Marsha Blackburn Continues To Be Rewarded For Screwing Up The Internet

from the rooting-against-your-self-interests dept

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger telecom sector crony than Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn has long made headlines for her support of SOPA, attacks on consumer protections like net neutrality and the FCC’s broadband privacy rules. She’s also come out in favor of turning ISPs into censors, and has been first in line to support giant ISP-backed protectionist state laws hampering competition. AT&T is routinely one of Blackburn’s top donors, and her home state of Tennessee remains one of the least connected states in the nation as a direct result.

Even in our current hyper-tribalistic, post-truth reality, you’d have a hard time arguing that Blackburn has been anything but terrible for the health of the internet and consumer rights. Yet somehow, Blackburn just keeps getting rewarded for giving consumers the tech policy equivalent of a giant middle finger.

Shortly after her attacks on net neutrality (Blackburn absolutely adores the idea of letting the biggest companies buy an unfair market advantage from ISPs) Blackburn was promoted to head the Communications and Technology subcommittee. And this week, Blackburn successfully jumped from the House to the Senate, beating challenger and former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to nab the Senate seat vacated by departing Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. Her win was, unsurprisingly, heralded as a big win for the public welfare by the state’s political apparatus:

“Marsha Blackburn demonstrated the type of conservative leadership Tennessee voters want in Washington,? National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner said in a statement Tuesday evening. ?We want to congratulate Senator-elect Blackburn on a hard-fought victory and look forward to her working in the U.S. Senate to confirm conservative judges, push pro-growth reforms and advocate for policies that improve the lives of all Tennesseans.”

It’s another example where blind partisan fealty tends to trump common sense, resulting in people who can only see in red or blue cheerfully voting against their own best self interests in what winds up being little more than a self-immolating, facts-optional game of team sports. As we’ve noted constantly, issues like net neutrality really aren’t partisan, since an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Americans support this and other basic checks on monopoly power. ISPs and lawmakers just like to frame such tech issues as partisan, as sowing division hinders consensus and helps stall meaningful change and reform.

Last minute efforts by Taylor Swift apparently didn’t help convince Tennessee voters that Blackburn’s not their ally. Neither did Consumer groups efforts to educate Tennessee voters about Blackburn’s continued tendency to screw them; an effort that at one point involved crowdfunding billboards posted in Blackburn’s home district:

With Blackburn how holding a more powerful position in the Senate, Tennessee voters (and the rest of us) can look forward to more of the same. Blackburn is always AT&T’s first stop when the company wants to shovel some law its lobbyists wrote into the legislative bloodstream. That was made clear when Blackburn pushed both a fake net neutrality bill and a fake privacy bill, both with only one real goal: to prevent tougher state or federal laws from being passed. As giant ISPs continue their relentless assault on both competition and federal and state oversight, expect Blackburn to play an essential, starring role.

On the plus side, a freshly-reconstituted House filled with more net neutrality supporters should slow any telecom-industry efforts to pass wishlist legislation, while providing something vaguely resembling oversight for the Ajit Pai FCC. Still, it’s incredible to watch politicians like Blackburn routinely sell out the majority of her constituents on tech policy, then watch those same constituents happily root against their own best self interests by giving her an endless series of promotions.

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Companies: at&t

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Comments on “Marsha Blackburn Continues To Be Rewarded For Screwing Up The Internet”

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73 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Consumers

Net Neutrality was “bad” only for ISP business in that it prevented them from profiting by screwing their users and the rest of the world. All other businesses with a web presence were harmed by dismantling NN, content providers more than most.

If I got to vote between “more profits for ISPs” and “equal access to the world for everyone” I’d have voted the latter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Consumers

It depends upon what you think is bad.

Those who view the world thru tainted glass are more prone to bad decisions, likely getting short term gains followed by all sorts of unanticipated losses. Rinse & repeat. Privatized gains and socialized losses.

Others who view the world from a more broad perspective include real long term planning in their business rather than that window dressing prospectus crap.

Good thing a perfect capitalist/libertarian society is not achievable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Consumers

in a perfect capitalist/libertarian society there is no such thing as "Consumer Protection" regulation.

Because in said perfect society the level of business competition and information flow to consumers are so high that such regulations are not necessary, as any businesses which do not do follow them voluntarily are swiftly driven out of business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Consumers

Never mind the documented issues with the generation of reputational information (spoiler: the distribution of reputational information isn’t a bell curve at all, it’s more of a J-shape, which plays merry heck with even sophisticated attempts to reconstruct the actual population distribution of quality levels for a product or service).

cattress (profile) says:

Re: Consumers

This whole shitshow is not an example of capitalism or the libertarian ideology. This is cronyism. The Telecom and cable industries that have become broadband ISP have never been a free market system.
Libertarians believe in the non-aggression principle and private property rights. Regulations that prevent fraud (theft by deception) or provide recourse for harm are within our beliefs. We oppose rules like licencing because they the only protection they offer is from competition. (Having a medical degree and credentials proving education are not the same as a state issued medical license)
It’s fair to say that libertarians hold foolish utopian ideals that utilities could all be thriving competitive businesses. Seriously, there’s only so much physical space to run water, sewer, power, and cable lines, and no return value on redundancy. But it’s wrong to blame capitalism for an industry that has never been a free market

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They do not want to get rid of it, they want to take control of it.

