On Appearing with Sen. Franken in Support of Net Neutrality

Two weeks ago, I got a random request from Senator Franken's office to join him during a press conference about "net neutrality." The Senator needed a "blogger", someone who would represent independent media and the importance of free speech and equal access to the internet. As a almost-always-marginal blogger, I was flattered!

Senator Franken has been a champion of "net neutrality" since he started campaigning, and I knew a bit about the issue. I looked into the state of things today -- tl;dr, the FCC is not good! -- and jotted some notes down of key points.

Here they are:
  • The importance of net neutrality: equal access for everyone no matter who they are or why they are trying to use the internet. Mention important Minnesota bloggers like Aaron Brown, Tony Webster, and Sally Jo Sorenson.
  • Share my story about the Philando situation and writing that interview -- talk about the time you shared information about a major national story from your kitchen, and how the blog journalism reached an audience.
  • Talk about the repression of journalism in Turkey, China, the troubling attacks on the media coming from the White House…how important streaming media in particular is these days for political speech. It is not a given that the internet will be "neutral" and available for anyone, no matter who they are or how much influence they have.
  • Mention that the US built on free speech, American revolution comes directly out of things like the 1765 stamp act, the British attempting to restrict and tax access to paper.
  • Net neutrality should not be a partisan issue, proud of Senator Franken for leading the way on this.
(Note: thankfully I didn't mention the US history stuff. I also didn't mention China and, in retrospect, I am glad I did not start an international incident with Turkey! That said, Erdogan is bad.)

This is to say that, unfortunately for me, I kind of "winged it." Honestly, I didn't really understand the stakes of the situation. There were TV cameras, and I had a US Senator standing beside me while I spoke. The two other speakers both delivered polished statements about the importance of open internet to libraries and entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, I blabbed on... I guess it could have been worse.

Having my mind and daily live enmeshed within the small worlds of local politics, it's easy to forget that there are people who actually have to go out and deal with a Trump White House and (somehow worse!) DC Republicans every day. After the presser, Senator Franken took questions on DACA and a judicial appointment. A week later, he came out in support of single-payer health care. These are hugely important issues, if losing battles at the moment. I wish I'd been better prepared.

[Given what's happened since, can we agree that Al Franken was ahead of his time?]

From a more personal perspective, I've been a big fan of Al Franken's work ever since I first picked up "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot." I used to love political satire (still do, sort of) but Franken's books are legitimately informative and well-written. "Lies and the Lying Liars" has a great chapter on the centrality of top bracket tax rates to US politics in the 20th century. Reading it was the first time I'd really understood the straight-forward greed that lies behind the US right wing. I even listened to Air America once in a while back when Katherine Lampher was co-hosting!

Later, when Franken ran for Senate against the odious Norm Coleman, trying to take back the seat of actual-hero Paul Wellstone, I was cautiously optimistic. I remember during the recount, Franken used to come work out at the University of Minnesota gym. A few times he played squash with my good friend Dudley, and I would see him in the changing room. (Spoiler: as you might imagine, he was a super competitive squash player.)

Luckily, he won, and since then, he's been an extremely hard-working and well-informed Senator. He debates like he plays squash, a dash of playfulness, and a lot of preparation and determination. Unlike me, he does not mess around!

Even though I wasn't that prepared, this time, I'm honored to be able to meet him and (hopefully) help Senator Franken score a few points in DC.

All this is to say that, I felt a bit embarrassed when I asked him to sign my VHS copy of "One More Saturday Night", his early film about being a rock musician in Saint Cloud. (Note: this is the best movie ever made about nightlife in Saint Cloud!) I wish I'd had him sign my Lies and the Lying Liars book instead...

Anyway, thanks Senator Franken for championing the cause of marginal bloggers. Sorry I made you sign your dumb movie! Good luck in DC. God knows you will need it.

1 comment:

Janice Allen said...

Bill! You've got it! I'm glad you agree to be recognized now and then! Janice