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  • Let the FTC Regulate Where It Would Do Some Good

    Posted by Shannon Love on June 22nd, 2009 (All posts by )

    So, the bright bulbs at Obama’s Federal Trade Commission have decided to regulate blogs based on the premise that undisclosed financial relationships between bloggers and businesses could lead bloggers to deceive their readers as to the value of products they blog about. [h/t Instapundit]

    If we’re going to regulate speech based on inducements to bias why stop with mere financial relationships? I think we should require all media sources to reveal all possible sources of bias starting with the political affiliations of the publishers and reporters. After all, the media sells stories they advertise as accurate and objective. Shouldn’t consumers have ready access to the information they need to decide if those claims are true?

    Politics is more important than money. If you buy a toaster based on a biased recommendation, you’re only out the cost of a toaster. If you vote based on a biased political recommendation, you could lose your freedom. If the government has both the duty and the ability to protect you against bias in product recommendations on blogs, why doesn’t it have the same duty and ability to protect you against biased reporting on political matters?

    Political beliefs matter. Soldiers fight and die for their political beliefs, not their paltry pay. Our political beliefs are closely tied to our moral sense of right and wrong and our sense of the just order of society. Political beliefs influence us on an unconscious level. Political beliefs do, without doubt, bias people even more strongly than money does.

    This Wednesday, ABC is turning an entire day of news programing over to the Democrats’ health care plan. Wouldn’t viewers alter their judgment of the accuracy and objectivity of ABC’s reporting on the subject if they knew that the ABC employees donated to Democrats 80 times as much as they did to Republicans? Certainly, I can’t help but note that if the circumstances were reversed, most people who see nothing wrong in ABC’s actions now would suddenly see ABC’s donations as profoundly undermining the integrity of ABC’s reporting. 

     (For that matter, shouldn’t Deborah Yao have to reveal that she has an economic stake in suppressing blogs as competitors with traditional media?)

    Revealing bias in matters of politics is even more important than revealing bias in commercial matters. If you buy a bad toaster on biased advice, you can easily tell because the toaster is crap and you can easily get another toaster. In politics, the media is often our only source of political information and we can’t easily tell which particular political policies are working and which are not. Worse, when we vote, we’re stuck with whomever we elect until the next election. For most political reporting, knowledge of the reporter’s bias is the only means of judging the accuracy and objectivity of a news story.

    I’m not suggesting that the government regulate the truth or falsehood of political reporting the same way the government appoints itself the arbiter of truth in business matters. I am simply suggesting that the government should require that anyone legally defined as a journalist or publisher (such as for shield laws, broadcast licenses, etc.) be required to reveal their history of political affiliations in terms of political donations, membership in political parties and membership in political activist organizations. They would need to do so prominently in every product they sell, such as on a newspaper’s banner or at the head of every newscast. The cost of doing so would be minor but the benefit to consumers would be significant.

    As I’ve noted before, leftists are strong advocates of the free market as the sole corrective mechanism when it comes to the economic freedom of articulate intellectuals. It’s high time they learned what it is like to live under Big Brother’s benevolent eye. If FTC regulation is good enough for everyone else, it’s good enough for the media.

     

    10 Responses to “Let the FTC Regulate Where It Would Do Some Good”

    1. Lexington Green Says:

      “Politics is more important that money.”

      This is about politics, not money. The point is to make blogging more onerous and risky. Since most people do it as a hobby and make no money on it, a small increase in the risk and cost of doing it should — which is the goal of Obama and his people — shut down the “blogosphere” entirely. A few high-profile prosecutions and most people will just stop doing it. Game over.

      That is the point.

      There is zero chance this will be applied to the MSM. To the contrary, they are going to get government bail outs.

      The overt use of government power to help one’s political allies and hurt one’s opponents is very much the school Obama, Axelrod and Emmanuel grew up in, the Democrats have successfully created a one-party operation in Chicago/Cook for decades. That is the goal nationally.

      America, welcome to Chicago.

    2. Ginny Says:

      Well, Lex, while Chicago isn’t very attractive, don’t you sometimes wonder if it isn’t Chicago but Venezuela – even Daley didn’t take over major businesses and tell them what to produce. Oh, well, I’ve moved from the apathetic left to the confused center to what may be approaching right wing paranoia.

    3. Lexington Green Says:

      There are very unattractive aspects of life in Chicago. The government here is a disgrace. Daley, to his credit, is aware that the golden goose can be choked to death, and runs a corporatist state that is not entirely bad and seems better than most other big cities on a day to day basis. Obama does not, as far as I can tell, have anything approaching the intellectual powers of Richard J. Daley, and hence he is unlikely to have Da Mare’s capacity to walk that line. Starting out with a spending binge beyond the dreams of political avarice shows that he is a stone-cold redistributionist. He is Todd Stroger with — I am told; I don’t see it myself — charisma.

