Which corporations? CBS. NBC. ABC. The New York Times. National Public Radio. Your local, nearly always liberal, daily newspaper. Your local, nearly always progressive, weekly “alternative” newspaper. (Okay, Fox News also, because liberals haven’t quite figured out a way to rationalize that Fox News isn’t really a news organization.) And yes, those are corporations. In spite of what you might think, the New York Times and the rest of the liberal/progressive media organizations are not people’s self-governing collectives. What the Citizens United decision says is that if overwhelmingly liberal news corporations get to influence the political process, so do other corporations — a few of whom may not be liberal.
There’s one more element to this process that just makes me both laugh and fume at the same time. There are a number of decisions where liberals have been high-fiving each other for years because the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of corporate freedom of speech — cases such as Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2001). In that case, the Court ruled that a federal law which prohibited virtual child pornography was unconstitutional. (This is virtual child pornography because it uses a computer-generated image of a child having sex, rather than filming an actual child.) Who argued for this? Corporations in the business of making “adult entertainment.”
Similarly, when the Bush administration started to enforce an existing federal law that prohibited obscenity — against a company that produces hardcore videos depicting rape, murder, and adult women dressed up like little girls — liberals saw the victory for corporate free speech as a good thing. Concerning the clearly legal but distasteful music that makes up “gangsta” rap, one may assume that the same crowd that objects to corporations engaging in political speech has no problem with “music” that degrades women as bitches and “hos.”
So what, exactly, is the liberal upset about corporate free speech? It isn’t corporate free speech that bothers them. It isn’t even corporate political free speech that bothers them, as long as that speech serves a liberal cause.
The great desperate fear is that finally, there might be some balance.