Brief Observations of Yesterday’s CRA Kabuki Event

by Mike Wendy on February 28, 2018

I attended yesterday’s pro-Net Neutrality rally at the Senate Swamp – a press event designed to help improve the chances of passage of the Democrats’ (likely ill-fated) Congressional Review Act. The CRA seeks to repeal the current FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom rule, which late last year repealed President Obama’s Open Internet / Net neutrality Order (I know, ugh).

Rep. Mike Doyle (left), whispering sweet Net Neutrality nothings into Nancy Pelosi’s ear as she surveyed “her” crowd at the event.

Here are some quick observations from the spin show:

  • This rally was bigger in number than a similar “Day of Action” event in July 2017 at the same location – perhaps because of the nicer (certainly cooler) weather, but also because it appeared to have more corporate PR flacks running around at this one. In all, it looked to be about 75-100 people, comprised mostly of professional activists (and their paying organizers), Hill staffers, and “press.”
  • The congressional speakers at the event, led by Senator Ed Markey, featured Nancy Pelosi (perhaps to take Al Franken’s spot?), who framed the “need” for Net Neutrality in decidedly polarizing, this-is-about-taking-back-our-Democracy-from-evil-corporations, pro-millennial voter (who ALL want Net Neutrality), pro-racial / social justice terms, which were then followed as if scripted by most of the Reps and Senators who came after her at the event. Very little legal or serious policy arguments were presented to the gathered crowd. Consequently, there were a bunch of new faces in the mix (because not much was needed of them other than to mouth the party line), which I’ve never seen at any of the NN rallies before. Perhaps they smell the voter gravy train (or pull-along red rider, that is).
  • The Net Neutrality “movement,” if it can be called that, has clearly pivoted from “no fast lanes” / economic policy issues to broader matters of racial / social justice – even though it’s essentially led in Congress by a small handful of dinosaur, white individuals (such as Senators Ron Wyden and Ed Markey; and Representatives Frank Pallone, Mike Doyle and Anna Eshoo). That said, the fact that Pelosi was there shows the “movement” is upping the ante.
  • Sen Richard Blumenthal, perhaps belying the scam that the CRA tactic is, and the fact that the “movement” is made for laptop screens and bots and not much more, says he’s making this issue “political” – umm, if not now, then, umm, for the ’18 elections and beyond” (I paraphrase).
  • One of two “corporates” to speak, Evan Greer (from the Soros-funded lobbying group, Fight for the Future) addressed the crowd, ironically saying that the issue has overwhelming bipartisan support, with Dem-only Senators and Congressmen at his back on the dais.
  • There were no small businesses as presenting speakers, or in attendance (unless, of course, one counts the boutique lobbying and PR shops pushing NN, of which I noticed a few).
  • All the usual suspects from the professional activists attended. Interestingly, no Free Press people spoke at the event. This is the second, high profile event in a row where the group has been shut out of a speaking role.  Something has clearly changed in this regard.
  • The “press” asked NO QUESTIONS. One of the event’s PR guys smiled at me sheepishly after the show, as if to say “Good work, eh?” Quite frankly, having worked in TV and covering a shipload of these shows, I found it odd and disturbing (but not surprising) that not a single question was asked. The “press” certainly had the opportunity. Markey at the close of the event said that he generally takes questions at that point, but, (quickly) seeing none, he bolted out of there. Of course, if that were Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan up there, they’d be grilled. The Dems, not so much. Not a single question shouted out, asking about the chances of the CRA becoming law (ZERO). Or, why the issue has suddenly turned into one about racial justice (election politics). Or, what people in the heartland really think about Net Neutrality (not much). Even Fox didn’t ask a question. I guess this is just another aspect of the vote-getting, fundraising scam. It further confirms to me both the partisanship (and lack of independence) of the “press,” and the fact that this isn’t really a real issue that real American’s give a hoot about.
  • Finally, there was a lot of armed security there (which, of course, is ironic and sad given recent tragedies), which was different from the July event.

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