Third Party & Independents Archives

LP Platform: Freedom of Communication

Part three of the LP Platform series brings us to the Freedom of Communication section of the Libertarian Party platform. Defending our freedom of speech and methods of communication is an imperative and the platform provides us a view of how libertarian principles see the issue.

First, the text of the platform in full:

I.2 Freedom of Communication

The Issue: We oppose any abridgment of the freedom of speech through government censorship, regulation or control of communications media, including, but not limited to, laws concerning:

a) Obscenity, including "pornography", as we hold this to be an abridgment of liberty of expression despite claims that it instigates rape or assault, or demeans and slanders women;

b) Reception and storage equipment, such as digital audio tape recorders and radar warning devices, and the manufacture of video terminals by telephone companies;

c) Electronic bulletin boards, communications networks, and other interactive electronic media as we hold them to be the functional equivalent of speaking halls and printing presses in the age of electronic communications, and as such deserving of full freedom;

d) Electronic newspapers, electronic "Yellow Pages", file libraries, websites, and other new information media, as these deserve full freedom; or

e) Commercial speech or advertising. We oppose speech codes at all schools that are primarily tax funded. Language that is deemed offensive to certain groups is not a cause for legal action.

We strongly oppose the government's burgeoning practice of invading newsrooms, or the premises of other innocent third parties, in the name of law enforcement. We further oppose court orders gagging news coverage of criminal proceedings -- the right to publish and broadcast must not be abridged merely for the convenience of the judicial system. We deplore any efforts to impose thought control on the media, either by the use of anti-trust laws, or by any other government action in the name of stopping "bias."

The Principle: We defend the rights of individuals to unrestricted freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right of individuals to dissent from government itself. We recognize that full freedom of expression is possible only as part of a system of full property rights. The freedom to use one's own voice; the freedom to hire a hall; the freedom to own a printing press, a broadcasting station, or a transmission cable; the freedom to host and publish information on the Internet; the freedom to wave or burn one's own flag; and similar property-based freedoms are precisely what constitute freedom of communication. At the same time, we recognize that freedom of communication does not extend to the use of other people's property to promote one's ideas without the voluntary consent of the owners.

Solutions: We would provide for free market ownership of airwave frequencies, deserving of full First Amendment protection. We oppose government ownership or subsidy of, or funding for, any communications organization. Removal of all of these regulations and practices throughout the communications media would open the way to diversity and innovation. We shall not be satisfied until the First Amendment is expanded to protect full, unconditional freedom of communication.

Transitional Action: We advocate the abolition of the Federal Communications Commission.

This is particularly poignant considering the recent bills introduced into our federal legislature condemning the speech of both Moveon.org and Rush Limbaugh. Further, the talk about reinstating the Fairness Doctorine (another of the edicts put in place by the red scare, including other notable messes like the Army-McCarthy Hearings and adding ‘under God’ to our Pledge of Allegiance) is a prime example of limiting freedom by ensuring particularly unpopular or extreme views are not communicated.

The ability for a citizen to be able to freely speak their mind, no matter what they have to say, is paramount to a free society. Without that ability, without that basic necessary right, tyranny becomes the way of the government, not freedom. However, if there is no way for the citizens to communicate those views and ideas it simply becomes passive censorship, a way to stop undesirables from communicating with each other.

Enter the Federal Communications Commission. It has been argued, and I’m not about to open that debate here, that in the early 1900s when the initial Federal Radio Commission (the predecessor to the current office) was created that chaos existed in the airways and there was a real need for a governing body to step in and make some sense out of it.

However, in the years that have passed, the FCC has become more and more an arm of the totalitarian desires of any administration that has wielded it. From limiting the use of the radio airwaves to large corporations and businesses to fining individuals for audio or visual ideas being expressed against the wishes of the government, the commission has become nothing more than a way to ensure non-mainstream views and ideas from being expressed.

Further, the FCC is nothing if not an excellent retarder of innovative technological advancements. Most recently, it is ensuring that free city-wide, or even country-wide, wifi access to the internet remains unavailable to all US citizens for no other reason than it can.

In an article for Slate magazine, Jack Shafer makes “The Case for Killing the FCC and Selling Spectrum”. In it he compares the FCC with a fictional agency with the same function, only now governing the limited resources of paper, the Federal Publications Commission. While the comparison is damning, there are two excellent paragraphs that pertain to the FCC's actions on inovation.

Aside from bottling up debate, what the FCC really excelled at was postponing the creation of new technologies. It stalled the emergence of such feasible technologies as FM radio, pay TV, cell phones, satellite radio, and satellite TV, just to name a few. As Declan McCullagh wrote in 2004, if the FCC had been in charge of the Web, we'd still be waiting for its standards engineers to approve of the first Web browser.

