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Saturday, February 13, 2021

Democracy is too precious a thing to let the public get anywhere near

I was fulminating recently against the carefully orchestrated simulacrum of democracy that occurs in our Capitol building, along the lines of Mark Steyn's critique here, when my surprised interlocutor asked: was it really true that Congressional rules prohibit cameras from showing whether a given speechifying politician is actually speechifying to anybody? 
Is it really true that, in the "citadel of democracy," in the "light to the world," there are no other cameras allowed?

The camera issue is important now because House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) recently turned down the latest request by C-SPAN Founder and CEO Brian Lamb to allow his company's cameras - or for that matter - the cameras of any other news organization, to televise what happens in the House chamber.

Lamb has pushed the issue since C-SPAN's inception. But he really went to the mat in 1995 when Republicans rode to power and promised more transparency. Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) rejected Lamb's entreaty. And former House Speakers Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have followed suit when Lamb made similar requests at the beginning of their tenures.


Boehner responded to Lamb that he would maintain the "precedent set by former speakers" noting that "the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives - are best served by the current system of televised proceedings provided by the House Recording Studio."

It's the House Recording Studio that literally calls the shots of what people will see when telecasting House sessions.

During his speakership 16 years ago, Newt Gingrich denied C-SPAN's request for complete access. But he did instruct the House Recording Studio to start providing cutaway shots of activity throughout the House chamber. That experiment lasted about a week as the House feed showed lawmakers dozing, goofing off and reading. Callers then lit up the Capitol switchboard as they phoned to admonish their lawmakers for not showing respect to the speaker or accusing them of sloughing off on the taxpayer's dime.

The lawmakers then complained to Gingrich who hastily halted the exercise.
But if not through the camera's eye, at least we may visit "the People's House" and see the workings of democracy with our own eyes. 

Oh, wait. Hold off on that just now. I see the People's House is closed to the people: 

Might check back later. 

On further thought, don't bother: "The enemy is within the House of Representatives," said the Speaker of the House recently. For once, she is right. If only that possibly-permanent fence now being built around the Capitol would protect America from what lies within that House of horror. 

But this is how the people inside the Capitol see democracy: Democracy is too precious a thing to let the people get anywhere near. The people may not visit the Capitol. The people may not see the Capitol, except through chain-linked fence. The people may not even watch what happens inside the Capitol on TV, except for tightly orchestrated frames around the face currently bloviating. Lawmaking, like the rest of news, is just poor-quality entertainment.

But if you would like to know more about our democracy, Amazon is happy to provide you with a copy of this collection of professionally produced, instructional videos, from the people who canceled Gina Carano. For a fee, of course:


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