QandO (Questions and Observations), a self-described "neo-libertarian" blog, has a report on a recent congressional hearing on the question of whether the Federal Election Commission should regulate bloggers like us -- those who talk about political issues. (This was, alert readers will recall, a primary topic of discussion at the first Virginia bloggers' conference hosted by the Sorensen Institute last month.)
QandO contributor McQ writes:
...there are two schools of thought here. One that takes up Toner's theme that blogging should be exempt and that Congress should legislate that exemption under the auspicies of free speech rights.He goes on to say something which I would be hardpressed to gainsay:
There are others who say that the argument gives credence to the right of the government to regulate bloggers that they really don't have under the First Amendment and that we should instead be telling them to butt out (under the provisions of the First Amendment) and essentially ignore anything they come up with. Or said another way, continue with business as usual, and if they pass a law restricting or regulating blogging, ignore it by engaging in massive civil disobedience.
I'm inclined toward the latter response for a number of reasons. First, I completely agree that it is a free speech issue and it is McCain-Feingold which is the problem here, not political blogging. The entire point of the free speech portion of the First Amendment was to protect political speech. Now we see an attempt to regulate it. I see that M-F as an illegitimate law which infringes on the basic right of a blogger to espouse freely his or her political opinion as guaranteed by the Constitution.
I'd suggest we'd (bloggers) only run afoul of "legal problems" and "the red tape of regulation" if the mass of political bloggers recognize and then adhere to them. Massive civil disobedience in the face of a threat to First Amendment rights is the popular side of the fight. Oppressive regulation is the unpopular side. Guess how long those regulations will last if it starts to impact your local Congressman or woman's reelection chances?As the political bloggers' pledge says, "If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules."
I'm not buying we're at the mercy of the FEC. I see it the other way around on this particular issue. . . .
The FEC may not be "speech police" but any regulation of bloggers sure is going to make it seem like they are. And that is why the issue is a winner for bloggers and a loser for the FEC, McCain-Feingold and government overreach.
I think we (bloggers) should push it.
We shall not be moved.