Editorial: Knock It Off

Democrats on Capitol Hill have missed an opportunity to ramp down the rhetoric and call for an end to the hateful, racist and threatening language aimed at FCC chair Ajit Pai and his family over a policy difference. The policy involves broadband, that most transformative of technologies in our current history.

The Democrats were gathered last Tuesday (Jan. 9) to press for a Congressional Review Act resolution that would nullify Pai’s rollback of net neutrality regulations. They can hardly be blamed for wanting to tap the same device that Republicans used to unwind various Obama-era regulations, including the broadband privacy framework of then-FCC chair Tom Wheeler.

Democrats and net-neutrality activists are free to protest the new chairman’s deregulatory move, and in strong terms to match their passions for the issue. But that is, or should be, a world away from the online attacks that followed the Dec. 14 vote.

Just as conservative Republicans should not accept the president’s undercutting of government institutions as the price of tax cuts or yet the latest slew of stock market gains, Democrats should not refrain from speaking out against those who share their outrage when it translates to ugliness and hate.

We have read some of the Reddit comments about the chairman and they are unprintable and clearly out of bounds.

A bomb threat interrupted that Dec. 14 meeting and death threats apparently caused Pai to cancel his appearance at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.

Ajit Pai is a conservative Republican who generally favors deregulation and the marketplace over government rules and regulations. As such, his views and actions are consistent over time and in concert with this long-held worldview.

What he should not be is the object of invective and personal attacks from internet trolls.

Democratic members of Congress do not fall into that category, obviously. But they should have used their online platform last week — a press conference streamed on Facebook — to make that clear and speak out forcefully against such attacks. Failing that, they should take the next opportunity to do so collectively and strongly.

They can do that without taking any of the edge off their opposition to Pai, an edge clearly being honed last week, with Senators suggesting he was strangling and choking off consumer access, something they branded un-American — an unfortunate choice of terms given some of the racist rants aimed at Pai.

No one should be neutral on ending such attacks.