The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


The McCain-Feingold law is a piece of un-Constitutional garbage. The Supreme Court upheld it on first challenge, but it is now starting to come under more creative fire. First on the front lines is the National Rifle Association which plans to launch a "news and commentary program" on the radio. Under MF, corporate PACs are verboten (I'm sorry, that's forbidden. I don't know why I slipped into German there) from taking out an ad that advocates or opposes a candidate within 60 days of an election. This does not apply to news and commentary organizations. So if Peter Jennings goes on TV and says that President Bush was caught picking his nose with the quill pen used by Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence, it is no problem. However, if the Federalist Society takes out an ad stating that John Kerry was picking his nose with the pen used by Alexander Hamilton to write the Federalist Papers, and it's within 60 days of the presidential election, it is illegal.

The NRA will run its show on a few local affiliates as well as on Sirius satellite radio. The line between advocacy and news (and especially commentary) is blurry, and this attempt by the government to regulate certain commercial speech could only result in someone testing the boundaries. So where will the court draw the line? The NRA has a perfect right to run a news show. There is no law restricting newsgathering and reporting to news organizations. If McDonald's wants to start a news network, focusing on all of the latest chicken nugget processing technology, there is no reason (other than reason) that they may not. Furthermore, the NRA's news selection is protected by the first amendment. The government can not restrict any speech based on its content. Precedent awards special protections to "the media" lest we all become uninformed boobs who do not pay attention to issues and vote for draft dodging drug users who start illegal wars (note: you will read that last sentence differently if you are a democrat than if you are a republican. You are both right). Assuming that this show is in form a news show, it will be free to rant about pro-gun positions for all of it's three hour time slot every day.

So this is what MF has wrought? Peta sponsored tofu wrestling? NRAdio? "The Anti-Abortion All Fetus Hour?" Tonight, Dan Rather marries Ted Koppel? Tonight, Bill O'Reilly shows exclusive photographs of the number 666 written on Al Franken's forehead? Tonight Brit Hume eats 15 Big Macs and smokes 24 packs of Marlboros and lives?

OK, so some of these are good ideas. But why should these groups have to go through this sham? And think about what the sham is. They must take on the appearance of objectivity, of an informer and not an advocate. They do not even want to be in this position. They are, essentially, forced to lie in order to be heard. It will confuse people more than it will inform them, and this is precisely what the first amendment was supposed to prevent.

It is as if it is written:

Congress shall make no law restricting info-mercials.


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