate a “veterans’ charity” event Trump conjured as a diversion when he decided to skip a Republican debate to protest Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who attempted to point out that his foul treatment of women might become an issue in the campaign. The Post reporter wondered what had happened to the “millions” promised to vets, including a million pledged by Trump himself. The money finally showed up — but only four months later, after a story in the Post questioned the donation.

Since then, Fahrenthold has used Twitter as his notebook and ally in his effort to document the “tens of millions” the Trump campaign claims its candidate has given to charity. Our David Cay Johnston pointed out over a year ago that Trump hadn’t given to his own charity in a decade. And in months of digging, Fahrenthold found that the largest gift the Donald J. Trump Foundation had given was $264,631 to renovate a fountain outside Trump’s Plaza Hotel.

Along the way, the now-star reporter also was the first to report on the Access Hollywood tape that revealed Trump bragging about sexual assault. But Fahrenthold’s look into Trump’s attempts to present himself as a generous man are invaluable, because he has revealed a hollow man who has come to represent the Republican Party —  the epitome of the sort of unchecked greed and exploitation the conservative movement was built to enable.

With charity for none and malice toward all, Trump exemplifies the perfidy of Republican policies in these five special ways:

  1. He pays no taxes.
    In the first debate, Donald Trump said it was smart not to pay taxes — seeming to contradict Mitt Romney’s point in the famed “47 percent” tape. In the next debate, Trump seemed to confirm a New York Times story suggesting that he hadn’t paid taxes for 18 years. In those nearly two decades, he declared bankruptcy over and over and took millions out of Atlantic City while leaving his workers and the town to rot. Meanwhile, Republicans were so concerned about the plight of the rich that they donated much of the budget surplus from the late 90s to making them richer with tax breaks that helped create the worst inequality between the rich and poor in America since before the Great Depression.
  2. He still seems to give almost nothing to charity.
    Get rid of high taxes and you won’t need a safety net! The rich will rush in to help the poor. Or so conservative theory tells us. Except that Donald Trump seems to have nearly erased his entire tax burden and then responded by creating a foundation that gets other people to help him pay for things —  like $7.00 for his son’s Boy Scout dues.
  3. He outsources almost anything he can and uses non-citizen labor while stoking fear of minorities.
    Trump’s protectionism is supposed to be a break from conservative orthodoxy, but his own business practices show him be a perfect example of why American workers are suffering. He seems to outsource anything he can put his name on; he used undocumented workers to build Trump Tower; and right now he’s employing non-citizens over citizens at his Mar-a-Lago resort. His excuse? “You shouldn’t let me do it.” He claims he will make the best trade deals that will stop robber barons like him from robbing. Meanwhile, he wants to roll back the Wall Street reforms designed to prevent the sort of crash that cost us eight million jobs after 2008. Yes, trade can hurt workers, but nothing has cost America more than unchecked greed. And Trump is promising to uncheck it. Before his advisers warned him off, he insisted that wages are too high. And in Michigan last year he revealed his real plan: outsourcing within the United States. Shipping good union jobs to states where they workers will earn a pittance for the same work. That makes him an old-fashioned, anti-labor conservative. As does his stoking of ancient hatreds against minorities and foreigners to distract from the war on the middle class — waged by men just like him. It’s classic “dog whistle” politics from a man whose businesses have been accused of racial discrimination over and over. Only now, it’s so obvious that it has sparked the rise of bald-faced white racism like America hasn’t seen in generations.
  4. He claims to be the world’s biggest hawk, yet avoided the draft and lies about his record of backing wars.
    This is Trump’s military record: He avoided the draft five times. He backed the Iraq War, the intervention in Libya, and the bombing of Syria. Now he claims to have been against all three and yet is the “most militaristic person” who “knows more than the generals.” This is a man who recognizes that Republican adventurism overseas now repulses Americans, but can’t help revealing his belligerence by calling for the bombing of civillians, torture, and stealing Iraq’s oil — all war crimes. He proposes weakening NATO,  wants to be friendlier with Russia (which has enabled the worst massacre of this century in Syria), and threatens the nuclear deal with Iran. He’s proposing a world where despotism reigns and American and Western European leadership retreats, recognizing that the American people are sick of our endless engagement in undeclared wars throughout the Middle East. But who knows what he’s really proposing when he contradicts himself constantly and seems only interested in building himself up and nurturing those who flatter him? Maybe that’s why prominent national security experts in his own party say they don’t trust him with nuclear codes, although he has the qualified support of Dick Cheney.
  5. The only traditional value he believes in is controlling women’s bodies.
    Republicans have long made a mockery of their crusade for “traditional marriage” with champions like the Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, who have been married seven times between them (but never to each other). Trump takes the GOP’s disrespect for personal values and the dignity of women to another level. It isn’t just that he appeared on the cover of Playboy, brags about his adultery and conquests, and made a career of marketing women for their looks. He has no history of religious conviction or moral compunction or respect for the “sanctity” of marriage. So his vows to embrace the far right agenda of ending Roe, defunding Planned Parenthood, and outlawing same-sex marriage expose a man who is willing to surrender to any position in order to gain power. But it’s even worse than that. His bragging about sexual assault on that Access Hollywood tape and the subsequent accusations of assault from a dozen women reveal a man who believes he has the right to control any woman’s body. Now he is united with the conservative movement in the effort to make this principle, which is at the core of the anti-choice agenda, the law of the land.

