Imagine if two Donald Trump allies in Congress sent a letter to cable company CEOs in 2017 blowing up CNN and other progressive media outlets asking why their content was still on air. Then imagine a GOP-led committee in Congress holding a hearing on the threat to society posed by fake news and the need for government and business to curb the enemy press.
The media would have treated this as a political fire with five alarms, an existential threat to the free press, the First Amendment and political norms, and a move towards authoritarian rule. “Democracy dies in the dark” and all that. That’s exactly what the Democrats in Congress did this week to target conservative media, but the media response has been silence or approval.
On Monday, Democrats Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney sent letters to 12 cable and technology CEOs seeking deals with media companies like Fox News. Two days later, the Energy and Trade Committee held a hearing on “Disinformation and Extremism” in conservative media. The only extremism noteworthy was the majority party’s appetite to regulate and monitor the free press.
Rep. Mike Doyle, Chair of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said in the opening speech that “it is the responsibility of that subcommittee to keep these institutions” – meaning he dislikes press offices – “to a higher standard”. He later said, “Freedom of speech doesn’t win the day with the kind of speech we worry about.”
Democrats chose witnesses to lay the rhetorical groundwork for press restrictions. One of them was Kristin Urquiza, whose father had died of coronavirus and who spoke against Donald Trump at the Democratic Congress. She said “the media didn’t pull the trigger” on her father’s death, “but they drove the getaway car” because he saw and heard news that downplayed the virus.