Skip to main content

Citizens United, the FIrst Amendment, and the Daily News

I bow to no man in my love of the Philadelphia Daily News, but I'm occasionally driven to distraction by one odd habit of the newspaper: Printing letters to the editor that are simply wrong or misleading on the facts—without correction or any indication to readers that the information in the letter is incorrect.

Understand, I'm not talking about a difference of opinion here. I'm talking about easily quantifiable distortions, like Michael Kubacki's letter in today's paper:

In fact, prior to Citizens United, there were a number of corporations that enjoyed unlimited political-speech rights. Philadelphia Media Network Inc., which owns the Daily News, was one of them. In fact, every corporation that owned a newspaper or a radio or TV station was allowed to say whatever it wished, whenever it wished. Other corporations, however, could not. The major effect of the Citizens United case was simply to level that playing field. 
Let us cut through the usual dreary rhetoric about "billionaires" and the "super-rich" who "buy themselves a candidate," and ask some simpler questions. First, why should corporations like Philadelphia Media Network Inc., CBS and the New York Times be permitted to pummel us daily with their political views while Monsanto and Target and BP must be completely silent? And second, when did political speech in America, by anyone, become something that must be suppressed? What an strange attitude for a newspaper to adopt.
Here's the problem: Kubacki is muddling two different kinds of "speech."

In terms of shouting one's opinions to the world, Monsanto, Target, and BP don't have to be completely silent—they're as free as the Daily News or the New York Times to spread word of their views through print and broadcast, and often do. Who hasn't seen BP's "greenwashing" ads in print on TV, for example? 

By the same token, the Daily News—which I'm guessing has not made corporate contributions to campaigns, at least not recently—has never had any more freedom (or less) to make cash donations to political campaigns than BP, Monsanto, etc.

So Kubacki's thesis—that papers somehow have more speech rights, before Citizens United, than other businesses—is simply, demonstrably wrong. But the Daily News' readers won't know that. That's a disservice to those readers and to the Daily News. 


Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…