Tags: obama | sunstein | websites

Collier and Benko: Obama's Benevolent Despotism

Wednesday, 05 Aug 2009 02:45 PM

By William Collier and Ralph Benko

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A little censorship, anyone? How about turning citizens into informants?

The White House Web site has this very intriguing little new note:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

This White House request for citizen informants to “flag” “disinformation” would appear to derive from a policy being advocated by the White House Information Czar.

President Obama’s head of the ”White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs” is legal scholar and Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein. By all accounts, he is a brilliant, decent, and dignified man. And yet, according to a recent column by Austin Hill, published in Townhall.com:

Advance copies [are] circulating of his new book “On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done.” While we don’t know precisely what Obama and Sunstein will be doing, many of the thoughts that Mr. Sunstein expresses about the Internet seem consistent with President Obama’s proclivity to control things, generally.

Perhaps most disturbing is Mr. Sunstein’s vision for the future of Web content, as he argues for a so-called “notice and take down” law. Under this provision, those who operate websites - - The Washington Post, radio stations, private bloggers, and perhaps even you, yourself -we would all be required “take down falsehoods upon notice” from the U.S. government.

And not only would the original content of websites be scrutinized by the government for “falsehoods,” website operators would also be held responsible for the content of “posts” created by the website’s visitors and readers.

In the views of many, the Obama administration has begun to show some deeply unsettling elitist tendencies. And elitism — defined by public intellectual Jeff Bell as a belief that elites are better able to manage the affairs of people than we can manage them for ourselves — taken to its extreme becomes, um, benevolent, despotism. Benevolence being an “eye of the beholder “ this thing easily verges over into totalitarianism.

And proposals to — for our own good — diminish our civil liberties are extremely alarming to anyone who cares about the guarantees provided by the Bill of Rights.

Thus, the president’s ranking “Information Officer” — how appropriate in the context that Sunstein be called a Czar — is not, if the reports are accurate, baldly calling for censorship of the Internet. He is merely calling for a law to give the federal government the power to determine what is true and what is not and to force citizens to “take down falsehoods upon notice.” Not since the Alien and Sedition Laws has the federal government contemplated a power grab on our freedom of speech of such magnitude!

Of course the Obama administration is not for censoring A.M. talk radio. Reports, however, continue to circulate of plans by the FCC to create boards that will pass on “local content” — which, if enacted, would have the side effect of forcing conservative talkers off the air.

Of course, the Obama administration would never dream of violating the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against taking of property without due process of law. But if by virtue of a national economic emergency they just happen to nationalize two of the Big 3 automakers (and many Wall Street investment banks), extinguishing the value of the stock and the bonds, that wouldn’t be considered an unconstitutional confiscation of property or violation of our constitutional rights. Now would it?

The main problem with the policies being advocated by the Obama administration, the Pelosi-Reed Congress, to which the mainstream media is turning an uncannily blind eye, is that these initiatives are deeply elitist. And the elitists are temporarily enjoying such impunity that they are reaching their apotheosis with bold infringements on previously constitutionally protected liberties. Some of these initiatives are taking on an unmistakably totalitarian cast.

William Collier, a prominent grass-roots activist, is proprietor of Reagan2.com and co-proprietor of Freedomist.org. Ralph Benko, a conservative human rights and human dignity advocate, is a principal of Capital City Partners and author of “The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to Transform the World.”

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