They can not stand the free association and communication allowed by such a nefarious tool. Why, people might even find out how much the wealthy have been screwing them all these years and we can not have that now can we?

Do not ask the Emperor about his new clothes.

nerd bert (profile) says:

Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

Oh, and speaking of Taylor Swift — really? If Swift were talking about entertainment that’d be one thing, but she’s talking about subjects that are far outside her expertise.

But the good news for her fans: just wait, she’s got more material and you’ll get another song about how a man disappointed her.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

I can’t stand it when”celebrities” pretend they know more about something than everyone else because… celebrity.

My position is that they are actors, musicians, sports players or whatever. That’s their field of expertise. That’s how they should be judged. Are they good at what they do?

Now if they want to become political pundits then they need to be judged on that as well.

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

And yet here you are implying you know more than celebrities even though you are presumably not a professional political pundit.

Most human beings are capable of being informed and knowledgeable about things other than their main profession. Being a celebrity no more excludes you from having a valid opinion than it does make that opinion more valid. It just means more people want to listen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

“I can’t stand it when”celebrities” pretend they know more about something than everyone else”

LOL – Donny the “reality” tv show host who publicly refers to himself as a celebrity also thinks he knows it all while everyone else is a dumbshit loser.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

Except, honestly, its outside any of our expertise, aside from pundits who are hard to trust. Most political messages you hear are not from ‘experts’ but deep pockets special interests. Taylor Swift going on a twitter crusade to encourage overall voting, and sharing her opinions on the ballot is what we should expect of everyone. Yes, she has a larger reach, but I found the language she used to be far less aggressive then most political commentary I’ve seen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

Yeah pretty much. Just off the top of my head, the economy, taxes, health care, immigration,and gun control.

I think ISPs should be just dumb pipes. Not “vertically integrated” providing content. Let the packets flow without favor or hindrance.

But in the great scheme of things it does kind of take a back seat to other issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

Just off the top of my head, the economy, taxes, health care, immigration,and gun control.

Especially immigration. If I was Tennessee, I wouldn’t want people from Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, or Mississippi invading my state either.

Gotta stop those invaders bringing down the collective IQ of the state! Deploy the military, that’s what I say!

takitus (profile) says:

Re: The Internet isn't everything, nor the only thing

Indeed. Tech policy was clearly a very low priority for most candidates in the recent election. Case in point: After pestering the leading House candidate in my district for something approaching an Internet policy, I received a sentence about “<J. Random Candidate> believes strongly in modernizing our nation’s military to deal with emerging cyber threats.”

Techdirt complains rightly that the US Congress is embarassingly (or conveniently) ignorant on most tech issues. But how can the situation be improved when most candidates clearly don’t see any political advantage in knowing, well, anything about these subjects?

KEVIN FEARS says:

95% of all the hate in our world is generated solely by dem liberals. most of the VERIFIED, NOT HERESAY LABELING, [in other words, out right lying]has been proven to be theirs as well. while I don’t agree with the tactics of anyone who opposes net neutrality, THESE ACTIONS ARE A DIRECT RESULT OF LIBERAL HATE. which can’t get past thinking, that crying wolf, and stirring the pot, is the only way to get things done.
if you weren’t busy digging in the trash, making the mess bigger, and pointing fingers, [look over there. not at me.] people would have fewer distractions and real issues to deal with.
but, of course, that’s not what you want. right?
find some proof. expose it with verifiable facts. then watch your world improve. not just screech like a monkey in mid pitch.
if you don’t have anything,[but monkey dodo to do] do your job. and find some.
PROVE ME WRONG.
I’LL back you if that happens.
OR OWN THE TITLE.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Define what you consider to be “hate”.
Now ask several other people not within your political sphere (those who may disagree) the same question.

The differences may be surprising.

You bring up lying … while the President spews lies continuously, it’s like he is incapable of anything else. But let’s blame everyone else for his short comings.

I am not the one making outrageous claims that need proof, you however are attempting to side step backing up your claims. Many times this sort of thing is considered to be a lie.

