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Public Interest Groups putting the The “Bully” in the Bully Pulpit

Harold Ford, the Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Conference, recently responded to Free Press’ attack on him and other members of Congress who dared use their God-given brains to challenge Network Neutrality. In his reply, Ford expresses dismay and distress at being the target of a campaign which culminated in a HuffPost piece from Free Press President Josh Silver that received nearly 1000 comments mainly attacking Ford. But I am not surprised, as Ford is just the latest casualty in the Network Neutrality fight, which has become almost more toxic than the Gulf Coast right now.

This instance of Free Press going after Ford is no different from the way the biggest so-called public interest advocate for Network Neutrality has treated anyone who disagrees with them.

It appears as though once anyone deemed to have any semblance of authority or clout challenges Net Neutrality, even if based on legitimate, reasoned and intelligent thought, groups like Free Press slap a bullseye on their backs and sics their flock of sheeple on them. Anyone who doesn’t agree is labeled either as misinformed, too dumb to realize what’s good for them, or a member of some imaginary Astroturf group or initiative. It is superiority complex advocacy at its best. Clearly, if anyone else has free thought about Net Neutrality, their opinions have been bought out by “The industry.” Note the sarcasm.

Never mind that Free Press itself has been caught drafting messages for members of Congress and engaging in the same sort of Astroturf conduct it imputes to others, it appears the group is so desperate to get Network Neutrality principles adopted that it is willing to ignore and distort facts, overstate the truth, and malign and slander every one or group that stands in its way.

While accusing others of using hyperbole, promoting a campaign of fear and lobbying, it engages in the very same tactics, but to me, they are a bit worse than the folks they criticize, because they virtually brow beat all opposition at every opportunity.

I come from and was trained among the old school of communications public advocacy organizations. There were very few of us back then, and in that world, we engaged in honest and open debate. We were civil. Rules of decorum prevailed. If you had a position, you presented it before the decision makers. You rallied your troops behind your position and you hoped it would be convincing and persuasive enough that you would prevail. I am not naïve to think that back door politics and side dealing did not take place, but despite all that, at the end of the day we stayed above the fray.

At bottom, it was important for our own credibility that we led by example. If you would notice the type of language being flung freely by the Free Press disciples, you’d understand why back then we tried a different approach.

I’m sad to see the days of civility are behind us, and that even so-called public interest and consumer groups can be bought off and/or resort to the worst tactics.

Above all, like Harold, I am genuinely concerned about the interests and needs of the millions of unconnected. If those fueling this debate were truly concerned about the open internet for all users, maybe they would be able to take a break from demonizing anyone who dares express a different perspective and would focus more clearly on the best way to get all Americans online.

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