GOP Claim That Biden FCC Nom Gigi Sohn Wants To 'Censor Conservatives' Is AT&T & Rupert Murdoch Backed Gibberish

from the fluff-and-nonsense dept

We’d already noted how telecom and media giants are hard at work trying to scuttle the nomination of consumer advocate Gigi Sohn to the FCC. Sohn is not only a genuine reformer, she’s broadly popular on both sides of the aisle in telecom and media circles. So companies like AT&T and News Corporation, which enjoyed no limit of ass kissing during the Trump era, are working overtime to come up with some feeble talking points loyal politicians can use to oppose her nomination. It’s not going well.

About the best they could come up with was the entirely false claim that Sohn wants to “censor Conservatives.” Anybody who actually knows Sohn knows the claim isn’t true, and she’s historically gone well out of her way to embrace policies that encourage diversity in media and speech, even when she doesn’t agree with the speaker. Despite being a nonsense claim, it has been broadly peppered across the right wing echo chamber, including the usual columns at Breitbart, editorials by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, Tucker Carlson, and elsewhere.

The claim popped up again at last week’s nomination hearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee courtesy of Senators Ted Cruz and Dan Sullivan:

“Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn faced off against Republican senators at a nomination hearing yesterday, disputing the senators’ shaky claims that she would use a post at the FCC to censor conservatives. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) repeated arguments previously made by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which mostly boil down to complaints about Sohn’s tweets criticizing Fox News and her criticism of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

As we’ve long noted, the claims that Conservatives are being “censored” in general (either on the internet or on traditional television) aren’t remotely true. In fact Conservatives have not only built a massive right wing infotainment universe with a violent disdain for factual reality (OAN, NewsMax, Fox News, Breitbart, Facebook, YouTube, Blaze), they’ve mastered the art of trolling for outrage engagement, which generally involves saying inflammatory gibberish, then enjoying the added exposure from left-wing outrage retweets and ad-engagement obsessed clickbait coverage. Pretty much the exact opposite of “censorship.”

What’s usually deemed “censorship” is usually just fairly flimsy and short-lived accountability for spewing false or bigoted nonsense. And while the Trump GOP pretends to be mad at “big tech” for “censorship,” what they’re actually mad about is the fact that social media belatedly and inconsistently started reining in GOP race-baiting propaganda, a cornerstone of party power in the face of an unfavorable shift in demographics and a sagging electorate. The GOP has zero interest in genuine antitrust reform (see: forty straight years of U.S. history), but the pretense that they do provides handy cover for an agenda that’s exclusively self-serving.

The new Trump GOP is currently a party of performative gibberish, entirely untethered from reality, propped up largely thanks to propaganda shoveled into the brains of low-information voters, tricked into rooting against their best self interests via a massive, well-funded coalition of traditional cable and online companies (again, quite the opposite of “censorship”). And outside of perhaps reining in media consolidation and encouraging more competition, there’s not a whole lot the FCC can do about it from a policy perspective, given inevitable 1A challenges and a rightward-lurching Supreme Court. Even if Sohn wanted to “censor Conservatives” (which again, she doesn’t) she’d find it an impossible task within the confines of the FCC and legal reality.

The great irony in the GOP/News Corp/AT&T alliance’s effort to smear Sohn as somebody looking to “censor Conservatives?” Right wing news outlets like Newsmax and AT&T-funded OAN actually support her nomination because she’s historically worked to encourage diversity in media viewpoints and healthy competition in media markets. Sohn highlighted as much at the hearing:

“I would say, look at my record. Look at the conservative cable channels that I worked with for years to get them carriage on cable systems when those systems would not carry them. I have long worked with organizations and companies with whom I vigorously disagree on their point of view?fervent Republicans, fervent supporters of the previous president?and I worked with them to get their views online. I believe that I have been characterized very unfairly as being anti-conservative speech. I think my record says otherwise.”

It’s kind of hard to smear somebody as a fan of “conservative censorship” when outlets like OAN and Newsmax, which routinely traffic in truly repugnant garbage, say she’s always been even-handed when dealing with them. Check out this statement supporting Sohn by OAN President Charles Herring:

“She believes in the First Amendment and the advantages of a strong and open media for the benefit of our democracy. She is one of the most knowledgeable persons I know on FCC issues and has the common sense and desire to work with people on both sides of the aisle.”

As usual with the broader Trump GOP, this isn’t about policy, it’s about money and power. AT&T and News Corporation don’t want Sohn appointed because she’d not only break a 2-2 partisan gridlock in voting at the FCC, she actively supports holding telecom and media giants accountable for bad behavior. That’s in pretty stark contrast to the last four years of the Trump FCC, which basically involved coddling entrenched telecom and media giants at every conceivable opportunity, even if that required a whole lot of lying and legally dubious behavior.

If you’re a Trump-allied GOP lawmaker you can’t just come out and say you’re opposing Sohn’s nomination because you’re lodged up AT&T and Rupert Murdoch’s ass and the only thing you care about is protecting their revenues so campaign contributions keep flowing. So instead you glom on to the Trump GOP’s perpetual victimization complex to not only change the subject (away from the fact you’re an enabler of anti-competitive monopolists and have been for decades), but distract and agitate the base with false outrage and victimization porn. Sohn can be approved to the post without GOP support, so in the end most of this is little more than a delay tactic and empty calorie performative gibberish, much like the lion’s share of the modern Trump GOP policy platform.

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Companies: newsmax, oan

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Comments on “GOP Claim That Biden FCC Nom Gigi Sohn Wants To 'Censor Conservatives' Is AT&T & Rupert Murdoch Backed Gibberish”

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Bloof (profile) says:

‘Conservatives are being silenced!’ Cry incredibly wealthy, influential conservative figures on conservative owned websites, tv and radio stations, newspapers and social media! ‘Conservatives are being silenced!’ Cry conservative prosperity gospel preachers and evangelicals from the pulpits of their tax free megachurches! ‘Conservatives are being silenced!’ Cry neocons and other grifters from their columns in the NYT and other reputable outlets or in their guest spots on MSNBC or CNN. ‘Conservatives are being silenced!’ Cry rich, wealthy conservative politicians who benefit so much from citizens united and preferential treatment on social media. ‘Conservatives are being silenced!’ Cry boorish relatives at family gatherings across the world who never, ever shut up about their politics in person or on facebook. ‘Conservatives are being silenced!’ Cry people without kids at school board meetings while trying to ban books and all discussion of racism from the curriculum, as well as oust anyone they think is even slightly left of center from teaching positions.

They’ve pushed a large chunk of the western world to the brink of fascism with their unrelenting bullsh*t and victim complex. We’d all be in a better place if they were silenced even a fraction of what they pretend they are they are.

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mcinsand says:

"conservative"

So, there is officially no longer any philosophy associated with the word ‘conservative.’ If you’re willing to wear the red cap, then everything you say, no matter how vile or anti-American, is automatically covered by the ‘conservative perspective’ umbrella. So much for having any principles, at all.

David says:

Re: "conservative"

That’s unfair: Mitch McConnell certainly has conservative views and values. He just doesn’t care shit what it takes to get the power for imposing them on everyone. If it takes being super-hypocritical regarding what to admit to the floor when and when to keep a filibuster or throw it out, that’s fine with him. If it takes a bunch of idiots wearing red caps running roughshod over the Capitol and democracy, that’s entirely fine with him as long as it looks feasible.

It didn’t for a short while after January 6th but he let himself be persuaded since that it could actually work so he’s hedging his bets. Democracy and the U.S. Constitution are just the current playfield to bootstrap from.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'How dare you not let me take a dump on your floor?! Censorship!

At this point ‘vile and anti-american'(among similar traits) effectively are what count as ‘conservative values’ in the US at least so to the extent that the ‘conservatives’ whine about how people are trying to ‘silence’ them there might actually be a tiny sliver of truth to it, they’re just leaving off the part about there being very good, very valid reasons people don’t want them around.

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Sounds Like A Censor

The FCC has legal power to issue and renew broadcast licenses, specifically any carrier, like Sinclair, that uses public spectrum to broadcast OTA Television. There would be valid reasons the FCC might not renew a license.

