The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About

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Since the repeal in June of Obama-era rules guaranteeing net neutrality, websites like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Common Dreams and more risk being pushed into an Internet slow lane that could severely hamper their readership, if not drive them out of business entirely. For Jeff Cohen, editor and co-founder of the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), it may be the most urgent threat to the First Amendment no one is talking about.

"The biggest issue of freedom of the press is not that Trump is mean to reporters, as he was with [CNN's Jim Acosta and NPR's Yamiche Alcindor last week]," he tells Robert Scheer. "The biggest freedom of the press issue is that Trump is working with Comcast and AT&T and Verizon to end net neutrality... Ownership of the media and the ownership of the internet, the fact that these big internet providers are [a] few giant companies that also produce content—it’s very, very dangerous."

In the latest installment of Scheer Intelligence, Cohen plumbs a range of topics including the myriad failures of our political press and the Blue Wave election that wasn't quite, as well as the future of the progressive movement. No matter how many Congressional seats it ends up flipping, he contends, the Democratic Party is unlikely to change course until it replaces its leadership: "It's too indebted to the donor class. So they talk with mush in their mouths. 'We should have more accessibility to affordable housing'—no! What’s popular is Medicare-for-all."

Cohen also expounds on the larger mission of FAIR and the kind of counterweight in can provide to an increasingly monolithic media industry. "We set up FAIR because progressive points of view were excluded from mainstream media," he says. "Typically in mainstream media...the spectrum went from the center to the right. So I spent decades trying to get the progressive view there."

Between the Federalist Society's iron grip on the Supreme Court and the ever-encroaching dangers of global warming, the future—both for the country and the planet as a whole—looks impossibly bleak. Yet even in these dark, frenetic times, Cohen maintains we still have reason for optimism. "I study the polls," he says. "And the polls show that the most progressive demographic, by age, by far, are people under 30, under 35. They’re the most anti-racist demographic, they’re the most tax-the-rich demographic, [and] they’re the most we-better-do-something-about-climate-change demographic."



Joshua Scheer