Beck through the looking glass: smears net neutrality as a Marxist plot to take over the Internet

Glenn Beck argued that the Obama administration's support for net neutrality amounted to a Marxist takeover of the Internet that would stifle innovation, when in fact net neutrality -- which was the law of the land from the creation of the Internet until 2005, and which ensured that Internet Service Providers were not able to control content -- has been cited by numerous Internet pioneers as the guiding principle in Internet development and innovation. Moreover, in smearing supporters of net neutrality, Beck esentially included groups such as the Gun Owners of America, the Christian Coalition, and Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council in what he described as a plot “design[ed]” by “Marxists.”

Beck claims net neutrality part of Marxist plot

Beck: “So we have Marxists that are designing and working on net neutrality -- are believers in net neutrality” to “control content.” During the October 20 edition of his Fox News program, Glenn Beck stated that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to vote on reinstituting net neutrality. Beck went on to claim that “we have Marxists that are designing and working on net neutrality -- are big believers in net neutrality, right? Gosh, it does seem that these would be the wrong people to help, you know, innovate business for it. And so what they want to do is, if I can do the third one, control content.” During his attack on the Obama administration and proponents of net neutrality, Beck painted Obama advisers Van Jones, Susan Crawford, Robert McChesney and Rahm Emanuel as either “Marxist” or “Maoist.”

Beck has repeatedly smeared Obama's advisers as “Marxist” and “Maoist.” In pursuit of his stated goal of getting Obama administration officials fired, Beck has repeatedly attacked and smeared administration officials as “Marxist” and “Maoist.” For example, throughout most of his October 15 Fox News program, Beck falsely claimed that White House communications director Anita Dunn “worships” and “idolizes” “her hero” Mao Zedong. In fact, in the video that Beck aired as evidence to support his claims, Dunn offered no endorsement of Mao's ideology or atrocities -- rather, she commented that Mao and Mother Teresa were two of her “favorite political philosophers,” and based on short quotes from them, she offered the advice that “you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths” or “let external definition define how good you are internally.” In addition to spending an entire hour of his Fox News show attacking Dunn because she once cited Mao as a “favorite political philosopher” and claiming that “the president has an agenda that is radical, revolutionary, and in some cases, Marxist,” Beck previously stated that Obama's “radical advisers” like “communist” Van Jones are “fighting a revolution.”

Net neutrality actually restricts Internet Service Providers from controlling content

What is the principle of net neutrality? The Open Internet Coalition -- a group that includes Amazon, eBay, Google, Sony, and YouTube -- explains of net neutrality:

The principle of net neutrality is about keeping the hands of several powerful network operators -- AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast -- off the Internet, preventing them from taking steps to change the basic open nature of the Net that has led to its success. Net neutrality keeps the Internet as a free and open marketplace, so that a small number of telephone and cable monopolies can't choke off competition and innovation.

Net neutrality was a founding principle of the Internet, and was the law of the land until 2005. The courts and the regulators changed the rules in 2005 when they eliminated the nondiscrimination requirements that had applied for decades to phone service and, up to that point, to most residential Internet access. Implementing net neutrality is a return to the basic principles that make the Internet work for consumers and innovators.

Wash. Post: FCC to consider “new rules to prevent Internet providers from favoring one application over another.” An October 20 Washington Post article reported: “A number of Silicon Valley titans and early technologists of the Web on Monday urged the Federal Communications Commission to move forward with new rules to prevent Internet providers from favoring one application over another. The support came as debate over the rules reached a fevered pitch, just days before the FCC is scheduled to vote on whether to begin the rule-making process.” In a September 21 speech at the Brookings Institution, FCC chairman Julius “Genachowski proposed the addition of two new principles. The first would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management. The second principle would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.” Genachowski stated that the FCC would “kick-off the rulemaking process next month.” [Washington Post, 10/20/09; FCC release, 9/21/09]

Internet Freedom Preservation Act requires that service providers do not block content. Legislation introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) would actually limit the ability of Internet Service Providers to control content - undermining Beck's claim that proponents of net neutrality are engaged in an effort to control content. The bill would require Internet Service Providers - such as telephone and cable service providers - to “not block, interfere with, discriminate against, impair, or degrade the ability of any person to use an Internet access service to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer any lawful content, application, or service through the Internet.” [Internet Freedom Preservation Act]

Beck and Kerpen: Net neutrality will hurt innovation, competition

From the October 20 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: OK. So the third one here -- we have social justice. And the third one is controlling content. And I think this is what most people -- most people are worried about. What does this mean to me?

I mean, you get on. You read different news, alternative news sites. I mean, they're the ones, really, the Internet -- YouTube, blogs, just being able to share ideas. It's the place where we are more free than probably we've ever been before.

