Democracy & Technology Blog Is ignorance blissful?

Senator Rockefeller, chairman of the committee with jurisdiction for the Federal Communications Commission, wishes there were something that could be done to cut down on the number of choices Americans enjoy for news, commentary and entertainment:

I hunger for quality news. I’m tired of the right and the left. There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC “Out. Off. End. Goodbye.” Would be a big favor to political discourse, our ability to do our work here in Congress and to the American people to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly in their future. We need slimmed down channel packages that better respect what we really want to watch.

Rockefeller and I apparently agree on one thing: The more Americans know about the activities of their government, the more suspicious they become. But this is not a novel insight. In fact, doesn’t the historical record show that this is precisely why we have the First Amendment?
I’m sure Rockefeller is well-meaning, but fundamentally his words sound like the lament of a politician who feels like he’s under a microscope because of cable TV and the Internet, and it’s uncomfortable. I’ll bet he fondly recalls when his smile counted for something more, and he felt trusted. In the good old days, he could tell his West Virginia constituents what they wanted to hear and yet still participate with his ideological allies in Washington, DC on progressive crusades most of the time and not get caught.
A limited number of media outlets with a limited number of column inches or minutes of airtime simply couldn’t report it all. The old media age, defined by scarcity of printing presses and spectrum, has given way to a new media age of 500 cable channels and a potentially limitless Internet — aided and abetted by mobile phones which can film and/or record every comment or vote by a politician and make it available for instant distribution.
The new media age must suck if you’re a politician who’s not exactly in sync with your constituency. Ignorance — theirs not yours — is surely blissful if you are a politician.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.