Cable industry confused: it's our First Amendment, not theirs

by Marvin Ammori, Save the Internet

The cable and phone industry keep making the offensive argument that the First Amendment belongs to them, not you--and that the First Amendment empowers them to stifle your online speech just so they can make more money.

This Wednesday, the cable industry's head lobbyist gave a speech claiming that Net Neutrality would violate the First Amendment. According to the NCTA’s Kyle McSlarrow, cable companies have free speech rights, while Americans (like you) don't have rights to access or upload content on the Internet.

And Net Neutrality -- a rule that would protect Internet users from cable and phone efforts to censor you online or to discriminate against your favorite Web sites -- would abridge the speech rights of phone and cable companies.

Just repeating his argument shows how silly -- and offensive -- it is. McSlarrow specifically said that cable companies would "speak" by offering priority-treatment to some Web sites that pay cable companies more, at the expense of other sites that don't pay them. Really. (It's amazing what a 2-million-dollar lobbying salary will do to a man's reason.)

He also said two things that directly contradicted one another (nothing new for phone and cable reps). He said (1) Net Neutrality is unnecessary because cable companies would not affect Internet traffic, let alone block it; and (2) Net Neutrality is "forced speech," because it forces cable companies to carry speech they would, in fact, otherwise block or affect. Which is it? Will cable companies block speech (once again) or will they not?

And, in fact, his industry lost this same argument about the First Amendment in a major FCC decision just last year, rendered against his largest member company -- Comcast -- under a Republican Chairman, with a bipartisan vote.

But I want to focus on a particular insult to all Americans whose ancestors are human beings, not cable corporations. He said, "There is plenty of case law about instances of speech compelled by the government – 'forced speech' -- that suggests such rules should be scrutinized closely."

Let me tell you about this Supreme Court case law. It applies generally to humans, not cable corporations. You can force the speech of corporations, not humans, regularly. We "force" corporations to "speak" and disclose "material information" to investors. We can force corporations to disclose the side effects of prescription drugs or the trans fats in potato chips. We can force them to print Surgeon General's warnings.

On top of that, we can "force" cable companies to carry local broadcast stations. The Supreme Court said so in a case called Turner, which rejected the cable industry's same, repeated "forced speech" arguments. But this week, McSlarrow seems to forget that his industry lost Turner, and he is pinning his Net-Neutrality hopes on a few sentences in that case. Good luck with that.

But, in turning to the forced speech cases the cable industry didn't lose, you see how offensive McSlarrow's argument really is. The leading forced speech decision in the Supreme Court involves a person, not a cable corporation. That person was a grade school student -- a Jehovah's Witness.

During World War II, Jehovah's Witnesses refused to salute the flag for religious reasons. They thought the pledge was Nazi-like, an arm raised akin to the Third Reich's salute. And Witnesses were familiar with the Nazis. Nazis banned their movement in 1933, killed one-third of them, and persecuted up to 97% of them in Germany. (The story is in this book.)

But Americans misinterpreted the Witnesses' motives, and thought they were unpatriotic, if not pro-Hitler. In West Virginia, 500-some taunting citizens forced some Witnesses to drink castor oil and roped them up and then paraded them through town. In Wyoming, five Witnesses (two women) were beaten by a mob. In an Arkansas, two Witnesses were shot, four hospitalized after being beaten with pipes and screwdrivers. In Illinois, vigilantes pulled a Witness from his car, draped an American flag over his hood, and (when he refused to salute the flag) slammed his head into the hood for nearly half an hour while the police chief looked on.

During all this, West Virginia passed a law aimed at Witnesses, requiring all students to pledge allegiance to the flag, under penalty of expulsion for the child, fines and jail time for the parents. The Witnesses offered another pledge, declaring "allegiance and obedience to all the laws of the United States that are consistent with God's law, as set forth in the Bible" and "respect" for the flag, "a symbol of freedom and justice to all." But that wasn't good enough for the state of West Virginia.

The Supreme Court struck down this law, for forcing the speech of children and parents, against their personal convictions. Other cases follow this logic.

The cable companies are trivializing the judicial freedom protected in those cases.

They're not school kids. They're huge, billion-dollar, profit-maximizing companies whose lobbyists dominate Washington, DC.

They don't want to express their deep personal or religious convictions. They want to block and control speech. They want to determine winners and losers on the Internet. They want to break the Internet. They want to break your Internet, not theirs. And, to do so, they're raising a First Amendment argument based on protections for forced-speech and freedom of conscience.

Their argument is just plain offensive.

article originally published at Save the Internet.


"...$2000,000 salary do to a man's reason" That is the point. They don't want reason from him. He'd get fired for using reason. He is a tool, and he has to defy his own reason if he has any, or better yet, he got hired purely because he doesn't have any reason. That is more like it. And it is out there everywhere in the media and politics. Did you ever read Barron's??? Did you ever hear a Jim DeMint speech? Tools tools tools! Reason, and willingness to us it, disqualifies for these jobs!

More Poor Scholarship

Marvin Ammori should check the quality of his factual sources. The Nazis did NOT kill 1/3 of Jehovah's Witnesses, and stating that 97% of JWs suffered persecution is a meaningless statement considering that JW consider it "persecution" everytime a homeowner slams a door in their face.

There were only approximately 6000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany during the 1930s-40s. While many of those 6000 German JWs were repeatedly arrested during the 1930s and 1940s, only a small fraction were jailed or imprisoned for any significant length of time. Only about 200-300 German JWs lost their lives, and the majority of those died from any number of causes other than having been executed. Approximately 1000 JWs from other European countries lost their lives while incarcerated by the Nazis.

During that same time period, there were more Jehovah's Witnesses arrested and jailed in the United States than in Germany. In fact, from 1941 until 1945, approximately 4500 American Jehovah's Witnesses "elected" to go to prison rather than serve in the U.S. Military and go fight against those same Nazis who were committing those atrocities. Approximately 3000 of those 4500 American JWs were even offered "conscientious objector" status, in which they were offered "non-combatant" work as a substitute, but 99% of those JWs refused to even help that much.

It is an insult to memorialize the handful of anti-societal trouble-seeking JWs alongside the SIX MILLION Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view the Jews much as did the Nazis. The WatchTower Cult teaches its own version of "replacement theology", which says that GOD rejected the Jews as His "chosen people", and replaced them with today's "Jehovah's Witnesses". In fact, the title "Jehovah's Witnesses" was originally applied to the Jews by the Prophet Isaiah, and is even quoted on the wall at the entrance to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. The WatchTower Society, in calling its own members "Jehovah's Witnesses" is attempting to steal that designation away from the Jews. The WatchTower Cult even teaches that all of the Bible's promises of restoration for the Jewish people now belongs to the followers of the Cult.

What in the world...

Uhhh..... This story wasn't even about Jehovah's Witnesses, why in the world are you writing a thesis on your obvious one-sided fictional account of what you think happened in WW2, when the POINT of the story is about the cable industry. Good grief, what are you doing, searching the internet for Jehovah's Witnesses stories and harassing them? What are you so sore about?

Correction of JW History

Like many liberals before him, Marvin Ammori references the mistreatment of Jehovah's Witnesses during World War Two without mentioning that many of those 1940s JWs went far out of their way to elicit "persecution" in order get their cult message in the national media.

Numerous JWs were themselves convicted of assault and battery. One JW even shot and killed a Deputy Sheriff, and others confronted FBI agents with firearms.

For those readers who would like "the rest of the story":


Not only did you write one waste of time story, but then you wrote ANOTHER?!?! Goodness.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey