In my article, I wrote about my admiration for David Honig, who happens to lead one of the organizations that has been accused of "selling out". I got a few nasty e-mails which accused me of selling out as well and having blinders when it comes to this subject because of my admiration for the aforementioned Mr. Honig.
Today I exchanged e-mails with David, and needless to say he was not too pleased with the characterization of his group from by Lee Fang and others. He also gave me permission to publish what he wrote, so here goes:
No one disagrees about the desirability of an open Internet; the disagreement is over methods – whether to regulate under Section 706 of the Communications Act, as the courts have suggested and as the Chairman of the FCC prefers, or whether to reclassify broadband as a public utility and regulate it as a common carrier under Title II of the Act.
MMTC and nearly 50 other national organizations have studied this issue for years and have concluded that it would be much safer to use Section 706, which would not restrict investment, innovation, or the potential for affirmative action. We think it would be irresponsible to take a competitive one sixth of the nation's economy and put into a box designed for monopoly regulation.
A handful of other organizations take the opposing view – which is their right. But rather than argue the merits, they have chosen to attack all of the nation's leading civil rights groups – saying we're "sellouts" because we don't agree with their preferred method of regulation. They have elevated net neutrality into a religious cult.
Who are they calling "sellouts"? The NAACP. National Urban League. Rainbow PUSH. LULAC. National Action Network. National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. MMTC. And dozens more!
"We know what's best for you," some of the "netroots" groups say. If we're not with them, we must be either too dense to understand these "complicated" telecom policy issues, or we must be on the take.
They're accusing virtually the entire civil rights movement of being stupid and corrupt.
It shouldn't be necessary to say this, but I will in case there's any doubt:
I have seen this sheer arrogance and paternalism before. Forty years ago, I worked with major civil rights organizations in my hometown (Rochester NY) who opposed wholesale "urban renewal" and preferred home and environmental improvement initiatives, like weatherization and new roofs that would enable Black homeowners to keep their older homes. Our opponents were ostensibly liberal organizations – mostly white Americans – who insisted that they knew better than the SCLC, Urban League and the antipoverty agency what was best for our members and constituents. The ostensibly liberal groups' solution to poverty? Plow it all under with bulldozers, and call it "slum clearance."
Eventually, or so they promised, new low income housing would be built, and those displaced by "urban renewal" would be able to move back to their old neighborhoods. They had their "experts" like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who thought poverty was primarily caused by the Black family rather than by years of segregation and discrimination.
Well, we lost. And you can guess what happened: gentrification, with very little new low income housing. Thousands of Black families displaced permanently. Communities destroyed. Urban renewal earned a new name: "Negro removal." And sure enough, it turned out that big developers had been behind the ostensibly liberal "slum clearance" groups all the time.
And here we go again. The paternalism and arrogance of 40 years ago resonates today with what some of the "netroots" groups are trying to achieve with their smear campaign directed at nearly all of the national civil rights organizations. They've deployed a host of media outlets to lie and lie repeatedly. But a lie repeated a thousand times is still a lie.
And even worse: these digital activists, with just one exception (Public Knowledge), have failed to join us civil rights groups in going after the real #1 threat to the digital divide: straight up redlining by one of the netroots' groups' largest sponsors. Deafening silence.
So NO, we will not be moved. We will not allow the nation's civil rights groups to be smeared and straight up lied about. Not this time. Not anymore.
Field you always speak truth to power. THANK YOU for giving me this opportunity to vent.
David Honig, President, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council"
Thank you David for venting.