Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) on Sun, 23 Mar 1997 00:15:38 +0100 (MET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Sad History of Journalism About the CDA


Before all my European friends (and the other nettimers) get excited about
the likely "victory" regarding the CDA in the U.S. Supreme Court, we should
consider the sad history of the reporting on the history of this bizzare

The CDA was "designed" to be unconstitutional from the very beginning. 
What is happening is all going according to the script.  The process which
apparently occured in the small conference committe which was considering
the Telecom bill last year (when the two halves of the legislature pass
different bills a committee must resolve the discrepencies) -- to which the
CDA was an amendment -- has never been reported accurately.  

No mainstream press and no Net-journalist has ever told what happened, as
far as I can tell.  Why?  Because apparently, twisting the truth for a
"good cause" -- keeping government out of the Internet while filling the
coffers of "cyber-rights" groups -- is acceptable journalistic behavior, as
it probably has always been.

I have reported on the most likely scenario but without a really thorough
job by some professional journalist we will probably never get to the truth
in the matter.  Here's what most likely happened:

In the committee it looked like a real deadlock was developing which could
have spilled over into a Congressional debate on morality in a Presidential
election year.  The committee was clearly deeply split and even more harse
(censorial) measures than those which were given to the committee by the
two houses had major support in the conference.  No deal could be struck to
put in something weak and the entire Telecom bill might be held hostage to
a debate on pornography.  Yikes.

So, according to Negroponte in a number of public speeches (yes, that
Negroponte), a group of liberal democrats got together and plotted a
strategy to solve all the problems at once.  They would switch their votes
to support an insane and clearly unconstitutional version so that it could
be stomped in the courts and wouldn't cause any political fallout in the
coming campaign.  Two "leftish" representatives switched votes and by this
action the CDA became law.

The forceful court challenges (and the Clinton admin's weak defense) of the
bill were also a part of the script as was the massive influx of money into
the groups who were fighting the CDA.  Some believe that these events
"saved" the EFF from being totally marginalized.  They were being attacked
from every angle before all this and have emerged much stronger, in any

Negroponte calls the lawmakers "cowards" for not confronting the issues
directly and instead passing it off to the courts.  I rather think that the
journalists who have covered all this, starting with WIRED's Louis Rossetto
who never reported the Negroponte story as he railed about how Washington
was "clueless", have been very disappointing to not investigate and expose
the truth about the whole scam.  But, then it is all for a "good" cause,

Mark Stahlman
New Media Associates
New York City
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: