A Leading Net Neutrality Activist’s Neo-Marxist Views

Chuck Ross | Reporter

One of the co-founders of a George Soros-backed group pushing for net neutrality internet regulation holds neo-Marxist views and has suggested eliminating media advertising.

The activist has also proposed spending $35 billion on federal programs to subsidize the news.

“In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles,” wrote Robert McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-founder of the pro-regulation organization Free Press, in a 2009 essay.

As the Media Research Center lays out in a new report, Free Press, which McChesney co-founded in 2002, has received millions of dollars from billionaire progressive George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

Open Societies Foundation has donated $2.2 million to Free Press. The progressive Ford Foundation has given the organization $3.9 million.

Free Press and other net neutrality activists argue that the policy will level the playing field by turning the internet into a public commodity. Advocates for neutrality argue that big media companies will monopolize the internet at the expense of consumers.

Free Press, based in Lowenton, Mass., has spent over $230,000 lobbying Congress on the issue since 2009, according to the Senate Lobbying database. And last May, according to the Media Research Center, the organization brought together a number of other organizations and companies to pressure current FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to adopt net neutrality.

Free Press’ activism, and that of its allies, appears to have paid off. The FCC is poised to vote Thursday on a 322-page net neutrality plan.

Net neutrality’s opponents claim that the public has not expressed any interest in the idea and that the new policies will usher in unprecedented internet regulation which will slow innovation and ultimately harm consumers.

Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has been heavily critical of net neutrality and prominent supporters like President Obama.

“President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works,” Pai said recently, while also slamming Wheeler’s refusal to publicly release the net neutrality plan ahead of its Feb. 26 vote. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioner Slams ‘Obama’s 322-Page Plan To Regulate The Internet)

McChesney welcomes such internet regulation, but his support of net neutrality appears part of his larger Marxist-socialist worldview — something he has not shied away from sharing in various writings and interviews.

In a March 2011 essay at the Monthly Review titled “The Internet’s Unholy Marriage to Capitalism,” McChesney and co-author John Bellamy Foster laid out their Marxian argument in favor of more internet regulation.

“Our analysis in this article will focus on the United States — not only because it is the society that we know best, and the Internet’s point of origin, but also because it is there, we believe, that one most clearly finds the integration of monopoly — finance capital and the Internet, representing the dominant tendency of the global capitalist system,” McChesney and Foster wrote.

“What seemed to be an increasingly open public sphere, removed from the world of commodity exchange, seems to be morphing into a private sphere of increasingly closed, proprietary, even monopolistic markets.”

The co-authors also endorsed comments made by President Obama.

“President Barack Obama said that if the United States were starting from scratch, it would obviously make more sense (from a public welfare standpoint) to have a publicly run health care system, and no private health insurance industry,” they wrote. “The same overall logic applies to broadband Internet access, in spades.”

In a Feb. 2009 essay titled “A New, New Deal Under Obama,” McChesney and Foster wrote that societal gains “will only be made through an enormous class struggle from below.”

“If won, they will not, we underscore, eliminate the evils of capitalism, or the dangers it poses for the world and its people,” the pair wrote. “In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”

In a 2009 interview with The Socialist Project, McChesney suggested that it may be necessary to eliminate advertising.

“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,” he said.

And writing at the progressive website Common Dreams in 2007, McChesney and a co-author compared U.S.’s media to that of Venezuela, whose president at the time was the brutal socialist dictator Hugo Chavez.

“Aggressive unqualified political dissent is alive and well in the Venezuelan mainstream media, in a manner few other democratic nations have ever known, including our own,” McChesney wrote in the essay, in which he claimed that Venezuela had an open and free press.

In his 2010 book “The Life and Death of American Journalism,” McChesney and a co-author spending $35 billion of federal money on public news subsidies. They also suggested creating a journalism branch in AmeriCorps. (RELATED: The Neomarxist Who Is Helping Influence Obama’s Media Policy)

Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment and the author of 2011’s “Democracy Denied,” has been heavily critical of Free Press and net neutrality in general.

“Free Press and their ideological allies have engineered the appearance of a mass movement on an issue few in the public care about despite the fact most Americans strongly oppose the government regulating the Internet,” Kerpen told The Daily Caller.

“They did it with massive funding from giant liberal foundations, especially the Ford Foundation, which just happens to have their portfolio’s invested to make windfall profits from the new regulations.”

As the Media Research Center lays out in its report, like The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund did in a 2010 article, McChensey and Free Press have made surprising inroads into the FCC and the Obama administration.

Julius Genachowski, who served as FCC chairman from June 2009 until March 2013, hired Free Press’ Amy Howard to serve as press secretary for the agency.

Ben Scott, another Free Press alum, worked for the State Department as a policy adviser on innovation.

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