Isn't this interesting?
On September 30, 2009, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps delivered the Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture at the Riverside Church in New York City. Mr. Copps is perhaps best identified as he was in the Nation magazine when he authored a March 20, 2008 article there as "a Democratic member of the FCC and a former assistant secretary of commerce in the Clinton Administration."
The Riverside Church, once the pulpit of famed liberal activist William Sloane Coffin and the church of choice for PBS commentator Bill Moyers (on whose show Commissioner Copps has appeared), is affiliated with the United Church of Christ (liberal at the hierarchy level but with a mixed membership filled with conservatives). Full disclosure, the UCC is my own denomination, and I serve as both the president of my own UCC church council in Pennsylvania as well as a member of the UCC's Penn Central Conference Board of Directors. In 2008 the UCC was much in the news because it is also the home denomination to Trinity UCC Church in Chicago, then the home church of President Obama, the pastor at the time the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The Parker lecture, according to the UCC itself, "was created in 1982 to recognize Parker's pioneering work as an advocate for the public's rights in broadcasting. It is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications and the digital age from an ethical perspective."
As Commissioner Copps began his speech, his opening included what appeared to be the perfunctory thanks to the executive director of the UCC's Office of Communication, Inc., the Rev. J. Bennett Guess.
Then he said this: "I also want to thank my friend Cheryl Leanza for her helping arrange my being at this gathering, as well as at the important luncheon meeting earlier today of the interfaith coalition, So We Might See."
Who is Cheryl Leanza? She is identified this way by the UCC: "Cheryl A. Leanza, a media attorney who serves as policy director with the United Church of Christ's Office of Communications, Inc." The Reverend Guess runs the UCC's Communications office, and within that office is Ms. Leanza, the policy director for the office. She is also referred to as the "Managing Director" of the OC.
Let's go back to the statement made by FCC Commissioner Copps.
Remember that after thanking Rev. Guess, he says: "I also want to thank my friend Cheryl Leanza for her helping arrange my being at this gathering, as well as at the important luncheon meeting earlier today of the interfaith coalition, So We Might See."
At 2:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon, October 16, 16 days after Commissioner Copps had his privately arranged "important luncheon meeting" with So We Might See and delivered his speech, I received -- as did all other UCC members on the appropriate mailing list -- an e-mail from the Rev. Ben Guess. The subject line was: "Hate Speech Hurts: Join the 2009 Media Violence Fast."
It invited me as a UCC member to join a "fast from media violence" sponsored by So We Might See. The invitation says:
Does violence in the media, particularly hate speech against immigrants, impact levels of actual violence?
That's the question we will be asking during the 2009 Media Violence Fast, October 19-26. We invite your participation at www.mediaviolencefast.org.
So far so usual. The staff of my denomination, lovely people I'm sure, are in fact hardcore left-wingers in their politics, even though UCC pews are filled with politically self-identified conservatives.
Then came the interesting part, or, if you will, the part that sent a chill through my radio. Reverend Guess, on behalf of my own denomination -- without so much as a by-your-leave to the rank-and-file 1.2 million members -- made plain, in the name of the United Church of Christ that:
As a participant, you will be asked to sign a petition to the Federal Communications Commission asking that it open a notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media. We will also urge the National Telecommunications and Information Agency to update its 1993 report, The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes.
Read the key phrases again. "Open a notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media." Meaning, church members are being asked to sign on to an already-in-progress petition to the FCC that is opening the door to legal sanctions from the federal government on "hate speech in the media."
Together, we can express our concern about the frequency and tone of anti-immigrant remarks made by several TV and radio commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Lou Dobbs.
Hate speech in the media is a growing problem that must be examined before it can be solved.
So I took a look at this petition to Commissioner Copps, properly made out in the finest protocol to his colleague, the new Obama FCC Commissioner Julius Genachowski. Also listed in the formal address was Lawrence E. Strickling the new Obama Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information. And what did I find there?
Rush Limbaugh, claims this formal petition from American churches to the FCC, is responsible for beating up Mexican men.
Really? Why on earth would Rush do that? When does he find time to beat up Mexican men (are Mexican men different than other men?) with all those three-hour shows five days a week, show prep, golf tournaments, football games and side trips to Hollywood? Shouldn't this strange and heretofore undiscovered proclivity on the part of one of the most famous men in America have been already so well known it would have been the real reason to keep him out of the NFL? Even though the NFL doesn't seem to care enough about Mexican men itself to actually to hire a lot of them to play football?
