On Monday, President Obama publicly urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt strong rules preserving net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers must treat all data equally.
Obama’s comments placed a previously fairly niche technical issue right into the middle of the national political debate, forcing commentators to take a side on something many of them did not seem to understand. But luckily, many conservative politicians and pundits have an easy way of deciding where to stand on an issue: if Obama is for it, it will destroy America and they are against it!
1. Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz got the right-wing net neutrality pile-on started with a tweet calling the proposal “Obamacare for the Internet."
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
It didn’t really make sense, but as Matt Yglesias notes, that wasn’t the point: “What, if anything, that phrase means is difficult to say. But its political significance is easy to grasp. All true conservatives hate Obamacare, so if net neutrality is Obamacare for the internet, all true conservatives should rally against it.”
2. Bryan Fischer
As soon as Cruz spoke out, his far-right acolytes seem to have felt obligated to follow. On his radio program on Monday, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer struggled to grasp the proposal that he was definitely against, claiming that it would ban internet providers from charging customers more for faster service — something that already happens and that has nothing to do with net neutrality.
3. Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck is outraged that President Obama wants to end “the freedom of the internet” and ruin something that’s “working pretty well” because “the government is not involved in it at all.” Apparently unaware that current FCC regulations allow his online network, The Blaze, to stream on an open internet, Beck claimed that regulations preserving net neutrality would end this supposedly government-free system in which he operates his business.
Beck’s cohost Pat Gray accidentally debunked his own point by comparing Internet regulation to the interstate highway system, which he seems to also think remains open and accessible because it’s free from government interference.
The Tea Party group FreedomWorks got into the game yesterday with a video “clearing up” net neutrality for its supporters.
As Consumerist explains, FreedomWorks’ net neutrality explanation is basically a work of fiction:
“Supporters of the plan call it a [uses finger quotes] ‘free and open Internet’ but in reality it’s anything but,” says Somberg. “What net neutrality does is force providers to treat all Web content equally — the same speeds, the same prices, the same access.”
This is simply untrue.
Net neutrality merely says that ISPs can’t slow down, block, or prioritize any content. It doesn’t mean that everything gets treated with the same speed — just that an ISP does nothing to impede or boost any particular content company’s speed. So if it’s fast coming in from the company, it should be fast going out to the end-user. And if the host is slow, then it remains slow.
5. Alex Jones
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones added his own special twist to the net neutrality debate, claiming that it is a “high tech version of what the Soviets and the Nazis and the Chinese Communists and Fidel Castro and every other nut ball did.”
Bonus: David Barton
While net neutrality might have just recently crossed the radar of many right-wing commentators, make-believe historian David Barton has been beating the anti-net-neutrality drum for years. In 2011, Barton called net neutrality “socialism on the internet” and “redistribution of wealth through the internet” and insisted that it is "wicked stuff" that goes against the dictates of the Bible and the Founding Fathers.
This launched Barton into a discourse on the concept of “fairness,” which he said “is a word no Christian should ever use in their vocabulary” because “what happened to Jesus wasn’t fair.”