Opinion

Why do so many liberals want to suppress political speech?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Michael Barone,Freedom of Speech,Media,FCC

The knee jerk response of many liberals to political attacks seems to be to suppress such speech. Examples abound. Michigan Rep. Gary Peters, running for the Senate, threatens the broadcast licenses of stations that run ads criticizing him. Over at salon.com Fred Jerome imagines what it would be like to nationalize -- have the government take over -- Fox News. And of course evidence continues to accumulate that high Internal Revenue Service officials denied approval to conservative groups in order to suppress political speech.

Then there's the Federal Communications Commission's “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs”--put on hold Friday. The FCC was going to query TV station and newspaper writers about their “coverage choices.” As my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York explains, this “study” was the project of Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, daughter of Rep. James Clyburn, and it was scheduled to be rolled out first in Columbia, S.C. -- which just happens to be the Clyburns' hometown.

The amazing thing is that this wacky project, which was supposedly based on the need to identify barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businessmen in broadcast businesses, was humming along without demur until, in a Feb. 10 opinion article in the Wall Street Journal, Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai blew the whistle. “How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businessmen from entering the broadcast industry?” he asked. “And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?” Even after that appeared, it was not until Feb. 21 that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, at least temporarily, shut the project down. Wheeler, a successful communications venture capitalist and lobbyist, is obviously a smart person; the fact that it took him more than an instant to stop this ridiculous process shows the strength of the liberal impulse to suppress speech.

Some of us are old enough to remember when liberals’ response to speech they disagreed with was: more speech. The reflexive response of many liberals today seems to be: shut it down.

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