Why Net Neutrality's All the Rage.

To piggyback on Jamelle's argument that the more bombastic conservative arguments that we're hearing against net neutrality are symptomatic of a reflexive anti-liberalism, it's worth keeping in mind that the historical record of communications debates in particular in this country made it fairly easy to predict that this is how this policy debate would shape up.

Liberals, the thinking holds, are anti-free speech. It's a tenet of conservative thinking, and just about every discussion in this space gets slotted into that framework. The Fairness Doctrine, for example, holds a place in the conservative imagination that's completely out of proportion with how much support the idea -- that government should try to encourage viewpoint diversity on the airwaves -- actually has amongst liberals. It's such a useful bogeyman that it gets trotted out year after year after year. Julian Sanchez accurately points out via Twitter that there are more reasonable conservative arguments against net neutrality enforcement that we don't hear all that much of, like the idea that the regulatory experts at the FCC are overreaching their actual authority here. But when you hear Glenn Beck saying "Free Press isn't about free speech. It's about Marxism. It's about silencing dissent" or Michelle Bachmann telling folks, in proper down-is-up fashion, that net neutrality is "the Obama administration advocating censorship of the Internet," it's a pretty good sign that we're tapping into a particular deeply held fear.

-- Nancy Scola

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