A classic example of FCC overprotection was the subject of my column yesterday: The FCC issued rules in 2000 that limited the number of potential lower-power FM stations to 2,300 when, according to Hazlett's calculations (PDF), the dial could accommodate 98,000 under the existing interference rules. (Congress overruled the FCC and passed a law that essentially limited the number of LPFM stations to about 1,300 and locked them out of the top 50 urban markets.)

Look, it’s clear that times have changed. We now know that private standards organizations, like those that regulate the assignment of internet IP addresses and DNS names, can easily be used to ensure that sense is made out of the potential chaos. Can you imagine what the internet would be like if the Federal Government were still in charge of assigning who could communicate on the network, much the way the FCC uses the airwave spectrums to limit access today? Sure, there would be no porn, but the incredibly wonderful and useful communication medium that the internet has become would be useless.

But beyond the technical reasons why the FCC is incapable of effectively managing this space, the fact that it is a political entity, an organization that by its very nature enacts the direction of the political party that is controlling it at the time, injects politics into the decisions that it makes. And by doing so we are giving a tool to the potential totalitarian desires of those who look to use it for such, for ill or good, at the cost of our freedom to determine how best to use these airwaves ourselves.

It’s time for a new approach to free the potential new technologies from their current limits and also ensure that we all have a means of communication with each other, free to say and show what we want, no matter how much the current government or majority would rather not hear it.

---

Previous articles in this series:

LP Platform: Statement of Principles
LP Platform: Freedom and Responsibility

Posted by Rhinehold at October 23, 2007 11:08 PM
Comments
Comment #236816
the FCC has become more and more an arm of the totalitarian desires
That’s what happens when too many voters reward irresponsible, arrogant, corrupt, and FOR-SALE incumbent politicians with 95% to 99% re-election rates?
  • Posted by: d.a.n at October 23, 2007 11:48 PM
    Comment #236824
    The Issue: We oppose any abridgment of the freedom of speech through government censorship, regulation or control of communications media, including, but not limited to, laws concerning:

    a) Obscenity, including “pornography”, as we hold this to be an abridgment of liberty of expression despite claims that it instigates rape or assault, or demeans and slanders women;

    Yup…our kids will really enjoy those snuff films…and live rape on TV…

    There are such things as “community standards”…there’s enough rape and murder in most communities these days without having to watch it replayed ad nauseam on airwaves for which we pay mightily…

    This isn’t “free” speech!!

    Posted by: Rachel at October 24, 2007 9:29 AM
    Comment #236825

    Rachel,

    No one has suggested that snuff films or rape is permissible, in fact it goes against the basic libertarian views, so I don’t know why you are interjecting it. Rape and murder are violations of another individual’s rights and are illegal.

    If you want to rationaly debate the issue, fine. Otherwise I would suggest taking your illogical rhetoric somewhere else.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at October 24, 2007 9:37 AM
    Comment #236829

    Rachel

    “Yup…our kids will really enjoy those snuff films…and live rape on TV…”

    i don’t believe this would qualify, as murder and rape are both illegal. this would also apply to thise pesky drive by shooting and live arson videos.

    Posted by: dbs at October 24, 2007 11:47 AM
    Comment #236831

    Rhinehold,

    “Rape and murder are violations of another individual’s rights and are illegal.”

    Porn is also illegal in some places, and by not defining your objection to the above “indeviduals rights” in your manifesto you have left yourself open to such questions as Rachel’s.

    Get your ducks in a row, or expect the worst.

    Posted by: Rocky at October 24, 2007 12:02 PM
    Comment #236836


    Rhinehold: Is it possible to simulate an extremely graphic and violent rape or murder on film with paid actors? Would our children be subjected to indroctrination literature by groups like the KKK, the Aryan Brotherhood or Islamofacists in the schools or playgrounds? Perhaps we can have a KKK Day in the public schools and all the kids can bring in white sheets and make costumes. You can call this illogical rhetoric if you like but, it seems to me that the LP are the ones using illogical logic.

    Public schools are primarily funded with property taxes. Does the LP believe that this is a violation of property rights?

    Posted by: jlw at October 24, 2007 12:41 PM
    Comment #236842
    Porn is also illegal in some places, and by not defining your objection to the above “indeviduals rights” in your manifesto you have left yourself open to such questions as Rachel’s.

    Sorry, Rocky, but this the 3rd part of a series, the first dealing with the principles that her ‘objections’ encroach upon. Basically, people should be free to do what they wish as long as it does not violate another individual’s rights to the same, and especially not allowed would be initiated violence against another.

