[GRRN] Free Speech for Sale

patfranklin (cri@container-recycling.org)
Wed, 9 Jun 1999 17:06:53 -0400 (EDT)

The Good News is that the Bad News is out!

If you watched Bill Moyers' special "Free Speech for Sale"
last night on public television, you heard the bad news
that freedom of speech remains a basic freedom, ONLY IF you
can afford to buy the time to speak. As activists, this
came as no surprise to you. But it probably came as a
shock to millions of viewers who saw three examples of how
BIG MONEY influences politics and public policy.

The 'good news' is that the 'bad news' is out, thanks to
Moyers and those who funded his special. In the words of
Center for Justice's Burt Newborne, "one side has a loud
speaker and the other side is talking in a whisper."
"Money and speech", Newborn said, "is THE issue as we
approach the 21st century."

You and I know that the moneyed interests of the big
corporations wield enormous power and that nonprofits,
elected officials and ordinary citizens are no match for
the 'power of the purse'.

Activists and lawmakers know that corporations can and often
do 'buy the debate', but the general public does not realize
this. And therein lies the problem. As was seen in the
Moyers special, big corporations, through their trade
associations and high powered PR firms, can and do mold
public opinion. Furthermore, through their control of
media outlets they can determine what information gets out
to the public.

If the "Free Speech for Sale" special is aired again, as I'm
sure it will be -- watch it and weep for the virtual buy out of
our First Amendment rights.

But, I repeat, the GOOD NEWS is that the BAD NEWS is out.
Moyers and the sponsors of Free Speech for Sale have taken the
first step. They produced the special and aired it. I hope
it will be played in every high school, college and university
in the country.

So, spread the bad news that Free Speech is For Sale. If you
are an activist you know of at least a half dozen examples
where a corporation or corporations perpetrated distortions,
half-truths and/or outright lies on an unsuspecting, uninformed
public. No doubt they claimed that the public policy in
question would raise taxes, or result in job losses or place a
burden on low income workers.

Whatever your story, tell five people about it. No, tell 25
people about it. Our only defense is an informed public.

(The 1-hour Bill Moyers special "Free Speech for Sale" sponsored
by the John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the
Bernard & Andre Rappaport Foundation and Mutual of America
aired last night on PBS. If you missed it, call Public Affairs
Television at 212/560-6960 to find out when it will air again.)

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