Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

November 11, 2008

IRRATIONAL FEAR OF THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE.... Over the weekend, my friend Hilzoy had a terrific piece highlighting the need to ignore lazy, intellectually-dishonest conservatives.

There was a point at which it made sense to read the arguments at National Review's "The Corner," and probably even take them seriously. It's not that the arguments had merit, but it was reasonable to think NR contributors were presenting foolish ideas that might be credible in, say, the Bush White House. That time has now passed, and serious people, Hilzoy argued, would be wise to only consider arguments from "thoughtful, sane conservatives who argue in good faith."

I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. But Hilzoy warned that some of "The Corner's" nonsense might "gain broader currency," which makes it harder to ignore. With that in mind, it's probably worth talking about the Fairness Doctrine a bit.

Victor Davis Hanson had an odd item yesterday, for example, predicting a series of radically liberal moves an Obama administration is likely to make early next year. Hanson predicted "quick action on the fairness doctrine" and "a leftward lurch, especially on structural things like ... fairness doctrine/talk radio."

Perusing "The Corner" over the last several days, discussion of the Fairness Doctrine is so common, one might think it was at or near the top of Democrats' to-do list. (I'm not trying to pick exclusively on the peculiar panic at National Review; other far-right blogs have been needlessly ringing the alarm on this with equal zeal.)

Given this bizarre fixation, it's worth noting that these conservatives have wildly misplaced anxiety. Yglesias had a good item on this the other day.

Am I the only one who's confused by all this conservative organizing against the re-imposition of the "fairness doctrine" on talk radio? I understand why they oppose that move, but why are they putting so much energy into blocking something that nobody is trying to do. A Fairness Act bill was submitted in the House in 2005, but it only 16 cosponsors. No such bill was submitted in the last conference. Barack Obama opposes reintroducing the Fairness Act.

And speaking as a paid-up member of the vast left-wing conspiracy, nobody on our side is getting any marching orders about this.

So why the wild-eyed panic? The American Spectator, a right-wing magazine, claims to who have spoken to "two members of the House Democrat [sic] Caucus" who warned the hard-right publication that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer plan to "aggressively pursue" reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine over the next six months.

Folks at "The Corner" believe this and have, apparently, gotten a little hysterical. It's sad to watch.

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (76)

Bookmark and Share

The right wing needs satirical comedians like Maher, Stewart and Colbert. They simply need to understand the concept of irony. Once they do, they will stop arguing against a "fairness doctrine" while simultaneously complaining that the media has a liberal bias.

Posted by: Danp on November 11, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

the Emperor has no clohtes, and yet he is the only one who doesn't see that.

Posted by: chris on November 11, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm. . . if the Fairness Doctrine scares them this much, maybe we should give it a little more consideration? I mean, anything that the wingnuts so fear must be good policy. Hey, thanks, wingnuts, for helping us re-evaluate our priorities on this one!

Posted by: zeitgeist on November 11, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

I think the "Fairness Doctrine" talk is just a red herring.

I think it's meant to take everyone's eye off of the media ownership consolidation that's been going on since the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and accelerated by recent Bush administration's FCC behavior. Rolling back that kind of deregulation might open up the airwaves for more diversified talk, allowing smaller players to have some opportunities.

This is something the Democrats should be looking at, and the right-wing talkers are desperate to keep attention off of it.

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on November 11, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Hilzoy: ignore the Right. Who cares about Palin, or wingnuts, or what some rightwing blogger said?

I'm interested in the choices that Obama is making right now, i.e., those who will be in power January 21. Or all the other issues facing us.

Paying attention to trivial, out of power twerps feels weird in this current economic situation.

Posted by: Bob M on November 11, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's not the Fairness D that needs revision, its the laws and regulations that were changed and now allow much greater consolidation of corporate media; and not just for politics, classic rock radio as currently offered needs to die, I LIKE classic rock, but could I please hear something that's a bit mm.. newer?

Support the DJ employment act of 2008.
Long Live Dr. Johnny fever!!

Posted by: The pale Scot on November 11, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

nobody on our side is getting any marching orders about this.

I'll send you my copy of the memo.
Until it arrives, heads up on banning Christmas, post-birth abortion, and mandatory gay marriage.

The economy, Iraq withdrawal, and alternative energy are all on the back burner for now, but stay tuned.

Assalamu Alaikum

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 11, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Pfftt, the dems won in 2006 and 2008 without the fairness doctrine. This is just more feigned injustice.

Posted by: Jet on November 11, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons that it's probably not wise to ignore right wing blather is precisely because they get so consumed with stuff like "The commie-libs are gonna take away my talk radio!" Conservatism, especially the conservative chattering class, has become infested with folks who are not right in the head. They are emotionally, psychologically or intellectually deficient to some extent. That makes them prone to believe ridiculous crap and very difficult to reason with, so nipping stupid, false and malicious right-wing obsessions in the bud is very, very important.

Put it this way, if you knew someone who began to exhibit signs of schizophrenia, would you immediately try to get them help or would you wait until they started carrying around a machete and talking to daisies before doing anything?


