Blown To Bits

The Anti-Net-Neutrality Forces Stoop Low

Sunday, August 17th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

The FCC held hearings at Harvard last spring in which Comcast was challenged on its practice of manipulating the data stream reaching consumers — a bald violation of network neutrality, or, depending on your point of view, a reasonable business plan by a private enterprise. Some alarms were raised about Comcast’s bona fides when it turned out they had paid people who had no interest in the hearings to fill the classroom. This is a huge issue — McCain and Obama both mention neutrality specifically in their technology policies. (Obama is for it, McCain opposed.)

A week after the Cambridge FCC hearings, a peculiar opinion piece appeared in the Harvard Crimson. It was written by Mel King, a long-time Boston community activist and sometime mayoral candidate. The piece called the FCC hearings a “dog and pony show” and adopted a strong anti-net-neutrality posture.

I didn’t know King cared so deeply.

Turns out he does have a history of caring about the issue. He had previously come out IN FAVOR of net neutrality, which would be the politically natural position for him, given his previous history of social activism. But CNET’s Declan McCullagh figured out that he now works for the “Law Media Group,” which represents corporate interests on media issues. As LMG’s web site explains, “LMG uses a ‘political campaign model’ that integrates expertise in the subject matter, message development, aggressive, research-driven paid and earned media, on-the-ground coalition building, preparation of analytical and other policy papers, and a host of next-generation services such as viral and online campaigns.¬†¬†Our goal is to dominate the media environment on behalf of the client.”

“When asked about the details of the op-ed,” McCullagh writes, “King replied: ‘You can talk to Kevin Parker, he’s at the LawMedia Institute.’ Parker is¬†listed on the Naymz networking site as a ‘senior advisor’ to LMG.”

King signs his Crimson piece by noting only that he used to teach at MIT. And oh yes — whoever ghostwrote King’s piece seems to have done the same for Jesse Jackson, as several of the sentences in King’s piece are virtually identical to sentences appearing elsewhere over Jackson’s signature.

Comcast and its brethren must be worried, if they are prepared to stoop to this level to get public voices behind their leave-us-alone campaign. The question is, have Americans gotten so cynical about the way arguments get made that even the Harvard Crimson will shrug its shoulders about this level of misrepresentation?

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