    If by saying that people should be able to broadcast consentual sex or say the F word you think there is an advocation of violence and rape, it is not only an illogical jump but also completely ignoring the predefined principles that the Libertarian party is built upon, detailed in part 1 of the series.

    Posted by: Rhinehold at October 24, 2007 1:09 PM
    Comment #236846

    jlw,

    Sure, that happens all of the time in hollywood, if it performed between consentual adults, why would should it be illegal?

    There is a difference between allowing discussion and forcing discussion. Making KKK literature available is a far cry from forcing children to listen to the ideas in a captive audience.

    What I don’t understand is why people seem so scared that controversial ideas are discussed? Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to be allowed to be expressed out in the open where those who disagree with those views can easily counter them, or keep them ‘underground’ with no direct opposition to them at all?

    As someone once said:

    “Well, in all my years I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.”

    Posted by: Rhinehold at October 24, 2007 1:21 PM
    Comment #236851

    Rhinehold,

    My point wasn’t to attack your article but to get an answer to Rachel’s question.
    Do you truly expect people to remember what you wrote a month and a half ago?
    No where in your article, other than in the title, do you even mention the other two articles, nor is there any link to them.

    “Basically, people should be free to do what they wish as long as it does not violate another individual’s rights to the same, and especially not allowed would be initiated violence against another.”

    Thank you!
    That actually was the answer Rachel sought, not the diatribe you gave her.

    If we cannot have a reasonable civil dialogue without the fear that we are being attacked, what exactly is the point?

    Oh, and BTW, two of the genre of pornography are actually “snuff” and “rape” films, and frankly I wouldn’t expect anybody with any sense to come out in favor of them.

    As far as the Libertarian point of view is concerned, for the most part I respect it, however, I think it places far too much faith in human nature.

    Posted by: Rocky at October 24, 2007 2:04 PM
    Comment #236859
    No one has suggested that snuff films or rape is permissible, in fact it goes against the basic libertarian views,

    It’s thr first thing mrntioned…no censorship!

    Posted by: Rachel at October 24, 2007 3:02 PM
    Comment #236863
    Basically, people should be free to do what they wish as long as it does not violate another individual’s rights
    Exactly.

    Now, we have to define rights.
    The Constitution is a guide, but leaves some questions.
    More laws are derived from it to attempt to fill in the gaps, but they vary and can conflict with each other, and the Constitution too.

    But we need priorities too!

    Some people think they have a right to lots of things (e.g. healthcare, welfare, etc.).
    Some things are definitely immoral, even if not illegal.
    Some laws are not enforced (ignored), violating many people’s rights (e.g. illegal immigration, Article V of the Constitution, etc.).
    Some laws are perverted to make legal what would ordinarily be illegal (e.g. eminent domain abuse).
    Some may say pornography is harmful to someone. If they can prove that to be true, they have a very good case. On might ask: What are the benefits of pornography? But the lack of any benefit is not sufficient. Some may say there is exploitation, and exploitation is bad. There is no doubt that exploitation occurs and it can be bad for those exploited, but is it illegal for consenting adults that participate? Even the exploited may argue to preserve such practices.

    Personally, I think there is exploitation and it is harmful to those exploited, and think such things should be illegal, but I don’t have the evidence to support my conclusion that pornography is harmful. The burden of proof is difficult when consenting adults choose to allow themselves to be exploited. Thus, it’s difficult to protect everyone from themselves.

    Also, there are parents that do not want their children exposed to pornography. Their argument is that it is offensive, and they don’t want their children looking at it. That’s understandable, but the burden of proof is difficult in determining how it is offensive without being able to prove what harm was caused. People can be offended by lots of things, but how are they harmed by it? What are the damages, if any? But, would any of us want a strip joint right across the street from our children’s school, or your home?

    Perhaps what we are teaching our children with tolerance of exploitation is that explotation is OK ? But the burden of proof and showing damages is still not easy.

    As for exploitation, there are other examples of it in which the harm and damages are much easier to measure (e.g. illegal immigration, regressive taxation, excessive money printing, ignoring the Constitution, ingoring existing laws, perverting existing laws such as eminent domain laws, other regressive systems, starting wars based on flawed intelligence, predatory banking systems, ignoring Habeas Corpus, government FOR-SALE, etc.).
    What about all of those things?
    So, while there may be a question as to whether pornography should be legal or not, but there are many solid examples of laws already being violated, ignored, or perverted in which people are being exploited, harmed, swindled, and damaged in various ways that are not so nearly as questionable.

    Therefore, some priorities are needed. While some things (like pornagraphy, gay marraige, abortion, etc.) remain a question for many, it would be nice if Congress and government could deal with the clear cut cases first, and the things most of us already agree upon (i.e. things that few (if any) can defend), and enforce existing laws (or change them) already on the books, and stop ignoring laws (or change them) already on the books, and uphold the Constitution as they all pledged an oath to do. Otherwise, things will continue to deteriorate and we will simply become more immoral, exploited, and fiscally and morally bankrupt, and our problems will continue to grow in number and severity. Are we ignoring the signs?

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 24, 2007 3:27 PM
    Comment #236864

    d.a.n, quite right, such as the Supreme Court a few weeks ago upholding a case which established that it was both legal and constitutional for politicians to lie to their constituents. Legal, but, morally and ethically WRONG! But, then, what do we expect when we allow our courts to become political agents of the political parties in power?

    Posted by: David R. Remer at October 24, 2007 3:39 PM
    Comment #236867

    … and then reward them with 95% to 99% re-election rates to boot.

    However, if we did have a law that made it illega for politicians to lie to their constituent voters, there would be few (if anyone) left in D.C. to run the nation.

    But, perhaps that would be best anyway, since they are running it into ruin, selling out Americans, pandering to the illegal aliens for votes, voting on pork-barrel, graft, corprate welfare, waste, bloat, and Congress rewards itself for all of it with their 9th raise in 10 years.

    What is more disturbing is the majority of the largest group of 200 million eligible voters that continue to reward them too with 95% to 99% re-election rates.

    What’s the solution for this paradox, in which voters give Congress a dismal 11% to 18% approval rating, but then reward them with 95% to 99% re-election rates? Only the painful consequences?

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 24, 2007 4:56 PM
    Comment #236885

    It’s everyone’s Freedom not to speak also … when saying the Pledge of Allegiance … skip the ‘Under God’ while standing quiet and respecting the rights of those who want to say it.

    Posted by: Marie at October 24, 2007 8:02 PM
    Comment #236891

    Marie,

    That’s fine, if the others saying the pledge will allow us to not say it and not label us traitors or non-citizens.

    “President George H. W. Bush has allegedly stated, in an private exchange with Robert Sherman, that atheists are not “citizens” or “patriots” because “[t]his is one nation under God.” (American Atheist News Journal, Robert I. Sherman)”

    “A bill — H.R. 2389 — was introduced in Congress in 2005 which, if enacted into law, would have stripped the Supreme Court and most federal courts of the power to consider any legal challenges to government requiring or promoting of the Pledge of Allegiance. H.R. 2389 was passed by the House of Representatives in July 2006, but failed due to the Senate’s not taking it up.”

    Posted by: Rhinehold at October 24, 2007 9:27 PM
    Comment #236892
    My point wasn’t to attack your article but to get an answer to Rachel’s question. Do you truly expect people to remember what you wrote a month and a half ago? No where in your article, other than in the title, do you even mention the other two articles, nor is there any link to them.

    Good point, I’ve added links the the previous articles, though I do mention that this is part three. However, it has been a month because of a death in the family and I am sorry for being absent. I’ll make sure the future posts link back to the previous ones as well.

    That actually was the answer Rachel sought, not the diatribe you gave her.

    Rachel sought no answer and asked no question. She made a statement, an incorrect one, with hysteric overtones. What question did she ask?

    Posted by: Rhinehold at October 24, 2007 9:33 PM
    Comment #236901

    Rhinehold,

    “Rachel sought no answer and asked no question. She made a statement, an incorrect one, with hysteric overtones.”

    I get your point, and no offence meant.
    However if you had just replied with your later statement;

    “Basically, people should be free to do what they wish as long as it does not violate another individual’s rights to the same, and especially not allowed would be initiated violence against another.”

    That would have corrected the the “unasked” question, and still left room for discussion.

    Everybody seems a little testy lately.

    Sorry for your loss.

    Posted by: Rocky at October 25, 2007 12:35 AM
    Comment #236912

    Somebody should mention the law that put “under God” in there in the first place. It wasn’t there originally. We should go back to the original.

    Posted by: womanmarine at October 25, 2007 8:25 AM
    Comment #236929

    If Bush (41) said that?
    Wow. Mr. “Read My Lips” said that?
    If true, what’s the likelihood that Bush (43) heard his father say it?
    Don’t they have any respect for the Constitution? (1st Amendment, and Article V, Habeas Corpus, torture, enforcing/ignoring existing laws, spying on citizens, eminent domain, etc.).

    Posted by: d.a.n at October 25, 2007 11:05 AM
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