It’s life or death for the Federal Communications Commission and death may be the honest option.
Let’s face it, the FCC’s mission , to regulate communications media in the public interest, has been beaten to a pulp by politicians of both parties over the last t wo decades. Now Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai wants to kill the wounded agency off, and he may do it, to all intents and purposes, at the Commission’s meeting this December 14th.
The FCC dates back close almost a century to a time when new technology was bursting with potential and open to use or abuse, with devastating implications for democracy. Its mission was forged by movements who understood that the nation teetered on a brink. Would the US be the land of misogyny, white supremacy, militarism, anti-semitism and anti-immigrant bias, or something better?
Would monopoly capitalism accumulate unchecked? The social justice movements of the 1920s and 30s disagreed about many things, but they understood from experience that no one of them stood a chance of shifting power or displacing arrogance without a functioning pubic information exchange. The future of the nation would only go one way if only those who could pay could have a say.
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In the 1940s, the chairman of the FCC was a civil rights advocate, one of Rosa Parks’ lawyers . Clifford Durr pursued media justice with a social justice passion because he and the movements at his back, believed that diversity, localism and competition were civil rights means to a civil, fair society.
All these years on, decades of paid propaganda have many Americans convinced that government has no business meddling in the business of media. Social movements mostly don't get too involved in media regulation either, because, well, groups like the AFL-CIO and the NAACP can afford to buy time big-dollar ads on the big bosses' media -- and cross their fingers.
Reverse net neutrality? Open the floodgates to more media monopoly? Chairman Pai, a former staffer to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has in mind to accomplish all that and more. The FCC will probably vote on both things on Thursday. Pai leads the commission’s Republican Majority in lockstep and they’ve already done-in LifeLine, the meager subsidy that helped low income people connect to doctors and nurses and public assistance. They wiped out the Durr-era rule that required broadcasters to maintain local-stations too. Social responsibility? Corporations aren’t ignoring the human cost of communications break-downs. Far from it, they're just figuring out how to profit off getting cell service back up and running in Puerto Rico.
No, what surprises me, isn’t Pai or his pals. It's us. If we don’t start learning from our history and perhaps repeating some of it, we might was well start burning books. Anything with Democracy in the title.