Therefore, the question must be asked why gigi sohn made this comment. I notice you didn’t cite a date, so we can not know how old this comment is or look up context. Responses to events from 10 years ago may not reflect current views, or that comment may be made in response to real world events that provide reasonable context. Therefore, I will assume your omission of the critical date and context data is intended to hide the reason Gigi is making this comment. (An ‘Adverse inference’)

In 2018, Trump-nominated FCC chair Ajit Pai referred the Sinclair-Tribute merger to an Administrative Law judge after it was revealed that Sinclair might be seeking to use a dummy shell corporation to skirt ownership limitations in violation of the law. Tribune later sued Sinclair over their clandestine behavior.

Gigi Sohn at the time gave an interview to The Hill and provided this qutoe:

"I think Sinclair has been disingenuous about divestitures for months now," Gigi Sohn, who served as an adviser to Democratic former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, told The Hill in an interview. "I think the last filing didn’t satisfy anybody that Sinclair wasn’t going to still have some control over these stations."

Her tweet was completely in line with that conclusion. When renewing broadcast licenses, the FCC should consider if Sinclair was being disingenuous, make a finding considering if Sinclair was intentionally lying about its intentions or if Sinclair was merely forging ahead unaware of the consequences of its proposed restructuring. And if that investigation finds intentional malfeasance, Sinclair should be at risk of losing its broadcast privileges.

None of this has to do with censorship of on-air content. It has to do with the content of filings made to the government, and potential lies made therein.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sounds Like A Censor

Good job. You should have been the one to write the article, not Mr. Bode. Rather than character assassination, you’re addressing issues. Also, it was written in 2018, around the time of the Tribute Merger. Keep going:

"For all my concerns about #Facebook, I believe that Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy. It’s state-sponsored propaganda, with few if any opposing viewpoints. Where’s the hearing about that?" -Gigi Sohn, via Twitter, Oct 2020.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re: Sounds Like Self Immolation

How to character assassinate oneself:

Part 1:

  1. Koby makes bold claims about how conservatives are "censored".
  2. Koby give specific examples of said "censorship".. actually, he doesn’t…
  3. Rinse and repeat.

Part 2:

  1. Conservative assholes uses tools to bad faith report accounts on Twitter so they are "censored".
  2. Koby defends the assholery and the "censorship" with broken logic (because it’s different somehow in his eyes).

Pointing out idiocy, dishonesty, sophistry and hypocrisy isn’t character assassination. When called upon to provide specific examples of what conservative speech has been "censored" you never give an answer – and that points to someone who doesn’t have any character to speak of.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sounds Like Self Immolation

Pointing out idiocy, dishonesty, sophistry and hypocrisy isn’t character assassination

Pointing out flaws and terrible actions of a person is ‘character assassination’ to the same extent and in the same way that showing an asshole the door of a privately owned platform/building is ‘censorship’ in that in both cases you’ve got a terrible person facing the dreaded consequences for their actions and that’s simply not fair when applied to a certain group.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sounds Like A Censor

Karl has written abut the issues with Sinclair multiple times. Try to keep up.

But he didn’t do a very good job of it here. James managed to pack more actual policy issue discussion in a few short paragraphs, than Karl’s article that was four times as long. Not that I agree with it. For example, I don’t feel that the penalty for a failed merger should be to lose your broadcasting license. But it at least brings up topics and concerns, instead of just badmouthing the opposition.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Sounds Like A Censor

I don’t feel that the penalty for a failed merger should be to lose your broadcasting license.

Learn to read, the reason given was possible misrepresentation of ownership and control of broadcast stations to the FCC.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Sounds Like A Censor

Learn to read

Wishful thinking. Koby has proven time and time and time and time and time again that he has no idea of what he says, even when you spell it out in plain english.

Either that, or the Rubble exchange rate is really good right now.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Sounds Like A Censor

But he didn’t do a very good job of it here. James managed to pack more actual policy issue discussion in a few short paragraphs, than Karl’s article that was four times as long.

And that’s because the article isn’t about Sinclair or FCC policy really, it’s about how some portrayed Gigi Sohn.

For example, I don’t feel that the penalty for a failed merger should be to lose your broadcasting license.

This shouldn’t be hard to understand, but when you break the FCC rules, regardless of the reason, you may lose your broadcasting license. What Sinclair did was particularly egregious, and that they still have a license is mindboggling.

But it at least brings up topics and concerns, instead of just badmouthing the opposition.

I didn’t see you decry those who tried to badmouth Gigi Sohn, instead you went there yourself with the Twitter quote without first actually understanding the context, you even posted it with the title "Sounds like a censor". That tells me you did zero research and instead you just regurgitated the asinine comments about how Gigi Sohn is out to get the "conservatives".

Stop sniffing the alt-right glue since it evidently rots your brain.

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Thad (profile) says:

Murdoch was allegedly responsible for scuttling the Sinclair merger — Sinclair is his biggest competitor in the American conservative news market, and he didn’t want to see it getting any stronger, so he talked Trump into opposing it rather than rubber-stamping it like every other corporate merger during his term.

There’s some pretty deep cynicism in Murdoch sinking the merger himself and then blaming it on liberals.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'We're being persecuted so we need your money- I mean support.'

Sohn can be approved to the post without GOP support, so in the end most of this is little more than a delay tactic and empty calorie performative gibberish, much like the lion’s share of the modern Trump GOP policy platform.

You’re not thinking long term, it also serves to keep the persecution complex/fetish fresh in the minds of the Eternal Victims(tm), to both keep them supporting the politicians and groups fueling said complex/fetish but more importantly to get them to vote and give money to the brave souls who are fighting back against the vile tyranny of private property ownership and the first amendment when used by The Other.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Ah yes...

The co-founder of publicknowledge.com is OBVIOUSLY not pro-censorship!

It’s not like that site has articles like this…

https://publicknowledge.org/why-cable-and-satellite-providers-should-drop-one-america-news-network/

…Oh, wait, it does.

Yeah, I’m not buying this whole "she doesn’t REALLY want to censor conservatives, guys!" line.

And she CERTAINLY didn’t tweet out support of "looking into" a conservative-run network of local TV stations. No sirree!

https://twitter.com/gigibsohn/status/1027601875267465217

…Oh wait, she did.

And she CERTAINLY didn’t criticize Justice Kauvanaugh during his hearing to be on SCOTUS…

https://twitter.com/gigibsohn/status/1045390979572928512

…Ooops.

Yeah… She’s a total left-wing hack that does want to censor conservatives.

Nice try, Bode. Next time, show some actual receipts. You might not get fact checked into oblivion. 😉

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Ah yes...

The co-founder of publicknowledge.com is OBVIOUSLY not pro-censorship!
It’s not like that site has articles like this…
https://publicknowledge.org/why-cable-and-satellite-providers-should-drop-one-america-news-n etwork/
…Oh, wait, it does.

Setting aside the question of how well a single opinion article posted on a website reflects the opinions of a particular co-founder who did not write that article and may not have been involved in approving it, this is about why private companies allegedly should not continue to offer some other particular private company’s content. This is not censorship. You might argue it’s cancel culture, but it is absolutely not censorship.

And she CERTAINLY didn’t tweet out support of "looking into" a conservative-run network of local TV stations. No sirree!
https://twitter.com/gigibsohn/status/1027601875267465217
…Oh wait, she did.

Because they lied a lot to the FCC about certain material things to try to get support for a major merger/acquisition, which would ordinarily be grounds for suspending their broadcasting license. It has nothing to do with the content of the speech or the opinions of the speaker. Again, that’s not censorship.

And she CERTAINLY didn’t criticize Justice Kauvanaugh during his hearing to be on SCOTUS…
https://twitter.com/gigibsohn/status/1045390979572928512
…Ooops.

How in the world could you possibly consider that “censorship”? Or even “cancel culture”? Notice that she did not do the same for any previous conservative nominees for SCOTUS, which suggests that it has to do with Kauvanaugh, specifically, and not conservatives in general.

Yeah… She’s a total left-wing hack that does want to censor conservatives.

You have not provided even a single piece of evidence that actually supports that assertion.

Nice try, Bode. Next time, show some actual receipts. You might not get fact checked into oblivion. 😉

Whereas you present what you call “actual receipts” and then get fact-checked into oblivion.

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