The reason Rush is formally singled out in the petition itself as the only talk radio host so-named (and that without the tiniest bit of context) is that he allegedly made a remark on "March 27, 2006" in which he "called Mexican immigrants, regardless of legal status, 'a renegade, potential crime element that is unwilling to work.'" Two Mexican men, says the petition, were then robbed and beaten up. Three months later. In June of 2006. By four kids "accusing them of stealing jobs from the U.S." There is no record provided that a single kid ever mentioned Rush Limbaugh. Not one. Quite aside from the fact that Rush Limbaugh doesn't advocate beating up anyone.
But to focus on that in this space would remove one's eye from the real fast ball. This petition has nothing to do with the immigration issue.
Let's get down to this.
Who is sponsoring this petition? Whose name is at the bottom as the signatory? Why, yes indeed, a group called "The So We Might See Coalition." Where have we heard of this group before?
That's right. The same group Commissioner Copps saluted when he gave his lecture at the UCC's Riverside Church and said: "I also want to thank my friend Cheryl Leanza for her helping arrange my being at this gathering, as well as at the important luncheon meeting earlier today of the interfaith coalition, So We Might See."
So what do we have here so far?
• The United Church of Christ arranges for FCC Commissioner Copps to come to a UCC church in New York and give a speech.
• Before delivering that speech, says Commissioner Copps himself, the UCC, specifically UCC policy director "my friend Cheryl Leanza" arranges "an important luncheon meeting earlier today" between the FCC Commissioner and, in his words again, "the interfaith coalition, So We Might See."
• Following that lunch, which seems not to be noted on the official FCC website beyond the sentence buried in a speech text and to which no press was apparently invited, the FCC Commissioner speaks during his UCC arranged lecture of what he terms his "passion" -- the media.
He says: "I am also pushing for a comprehensive FCC evaluation of the state of broadcast journalism."
The state of broadcast journalism. Which includes, of course, talk radio.
Now, how would one push for such a "comprehensive FCC evaluation" of talk radio?
And if, just by chance of course, you also wanted to de-legitimatize and silence not just talk radio…but Fox News…well, how exactly could you try and do that? How do you get this ball rolling?
There are two ways.
First, arrange for a legal hook supplied to the FCC by an outside group that is funded appropriately and privately. This will open up the question legally and give the FCC something to work with officially. Investigations in Washington can expand like topsy, as any veteran of the Clinton administration who saw the Whitewater real estate probe of the Clintons morph into an impeachment of the president over Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones can tell you. The Obama White House chief of staff is…ex-Clintonite Rahm Emanuel.
Second, raw political power is needed. The ability to land repeated powerful political blows from the most prestigious bully pulpit in the world: the White House. Message: Talk radio and Fox News are not legitimate. Then others on the team will make the case they are supporting hate.
So let's look at all the facts as they are now on the table:
• On September 30, 2009 -- FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps has a private lunch in New York City with a group called So We Might See, arranged by UCC Office of Communications policy director Cheryl Leanza. Then he gives the Parker UCC lecture, where he also thanks the UCC's the Rev. Ben Guess.
• On October 16 -- 16 days after Copps trip to New York -- UCC members are informed by UCC Office of Communications Executive Director the Reverend Ben Guess, Leanza's boss, that the UCC , as part of So We Might See, is filing a request for the FCC to "open a notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media." UCC members are asked to sign this petition. The petition specifically cites Rush Limbaugh by name. The formal title of this is the: "Petition for Inquiry into Hate Speech in the Media and Request to update report on The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes."
• The money for So We Might See is supplied, according to the Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media site, by three foundations.
* Media Democracy Fund -- $40,000 on January 1, 2009
* The Ford Foundation -- $100,000 on April 15, 2009
* Otto Haas Trust -- $15,000 on August 31, 2009
• The Media Democracy Fund lists as one of its own funders George Soros's Open Society Institute.
• Also according to the Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media, the sole "Key Personnel" listed for So We Might See is "Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Executive Director." Rev. Guess, of course, is the minister who sent me the e-mail from the UCC. The minister who is the boss of Cheryl Leanza, who in turn "arranged" for a private and doubtless cozy lunch with So We Might See whose "Key Personnel" is…Rev. Guess. And on the web site for So We Might See? As you can see here, both Rev. Guess and Ms. Leanza are listed as "staff."
• Linked on the electronic media package are videos supplied by the left-wing Media Matters on the cite of the left-wing National Council of La Raza, one of which accuses Fox's Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, as well as CNN's Lou Dobbs, of hate speech. This may be found here.
• The media package sent to UCC church members by Guess also solicits support to remove Lou Dobbs from television and intimidate sponsors of Glenn Beck's TV show into pulling their advertising. The link for this is here:
• The following religious denominations have agreed to sign on to the request to the FCC. They are: the United Church of Christ, U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Islamic Society of North America, United Methodist Communications, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and "several other faith groups."
• These religious groups are to convey the idea that talk radio and Fox News are guilty of "hate speech" as illustrated by links naming or presenting Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Michael Savage in this fashion.
• The religious groups are to accomplish this objective in the following fashion, as explained, presumably by Reverend Guess, on the Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media site:
In addition to on-line advocacy and learning (the So We Might See Media Violence Fast) will have elements that can be conducted by individuals or houses of worship directly. These elements will include:
- Sermon notes, children's activities, and adult education materials, among others.
- Involving local clergy and lay leaders through an advisory committee. These local leaders will learn more in-depth about the chosen topics of the campaigns as well as create materials that other leaders and participants can use.
- Identifying which participant denominations require additional policy statement to support the work of the denomination in the media justice arena.
- Members of So We Might See will also issue joint press releases, letters and other documents to influence the policy process and educate the public.
There is an organized campaign now afoot, a carefully planned, well-funded systematic assault on talk radio and Fox News that involves at least seven major liberal American religious denominations. All of whom are apparently planning to spread the gospel that talk radio and Fox News personalities are spreading hate speech. This message will be spread to their parishioners' children, in adult education materials, in sermons and through lay leaders -- people like me.
And to back it up, they are trying to invoke the legal authority of the FCC. After having a cozy, private lunch with a sympathetic FCC Commissioner on September 30.
Which brings us last, but certainly not least to: The White House.
The Obama White House is now quite specifically using the presidential bully pulpit to de-legitimize Fox News.
Note how this works:
• White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel says: "…the way we, the President looks at it, we look at it is it's not a news organization" and that Fox is not "a legitimate news organization."
• White House senior adviser David Axelrod says Fox News is "not really a news station."
• White House Communications Director Anita Dunn says: "What I think is fair to say about Fox -- and certainly it's the way we view it -- is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party," said Anita Dunn, White House communications director, on CNN. "They take their talking points, put them on the air; take their opposition research, put them on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is."
So, some questions that need to be asked.
• Who, by name, was in attendance at the cozy, private lunch between the special interest group So We Might See and a government official, the FCC Commissioner Michael Copps?
• What was discussed at this cozy, private lunch between Commissioner Copps and So We Might See? Were minutes kept? Was the subject of launching a request to "open a notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media" at the FCC discussed?
• Did Commissioner Copps suggest in any fashion that the outside group So We Might See submit this petition? In other words, an insider helping the outsiders to help the insider do the outsiders bidding?
• What role is the White House playing with the FCC in any attempt to intimidate Fox News or talk radio hosts? Have there been any e-mails, telephone conversations, personal conversations between any member of the White House staff and anyone at the Federal Communications Commission?
One last thing.
What we are documenting here is a full-fledged assault on conservative media. On talk radio and on Fox News. An assault by name on some, on others with their names left out, but surely every bit the target as the others. You can be assured that also in the bull's-eye here is Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and others. Someone like Levin, who has both a popular talk radio show and a bestselling book, would be of particular concern. So too those without their own shows but with successful books and websites -- the Michelle Malkins, Dick Morrises. Surely Andrew Breitbart, already in their sites for the ACORN investigation, sits on this enemies list.
Leading this charge or involved in some capacity are at least one Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, seven national churches, one left-wing billionaire who helps as always with the funding -- and last but certainly not least, the White House. Specifically that would be Messrs. Emanuel, Axelrod and Ms. Dunn.
Hello? Is anyone home here? Is the First Amendment -- which interestingly protects these very same churches -- going to be assaulted like this while everyone just sits by and says nothing?
At a minimum, if you belong to one of these churches -- churches that have apparently quite willingly handed themselves over to be political pawns of the FCC and the sentiments as expressed by the White House -- this is disgraceful.
Three words seem appropriate: Let us pray.
Because we sure haven't heard the last of this.
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