Minnesota conservative U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann likes to throw verbal partisan bombs, a sort of tiny-version mix of Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter. She also single-handedly keeps political fact-check sites in business. Yesterday, she veered into the net neutrality debate, predictably taking the anti-net neutrality position, which holds that communication corporations built the phone and cable lines and so should be able to regulate the content that flows through them, giving high speed bandwidth to preferred customers who can pay for it. Let the market decide! Except that Bachmann doesn’t seem to know that’s her position. She thinks net neutrality somehow amounts to censorship. She thinks “Obama wants to censor” right-wing sites.
But no. The idea behind net neutrality is that all content should move freely at the same pace along the cable and phone lines– that the material pushed by big dogs like AOL and Disney should move at the same pace as material pushed by tiny pups like the Colorado Independent and the People’s Press Collective. That’s the only way consumers will have free choice. That’s keeping the internet– the infrastructure, that is– neutral. Who would go to a tiny site to find out the truth about Obama’s birth certificate if the site took forever to load? No one would. So that would be market-based censorship.
Yet here’s what Bachmann finds herself telling the nation on Fox News:
“So whether they’re attacking conservative talk radio, or conservative TV or whether it’s Internet sites, I mean, let’s face it, what’s the Obama administration doing? They’re advocating net neutrality which is essentially censorship of the Internet. This is the Obama administration advocating censorship of the Internet. Why? They want to silence the voices that are opposing them. Despite the fact that they continue to have much of the mainstream media still providing cover for all of these dramatic efforts that the Obama administration is taking. So they’re very specifically and pointedly going after voices that they see are effectively telling the truth about what the Obama administration is trying to do.”
Obama has been clear about where he stands: “We’ve got to keep the Internet open,” he said in February. That’s what net neutrality is about.
Here’s video of Bachmann’s appearance on Hannity Monday:
Bachmann is confused because she seems to have taken up a line being sold by the communications industry lobby, which pretends that the move to ensure net neutrality is a move to “regulate” the industry by imposing new restrictions. In fact it’s the opposite. Net neutrality is an attempt to retain what we have now: free and equal access to all corners of the web.