Tea Party GOPers Think Years-Old Net Neutrality Debate Is About Persecuting Tea Party

February 09, 2011 1:01 pm ET — Alan Pyke

At last night's Tea Party town hall at the National Press Club, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) joined flamethrowing Reps. Allen West (R-FL) and Steve King (R-IA) in distorting the net neutrality debate. While in reality the FCC is seeking to protect consumers from censorship and price discrimination at the hands of corporations like AT&T, West, King and Lee smell tyranny and oppression.

"I think it's very interesting that back in the 2008 election cycle that President Obama and of course the Democrats used social media and the internet very well to their advantage to win the election," West said. "And now all of a sudden when they see that on the conservative side we are able to do the exact same thing and learn that lesson, now they wanna shut it down."

King took that ball and ran with it, likening President Obama's FCC to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. "Mubarak did control the internet in Egypt," King said, "and I surely don't wanna have anybody in government controlling the internet or being able to shut it off." Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) agreed that the internet "is what powers our movement," and hollered that "they want to shut it down, and if they try, we will shut them down!"

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That's a compelling story of conservative activists victimized by their own government, but it's just a story; net neutrality was a topic of debate long before angry crowds filled town squares to scream about their (historically low) tax rates. And while Lee is correct that Americans can "ferret out truth" on the internet, the point of net neutrality is to guarantee free and open access to the whole internet and end the corporate censorship of political content that gave rise to the neutrality movement in the first place.

But those same telecom giants helped bankroll a variety of Tea Party candidates last year — AT&T alone gave at least $350,000 to members of the House Tea Party Caucus during the midterm elections. In light of that corporate sponsorship, it makes perfect sense that West, King and Lee are so eager to mislead and inflame their supporters.

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