Posted by: MBunge on November 11, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

here's an interesting story;

BBC radio had a crazy story last night about a bunch of U.S. plutonium that sunk to the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Denmark.

A plane went down with 4 nuclear bombs. They only found 3. The 4th fell through the ice and has been poisoning the ocean ever since.

The case of the rescue workers who were poisoned is currently in European courts.

Posted by: grinning cat on November 11, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Off the subject: On 11/ll/11, for our veterans, take a minute to read Juan Cole today.


Posted by: antiquelt on November 11, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

You find this sad? I think it's rather funny.

Posted by: davidp on November 11, 2008 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the reason for this anxiety is not as misplaced as you think.

The "triumph" of right-wing talk on the AM dial was due mostly to market forces -- (a) the death of AM as a popular music format and the associated shifting of commercial revenues to FM, and (b) the ability of conservative talkers to corner the market through sheer financial muscle (i.e., Clear Channel made good business decisions and bought now-valuable properties cheap because no one else wanted them) -- and partly to politics, the "exile" of the conservatives in the Clinton years.

(The latter phenomenon, though reversed, also explains the comparative triumph of liberal talkers on cable and in the blogosphere during the Bush years, I would submit.)

Sean Hannity's endless repetitions to the contrary notwithstanding, conservative talk didn't "triumph" on AM because the IDEAS are good or the talking heads are knowledgeable.

Perhaps they are afraid that, if there were in fact a free -- and not monopolistic -- market in IDEAS on AM, their ideas would lose. Can you imagine -- Olbermann vs. Hannity? Maddow vs. Limbaugh?

AM radio is conservative radio only because of a conservative financial monopoly -- not because conservatism is "good."

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on November 11, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight. Evil, librul Pelosi has decided to unplug the repub's Wurlitzer. And her very first step is to warn the wingnuts??? Either it's never gonna happen and they have nothing to worry about, or she's as dumb as a stone. If she's that stupid, again, what are they worried about?

Without their cherished victimhood, is there anything remaining to modern conservatism?

Posted by: JoeW on November 11, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Right-wing talk has been all over the Fairness Doctrine for months, despite there begin no mention of it from Democrats, and I think it's pretty simple. Remember, they're not concerned with truth, they're concerned with what will scare and outrage their listeners. So the mythology is that because right-wing talk as we know it didn't exist until Saint Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine and none of their listeners remember what it was, it must have been an Orwellian-named program of Democratic thugs taking vengeance upon the heroes of the conservative movement.

It's not intended to be an honest argument, but the self-serving equivalent of "the libruls are going to take away your guns!" It's better if it's not true, because then they can keep milking it for years.

Posted by: Redshift on November 11, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

So the conservatives have a fantasy boogeyman to chase? Again? What's so sad about that?

It is the nature of conservatives to live in a miasma of fear. A return of the fairness doctrine is such a small, unimportant fear that the rest of us need not be concerned.

Posted by: Rick B on November 11, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I think that the reason they are campaigning here is simply so that they can later claim to have 'stopped' the liberals in their tracks.

The wingnuts know that they are going to lose on Iraq, in fact they are going to lose twice since first of all the US will withdraw without establishing permanent bases and secondly the sky is not going to fall in as a result.

The wingnuts have already lost on market fundamentalism. At this point it is as discredited a notion as a soviet style command economy.

It is pretty clear that the gag rule is going along with don't ask, don't tell and the ban on stem cell research. And Obama is not going to be censoring the Federal science programs.

So this is simply a way to claim an early victory by claiming that the lieruls are going to do something they have no intention of doing and then call it a victory when they don't.

Liberals have bno intention of damaging talk radio, why would they damage an apparatus that is doing so much harm to their opponents?

Posted by: PHB on November 11, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to comment on one part of your statements "sane conservatives who argue in good faith".
Please give me more than a couple of examples of this animal as one or two would be an anomaly.

Posted by: Gandalf on November 11, 2008 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Hemlock. The only way Limbaugh or Hannity would go off the air is if some liberal alternative broadcast at the same time stole so much of their audience that their ratings would fall so low that they would no longer be viable. Probably not going to happen (but we can hope).

OT: Steve, every time I post something here (not often these days) I click the "yes" option on "Remember personal info?" It never works and I always have to reenter my personal info. Is there something wrong?

Posted by: smiley on November 11, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Restoration of the Fairness Doctrine may not be at the head of the list, but most liberals recognize that something should be done about the seizure of broadcasting by big-money interests. It is not irrational or hysterical for these interests and those at their service to start pre-emptive action.

Posted by: skeptonomist on November 11, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know about "sad to watch." More like it is incredibly amusing and pathetic to watch...Because there is nothing more amusing then watching these thugs spin themselves into crazyland...

Posted by: Hank Essay on November 11, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Could it be that there are two Democratic staffers who are feeding utter BS to gullible right-wing reporters? I love this idea.

"Pssst. Barney Frank is introducing a Freedom of Male Prostitution bill next month."