Anonymous Coward says:

As someone pointed out, maybe NN is a smaller problem in TN compared to the other problems we are facing right now. 1.2 Million people felt that she was the better person to represent the state. NN is not the only issue out there, yes it is an important issue, and its an issue that may be fixed either with the States suing the FCC or with States passing their own NN Laws. If NN was the only issue then yes my vote would have went with who better represented my view on that, but right now there are things that are more important to me, than just NN.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Which is an important issue, but if you think it’s the most important issue in American politics, then you probably come from a demographic that faces a low likelihood of being deported, shot by police, targeted by white supremacists, or denied medical care, to name a few issues that are literally life-or-death for a lot of people right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No my priorities are not wrong. Maybe they are wrong for you, but that why they are called my priorities. Immigration, Taxes, Amount of Gov spending, Health Care costs, take more of the front seat for me than NN. I already get my Internet from a local co-op so that really puts NN to the back seat for me. As its not controlled by a big corp.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If NN was the only issue then yes my vote would have went with who better represented my view on that, but right now there are things that are more important to me, than just NN.

For me the issue is not specifically her position on NN. It’s that, when I look at her relationship with telecom, I see blatant corruption. On that alone, I wouldn’t vote for her even if I agreed with every point on her platform.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you look close enough at any politician you’re very likely to find corruption. Since writing in a spotless candidate is as good as not voting at all your choice, as for everyone else, is to choose the lesser of the evils. The things each politician stands for are more important than where they get their money. As shitty as that is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

As much as I wish this wasn’t true, it’s sad that this is the truth. It all comes down to which candidate best represents the priorities that matter to you. As much as I dislike some of the things she has done in the past, until there is a better candidate she will get voted in. Look at Diane Black, she thought she was a shoe in for TN Gov, (and I was afraid that she would be the popular one to get it as much as I disliked her) but it seems enough people didnt like the way she did things in the primary and enough people chose a better candidate. Oh and look its another non career politician that was voted in.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you look close enough at any politician you’re very likely to find corruption

Perhaps, but even so there is a difference between hiring your nephew for a staff position (for example) and being completely in someone’s pocket.

choose the lesser of the evils

As long as the majority of the people think that, nothing is going to change.

The things each politician stands for are more important than where they get their money.

And what happens when you have a politician whose "things they stand for" are defined by where they get their money? Even if you agree with their platform and vote for them, how can you trust that they won’t change their positions later if the other side makes a bigger contribution? "…After giving the matter considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that my views on <ISSUE> were ill-advised. It is now clear to me that…"

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As long as the majority of the people think that, nothing is going to change.

So what would you suggest? We can’t effectively pick candidates that are not on offer on the ballot. We can only choose between Douche Canoe and Crap Sandwich.

And what happens when you have a politician whose "things they stand for" are defined by where they get their money? Even if you agree with their platform and vote for them, how can you trust that they won’t change their positions later if the other side makes a bigger contribution? "…After giving the matter considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that my views on <ISSUE> were ill-advised. It is now clear to me that…"

That’s possible regardless of their platform or where they get their money. We can’t trust any of them but as I said, we can only choose from the choices we’re given.

Unless we’re all going to run for office I don’t see how we stand any chance of changing anything. This is the hand we’re dealt and the government we’re stuck with. Either spawn a revolution or shut up and vote as well as you can.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: tl;dr

As long as the majority of the people think that, nothing is going to change.

What people think has nothing to do with it; a two-party system is the inevitable result of first-past-the-post elections. This is called Duverger’s Law. You can’t overcome math with the power of positive thinking.

In instances where independent or third-party candidates get elected, it still devolves to a two-person race. Take a look at Tuesday’s election results: yes, two independents won in the Senate — but both those independents caucus with Democrats. Bernie Sanders ran against a Republican, with no other candidate in the race; Angus King ran against a Republican, with a Democratic candidate coming in a distant third with around 10% of the vote.

There are only two times in US history that a third party has become successful — and both those times, we didn’t wind up with a new multi-party system, we just ended up with a different two-party system than the one we had before. The Republican Party displaced the Whigs; the Whigs displaced the Federalists. Always two there are; no more, no less.

You want to change the two-party system? Great. So do I. We can’t do it with the Power of Positive Thinking; we need to advocate for electoral reform.

I believe the best solution is ranked choice voting, which I’ve been talking about a bit over the past couple of days (see posts I wrote yesterday and today).

I think there are very good arguments for RCV regardless of your political affiliation. And I’d really like to see more of a push for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tennessee is very Republican state. The Antebellum South is pretty much Republican, though a Democrat could elected governor in Georgia, if there is a runoff election, and there could be.

Rednecks, like those in Tenneeses, tend to vote straight Republican down the line.

And I know about rednecks, because both of my parents were rednecks, one from Montana, and the other born to parents from Georgia who always voted straight Republican down the line.

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