The following article is the first of many parts to come.
Recently, like tens of millions of other Americans, I waited with bated breath for the heavily-promoed Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on 60 Minutes, hopping back and forth impatiently during the endless last 10 minutes of a football game from 7:00 to 7:30 pm.
Talk about a nothingburger. Honestly, I was waiting for CBS to expose trillions of rubles flowing from the Kremlin straight into Mark Zuckerberg’s numbered account.
And what did I get? Just revealing something basically every business in the history of the world does: Make sure the product you create is popular. Big [Bleep] Deal!
From the prehistoric rabbit-ears days of TV, the Nielsen ratings reported how many people were watching CBS, NBC and ABC. Exactly as they did with print circulation figures for decades, advertisers analyzed the Nielsens and paid the networks based on that.
Nobody ever shut down the Nielsen ratings when all kinds of TV rubbish was broadcast, because ratings translate to ad money.
So, thank you very much for your Capitalism 101 lesson, Ms. Haugen; here’s your apple! Since we are high school freshpersons here, let’s go across the hall now to American History 101.
Today, our subject is the First Amendment.
Copy this down. There will be a test: Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…
Per the FCC: “The Communications Act prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcast material, in most cases and from making any regulation that would interfere with freedom of speech.” Move over to easily accessible cable TV and even the FCC’s child protection exceptions are out the window 24/7.
Over on the Left Coast, the MPAA came up with its own ratings system, basically to keep the Catholic Legion of Decency from messing with its no-“one true church”-here bottom line. Meanwhile, there are lies or distortions galore on TV, from Carlson to Maddow. And nobody told Oliver Stone to stay off that Grassy Knoll when he was making JFK.
Zuckerberg is in the Capitol Building more often than most everybody in the Executive Branch now. At the start of this preposterous attack on the First Amendment, my guess was he thought: “OK, OK, I’ll tell these clowns I’ll set up a censorship bureau just to dodge serious antitrust, which is what I really don’t want. I can do that for way under 100 mil and get them off my back.”
Look, I know that President Xi is really dangerous and has gotten 1,399,999,999 people to cheer him on with his two million internet censors — and that was back in 2013! Are Americans really so scared of this tyrant we want the same thing here?
And more importantly, what logic is there in asking Silicon Valley cowboys, with their staff Zooming in pajamas and call centers in Manila or eventually Mars, to do this? It’s pure lunacy. Plus, it’s a fool’s errand, because it just cannot be done.
I remember when the ACLU defended the neo-Nazis parading through Skokie, Ill. Who even knows what “fake news” is?
When newspapers got big 150 years ago, didn’t we survive “yellow journalism,” and survive just fine? It was 99% fake every day!
Caveat emptor underpins a real capitalist democracy. Just find your ideal echo-chamber social media site and let your fellow Americans do the same thing.
If somebody yells “Fire!” in a crowded movie house when there isn’t one and a deadly stampede ensues, fine, the First Amendment may not apply. Please, can we not leave it at that?
Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. Read Henry Seggerman's Reports — More Here
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