"Not for attribution, but Boxer has a working group on how to tax church property to subsidize Federal mosque infrastructure."

"The FBI is following you. I'll meet you at Starbucks, but we need to communicate by semaphore using sugar packets."

Posted by: Gene Ha on November 11, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Liberals dominate the media....this has been announced by Rush Limbaugh. And Thomas Sowell. And Ann Coulter. And Rich Lowry. Bill O'Reilly. And Robert Novak. And George Will. And John Gibson. And Michelle Malkin. And David Brooks. And Tony Snow. And Tony Blankely. And Fred Barnes. And Brit Hume. And Larry Kudlow. And Sean Hannity. And David Horowitz. And William Kristol. And Hugh Hewitt. And William Buckley. And Oliver North. And Joe Scarborough. And Pat Buchanan. And John McLaughlin. And Cal Thomas. And James Kilpatrick. And Tucker Carlson. And Deroy Murdock. And Michael Savage. And Charles Krauthammer. And Stephen Moore. And Alan Keyes. And Gary Bauer. And Mort Kondracke. And Andrew Sullivan. And Nicholas von Hoffman. And Neil Cavuto. And Matt Drudge. And Mike Rosen. And Dave Kopel. And John Caldara. And Deborah Howell. And Richard Morin. And John Harris. And Gordon Liddy. And Debbie Schlussel. And Laura Ingraham.
And Larry Elder. And Tammy Bruce. And Neal Boortz. And FOX DJ ManPal. And Rusty Humphrey. And Laura Schlessinger. And don't forget Glen Beck.

Posted by: Banana Tie Jim on November 11, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

they push this garbage because they know - either consciously or unconsciously - that their readers are motivated by fear and a massive, eternal victim complex.

So there always has to be a bogeyman. Always. Always.

So now it's the Fairness Doctrine. If it weren't that, it would be something else equally retarded.

It's all about the faux outrage. WIthout that they'd have nothing to believe in. Look at all the years they crusaded against Congress, and once they got in charge... they didn't know what to do with it.

Posted by: rnato on November 11, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Recently I canceled my Sirius subscription because my commute is so short, and tried surfing the dial for decent news/talk stations (what with it being close to the election and all).

Holy crap! The amount of wingnuts on talk radio is ridiculous. Everywhere, every second of every day, on multiple channels, spouting the same tired Hannity/Limbaugh nonsense. And there is virtually NOTHING to balance this out.

No wonder the far right is so crazy - listen to this stuff all day and it will ruin your mind. I don't really want the government telling companies they have to show "the other side", but a wider swath of content on these channels would be good in my opinion.

Posted by: Joshua on November 11, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Why are they so freaked out? Because TALK RADIO WORKED for them for over a decade, now. This should be the takeaway lesson, here: the GOP realized that bottom-up ideology was a valuable, perhaps the only, weapon they have. My favorite illustration of this was that when all-Bush-all-the-time wasn't working so good for them any more after no WMDs, no OBL, and Abu Ghraib started to make things poisonous, they segued smoothly into anti-immigration, or in their putrid language, "illegal aliens". Living here in Los Angeles, I can almost date the beginning of the meme. And all of a sudden, from something that virtually nobody was talking about, we started to hear Congressional discussions about border walls and Minutemen.

If you take the nonstop vitriol that is talk radio away from them, they have NOTHING. Their own congresscreeps can't pull it off by themselves, but if there's a pre-built base for the latest idiocy, it works a charm.

And having said all of this, I don't particularly want to see the Fairness Doctrine brought back, and I doubt that Rush/Hannity et al. are that afraid of it, either. It's the reregulation of media they're shitting themselves over, and that's EXACTLY what we ought to be attacking.

Posted by: Anna Granfors on November 11, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

There's no point to them worrying about this.

President Obama will just round up all of the traitors from right wing radio and classify them as enemy combatants.

It won't take much to wring a confession from Limbaugh and Hannity that they have been in the pay of the Iranian Secret Service and Al Quaeda for years in a conspiracy to destroy the Iraqi army and allow Muslim extremists free reign in the middle east.

Posted by: Urkel on November 11, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

The right wingnuts are doing their usual "look, over there!" act while things are not going well for them.

When things are going well for the right you'll hear the radio shows talking about how well they are doing and how stupid the left is. When the story of the day is something the right doesn't like they find something else to talk about, and the more obscure the better. Why obscure? Because if it wasn't obscure then someone might figure out that the talk is a bunch of lies.

Since 1980 the right has worked hard to steer conversation to their way of thinking. When the public discussion moves to something the right doesn't like they start hitting on wedge issues (aka distractions) that don't really put money in people's pockets or solve problems.

We need to work to make sure we don't allow those distractions to take center stage. Focus on the work at hand and point out that the noise from the right is simply that, noise.

Posted by: nerd on November 11, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Folks at "The Corner" believe this and have, apparently, gotten a little hysterical. It's sad to watch.

Strictly projection. It also feeds their view of themselves as oppressed victims. - irony alert.

When will the black helicopters arrive?

Posted by: ronin on November 11, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Vic Davey Hanson hasn't been right about anything this decade.

Posted by: tom on November 11, 2008 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

"... a little hysterical". Ha ha.

Posted by: MattF on November 11, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

What skeptonomist said.

most liberals recognize that something should be done about the seizure of broadcasting by big-money interests.

I would add that most conservatives also recognize that media conglomeration is a bad thing, and millions of them signed petitions to oppose it. I would go after that if I was Obama, and team up with the wingnuts who also opposed the Bush FCC in their attempts to allow more mergers. The media will fight it, but too f***ing bad.


Posted by: Racer X on November 11, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

I have some familiarity with the Fairness Doctrine.

I was a producer at a local TV station when it was in effect, years ago.

We were required to air all different views, and it was a very good thing. There used to be Public Affairs programming with NO agenda... an intelligent interviewer just elicited views from community guests. The audience could listen and be informed, or not.

It was the antithesis of the screaming journalism.. "I'm right!" "No, I'M right!" we have today. Actually, what we have today is not journalism, it is dueling soundbites.

We NEED the fairness doctrine. Without the internet we wouldn't be getting half the news. The only broadcast news with facts is PBS (and BBC). (Well and probably something Canadian ;-)

Posted by: clem2 on November 11, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

The only thing keeping these wackos united at the moment is fear. They remind me of the religious offshoots that have from time to time predicted the end of the world on a date certain only to discover that the sun again rose on the said date. These people just haven't yet discovered that the world will not end under Obama and that they as a group will have been marginalized even more when their worst fears aren't realized. To me, it's not sad to watch at all.

Posted by: sparrow on November 11, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

I say let them freak out all they want to on speculation of what whacked out stuff Obama's going to do in the first 100 hours. The right-wing noise machine is going to look like utter idiots when:

1. Obama is sworn in and doesn't immediately rip off his suit to reveal a tunic and turban.

2. He doesn't freeze every millionaire's bank account and begin distributing their money to lazy homeless people.

3. The Middle East doesn't erupt into a firestorm because we're talking to people.

4. People are granted more freedoms with less government intervention thanks to the return of the Bill of Rights.

Posted by: chrenson on November 11, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

On second thought, there may be something to the threat the conservatives feel from the Fairness Doctrine.

To what extent is the whole idea of the threat of the return of the fairness doctrine initiated and reflected from talk radio hosts whose personal financial ox is likely to be gored by the resurrected FD?

To most of us this might seem a minor issue, not worth the time and energy of so many individuals. But the fact that so much time and energy is going into it does demonstrate the power of the Wurlitzer to magnify an issue out of all reasonable proportion at the command of those who run the Wurlitzer.

Does the Fairness Doctrine really endanger the Wurlitzer? Would timely and effective competition in the media prevent selected conservative-initiated issues from being blown rapidly out of proportion? Or even reduce the effectiveness of the Wurlitzer?

You can always make a conservative extremely agitated if you threaten or seem to threaten his power. The conservative reaction to the threat of the Fairness Doctrine sure looks like conservative agitation to me. The conservatives also understand the way the Wurlitzer works better than I do.

That itself may be the reason why it is being discussed so widely. The conservatives feel tied to the power of the Wurlitzer, and they feel the Fairness Doctrine is a direct and powerful threat to the Wurlitzer itself. The result might be that those who run and live on the Wurlitzer feel mightily threatened, so they are using the Wurlitzer to defend itself.

Posted by: Rick B on November 11, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, the important thing about Cornerites and Freepers etc. is not their being hysterical. It's their being dishonest and willing to spread propaganda swill to make their gullible readers and listeners hysterical - that should be the main point.

Posted by: Neil B on November 11, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Also, Rush has branded himself as "equal time" against the so-called liberal media. A re-institution of the Fairness Doctrine would pull back the curtain to reveal how incredibly un-liberal the media actually is. And that would make all the people listed by Banana Tie Jim above look pretty damned ridiculous.

Posted by: chrenson on November 11, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The obsession with the Fairness Doctrine isn't confined to online wingnuttia. Charles Krauthammer, who I guess is part of op-ed wingnuttia rather than online wingnuttia, gave the Fairness Doctrine Obsession a boost in his column of October 31:

[If Obama wins] What will you get?
The so-called Fairness Doctrine -- a project of Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic senators -- a Hugo Chavez-style travesty designed to abolish conservative talk radio.

But George Will seems to have been the epicenter of the Fairness Doctrine craze. In columns in August 17 and September 18, Will said:

[Aug. 17] Two Democratic priorities in the next Congress would placate two factions that hold the party's leash -- organized labor and the far left. One is abolition of workers' right to secret ballots in unionization elections. The other is restoration of the "fairness doctrine" in order to kill talk radio, on which liberals cannot compete. The doctrine would expose broadcasters to endless threats of litigation over government rules about how many views must be presented, on which issues, by whom, for how long and in what manner.
By promising to veto both of these forthcoming assaults on fundamental freedoms, McCain would give specific content to voters' usually unfocused fear of one-party government.

