That was a phrase widely misused and abused 30 to 35 years ago by
some whose desire to shift power really had nothing to do with serving
the interests of the people.
But it was a good phrase — one that was easy to support and
understand. It was co-opted by a movement whose ultimate objective,
whether all the participants knew it or not, was to centralize power, to
take it away from the people, to serve the interests of the state.
Maybe it’s time to resurrect that phrase. After all, there are many
forces today trying desperately to centralize authority — nationally,
globally, corporately. Yet, technology is giving us opportunities to
make those forces irrelevant — if only we recognize the chance we have.
What am I talking about?
Is there anyone out there who truly believes that such a reversal by
a government bureaucracy could have been achieved in such record time
without the advent of the Internet?
Just to recap, the FCC voted 4-1 Friday to rescind new guidelines
provided to a religious broadcaster who had applied for, and received,
an application to take over a public broadcasting station in Pittsburgh.
In its Jan. 6 decision to grant a transfer of licenses between
Pittsburgh TV stations Cornerstone Television WQED — a PBS affiliate
and member of the National Religious Broadcasters — and Paxson
Communications, the FCC singled out religious stations by establishing
new, stringent standards for the “educational” programming that
non-commercial educational TV stations must air to remain qualified to
hold their licenses.
The “additional guidelines” the commission included in the order
stated for the first time that “not all programming, including
programming about religious matters, qualifies as ‘general educational’
“For example, programming primarily devoted to religious exhortation,
proselytizing, or statements of personally-held religious views and
beliefs generally would not qualify as ‘general educational’
programming,” the FCC said.
That was Jan. 6. The new guidelines were adopted on a 3-2 vote. Only
22 days later, the FCC reversed itself on a 4-1 vote.
Do you know how unusual that is? How often have you seen government
act that quickly? When was the last time you witnessed government
acknowledging an error and correcting it in three weeks?
For sheer speed and definitiveness, it’s unprecedented.
This is democracy in action, folks. Be of good cheer about this. No,
it does not mean government won’t be back today and tomorrow and the
next day trying to steal your liberty. It will. I promise you. But what
this FCC reversal illustrates is the power of this new tool in the hands
of the people. It works. We now have the ability to get the word out
about government threats faster and more efficiently than ever before.
And we’ve seen this in the recent past, when, for instance,
WorldNetDaily broke the story of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s
“Know Your Customer” plan. Within days and weeks, opposition had mounted
to a furious pitch. The FDIC was flooded with e-mail, faxes and phone
calls. WorldNetDaily entered the vocabulary of the top FDIC officials.
The power of the Internet was demonstrated to them.
That’s what we’ve seen in even more dramatic fashion with this FCC
ruling. Government officials found it difficult to defend the
indefensible, once it had been exposed to the light of day. After all,
this wasn’t just a bad plan opposed by religious folks — even the
atheists decried the ruling as an affront to free speech.
So, what do you think? Am I just seeing a silver lining inside a
foreboding dark cloud? Or is this not an illustration of the power of
the people being enhanced by the new technology?
That’s the question to ponder. I don’t believe for one minute that
the opponents of the original FCC ruling could have mobilized, raised
awareness and made their voices heard in Washington with such
effectiveness, such speed and such eloquence without the New Media.
And to me, that’s great news. Chalk one up for the good guys. Maybe
“power to the people” can actually be more than just empty rhetoric in
the age of the Internet.