So Marvin and I had our debate with Ken Ferree and Lawrence Spiwak. On the whole, I thought we mixed it up pretty thoroughly and civilly — although you can all judge for yourselves by watching the archive here (free registration required).
The issues won’t surprise anyone, but I want to address one meta-issue on framing. Perhaps not surprisingly, the anti-NN folks repeatedly seek to claim the mantle of reason, relegating us pro-NN types with our emotional commitment to romantic ideas like democracy and free speech to the status of irrational and unreasonable fanatics.
Ah, de ja vu all over again. I can remember when I heard similar sentiments from Ken Ferree and his former boss Michael Powell during the fights over media ownership reform in 2002-04. Of course, these were the same “logical,” “rational,” purportedly proof driven folks who developed the “diversity index” which weighted the Dutches County Community Television station as having the same media power as the New York Times, and inspired the Third Circuit to observe that believing this “scientific” approach reflected reality “would require us to take leave of our senses.” But, undeterred by the fact that the Third Circuit considered his previous efforts at “scientific reality building” to be either a bad joke or an excellent parody, Ken is quite prepared to rely exclusively on the view from “Ferree Land” and denigrate the rest of as emotional hysterics who listen to voices from the past.
My beef with Lawrence Spiwak is rather different. Unlike Ferree, Spiwak is actually living in the real world. My complaint is not that he lives in fantasy land or ignores evidence. My complaint is that he wishes to define the terms of the debate in a rather narrow way — i.e., only economic analysis and only University of Chicago-type analysis at that. All else is mere “rhetoric” and “emotion,” and only a proper grounding in rational analysis (aka economic analysis by economists of the Chicago School) can properly frame things. (I should point out the Spiwak’s colleague from Phoenix Center, George Ford, took a similar line at the Federal Trade Commission broadband competition hearing last year, chastising Tim Wu and myself for meddling in economic matters in which we were not competent to express an opinion.)
As one might expect, I find the attempts of the would-be Vulcans to define the terms of the debate unpersuasive. To see me do unto them as Kirk did unto the M5, Landru, and the other would be uber-rational computers, see below . . .