[Sept. 18] Unless McCain is president, the government will reinstate the equally misnamed "fairness doctrine." Until Ronald Reagan eliminated it in 1987, that regulation discouraged freewheeling political programming by the threat of litigation over inherently vague standards of "fairness" in presenting "balanced" political views. In 1980 there were fewer than 100 radio talk shows nationwide. Today there are more than 1,400 stations entirely devoted to talk formats. Liberals, not satisfied with their domination of academia, Hollywood and most of the mainstream media, want to kill talk radio, where liberals have been unable to dent conservatives' dominance.
Will's been obsessed with the Fairness Doctrine for years, and it shows. The notion that enough Dems to make its reinstatement a realistic prospect are in fact itching to do so, has no grounding in reality. Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 11, 2008 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

So the conservatives have a fantasy boogeyman to chase? Again? What's so sad about that?

Exactly. One could even make a decent amount of money in proposition bets, too. :)

Seriously, is there any right-winger so bent about this that they're willing to bet me $1000 that a measure to reinstate the FD won't happen, say, any time in 2009?

Posted by: DH Walker on November 11, 2008 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure if Gandalf was being serious in his comment above, but I truly would like to know where to find the "thoughtful, sane conservatives who argue in good faith."

I honestly believe they're out there, but I havent done a good job of finding them. Could someone point me in a good direction for a conservative blog that is roughly equivalent to this one?

Posted by: TG Chicago on November 11, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

It's probably fair to say that the rightmost 20-30% of the population is apoplectic over the recent election.

All the many folks who service that crowd are just feeding the fires to keep the faithful tuned in, and any strawman will do.

You'd think they'd get outrage fatigue, too, but their must be something that's different over there..?

Posted by: GVC on November 11, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, if they're so afraid of it, it's probably a good idea. Why should these cretins use the public airwaves to spread hate?

Posted by: AnotherBruce on November 11, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Ralph Kramden is right. It is a charade to keep the attention off media consolidation. The total domination of talk radio by conservatives is not due to market forces, it's because of liberal talk being locked out by media giants like Clear Channel/Entercom.

If you doubt that, take a look at Boston. Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes are all ranked in the Top 15 in total audience size by Arbitron and yet none of them can find an affiliate in Boston. No market for liberal ralk in Boston? Give me a break.

Before it's bankruptcy, Air America could only get a daytime low power station in Boston and even that was bought and the AA programming taken off the air.

We need to go back to limiting the number of stations that can be owned in a market. It doesn't guarantee other viewpoints but it at least makes it harder for them to be locked out.

Posted by: The Other Ed on November 11, 2008 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

No one is trying to impose the Fairness Doctrine? Really? Time to Alert Senator Chuck "conservative talk radio is like pornography" Schumer.

As for those who couch bombastic bets with conditions such as "it won't happen anytime in 2009", nice try, but unless the word "ever" replaces "in 2009", no deal.

Posted by: Buy Danish on November 11, 2008 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

For the radio talk hosts themselves, it is simply good promotion. They characterize themselves as under fire, hunkered down, fighting the nasty liberals. That there is no reality to it is not an issue--when has reality ever been an issue for right wing radio? This is first and foremost an entertainment medium.
On the other hand, if I were a democratic party strategist, I would be doing everything in my power to keep them on the air--and most importantly, to maintain their influence on the republican party and the positions its candidates take.

Posted by: PureGuesswork on November 11, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

I think PHB's prediction is correct.

If there is no serious attempt to restore the FD they claim credit for stopping it.

If there is a serious attempt then they were right to worry.

If there is a weak attempt they get to yell and again take credit for its inevitable failure.

The way it works is that no matter what happens, they get to say they were right.

Posted by: bernard Yomtov on November 11, 2008 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what to make of the following, but here are some historical tidbits to chew over. It would seem that, in part, some of the Wingers' fears is that eliminating the Fairness Doctrine is perceived to have been an important part of their beloved Saint Ronnie of Simi's legacy:

There is nothing fair about the Fairness Doctrine. That euphemism cloaks the kind of governmental heavy-handedness that the founders sought to prevent when they drafted the guarantees of free speech and free press in the First Amendment.
Congress should at least give freedom of expression a try. Let the broadcasters show what they can do in covering public events without facing the requirement to present other material.

Fairness, after all, is a matter of judgment. It ought to be the judgment of the people who have the responsibility for exploring public issues on the air rather than the judgment of government regulators. If anything, regulation gives the broadcasters an excuse for ducking duty in airing matters of public concern.

That excuse is removed now. Let them accept their responsibility free from congressional threat of making government their editor again.

The Oregonian, "Stay Fair on Fairness," 12/24/87

Proponents of legislation to require television and radio stations to broadcast varying views on controversial matters pledged today to push for the measure next year, after Congress deleted it from the spending bill early this morning.

