GOP Claim That Biden FCC Nom Gigi Sohn Wants To 'Censor Conservatives' Is AT&T & Rupert Murdoch Backed Gibberish
from the fluff and nonsense dept
We’d already noted how telecom and media giants are hard at work trying to scuttle the nomination of consumer advocate Gigi Sohn to the FCC. Sohn is not only a genuine reformer, she’s broadly popular on both sides of the aisle in telecom and media circles. So companies like AT&T and News Corporation, which enjoyed no limit of ass kissing during the Trump era, are working overtime to come up with some feeble talking points loyal politicians can use to oppose her nomination. It’s not going well.
About the best they could come up with was the entirely false claim that Sohn wants to “censor Conservatives.” Anybody who actually knows Sohn knows the claim isn’t true, and she’s historically gone well out of her way to embrace policies that encourage diversity in media and speech, even when she doesn’t agree with the speaker. Despite being a nonsense claim, it has been broadly peppered across the right wing echo chamber, including the usual columns at Breitbart, editorials by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, Tucker Carlson, and elsewhere.
The claim popped up again at last week’s nomination hearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee courtesy of Senators Ted Cruz and Dan Sullivan:
“Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn faced off against Republican senators at a nomination hearing yesterday, disputing the senators’ shaky claims that she would use a post at the FCC to censor conservatives. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) repeated arguments previously made by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which mostly boil down to complaints about Sohn’s tweets criticizing Fox News and her criticism of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”
As we’ve long noted, the claims that Conservatives are being “censored” in general (either on the internet or on traditional television) aren’t remotely true. In fact Conservatives have not only built a massive right wing infotainment universe with a violent disdain for factual reality (OAN, NewsMax, Fox News, Breitbart, Facebook, YouTube, Blaze), they’ve mastered the art of trolling for outrage engagement, which generally involves saying inflammatory gibberish, then enjoying the added exposure from left-wing outrage retweets and ad-engagement obsessed clickbait coverage. Pretty much the exact opposite of “censorship.”
What’s usually deemed “censorship” is usually just fairly flimsy and short-lived accountability for spewing false or bigoted nonsense. And while the Trump GOP pretends to be mad at “big tech” for “censorship,” what they’re actually mad about is the fact that social media belatedly and inconsistently started reining in GOP race-baiting propaganda, a cornerstone of party power in the face of an unfavorable shift in demographics and a sagging electorate. The GOP has zero interest in genuine antitrust reform (see: forty straight years of U.S. history), but the pretense that they do provides handy cover for an agenda that’s exclusively self-serving.
The new Trump GOP is currently a party of performative gibberish, entirely untethered from reality, propped up largely thanks to propaganda shoveled into the brains of low-information voters, tricked into rooting against their best self interests via a massive, well-funded coalition of traditional cable and online companies (again, quite the opposite of “censorship”). And outside of perhaps reining in media consolidation and encouraging more competition, there’s not a whole lot the FCC can do about it from a policy perspective, given inevitable 1A challenges and a rightward-lurching Supreme Court. Even if Sohn wanted to “censor Conservatives” (which again, she doesn’t) she’d find it an impossible task within the confines of the FCC and legal reality.
The great irony in the GOP/News Corp/AT&T alliance’s effort to smear Sohn as somebody looking to “censor Conservatives?” Right wing news outlets like Newsmax and AT&T-funded OAN actually support her nomination because she’s historically worked to encourage diversity in media viewpoints and healthy competition in media markets. Sohn highlighted as much at the hearing:
“I would say, look at my record. Look at the conservative cable channels that I worked with for years to get them carriage on cable systems when those systems would not carry them. I have long worked with organizations and companies with whom I vigorously disagree on their point of viewâ€”fervent Republicans, fervent supporters of the previous presidentâ€”and I worked with them to get their views online. I believe that I have been characterized very unfairly as being anti-conservative speech. I think my record says otherwise.”
It’s kind of hard to smear somebody as a fan of “conservative censorship” when outlets like OAN and Newsmax, which routinely traffic in truly repugnant garbage, say she’s always been even-handed when dealing with them. Check out this statement supporting Sohn by OAN President Charles Herring:
“She believes in the First Amendment and the advantages of a strong and open media for the benefit of our democracy. She is one of the most knowledgeable persons I know on FCC issues and has the common sense and desire to work with people on both sides of the aisle.”
As usual with the broader Trump GOP, this isn’t about policy, it’s about money and power. AT&T and News Corporation don’t want Sohn appointed because she’d not only break a 2-2 partisan gridlock in voting at the FCC, she actively supports holding telecom and media giants accountable for bad behavior. That’s in pretty stark contrast to the last four years of the Trump FCC, which basically involved coddling entrenched telecom and media giants at every conceivable opportunity, even if that required a whole lot of lying and legally dubious behavior.
If you’re a Trump-allied GOP lawmaker you can’t just come out and say you’re opposing Sohn’s nomination because you’re lodged up AT&T and Rupert Murdoch’s ass and the only thing you care about is protecting their revenues so campaign contributions keep flowing. So instead you glom on to the Trump GOP’s perpetual victimization complex to not only change the subject (away from the fact you’re an enabler of anti-competitive monopolists and have been for decades), but distract and agitate the base with false outrage and victimization porn. Sohn can be approved to the post without GOP support, so in the end most of this is little more than a delay tactic and empty calorie performative gibberish, much like the lion’s share of the modern Trump GOP policy platform.