Week by week we continue to see and hear more head scratching stories coming out of government. You have to wonder what the heck are they thinking when they thought this up. Even the fact that they thought they would have no push back goes a long way toward telling what our governing elected officials and bureaucrats in DC think about the state of the American public.
First we heard a few weeks ago that the Federal Communications Commission was planning to “monitor” news coverage at not only broadcast stations, but also at print publications for which the FCC has no authority to regulate. The “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN (pronounced “sin”) involved the FCC sending staffers to question reporters, editors and producers about why they chose to run particular stories.
You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to know that the concept runs so against the grain of the founding pillars of our nation that one would have to think Vladimir Putin was running the FCC. Many folks in and out of the media found it totally unthinkable that anyone could dream up such a concept and think it would okay in America.
Now it is true that there has been a great deal of discussion about the media not covering events fairly. Perhaps it was a logical step for the FCC to test the waters with big money at stake for many national media outlets and an ever growing media slanted toward one political side or the other. But even the most slanted of media outlets wasn’t about to have their coverage questioned by Uncle Sam.
We’ve also learned in recent weeks, the Department of Homeland Security canceled plans to build a nation-wide license plate database. The DHS put out a bid request for a system that would have gone national, letting the federal government track millions of people’s comings and goings just as it tracks data about every phone call we make. Like the FCC scuttled plans for their proposal, the DHS database of license numbers was suddenly withdrawn last week, with the explanation that it was all just a simple mistake.
Many police departments around the nation already use license-plate readers that track cars as they pass traffic signals or pole-mounted cameras. Specially equipped police cars even track cars parked on streets and in driveways. The lame idea that someone high up at the DHS or ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) suddenly realized that calling for bids on a nationwide surveillance system while the current nationwide surveillance systems are being hotly debated, was probably not in their best interest, nor that of the country.
How programs like these suddenly appear on the horizon, may seem a bit of a mystery to many. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai claimed the plan to monitor news rooms had never been put to an FCC vote; it was just sort of announced. Plans like these don’t just come out of nowhere. They are floated for a reason and you can be sure there is always someone, somewhere cooking up something that is behind these hare brain concepts.
We can only hope someday technology will provide the technical resources that might address these and many other issues that threaten the liberties we now enjoy. Wouldn’t it be perfectly fitting if every government and elected official were fitted for a “Pinocchio Nose” when they took office. Much like an ankle bracelet that monitors confined offenders under house arrest, the “Pinocchio Nose” would clearly tell the American public when we are being told bold faced lies and convenient non-truths not in our best long term interest.
If we continued to be lied to, tricked, and taken advantage of by the very people who are in office to serve our needs then, much like government wishes to monitor the civilian population, we deserve a system that monitors the waste, deception and foolishness of those who choose to take advantage of the trust we’ve given in the past but can longer afford to do in the future. What’s fair is fair and if anyone needs closer scrutiny it is our government.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.