Chris Wallace And The Banality Of Conservative Dishonesty

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has received widespread praise for his performance as moderator of the final presidential debate, despite repeatedly injecting right-wing framing and misinformation into his questions. The celebration of Wallace’s performance highlights the extent to which conservative spin has become normalized in national politics.

Following the October 19 debate, commentators across the political spectrum praised Wallace for his performance as moderator. Wallace was lauded for his “blunt questions,” “evenhanded approach,” and “sterling performance,” and he was even described as the “one clearcut winner” of the debate.

Some of this praise is legitimate — Wallace repeatedly grilled Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on questions of policy and at times forced him to stay on topic in his answers. And the most newsworthy moment of the debate — Trump’s refusal to say whether he’d accept the results of the elections — came in response to Wallace’s pointed, repeated questioning near the end of the event.

But Wallace also exposed his audience to a large dose of right-wing misinformation:

  • His question about the economy began with the false premise that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan damaged the economy.
  • His question about immigration took Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2013 comments about “open borders” grossly out of context.
  • His question about abortion access invoked the right-wing myth of “partial-birth” abortion, a non-medical term invented by anti-abortion groups.
  • His question about the national debt falsely alleged that programs like Social Security and Medicare are going to run out of money and add to the debt absent short-term cuts, echoing Republican talking points about entitlements.

Wallace also failed to fact-check Trump’s frequent falsehoods — following through on his promise not to be a “truth squad” during the debate.

Wallace’s rave reviews from Republicans and Democrats alike highlight the extent to which right-wing dishonesty — made ubiquitous by Fox News and conservative media — has become normal in national politics. Wallace’s network has spent years repeating and mainstreaming these types of lies — the stimulus failed, Democrats want open borders, et cetera. Viewers have heard them so often that it can feel passé to go through the motions of debunking them over and over. Journalists become so numb to the talking points that they can hear them being repeated by a debate moderator during a presidential debate without batting an eye.

That’s how political propaganda works — not by outright convincing people, but by treating a lie as so routine and unremarkable that people slowly stop being suspicious of it.

Journalists’ willingness to accept and overlook Wallace’s bullshit is even greater when it’s being compared to the absurdity of Donald Trump. When Trump is on stage claiming his opponent should be disqualified from running for office or suggesting he might not accept the results of the election, it feels nitpicky to worry about the misleading nature of many of Wallace’s questions. Trump’s unhinged, out-of-control campaign style makes everything around him seem normal and tame by comparison. We’re willing to forgive Wallace’s occasional dishonesty because we’re so grateful that he pointed out Trump is literally threatening a core democratic principle.

But becoming numb to Wallace’s casual, subtle dishonesty is incredibly dangerous. Fox News’ modus operandi is making right-wing misinformation so pervasive and constant that it becomes unnoticeable — it becomes part of the noise we just take for granted in American politics. What makes Wallace such an effective purveyor of dishonesty is that he’s good at playing the part of the reasonable, “even-handed” journalist, even when what he’s saying is wrong.

It’s easy to challenge bullshit when it’s being delivered wildly by Trump on a debate stage. It’s much harder to challenge it when it’s being subtly baked into questions from a moderator whose employer has spent years trying to blur the lines between serious journalism and right-wing fantasy.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters