Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Censorship of Conservatives Is Nothing New

America The Beautiful. Where You
Can't Speak Your Opinion Unless
The Press Lets You Speak
Conservatives gasped with horror when Twitter banned President Trump’s account and Google, Apple and Amazon banned Parler. 

Why is anyone surprised? Media outlets have been censoring conservatives for decades in America. 

Back in the days before iPhones and social media, the only way for politicians to communicate with the public — i.e. “voters” — was through old-fashioned, traditional means: like newspapers, television, radio and the US Postal Service. 

In 1984, former Congressman Alex McMillan of Charlotte (R-NC9) won a squeaker of a race over Democrat D.G. Martin by the slimmest of margins, 321 votes out of over 225,000 votes cast.

To provide historical perspective for Millennials, Apple introduced the MacIntosh personal computer in 1984. A decade later, the internet was developed. Two decades later, along came social media. There were very limited avenues through which conservatives could communicate directly with their constituents without filters from editors and journalists who disagreed with them and essentially suppressed their free speech. 

I was chief of staff to Congressman McMillan when his 1986 re-election race was the #1 targeted campaign in the country. In an attempt to build mutual trust with the Charlotte Observer, we allowed their quite capable political reporter, John Monk, full access to our office for four months to do an in-depth story about congressional life in general. 

When the article came out in the Charlotte Observer, it painted McMillan in an unfavorable light right in the middle of a tight re-election campaign. After blowing out John for writing such a hatchet job, for which I had to apologize later, he sent me the full article as printed in the Augusta, Georgia, paper which was part of the same Knight-Ridder chain that owned the Charlotte Observer. 

No one in Augusta, Georgia, voted for McMillan in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

It was fair and balanced, just as John said it would be. But the Observer editors had selectively edited the story down about 30%, ostensibly for space concerns. It was blatantly obvious they did it to help D.G. Martin in his rematch against McMillan because they agreed with him on every issue, not McMillan. 

We submitted numerous opinion pieces to the Observer over the next decade only to see most of them rejected. The Observer was owned and operated by staunch liberal Democrats who simply did not want to allow conservative Republicans a forum to air their political views and philosophy. 

As a privately owned company, they were entirely within their right to deny access to anyone they did not want to publish. It was just infuriating to conservatives to be constantly told the press is “fair, neutral and impartial,” when in actual practice, they are not. 

We went around such editorial roadblocks by mailing out eight million newsletters, town hall meeting notices and congressional updates to 250,000 households at taxpayer expense via the congressional franking privilege. Not proud to have to admit such a wasteful government expense, but the franking privilege and about $1.5 million in campaign ads, an enormous amount in 1986, were the only two ways we could get past media censorship and biased reporting in North Carolina. 

It worked; Alex McMillan won re-election by 4,221 votes, a virtual landslide compared to his 1984 win. 

Not much has changed in the media world politically since then except for the rise of Fox News, which used to be the news outlet of choice for conservatives for 30 years. Subscriptions and circulation have plummeted at large newspapers, but they still are echo chambers for such partisan political narratives as “Russian Collusion” and “Moderate Joe Biden.” 

The most troubling thing is how elite liberal media editors use the freedom of the press guarantee in the First Amendment to pound out the free speech clause of the same amendment for others. 

Be completely fair to all points of view or be honest enough to admit a specific bias so readers can make up their own minds about whether they agree with you or not. 

Conservatives have to stop whining about the liberal bias of the media and start owning their own news outlets. Conservatives should figure out what is going to replace social media and get ahead of the curve, not be smashed by it. 

There were thousands of newspapers and pamphlets, all of them partisan to the federalist or anti-federalist point of view at the beginning of the republic, many virulently so. America is going to be far better off as a country going forward with a cacophony of opposing views instead of the silence that follows dictatorial censorship of views that media chairmen, publishers or editors don’t like.

(first published in North State Journal 1/27/21)

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