"Ignorance is Freedom"

A photo of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)As GOP senators line up in opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, it is becoming clear that the corporate wing of the Republican Party is refusing to budge when it comes to shining light on the secret money that has infested our political system.

Lately, mouthpieces of the corporate wing like George Will and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been spilling an awful lot of ink about how disclosure of election spending threatens the “free speech” rights of corporations who, because of the Supreme Court’s infamous ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, can now spend as much as they like to try to influence who gets elected.

The leaps of logic required to defend unlimited secret corporate political spending are astounding. Even among the conservative Supreme Court Justices, only Justice Clarence Thomas takes this extreme stance against transparency.

In their latest screeds, Will and McConnell insist Corporate America’s new “rights” are threatened by attempts to prevent corporations from anonymously buying our elections by funneling propaganda money into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and a legion of tax-exempt 501c groups that use vague names (American Action Network, Americans for Prosperity) and their nonprofit status in order to evade accountability.

They say that disclosure is “un-American.”

This guy even claims transparency “threatens freedom.”

In response, I have a modest proposal for corporate wing. I say, drop the veneer. Stop writing such long op-eds that attempt to justify your position. Enough is enough.

I say adopt a new motto. Make it your bumper sticker, your t-shirt, your novelty visor. Make sure the American people know where you stand:

The new motto: Ignorance is Freedom.

Why “Ignorance is Freedom?”

Because McConnell has argued that if the public knows who is trying to influence their votes, the public might engage those influencers in debate. The prospect of such open debate, McConnell and his ilk fret, might scare a billionaire or corporate CEO away from dumping a few hundred millions into any sham group that will broadcast lies to smear whomever the corporatists pay it to smear.

If we, the people are ignorant of who (or, increasingly, because of corporate spending, what) is trying to influence our vote, it will be impossible for us to hold those influencers accountable.

And those influencers will be like the anonymous writers of obscenities on bathroom walls. In a twisted sort of way, their coprographia will be as free as free can be. (Though the public airwaves are, of course, an awfully public medium for scrawling nasty things.)

But if we, the people are able to hold those who try to sway our votes accountable for what they say – if we can call them out on their lies or point the finger when we recognize that their manipulative rhetoric is an attempt to drive wedges between ourselves and our friends and family and neighbors – those speakers, say McConnell and Will, will be unfree.

That is why “Ignorance is Freedom” is the perfect slogan for their corporate perspective.

And this slogan really does fit in quite well next to beside “Money is Speech” and “Corporations are People.”

All awesome bumper stickers. And t-shirts. Seriously McConnell. Get on that.

If, however, you’re the kind of person for who is just not in the market for an “Ignorance is Freedom” bumper sticker, and the prospect of an open and public debate with those who are trying to influence your vote sounds like something you might like to have as an option, you might want to do something about the power that the corporate wing of the Republican party seems to be holding over Senate Republicans (including onetime campaign finance maverick John McCain).

And if you identify as a Republican, I’m sorry that this position puts you in league with middling, wishy-washy conservatives like Justice Antonin Scalia.

But as long as you’re here in the mushy middle, take a moment to let your senators know where you stand. They’re probably quite interested. There’s still probably about 24 hours of debate and voting left on the DISCLOSE Act.

And give your senators a call. Tell them you want to know who is paying to try to influence your vote. Tell them you support the DISCLOSE Act.

Unless, of course, you truly believe that ignorance is freedom.

Flicker photo via Gage Skidmore.