Columnist gets ‘F’ for false claims

Columnist gets ‘F’ for false claims

Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 8:01 pm
By: Lynda Hamblen

By LYNDA HAMBLEN
An F — as a former English teacher, that’s the grade I give Michael Reagan’s op-ed on net neutrality that appeared in this paper in January. Last December, the FCC passed regulations ensuring Internet surfers access to everything on the worldwide web. Mr. Reagan claimed these regulations stifled the Internet’s freedom of speech. He even went so far as to accuse President Obama and the FCC of using these regulations to engineer a Nazi-like takeover of the Internet.
The reason for the F? Mr. Reagan broke a cardinal rule of good writing. He didn’t supply any facts to back up his allegations. Mr. Reagan failed to inform his readers what the regulations did, how they limited the Internet’s freedom of speech and how they in any way resembled Nazi policies. So I decided to do the job for him. I spent the last month scratching, sniffing, prodding and poking the regulations, but all in vain. I couldn’t unearth the least scrap of evidence to support Mr. Reagan’s claims.
Instead, I discovered that the regulations were all about protecting you, the Internet surfer. The regulations require your Internet service provider to not only provide you access to all legal websites, but to also make them available at the same download speed. This means that someone in Kalamazoo can log onto the website for The  Messenger and he can do so at the same downlaod speed that he logs onto The New York Times.
In addition, your Internet service provider has to tell you what it’s going to do if everyone in the world logs onto the worldwide web at the same time. In other words, it has to tell you which websites are going to end up in the rapid rabbit lane and which in the slow snail lane when there’s an Internet traffic snarl. In this case, the website for The Messenger is more than likely going to end up in the snail lane of most Internet service providers, while The New York Times will probably end up in the rapid rabbit lane.
Those are the regulations in a nutshell. Rack my brain as I may, I simply can’t see how these regulations limit the Internet’s freedom of speech. Maybe I inadvertently overlooked a crucial element somewhere. If so, please let me know. But until then, I am forced to conclude that there were no facts Mr. Reagan could have used to back up his claims.
But he did something far worse. He relied on fear-mongering and hate-mongering to make his case for him, pointing a finger at Obama and the FCC and yelling “Nazis.” Appealing to fear and hate in order to score political points are the tactics of demagoguery. They are the tactics Hitler and the Nazi party used in their grab for political power.
In using these tactics, Mr. Reagan is not only insulting the intelligence of his readers, he is also undermining and holding in contempt the rational, factual public discourse that is the foundation of a democracy, the kind of discourse that President Obama uses. On reflection, I’m going to have to rescind my F for Mr. Reagan’s commentary. I’m not going to give it any grade at all because I can’t find one low enough.
Union City resident Lynda Hamblen is a longtime contributor to The Messenger.

Published in The Messenger 2.23.11

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