We’ve always known that President Bush doesn’t have much respect for freedom of speech. Between the “free speech zones” that he uses to keep protesters out of his line of sight to his support for the global gag rule, it’s clear that the marketplace of ideas doesn’t matter much to our president. But a comment I read in the paper this morning from his media director Mark McKinnon makes it even more apparent that the Bush team considers free speech to be an obstacle, not a benefit in a free society.
McKinnon is distressed that his hundreds of millions of dollars worth of paid TV, radio, and print advertising is “in danger of being overwhelmed” by the “powerful tsunami” of free media. Between the internet and news coverage of political events and developments, he seems to be worried that politicians are losing the control they’ve had over campaign advertising for years. He has said, “You need an enormous amount of money just to cut through the clutter,” referring to basically any media attention not paid for and directed by one of the major parties.
Oddly enough, in order to fight the menace of independent Americans making their voices heard outside the mainstream media, McKinnon plans to use a tool originally designed to help keep partisan fundraising from determining elections. That’s right. McKinnon’s team has filed a complaint with the FEC charging that too many independent coalitions are forming to oust his candidate, and that those groups should be stopped from raising money and speaking out. He claims that because groups like MoveOn.org are anti-Bush, any work they pay for should be counted as donations to Kerry’s campaign. And because the campaign finance law, like so many other laws in this country, is extremely poorly thought out, he may be right.
I understand that from McKinnon’s perspective, citizens groups and the internet are just pesky distractions from his carefully crafted media campaign. But it’s bizarre to hear anyone insinuate that the American people are being forced to sift through their fellow citizens’ worthless opinions in order to find the small, priceless gems of his advertisements. It’s the height of arrogance, really. Unfortunately for Mr. McKinnon, we non-commercial political writers are here to stay, and we’re going to keep trying to outspend major political campaigns with our hours of thankless, unpaid labor. Because hey, it’s the American way.