I’m getting a little tired of writing these responses to the paranoid rightist Chicken Littles who persistently pretend to be aghast at the prospect of the return of the Fairness Doctrine. I mean, how many ways can you say that it isn’t going to happen? There is no legislation being drafted. There are no hearings being held. There are no advocates speechifying on it. There are no agencies studying it. And yet every conservative blowhard with a pen or a microphone is fretting about it and attempting to incite panic (and donations) amongst their followers.
Now Jed Babbin and Rowan Scarborough at Human Events have aggregated what may be the most comprehensive collection of inane and fallacious griping related to the matter. Here I will respond point by point in the hopes of settling the issue once and for all (yeah, right).
1) “Conservative talk radio is the most potent political weapon in America.”
That’s why it was so successful in turning back Barack Obama and the wave of Democrats cresting over Congress. That’s why President Bush will leave office with such a high approval rating. That’s why Americans overwhelmingly prefer the Republican agenda over the Democrats’. Oh, wait…..reverse that. Contrary to being a “potent political weapon,” conservative talk radio is more like soggy, day-old pasta.
2) “Liberal talk radio has been a huge failure.”
Don’t tell that to Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Rachel Maddow, etc. They are top performers in many of the markets in which they play. The rightist mantra about radio’s alleged rejection of liberals is based on the tale of Air America’s financial woes. What they don’t tell you is that Fox News lost $80-90 million a year for its first five years. They were fortunate to have Rupert Murdoch’s deep pockets to keep them out of bankruptcy. Air America is still not five years old. And they won’t talk about failures either, including John Gibson, Michael Reagan, and Bill O’Reilly who just ditched his struggling radio show.
3) “[T]he liberal control of both sides of Capitol Hill, along with a compliant Obama Administration, may bring [the Fairness Doctrine] back…”
As noted above, no side of Congress is planning any such thing. And on what basis are they alleging that Obama’s administration will be “compliant” toward Congress?
4) “The Censorship Doctrine would require conservative talk radio to spend a large part of its time praising liberals and their ideas […] Can you imagine what talk radio would sound like if every time a host talked about the newest liberal outrage, he then had to give the liberals equal time?”
Now they’re just making stuff up. There has never been a provision of the Fairness Doctrine that mandated any party “praise” any other party. And “equal time” was never a part of the Fairness Doctrine. Do these guys have even an inkling of understanding of the subjects about which they’re writing?
5) “Liberals now control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, providing the political left its most absolute hold on power since the 1960s.”
Or the 1990’s, when Democrats held all three branches. Babbin and company were only 30 years off.
6) “Other than the Supreme Court, there’s nothing to prevent them from trying to attach the same rules to other media, including cable television and the Internet.”
That’s like saying that other than gravity there is nothing preventing you floating off into space. Plus, the Fairness Doctrine has never applied to anything but publicly owned and scarce assets like broadcast spectrum. Thus, cable and the Internet would never have been subject to its jurisdiction. Later in this article they claim that the FCC will expand the Doctrine to include Network Neutrality. That doesn’t even make sense since Network Neutrality is about open access to the Internet and has nothing to do with content. This is the right’s way of paying off the big Telecom corporations who benefit from closed systems from which they can gouge both web businesses and consumers.
7) “What left-wing blogger would not like to see Rush Limbaugh led await [sic] in handcuffs from his Palm Beach, Fla., estate for failing to present balanced programming?”
Wasn’t Rush Limbaugh already led away in handcuffs from his Palm Beach, Fla., estate for drug possession and forcing his housekeeper to purchase his contraband? I must admit, that was great to see. However, Babbin and Scarborough are once again showing their ignorance by suggesting that violations of the Fairness Doctrine were ever criminal offenses that would lead to arrest. In fact, the Doctrine was never codified into law at all. It was a regulatory statute and the worst that could happen to a violator was a fine or license review.
8) “The problem is that Limbaugh has a sense of humor. Liberals don’t.”
That’s why Jon Stewart is so reviled and Dennis Miller is so adored. Seriously, did any of these dolts ever see the abominable Half-Hour News Hour on Fox News? The problem is that conservatives actually regard Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as comedians, but everyone else considers them clowns.
The lies scattered throughout this column are typical of the ethical vacuum from which the right operates. They have no shame when it comes to propagating falsehoods for their greedy self-interest. In one particularly abhorrent instance they claim that former Sen. Tom Daschle got overheated because Limbaugh called him an “obstructionist.” That truth, ignored by these authors, is that Limbaugh also called him a traitor and routinely referred to him as the devil. Dashchle’s alleged anger was actually just an admonition that that sort of shrill rhetoric has the potential to incite people to act out violently. And on this issue Dashcle can speak with authority. He was, you may recall, the target of a terrorist Anthrax attack in the days following 9/11. But Babbin and Scarborough can’t be bothered with insignificant facts like that. Just as they can’t be bothered to display some sensitivity to a victim of an attack that infected 22 people and killed five.
As much as I would like for this to be the last time I have to shoot down fraudulent fulminations such as this, I expect that there will be more forthcoming. The Babbins and Scarboroughs of the world have so little upon which to base their ranting, they will cling to non-issues like these until their readers eyes have nothing left to bleed. And they will lie with abandon because they regard the truth as just an impediment to their propagandizing.