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Tuesday, April 02, 2002
Hypocrisy continued
The Washington Post, despite publishing an excellent column the other day by George Will exposing McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan for what it is, joins the ranks of newspapers who see no problem with censoring others who wish to get involved in the election process. Responding to the Will editorial, the Post says:
Mr. Will seems worried that the National Rifle Association might be helpless to respond to a Post editorial.
Note, once again, the reference to the demonized NRA, rather than the more ideologically compatible ACLU, which the editors of the Post would be more uncomfortable silencing.

The worst part is that the Post touts the discriminatory nature of the law as though it were an asset:
It is true that the law treats the press differently from other corporations; the limited restriction McCain-Feingold places on the NRA would not apply to The Post. But this is nothing new.
Oh, so that makes it okay? Picture an editorial which says, "It's true that this law requires blacks to sit at the back of the bus. But this is nothing new." I can't imagine them printing this "argument."
Corporations, after all, have long been banned from direct campaign spending, but the law has also made clear that this restriction does not include spending on "any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, [or] magazine." The Supreme Court, ruling on a similar Michigan statute in 1990, upheld the distinction, saying that "the media exception ensures that the Act does not hinder or prevent the institutional press from reporting on, and publishing editorials about, newsworthy events." Importantly, the exemption protects the press only in its role as the press.
See -- it's okay, as far as the Post is concerned, to censor political speech, not in spite of, but because the Post is exempt from that censorship. Most importantly, note that what the Post includes "in its role as the press" is publishing editorials. In other words, the newspaper is free to use so-called unregulated corporate funds to put out an editorial, right before an election, which says, "George Bush is evil, and must be defeated at all costs. We therefore endorse Ralph Nader" But the NRA is not free to buy time on television to put out its own editorial rebutting this Post piece.
But of course a newspaper doesn't have to do that, because a newspaper owns its own soapbox. The Post here also joins the ranks of those who misrepresent the bill by claiming that it only affects ads "supporting or opposing" a particular candidate. But in fact the law bans ads before an election which mention a candidate.

The Post, as well as some other apologists for the campaign finance law, argue that because there are some methods by which the NRA can get around the restrictions, the law is not really censorship and not really unconstitutional. But even if these methods were not extremely restrictive and burdensome, these are exactly the sort of exceptions that later become "loopholes" in the discourse of "reformers." If these methods were not restrictive, there wouldn't be any point to the law. The authors of the law know that. The Post knows that. So the only conceivable explanation for their continued lies is that they know the law will benefit the media at the expense of everyone else.

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