FCC chairman and Martin Shkreli wannabe Ajit Pai became one of America’s most hated people last year, when his blithe disregard for the overwhelming will of Americans and boot-licking servility to telecom giants resulted in the FCC repealing net neutrality, an Obama-era policy designed to prevent corporations from picking and choosing what you get to see on the internet and manipulating how much they’ll charge for it in order to reward the wealthy. Oh, but he starred in a video where he wears funny outfits and says you’ll still be able to Instagram your food, so, you know, no worries.
We already knew Pai was a coward, thanks to his complete refusal to hold any public hearings on his wildly unpopular and undemocratic decision-making, for fear of being confronted with such unpleasant situations as having to make his agency transparent and accountable to the people he’s been appointed to serve. After all, that’s something no one would enjoy, although you’d think someone who took the job saying one of his top priorities was to “make the agency’s operations more transparent” might feel differently. Alas, that’s not the case, which is how we now find ourselves learning what true cowardice looks like.
In the aforementioned video, released the day before the net neutrality vote on the conservative site The Daily Caller, Pai and some other poor souls do their version of the fleetingly popular “Harlem Shake” meme, only way more depressing. And according to NBC News, The FCC has now denied a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request from non-profit organization Muckrock for emails related to the creation of the video.
The request seems relatively innocuous on its face: Hey, the chairman of the FCC made a wacky video mocking concerns of people worried about net neutrality ending? Maybe we should know whose idea that was! Did he write the script? Did everyone at the FCC know about it, including the two Democrats who decried the deregulation? These seem like pretty basic things the FCC should have no problem disclosing; no problems, of course, unless Ajit Pai is as big of a coward as he has consistently demonstrated, and is afraid of what might be found.
It’s very much in keeping with his agency’s “go fuck yourself” attitude to the American public. Pai’s organization is already being sued for ignoring a previous FOIA request, and other organizations have similarly been turned down when asking for basic documents supposedly guaranteed public scrutiny in a transparent government. Perhaps he’s too busy being investigated by his own agency for allegedly colluding with Sinclair broadcasting to allow further corporate control of local news, or possibly receiving more awards from the NRA for being such a paragon of free speech rights—as long as that speech doesn’t criticize the FCC. We’d say that hiding behind the rubric of free speech while refusing the public the very information they’re entitled to is the most cowardly and venal of behavior from a public servant, but that would imply that Pai has ever served the public.