THE BLOG
05/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Free Press doesn't mean Free Lunch

Art, thou doth protest too much methinks. If anyone is being disingenuous it's the folks you defend at Free Press, who are for nothing of the sort.

The fact is that Free Press and its founder Bob McChensney have been long and consistent advocates for taking the private creativity and innovation of others and either arguing it should be controlled by the government or dismissing its appropriation by others without regard for compensating the creators. When it comes to matters of intellectual property they are more about 'Free Lunch' than 'Free Press' as evidenced by their failed defense of illegal file sharing in the MGM vs Grokster case (PDF).

This is all their privilege and right of course, but let's at least be upfront about what we really believe and stop hiding behind the notion that Free Press is about a free and independent (as in free and independent from government control) media. They're not, and you know it.

And while Free Press postures that they are just taking on big money interests, the practical impact of their disdain for property, creativity and innovation from the information economy is to deprive individual musicians, songwriters, screenwriters, film producers, journalists and others who create such content the chance to make an honest living. The Socialist idea that all content should be common property, available for free to everybody who wants it, demeans those of us who pour our hearts into creating and the businesses that support us. For more on that, you might want to read my recent op-ed in The Hill.

The bottom line is that Free Press is pretty explicit in their desire to wipe out every significant media business - news, movies, music, cable and telecommunications - and replace them with some sort of government facsimile, all to further McChesney's abstract revolutionary vision. They say they are for a free press and independent media, but how free and independent can media be when the government is paying the bills. As a longtime advocate of freedom of speech and expression in creative works, I worry greatly about the government becoming too involved in the information, media and creative industries. Don't you?

But you don't have to take my word for it... Here's a selection of what Free Press has said and written on these subjects - all linked to their original sources, so people can see for themselves the context of their remarks. And notice Art... very few ellipses.

* "There is no real answer [to the U.S. economic crisis] but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles." - Robert McChesney, Monthly Review

* "At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control." - Robert McChesney, Socialist Project

* "Only government can implement policies and subsidies to provide an institutional framework for quality journalism...The democratic state, the government, must create the conditions for sustaining the journalism that can provide the people with the information they need to be their own governors." - Robert McChesney, The Nation

* "...any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself." - http://www.monthlyreview.org/080915mcchesney.php

* "Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism." - Robert McChesney, Monthly Review

* "The government will pay half the salary of every reporter and editor up to $45,000 each ... this would cost the state $3.5 billion annually," - Robert McChesney, cited by Campus Progress

* "If we want to raise funds for critical journalism, we could tax the giant news corporations; we could then re-distribute the wealth to a fund for a journalist co-operative, which would produce a competitive for-profit paper, which then created more jobs for journalists. A second not-for-profit paper, largely funded by the revenues generated by the paper produced by the journalist co-op, then provides a critical news source to the public." - Robert McChesney, Socialist Project (PDF)

* "Advertising is the voice of capital. We need to do whatever we can to limit capitalist propaganda, regulate it, minimize it, and perhaps even eliminate it. The fight against hyper-commercialism becomes especially pronounced in the era of digital communications." - Robert McChesney, Socialist Project

If you want to see more of such nonsense, go here (PDF).

Art, it's not that I'm in love with big companies or think they always do the right thing. In fact, I have spoken out on occasion about the dangers of too much media consolidation, but I would never advocate turning media over to the government as a solution as Free Press apparently does.

As a songwriter I am a small businessman trying to scratch out a living in a very competitive profession. I know what it is like to invest my life savings in a risky enterprise in the hopes that it will someday pay off and help send the kids to college and keep a roof over my head. I can appreciate the fact that these private companies have invested billions to build and maintain the information infrastructure. And since I live around the corner from a large telco office building of some sort and see hundreds of cars in the parking lot every day, I appreciate the number of jobs they have created for people who live in my community here in Tennessee.

We should acknowledge that there is a fundamental debate here that goes well beyond net neutrality. On one side, Mr. McChesney and Free Press want to eliminate private ownership of media, entertainment and information and don't seem to have any respect for the property of individual creators like me either.

On the other side, and that's where I stand, are those who think that intellectual property rights, private innovation and creativity are important, and that if you have the ingenuity, energy and creativity to create something you ought to be able to earn something in return.