      That is not paranoia. That is reaching conclusions based on facts.

    4. Rick Caird Says:

      GE has become the perfect example of a so called capitalistic company engaging in pure rent seeking. They want Congressional subsidies for things like wind mills and others of their product lines.

      MSNBC is heavily skewed left, but we also see John Harwood at NBC who needs to get a room every time he talks about Obama. Then, there is the censoring at CNBC. Dylan Rattigan is gone after a rant on the government funded payouts by AIG to the the likes of Goldman and foreign banks. Santelli has been muzzled after his rant suggesting tea parties.

      GE is a prime example of a rent seeking company that should not be allowed to own media companies to pursue its rent seeking.

    5. Tim Says:

      I would also be interesting if the FTC would evaluate the marketing of the government sponsored health plan as it would any private health plan. It would also be interesting if the Federal plan would have to meet every state insurance reporting requirements. In offering a new health plan, the government is offering health insurance as an alternative to private insurance and should be required to provide the same level of information as a private entity so that a proper evaluation of alternatives could be made by the purchasing public?

      Also would ABC itself be offering the new plan to its employees instead of its existing plan?

    6. Andy S. Says:

      “If you vote based on a biased political recommendation, you could lose your freedom.”

      I’m curious: what would you cite as an example of someone voting based on an UNBIASED political recommendation? What IS an unbiased political recommendation, and how would one identify it?

      “Soldiers fight and die for their political beliefs, not their paltry pay.”

      No, soldiers most often fight and die for other people’s political beliefs. And even in today’s volunteer army, soldiers fight when and where they are ordered to fight, by whomever is the commander in chief. Thirdly, if one is fighting for one of the private military contractors, the pay is not so paltry.

      Bottom line, politics are biased by definition. The best you can hope for is transparency regarding those biases, but since politics is also about deception, good luck with that.

    7. Good Lt. Says:

      MSNBC (of all places) did an investigation two years ago looking at the political contributions that journalists – print, broadcasting, etc. – made to political candidates and parties in recent election cycles (2006 by that investigation, which was an off-year election). I’ll give you three guesses as to what party they donated to by a 9-to-1 ratio.

      The list:

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19113455/

      It’s not even close or arguable which party the media supports and which candidate for President in 2008 they supported. At what point does a journalist stop being merely biased and start being a political activist? When they open their wallets and put their money where their mouths and keyboards are. And that, folks, is for the Democrat Party. The end.

      As Woodward and Bernstein famously remarked, “follow the money.”

    8. Shannon Love Says:

      Andy S,

      I’m curious: what would you cite as an example of someone voting based on an UNBIASED political recommendation?

      Well, obviously I meant unbiased information from a media source. After all, the vast majority of media sources claim to sell accurate and objective information that you can use to make your own decisions. Isn’t that what you personally pay for? I mean, you don’t buy news products just to get a reprint of this or that politician’s press releases. You buy an independent source of information.

      No, soldiers most often fight and die for other people’s political beliefs

      I think that very demeaning and disrespectful of people in military. I know its all the rage to portray them alternatively as monsters or exploited children but I find that vile. American soldiers follow the orders of the political leadership because they believe in the American system.

      Thirdly, if one is fighting for one of the private military contractors, the pay is not so paltry.

      Which just goes to prove my point. There are 1.2 million service people today versus less than 10,000 paramilitary private security people. We pay a low grade service person well under 20,000 dollars but that same person can make $150,000-$200,000 working privately. Clearly, if a person can make ten times their salary working privately, then their political beliefs must strongly influence their choice.

      Bottom line, politics are biased by definition. The best you can hope for is transparency regarding those biases, but since politics is also about deception, good luck with that.

      I couldn’t have put it better myself which is why the FTC needs to step in to provide consumers knowledge about of the political biases of the people who claim to sell objective information.

    9. Andy S. Says:

      “<>

      I think that very demeaning and disrespectful of people in military. I know its all the rage to portray them alternatively as monsters or exploited children but I find that vile.”

      I intend neither. Fighting for others’ political beliefs is neither monstrous nor naive – it’s selfless and noble. And it’s also realistic. Soldiers don’t get to vote on whether or not they agree with the war they’re ordered to fight.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      Andy S,

      Soldiers don’t get to vote on whether or not they agree with the war they’re ordered to fight.

      They get the same vote the rest of get. They get to choose whether to place themselves under the authority of the real world political system.

      However, I think you missed the main point I was trying to make. Political ideology is a much more powerful military motivator than money. Soldiers fighting for a cause, democracy, communism, country etc are much more effective than mercenaries. Ideology drives soldiers to sacrifice themselves for a greater good as they see it. Money cannot induce people to do that.

      Likewise, in the civilian political realm, political ideology creates a stronger drive to bias than does financial incentives.