PHIL KERPEN (Americans for Prosperity policy director and columnist): Absolutely. Look, the short-term impact of these types of regulations will just be that the Internet won't work as well, because you won't have as much competition. You won't have as much investment. They won't be able to manage the network. Things will load slowly. You'll have a more difficult time.


BECK: So we have Marxists that are designing and working on net neutrality -- are big believers in net neutrality, right? Gosh, it does seem that these would be the wrong people to help, you know, innovate business for it.

Internet pioneers and leaders credit net neutrality as guiding principle in growth and competition

Fox News-described “father of the internet,” pioneering scientists support net neutrality rules for innovation. In an October 15 letter to Genachowski, internet pioneers Vinton G. Cerf, Stephen D. Crocker, David P. Reed, Lauren Weinstein, and Daniel Lynch wrote: “We believe that the vast numbers of innovative Internet applications over the last decade are a direct consequence of an open and freely accessible Internet.” The scientists also stated that the “network neutrality proposal's key principles of 'nondiscrimination' and 'transparency' are necessary components of a pro-innovation public policy agenda for this nation. ... [N]etwork neutrality proposals will help protect U.S. Internet users' choices for and freedom to access all available Internet services, worldwide.” As itself notes, Cerf is “often called 'the father of the Internet.' ”

Internet pioneering companies support net neutrality for growth and creativity. In an October 19 letter to Genachowski, the CEOs of, Craigslist, Digg, eBay, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter, among numerous others, wrote in support of net neutrality, stating that “America's leadership in the technology space has been due, in large part, to the open Internet.” From the letter:

For most of the Internet's history, FCC rules have ensured that consumers have been able to choose the content and services they want over their Internet connections. Entrepreneurs, technologists, and venture capitalists have previously been able to develop new online products and services with the guarantee of neutral, nondiscriminatory access by users, which has fueled an unprecedented era of economic growth and creativity. Existing businesses have been able to leverage the power of the Internet to develop innovative product lines, reach new consumers, and create new ways of doing business.


America's leadership in the technology space has been due, in large part, to the open Internet. We applaud your leadership in initiating a process to develop rules to ensure that the qualities that have made the Internet so successful are protected.

Berners-Lee, described by Fox News as the World Wide Web's creator, calls net neutrality vital for innovation, diversity. In a June 2006 post on his blog, Tim Berners-Lee -- who noted “created a computer-based system for sharing information with colleagues around the world [World Wide Web]” -- wrote: “When I invented the Web, I didn't have to ask anyone's permission. Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going end in the USA. ... I hope that Congress can protect net neutrality, so I can continue to innovate in the internet space. I want to see the explosion of innovations happening out there on the Web, so diverse and so exciting, continue unabated.”

Investors who “brought us the Mac, Tweets and Internet search” support net neutrality. telecommunications reporter Cecilia Kang noted on October 20 that the “people who invested the money that eventually brought us the Mac,Tweets and Internet search ... threw their support behind a push for proposed net neutrality rules, saying clear regulations that prevent Internet services providers from blocking the applications they help fund would spur growth in one of the brightest sectors of the economy.” The investors stated in a letter that the “promise of permanently securing an open Internet will deliver consumers and innovators a perfect free market that drives investment, job creation, and consumer welfare.” Kang reported that the letter's signers included investors who helped start Amazon, Sun Microsystems, Google, Skype, Hotmail, Twitter and Yelp.

Google: “Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days,” allowing innovation. In its explanation of net neutrality, Google wrote that the “Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days. Indeed, it is this neutrality that has allowed many companies, including Google, to launch, grow, and innovate. Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet. In our view, the broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online.”

Are Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America, and Bozell's Parents Television Council part of the Marxist plot?

Beck and Kerpen: Christian Coalition, other conservative groups in support of net neutrality. In weaving their tale of a Marxist takeover of the Internet, Beck noted that the Christian Coalition supports net neutrality and “actually told us today that they thought the government would be a better watchdog than the free market system for Christians. Have you met some of these people here?” Kerpen told Beck that “a few of these conservative groups” signed up because they were “scare[d] that if we don't get government to step in and regulate, the big bad phone and cable companies will block Christian sites.”

Christian Coalition: Net neutrality important for non-discrimination, part of Internet's history of growth. The Christian Coalition states that support for net neutrality “is an issue extremely important to America's grassroots organizations and to those Americans who want to ensure the cable and phone companies controlling access to the Internet will not discriminate. ... Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has grown the way it has and become such an indespensible tool in our lives and our civic discourse.”

Parents Television Council, Gun Owners of America are charter members of “Marxist”-led Free Press' Save the Internet campaign. During his show, Beck repeatedly tied Robert McChesney, co-founder of the organization Free Press, to Marxism. Free Press is the coalition coordinator of Save The Internet, a group of people and organizations that “are working together to urge Congress to preserve Net Neutrality.” Charter members of the group include the Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America and the Parents Television Council, whose founder is Brent Bozell, who frequently appears on Fox News.