Opponents of the proposal, called the fairness doctrine, savored their victory and said it would not result in irresponsible programming. The doctrine's main opponents have been the nation's television and radio broadcasters.

But one of the measure's leading supporters, Senator Ernest F. Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina, said: ''We are going to keep on pressing. We have been and will be patient and persistent. We'll be back.''

"Backers Vow to Press Broadcast Rule," NYT 12/22/87

There is no doubt that the need to provide free air time for opponents has limited broadcasters' willingness to tackle controversial issues. Discussion of better ways to maintain a diversity of opinion on the airwaves is in order. But as at so many other federal agencies, Reagan administration appointees at the FCC have passed up the opportunity to make government regulation more sensible. Instead, they have surrendered to their ideological predilection to abolish it altogether.

The argument that requiring presentation of opposing points of view infringes broadcasters' constitutional rights simply does not hold water. Broadcasters do not own the air. They are merely licensed to use the airwaves owned by the American people. The true owners of the airwaves have a legitimate right to regulate them to ensure that all people, not just a handful of lucky licensees, are able to use this scarce resource.

The view of the commercial broadcast spectrum as a scarce resource is obsolete, FCC members argue. With an increased number of radio frequencies and the spread of cable television, listeners and viewers have vastly greater opportunities to hear an array of opinions on matters of public interest.

That may be true in theory, but not in practice. Numerous applicants continue to bid for licenses each time one becomes available - perhaps the best proof of their scarcity.

"Forsaking Fairness," Journal of Commerce, 8/7/87

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on November 11, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

(Banana Tie Jim, that's genius! :-) )

The more they blather on about the Fairness Doctrine, the more I think it's a good idea to make it an issue and bring it back. I remember back in the 70s when the networks had PSAs, community opinions, etc., which I thought were interesting, sometimes informative, and a great way for ordinary people to get on tv and make their opinion known.

If nothing else, I agree with those who mentioned looking into media consolidation.

Posted by: Stacy6 on November 11, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a thought - is it possible that the Dems are playing the wingnuts with this? What if someone were to periodically "leak" to, say, Sean Hannity the details of Nancy Pelosi's evil scheme to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, with warnings that it's coming soon, they're really gonna do it! Then the wingnuts panic and spend hour after hour ranting about this on their radio shows etc. Months go by ... and nothing happens. End result: the wingnuts look like paranoid conspiracy theorists, and they've wasted precious time and energy chasing phantoms. I wouldn't imagine Congressional Dems doing this, but I could see Obama's team being clever enough.

Posted by: Edgar M on November 11, 2008 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase Raising Arisona, irrational fear is the Right's raison goddamn etre!

Posted by: Gregory on November 11, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

If I had to guess I would say it was another case of projection. They are remembering, in their curious way, how they went immediately on the assault against PBS. But I'm not sure on the timeline of that so I can't be certain.

Basically it is what they would do.

Posted by: JeffF on November 11, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Okay I have a question for right-wing trolls on this thread (if it already isnt upthread):

If the media is so liberally biased, wouldnt you WANT a fairness doctrine?

Posted by: Hawthorne Wingnut on November 11, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Bringing back the Fairness Doctrine might or mighty not be a good idea, but THREATENING to bring back the Fairness Doctrine could be a very good idea if it motivates the broadcast oligopolists to clean up their own cesspool, either by adding more liberal/moderate voices to their talk radio lineups or by yanking some of the real hardcore fascist hatemongers, like Michael Savage, off the air.

Either way, I'm for it.

Posted by: Peter Principle on November 11, 2008 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

You just don't get it, Steve.

ReThuglicans absolutely HATE fairness, no matter where it rears its head.

Posted by: Cal Gal on November 11, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

As a troll, I wish to be put in charge of what is fair!

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on November 11, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

This obsession by the Far Right with the Fairness Doctine is just another window into the character of this provincial and paranoid culture.

From the very beginning, the Far Right has been largely a protest movement that thrived on a heightened sense of grievance and victimhood among people who either came from small towns or exhibited a small town mindset, and thus were fearful of being exposed or assimilated into a larger and more diverse world. Their politics is an extension of these cultural anxieties, which express themselves as tribal loyalties (you are either for us or against us, support the troops, America love it or leave it, this is a Christian Nation etc...) . It is also why the country has been so polarized and divided as this brand of provincial conservatism gained national prominence for the first time with Gingrich in 1994 and Bush in 2000.

Like natives gathering around the campfire, conservatives gather around talk radio, which has always been at the heart and soul of this folkish conservative culture. Here, populist demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and lesser lights flick scabs, pour salt into wounds, nurture grievances and their audience's sense of cultural isolation and solidarity. Here they get what no other media provide, news of conspiracies, attacks on people of faith, or wars on Christmas by liberals and the "angry left" to take away all that conservatives hold dear.

It is perfectly natural that conservatives would be obsessed with attacks against the Fairness Doctrine, even if such attacks exist only in their imaginations. An attack against the Fairness Doctine, in their minds, is an attack by the larger liberal culture against a conservative talk radio industry that gives the far right its identity and coherence and plays so well to the larger right wing narrative that they are strangers in their own land who must fight tooth and nail against a corrupt, liberal secular culture that wants to take away their identity.

Posted by: Ted Frier on November 11, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

The whole "Fairness Doctrine" thing is the non-gun-nut-wingnut version of "Obama's gonna take away mah guns!" It's something that their strawman caricature of a liberal would do, so they're hunkering down afraid that their strawman is going to come and do it.

Ironically, while there are a handful of House members who want to put the Fairness Doctrine in place, there's not a huge push for it anymore because, well, it wouldn't do a lot of good. The Fairness Doctrine relies on regulation of broadcast airwaves - so satellite and cable channels would be beyond its reach and that's where most of the blatant partisanship on the teevee appears. And no liberal worth the name would want to give the FCC control over those areas given what we've seen with the Bush administration.

So at best you'd scuttle talk radio. And even there, I'm sure that you could get around it by "balancing" things with liberals in the wee hours of the morning and letting the conservative talkers have the bulk of the time slot.

Media consolidation - that's where some good might be done. But Fairness Doctrine stuff is just going to piss a lot of people off for no real benefit. Much like going after gun laws at this point would. Or other scary liberal boogeymen. They're going to be too busy nationalizing our insurance, finance and auto industries to take the time out to bounce Rush around like a ping-pong ball. (Though it would be nice to see Rush called to the carpet for some of his obvious lies - a slander lawsuit would be nice to see if anyone was willing to go after him.)

Posted by: NonyNony on November 11, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Irrational fear and hysteria = Republican Party platform.

Any questions?

Posted by: Curmudgeon on November 11, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I say good.

I say we keep the right thinking that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer plan to "aggressively pursue" reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine over the next six months.

Hell, longer.

While they're busy freaking out about that, we can actually get some work done.

Posted by: TB on November 11, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

This is so simple I'm amazed anybody would fail to understand it! The Reich-wing is simply projecting exactly what THEY would do if Democrats controlled the media and dominated talk radio.

They would make shutting it down their entire reason for being and would devote endless outrage against the terrible denial of free speech it is to have only liberals on the radio!

Every Republican politician would make it a major component of their campaign to promise to immeidately remedy this dire "Un-American" dominance by the liberal media!

Then on day ONE of a Republican administration, they would launch an immediate attack to re-introduce "fairness."

They simply can't believe liberals are stupid enough to let them continue to completely dominate the public airwaves, and expect that Obama is secretly plotting to do exactly what THEY would do in his place.

They understandably have trouble realizing that Democratic politicians who have been the victims for over 10 years of a concentrated media assault by the right WON'T instantly retaliate the minute they get the power.

That's what they would do and they expect us to do the same. And they're right! That's exactly what we SHOULD do and what Democrats WOULD do if they had any guts or brains at all.

Posted by: Cugel on November 11, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's very important to do something about the partisan media. Remember it was Fox News that called the 2000 election first for Bush, and all the networks followed. And the Iraq war and all of the Bush scandals were covered up by the republican friends in the media. There's a reason why all dictators want to control the media - PROPAGANDA. No wonder why the wingers are worried - the media is their single biggest advantage. It's how they set the narrative.

Posted by: James G on November 11, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Cugel -- In a sense, the right wing media establishment has been trying its best to shut down competing media. They haven't gone so far as to advocate outright censorship -- unless you count Ann Coulter suggesting the editors of the New York Times should be taken out and shot as traitors for reporting on the secret rendition and domestic surveillance programs the Bush administration started. No, what the right wing does is, on a daily basis, attempt to destroy the credibility of the mainstream press by steering its own audience away from the professional press. You can't get through an O'Reilly Factor program or Limbaugh broadcast without at least one (and usually dozens) suggestions that viewers can't believe anything they see or hear in the legitimate press. That's the nature of a propaganda network like the one conservatives have built. They must monopolize the means of communication however they can.

Posted by: Ted Frier on November 11, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

The basic problem is that liberal commentators pass as reporters, while conservative commentators are honest about pushing an agenda. True fairness would require equal time for network news and conservative news.

Posted by: Luther on November 11, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Similar panic took place here in the local gun stores where people were flocking before the election because they believed Obama plans to ban the sale of automatic machineguns. Conservatives appear to be gullible and easily frightened, which, I suppose, is what keeps them moving in lock step.

Posted by: Carol on November 11, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Carol, fully automatic machine guns (pull and keep the trigger down and gun continues to fire so many per second) are already banned for the general public, but it is possible to get a license even for that. What the Right is or pretends to be, afraid of is banning of "assault weapons" which in political practice means semi-auto (one shot per trigger pull) versions of military full-auto guns, e.g. M-16 with full auto disabled but able to take large-capacity magazines, have bayonet fixture, maybe a bipod, etc.

I don't think Obama is planning to outlaw even those, but you'd have to check his website, Demo platform statements etc. to see what's really cooking (which reminds me, I want to see more discussion of Party Platform planks etc. however pointless they are said to be.)

Posted by: Neil B on November 11, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

For not-completely-nuts conservatism, read the American Conservative. www.amconmag.com/blog/ I would be interested to hear of other sites as well.

Posted by: kgb on November 11, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, no one - no one - is talking about re-introducing the fairness doctrine. (Link takes you to a Nov 4 piece in TheHill.com

Just a bunch of paranoid right-wingers...

I think the concern on the right is that, given the adoring press that Obama has received this election cycle (first in the primaries, then in the general), imposition of the fairness doctrine would be, well, unfair.

Of course, all it would really do is increase the importance of online media ("print", podcasts, video) and satellite radio.

Posted by: St Wendeler on November 11, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Similar panic took place here in the local gun stores where people were flocking before the election because they believed Obama plans to ban the sale of automatic machineguns. Conservatives appear to be gullible and easily frightened, which, I suppose, is what keeps them moving in lock step.

Yeah, Obama isn't going to enforce any gun control policies or anything... It's almost like you elected a guy without knowing what his positions are.

And, just to clarify, full-auto weapons are already banned. And a semi-auto is not an assault weapon - many shotguns and hunting rifles are semi-autos. In fact, most pistols are semi-auto.

You should become more informed before attempting to draft a policy addressing an issue.

Posted by: St Wendeler on November 11, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Edgar M, that's a brilliant thought re: leaking to the RW wurlitzer in order to discredit it,

I say Obama should grace Limbaugh and Hannity with his presence. Nothing disarms the egotist like pandering to his ego. Since these are the only forums the RW believes, it will throw their little world in a dissonance that might just spin some of them out into the real world.

As for the gun nuts, my son is one and is a one issue voter. I would dearly love for Obama to ignore the assault weapons and such. It would de-fang the NRA (and its $ political clout)and again, throw the faithful into such a cognitive dissonance that they might just wake up.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on November 11, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

The only good use for the fairness doctrine is to use it as a sword of Damocles to retain net neutrality.Some of the other commentators have it right.The real issue is media consolidation,which i truly hope the administration will priortize.

Posted by: tom on November 11, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

It would take one paragraph from the right person to shutup all the noise. But isn't it interesting how so many people in this thread find some delight in suggesting the genuine fear on the right ought to be exploited?

It is is this simple recognition of a latent desire of Democrats to get even that is at the bottom of right wing fear. You justify it every day.

Posted by: Cobb on November 11, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

And, just to clarify, full-auto weapons are already banned. And a semi-auto is not an assault weapon - many shotguns and hunting rifles are semi-autos.

You may want to do a little more research on the issue of precisely what weapons have and had not been classified as assault weapons under the law before some pansy liberal hands you your ass on the matter.

You should become more informed before attempting to shoot your month off on a blog.

And Obama taking away your guns? Not so much. Rest easy desperate l'il shooter.

Posted by: on November 11, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

2 observations:

Ralph Kramden:

I think the "Fairness Doctrine" talk is just a red herring.

That is a fair assessment, IMHO.

It is interesting that today there is this so-called issue AND the issue of the "Summum" religious group's lawsuit that has landed before the Supreme Court.

I may be the only one, but I see these as being two sides of the same coin, the Fairness Doctrine on one side and the Ten Commandments in the park being the other side.

If it is required (and I think the SCOTUS will rule as such) that equal space be made available for a competing religion's list of principles (essentially their 'position paper'), then equal space should also be made available in a station's news or commentary time for both sides of the issues of the day.

Does that sound crazy? It seems like a clear and valid parallel to me.

P.S. I think the Fairness Doctrine being repealed was the beginning of the brain-deads to take over the airwaves and devolve it into a contest to see who could cause the highest number of knees to jerk. It single-handedly removed rational discourse from our airwaves and cable outlets. (I don't think that the two --- the repeal and the all-day-all-attack/lie shows --- were unconnected, either...)

Posted by: SteveGinIL on November 11, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

The point about possibly losing money is the most likely reason for this outburst by the rabid right. I seriously doubt that any sentient right-winger radio personality actually believes that some form of the Fairness Doctrine will be enacted. I also have little doubt that their lawyers/accountants have explained to them what might happen if stricter regulations were emplaced, and enforced, to meet the continuing media consolidation (radio/TV/print).
Any attempt to rein in the increasing monopolistic media empires will result in screams of outrage about "stifling freedom of speech". These are just warning shots.

Posted by: Doug on November 11, 2008 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

It really doesn't matter if any of it is true.The right-wing hatejocks love to talk about the Fairness Doctrine coming back because it is part of their favorite collective narrative-- their paranoid, persecution fantasy where they are being threatened by liberals/government/media/boogeyman/gestapo/brownshirts/commies/pinkos/faggots.

Yes, Rush, you are SOOOO oppressed and threatened. Only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, both who have contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, can pretend to be oppressed with a straight face. They're ranting their way all the way to the bank. What is truly sad about it is that it's so transparently self-serving and that their listeners don't get it.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on November 11, 2008 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly