White House Offers To Allow Renaming Confederate Bases… In Exchange For Getting Rid Of Section 230

from the who-did-the-what-now? dept

Let’s state upfront that there is no way in hell this is happening, and it’s all just performative nonsense. No one is actually going to do this. However, the NY Times is reporting that White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has floated the idea of “compromise” to get the annual NDAA passed, after President Trump has whined about it requiring the renaming of military bases named after Confederacy leaders. As a bit of background, I still don’t understand why we have literally anything named after leaders who actually tried to leave the country and fought against the US military, in order to continue enslaving people… but that’s just me. The NDAA (the National Defense Authorization Act) is the annual budget allocated by Congress for the military. It’s one of those “must pass” kind of things that some in Congress try to sneak junk into, knowing that it has to pass. President Trump has threatened to veto the bill because of the base renaming bit.

Now the Times is reporting that Meadows is saying Trump would stop fighting the renaming… if Congress uses the NDAA to totally repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Really.

Over the course of several conversations, Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, asked Mr. Meadows what might persuade Mr. Trump to sign the measure with the renaming requirement intact, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Meadows, according to the people, said that adding a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, considered the most consequential law governing speech on the internet, would help.

Just to put this out there: this is insane. On many different levels. I’ve already expressed my confusion over why there’s any debate at all about these base names, but the idea that Congress should simply wipe out Section 230 in the NDAA just creates an entirely new layer of pure ridiculousness. I mean, in part because this would simply increase uncertainty and liability for internet services, leading to a much higher likelihood that Twitter and other social media sites would take down Trump’s nonsense for fear of having to defend themselves in court over it.

It truly is striking how focused so much of Washington DC has become on Section 230 without even understanding what it currently does, how it works, and what will happen if it gets removed.

Anyway, again, this is not happening. No one is going to go ahead with this. But it’s just yet another example of the ridiculous policy proposals now floating around the White House.

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Comments on “White House Offers To Allow Renaming Confederate Bases… In Exchange For Getting Rid Of Section 230”

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Anonymous Coward says:

leading to a much higher likelihood that Twitter and other social media sites would take down Trump’s nonsense for fear of having to defend themselves in court over it.

And still find themselves in court to justify the take down; Section 230 protects both ways, the social media sites have a defence for both what they take down, and what they leave up.

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Anonymous Coward says:

I still don’t understand why we have literally anything named after leaders who actually tried to leave the country and fought against the US military, in order to continue enslaving people.

It’s really quite simple: part of ending the civil war was assuaging the Pride of the South. So in exchange for setting up military bases in strategic southern holdings, they got to name those bases after their local war heroes (who happened to fight for the losing side).

It’s worth noting that all those confederates did have notable careers before the civil war.

What’s odd to me is why it took THIS LONG to re-name these. I would have expected the military to change the names after two generations, max. Instead, here we are, 155 years later (roughly 7 generations) and it’s finally getting addressed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think you under estimate inertia. If a base already has a perfectly serviceable name, why go to the trouble to rename it? Especially after a few generations when the base is better known and the person it was named after is an all but forgotten footnote?

More generally people tend to get annoyed when their family has lived somewhere for generations and you suddenly have people demanding that name of the place be changed because someone who it was named after even more generations ago was an asshole. Especially if the people doing the demanding aren’t natives to the area.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If a base already has a perfectly serviceable name, why go to the trouble to rename it?

Looking up the name of the person for whom the base is named and finding out who they were and what they did takes literally seconds nowadays. You can defend naming an American military base after someone who led into battle the soldiers of a failed nation-state that seceded from and fought a war with the United States over the right to own Black people as property, sure. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I grew up on military bases, mostly in the south (including Hood and Rucker). I also come from a southern military family that has many members who fought in many wars and notably my southern ancestors lost a lot of wealth at the end of the Civil War, including their slaves and their property. I was raised in the idea that the south was right and magically not racist despite slavery and the confederates were just patriots fighting for their home.

I wouldn’t have any problem with changing the names and would in fact support it. Take down the statues while we’re at it. It’s long past time for the south to move on.

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ryuugami says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I was raised in the idea that the south was right and magically not racist despite slavery and the confederates were just patriots fighting for their home.

My favorite is the "states’ rights" argument.

And when asked, "states’ rights to do what?", they suddenly get all cagey and evasive.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"If a base already has a perfectly serviceable name, why go to the trouble to rename it?"

I dunno, would you feel comfortable working in "Fort Himmler"?

Those confederate generals, it has to be remembered, were slave owners and rebelled against the united states in the defense of a state which enshrined slavery among it’s constitutional amendments.

I don’t think I’d consider a name "serviceable" when what it means is that everytime someone says that name – of the place you live in – they immortalize the legacy of a man willing to defend slavery with his life.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I don’t think I’d consider a name "serviceable" when what it means is that everytime someone says that name – of the place you live in – they immortalize the legacy of a man willing to defend slavery with his life."

Indeed, it’s not even about the name itself, but the reaction people have to the name. The town of Fucking, Austria recently changed its name because they were tired of people stealing their signs. The name wasn’t controversial to the people living there, or indeed in the local language, but it caused a lot of English speakers to think their name was a joke. So, they changed it.

Same thing here, essentially. Whatever the people on the bases think of the name, it’s become increasingly controversial and embarrassing for the US government to be immortalising the names of traitors on their military sites. So, they should likely be changed. It’s just a name, after all – and if people think the identity and operation of these bases are tied irrevocably to these names, well that’s even more reason to change it to something that’s not a liability.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s worth noting that all those confederates did have notable careers before the civil war.

Agreed: laudable military leader is laudable. You can admire heroism even in an enemy. (If you absolutely can not, what does that say?)

…after leaders who actually tried to leave the country and fought against the US military, in order to continue enslaving people…

Um, how about this instead:

after military leaders whose political superiors actually tried to leave the country in order to continue enslaving people…

You … DO still believe in civilian rule over military powers, right? Both sides of the civil war did. And all the bases are named after military leaders, not civilian ones. (Though that could be debated re Henry L. Benning.) Even if these military men themselves supported slavery, please do give credit where credit is due.

While I have no complaint about your use of "… in order to continue enslaving people", you might take a second look at that "actually tried to leave the country" statement, and see if that holds as villainous for all possible circumstances. From the cheap seats, it sure looks like you have separate objections going on there.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Agreed: laudable military leader is laudable. You can admire heroism even in an enemy. (If you absolutely can not, what does that say?)"

It says that no amount of laudable behavior exculpates you if what you go down in history for is trying to defend the institution of actual slavery with your life. Hitler did not go down in the books as a war hero, despite taking home a medal of bravery in World War One.

"Even if these military men themselves supported slavery, please do give credit where credit is due."

The politicians seceded from the union, rendering the commission of all those military men null and void. They voluntarily chose to sign on to the political cause and swore themselves to the confederate constitution which enshrined the right to own people as property where the original one held the Bill of Rights.

So no. No confederate general deserves respect or adulation. No matter how bravely they fought to preserve the view that the natural state of the black man was as a slave.

"…you might take a second look at that "actually tried to leave the country" statement, and see if that holds as villainous for all possible circumstances."

Secession is, in many cases, the right thing to do. If you are treated unfairly, then walk.
I don’t agree that applies to the Confederacy, however. It was pretty clear the secession was primarily over states rights to buy and own people as property, and once that secession had been papered by the politicians the military men had to make their own choice to enlist in the military of the newly founded nation.

So you really can’t split the two, nor make the claim the people who accepted a role in the newly formed southern army and swore themselves to defend and uphold the newly written constitution had, in some way, distanced themselves from the proceedings.

Those confederate officers who had any moral compass could have retained their commission and defended the union or resigned from it and NOT chosen to sign up with the plantation owners. It actually IS that simple.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"It’s worth noting that all those confederates did have notable careers before the civil war."

Yes, and several notable Nazis had a sterling war records in WWI. Hell, Hitler ran on his war record initially. Doing something bad toward the end of your career does have a habit of tarnishing the early parts.

If you don’t like the godwin there… well, Bill Cosby had a notable career before the stories came out… that doesn’t make it unreasonable to boycott the Cosby Show.

"What’s odd to me is why it took THIS LONG to re-name these. I would have expected the military to change the names after two generations, max. Instead, here we are, 155 years later (roughly 7 generations) and it’s finally getting addressed."

You’re assuming the bases were named just after the civil war. A lot of Confederate worship imagery only became popular in the run up to the rise of civil rights movement.

I had a quick look at 3 of the examples I’m aware of – Fort Bragg was given the name in 1922 after being established as Camp Bragg a couple of years earlier. Fort Hood was founded in 1942, while Fort Benning was similarly set up in 1918 as a Camp then renamed a few years later.

So, the question isn’t why it took so long to make the name changes as it is why during the first and second world wars, why the US military were naming bases after the losing side in an attempt to fight that same government.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'We care about the troops! ... the dead, traitorous ones.'

Just let that sink in for a moment ‘Trump pinky-promises not block the funding for the entire US military because part of it includes your attempt to rename military bases with something other than the names of slavery defending traitors who fought against the US government and army… if you get rid of a law that protects free speech online.’

Really gives you a fresh reminder of how utterly disgusting and vile the man is, and how much he really ‘cares about the troops and country’ doesn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

"this is not happening. No one is going to go ahead with this. But it’s just yet another example of the ridiculous policy proposals now floating around the White House. "

Well Joe Biden did say he wanted to repeal of Section 230 (its likely he will backtrack on that when he sworn in) so its possible but unlikely some democrats might take the bait…

Its also possible they may be doing this so they can "backtrack" and ask for only a small part of 230 be changed and asking democrats to pass bills like the Earn It Act or the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act inexchange for passing the military policy bill.

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B. Einder Twine proud graduate of Baler University says:

Why the base names.

Bases remain named after Confederate traitors just because the military LOVES tactics and the rebels were thought to fight well. The admiration is a-political and neutral on slavery, JUST on tactics. — I don’t agree with even that, since only reason Confederates gained time was that traitorous McClelland — an actual supporter of the South — dithered and delayed to help the rebels. Lincoln should have fired him after six months, saved many lives. — And kids, don’t go round on accusing Lincoln: his parents were anti-slavery Baptists, so was he life-long, just read Wikipedia.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Why the base names.

"The admiration is a-political and neutral on slavery, JUST on tactics."

Aah…so THAT is why the german army today names its bases after german world war 2 army men like Rommel…oh, wait. They don’t.

As a matter of fact very few military bases anywhere stand out due to the names they hold being those of traitors who swore themselves to defend the institution of slavery or racism with their lives. Except, notably, in the US where unbelievably people join to defend statues commemorating the biggest constitutional violation in US history.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Which will be in January 2025.

Ah, I see you’re going with the “I admire the fascism of Donald Trump and I support his attempt at a coup d’état of the United States federal government” approach. That, uh…that is certainly a thing you can do.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s consistent at least, having the same person admiring a group that fought a war against the US government to preserve slavery also in favor of a president attacking the underpinnings of the country because he doesn’t like that he lost and might have to give power up.

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B. Einder Twine proud graduate of Baler University says:

Dorsey has recently stated that Twitter is NOT a publisher,

but it’s acting like one while still claiming immune for hosting what others publish.

So how is Trump or anyone else WORSE off if do away with HOST immunity? — Users would NOT be. Only the HOSTS would be.

This is the key question of Section 230: what does The Public get in exchange for the grant of immunity to mere web-site hosts? — Masnick says The Public gets NOTHING, we can be SHUT UP at corporate whim. — Like Dorsey, Maz hates The Public.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Users would NOT be.

Here are the consequences for users should 230 go away:

  1. If a service decides to shut down rather than host third-party content, users will lose an outlet for their speech. (Techdirt closing its comments section, for example, would rob you of your outlet for hating Techdirt.)
  2. If a service decides to overmoderate content by holding it before publication, users will lose the ability to post content with regularity. (Techdirt overmoderating would likely hold all your comments for pre-publishing moderation.)
  3. If a service decides to forgo moderating content at all, users will lose the ability to escape trolls, spam, and everyone who thinks racial slurs are the apex of political discourse. (Techdirt refusing to moderate would likely leave comments sections here full of spam links and…well, I don’t wanna say it, but I’m sure you can guess how I’d finish that sentence.)

But sure, keep saying “the public” won’t suffer if Twitter loses its 230 protections. See how far that argument gets you.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: The very act answers the question

Someone asking on an open forum what gain the public gets from a law that makes it vastly safer and therefore more likely for companies to offer open platforms is like watching someone who just crossed an otherwise impassable ravine or river asking what use these newfangled ‘bridges’ could be for.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Dorsey has recently stated that Twitter is NOT a publisher,

"So how is Trump or anyone else WORSE off if do away with HOST immunity?"

To name but one concrete example, without section 230 you would not be allowed to post at all, anywhere, because no web host could take the risk of allowing you to do so.

It’s a bit like how every bar would have to shut down immediately if the bar owners were held liable for what patrons did after downing a few strong ones and leaving the bar.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dorsey has recently stated that Twitter is NOT a publish

"It’s a bit like how every bar would have to shut down immediately if the bar owners were held liable for what patrons did after downing a few strong ones and leaving the bar."

It’s worse than that – section 230 protects property owners from liability for things said or done by others on their property. So, removing it would be akin to the bar owner being held directly liable for any conversation taking place in the bar, which I would hope that most people recognise would be both ridiculous and impossible to control.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Well that's such a terrible deal.

Can we instead name our military bases after despicable people but secure Section 230 to be free of exceptions and future challenges?

If the answer is no then we can see how the reverse isn’t win/win.

I mean, I’m not someone in the military, but I still cringe over some base names and statues. Still I’m willing to keep cringing if I know that’s what secures the open internet to stay free. It’s like the Hustler Magazine argument.

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Ben (profile) says:

Why does Congress even allow this kind of thing?

This is one of the most baffling aspects of the manner in which the US government collectively makes laws.
How does a bill concerned with military spending have anything AT ALL to do with CDA 230?
Does nobody make any effort to ensure a bill for, say, healthcare, contains only things related directly to the healthcare system? Or does every congress-critter look upon every bill as an opportunity to get a new bridge, or civic centre, or un-related concession for their constituents or donors?
It seems to me that this kind of pork barrel politics is a sign of a very weak system, and does nothing to expunge the idea that all politicians have their snouts in the trough.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Why does Congress even allow this kind of thing?

Does nobody make any effort to ensure a bill for, say, healthcare, contains only things related directly to the healthcare system?

I was thinking there was such a rule but apparently not. However it’s been considered.

https://govtrackinsider.com/what-if-each-bill-congress-debated-only-dealt-with-one-topic-83b59a60a534

Or does every congress-critter look upon every bill as an opportunity to get a new bridge, or civic centre, or un-related concession for their constituents or donors?

Those are earmarks, which this would not be since it has nothing to do with funding. There are advantages and disadvantages to earmarks, which have been discontinued. It helps get stuff done, but is also an avenue for corruption and waste.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earmark_(politics)

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Bills have to contain only on-topic provisions

I think the House of Representatives have some provisions (more or less) to prevent riders and amendments that are not related to the point of the bill, but the Senate certainly does not.

This has been discussed since before I could vote. Some people suggested the President should have a line-item veto, but we’ve seen how that can turn a Conserve-The-Forests bill into a Sell-The-Forests bill very quickly.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Trump's forethought

Throughout his administration / reign, Donald Trump has demonstrated he believes he can change reality by insisting on it hard enough, like a four-year-old or someone trying to lucid dream.

And it’s worked for him for a lot of his life, and — thanks to a fearful republican party — for many of his policies during his administration.

The worry then is what kind of tantrum he’s going to have when he finally realizes everyone won’t play by his rules and he decides to take his ball and go home. In what ways will he try to scorch the earth.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trump's forethought

I’ve read multiple stories that suggest that Trump wants to run again in 2024. That would be moronic and come with a huge personal cost – especially to his fragile ego – if he were to do so and lose again, but I wouldn’t put it past him to be that delusional. If there’s any truth to this, however, it may prevent him from trying to burn everything down on the way out of the door.

As for the original comment, he’s a con artist who has never looked further than the grift in front of him, and has been shielded from the consequences of his actions for most of his life, failing upwards in the most spectacular manner. It would not surprise me in the slightest if he did indeed think that there’s a way in which he can just decide not to leave, especially if the delusional public statements of those around him match what he’s being told behind closed doors.

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