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Tilting at Windmills

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November 14, 2008

GERSON FEARS FAIRNESS DOCTRINE.... We talked the other day about far-right bloggers' irrational fear of the re-emergence of the Fairness Doctrine. Apparently, the same paranoia has reached Washington Post columnists. Here's Michael Gerson, warning the President-elect about moves he might make that would "trigger explosive controversy."

The second tripwire concerns the Fairness Doctrine -- a federal regulation (overturned by the Reagan administration in 1987) requiring broadcast outlets to give equal time to opposing political viewpoints. Under this doctrine, three hours of Rush Limbaugh on a radio station would have to be balanced by three hours of his liberal equivalent. This may sound fair and balanced. But it is a classic case where the "unintended consequences" are so obvious that those consequences must be intended. It would destroy the profitability of conservative talk radio and lead other outlets to avoid political issues entirely -- actually reducing the public discussion of controversial issues. This kind of heavy-handed approach is a remnant of a time when public sources of information -- mainly the three networks and large radio stations -- were so limited that government felt compelled to guarantee balance. Given today's proliferation of media outlets, such regulation of speech is both unnecessary and Orwellian.

During the campaign, Obama signaled that he did not support the reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are big fans of this regulation. And talk radio is already preparing for a showdown. If Obama were to endorse this doctrine, even reluctantly, the resulting fireworks would obscure every other topic.

Gerson's work is a constant source of disappointment, but this is quite odd. He's warning Obama not to embrace a policy that he already opposes, and which Democrats have no apparent interest in pursuing.

Indeed, the timing of Gerson's column makes it look especially foolish -- today, the LA Times ran a detailed piece explaining that no one is seriously pushing the Fairness Doctrine, it has no realistic chance of passing, and "right-wing radio" is sounding a "false alarm."

Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks? Why lead readers to think the Fairness Doctrine is a legitimate concern when there's no real push for the policy in the first place?

Steve Benen 9:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (86)

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Why? Because it beats the drum that Obama wants to do "terrible" things to this country. It isn't about telling the truth, it is about scaring America. And in so doing, they work at undermining Obama's administration.

Seriously, isn't that pretty obvious? They did exactly the same thing before during the 90's. Remember?

Posted by: Shade Tail on November 14, 2008 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, especially when we are faced with a liberal marxist muslim presidentt, and a congress that is bent on taking a hard left turn.

Posted by: Al on November 14, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Because the right-wing ever since the 1994 rise of Limbaugh and even moreso after 9/11 created an ongoing rhetoric that liberal voices must be silences while they were in power? Limbaugh and Coulter demanded that New York Times reporters be put in jail. Libby merely advocated murdering federal officials.

The right-wing radio jocks are freaking their pants because they're scared to death at the idea that someone might actually take them literally. Them not being in charge wasn't part of their plan.

Posted by: August J. Pollak on November 14, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Gerson was a George Bush speechwriter. His views are often the same as the rest of the Republican world. This should not surprise anyone.

Posted by: curm on November 14, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks? Why lead readers to think the Fairness Doctrine is a legitimate concern when there's no real push for the policy in the first place?"

Gee - maybe because he was Bush's speechwriter from 2001-2006, a senior policy advisor from 2000-2006, and a member of the White House Iraq Group - the marketing arm of the White House who was tasked with selling the 2003 Iraq invasion to the American people. Propagandist, pure and simple.

Posted by: impeachcheneythenbush on November 14, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

All this "fairness doctrine" crap is a red herring.

What the conservatives are really afraid of is a reimposition of anti-media consolidation regulations that were loosened in the 1996 Telecommunications Act and further weakened by the Bush FCC.

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on November 14, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

i dunno, i hadn't much cared about the issue, but gerson makes a good case: let's reinstate the fairness doctrine! thanks michael!

Posted by: howard on November 14, 2008 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

We talked the other day about far-right bloggers' irrational fear of the re-emergence of the Fairness Doctrine. Apparently, the same paranoia has reached Washington Post columnists.

Fear of the Fairness Doctrine reached the WaPo op-ed page back in August; hell, George Will may have even started it.

Check Will's columns of August 17 and September 18, and Krauthammer's column of October 31. Links in a moment.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 14, 2008 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

I've noticed that Republican fears about Democratic leadership often involve projection: what would we do to hamstring our political opponents if we had this kind of power?

Posted by: CFG in IL on November 14, 2008 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK
the Fairness Doctrine, it has no realistic chance of passing, and "right-wing radio" is sounding a "false alarm."
Yet, this alarm on the right is massive. And Why? the fear that without the mindless self-reinforcing brainwashing that Limbaugh, Coulter, Fox News, and their ilk, their ideas are toast. They are probably right for once (not something I like to admit) -- maybe we should at least consider it? People love "fair" and its built into the name, and aren't they always complaining about progressive taxes being "unfair", advocating the "fair" tax, etc... Posted by: MLE on November 14, 2008 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

The real issue is not so much the equal-time thing as the complete control of the media by big-money interests. Shouldn't progressives expect some action on this? And don't the big-money interests know this, and think it wise to take some pre-emptive action?

There is obviously a lot of seemingly hysterical nonsense put out by the right wing, but never forget that the real motivation for most things done on the Plutocrat party side is the benefit of the big-money players. Did they really think that Obama is a Marxist? Probably not, but they could see real policy differences between him and McCain (though they also thought it wise to hedge with monetary support of Obama and other Democrats).

Posted by: skeptonomist on November 14, 2008 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks?" Hmm. It usually isn't just an issue of character and intelligence. Look at these people's connections, the corporate ownership of their outlets, the dynamic of "access" etc.

BTW, I think the FD would be cumbersome and not worth doing for various reasons. But why not require stations to at least allow rebuttal when specific names are impugned, and demand a certain percentage of local content.

delver

Posted by: Neil B on November 14, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Last I checked they were the "public" airwaves. Limbaugh by the technical rules of the road has no more right to then than I do. Institute the damn thing and let them whine and bitch about it while Obama gets real things done.

This is most likely the same as the "w" key thingy. Just a way for the right to fill the news cycle with vapid nonsense that portends to be oppositional.

However there is a serious, serious problem with the public airwaves as we all know they are almost all in complete control of a few right wing corporations.

You mean to tell me there is no thirst for liberal/progressive radio? That the capital isn't there to support it? That the advertising is a tough sell? Bullshit. I'd like to see this hold by them smashed to pieces.
If not for the internet what would we do?

Posted by: grinning cat on November 14, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the right-wing has to have something to demonize and rile up their base in order to get them to contribute and/or buy books and increase ratings and "The Liberals are trying to ban Christmas!" isn't work is well as it used to.

Posted by: The Other Ed on November 14, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks?
------------------------
This is unusual?

Posted by: Ghost of Joe Liebling's Dog on November 14, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Why?

Because the right wing is fueled by paranoia, hysteria and an irrational sence of perpetual victimation.

Posted by: Saint Zak on November 14, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Wingnuts hate us for our fairness.

Posted by: Danp on November 14, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Steve B, I hate to pick on you so much for this habit (similar to Kevin's) of asking a rhetorical question and not providing some answer when you easily could. But really, how hard would it have been to look up that Gerson was a Bush speechwriter etc? I know, I didn't last comment directly, but you're the OP ...

Heh, "liberal marxist muslim presidentt".
Al the Archetype!
A myth, not a man.

Posted by: Neil B on November 14, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

If we on the leftblogs were smart, we'd start pushing the Fairness DOctrine hard as possible. GIve Obama a chance to 'Sister Souljah' us over an issue we don't care about. He'll prove his bipartisan chops on _this_ isntead of on something more important.

Posted by: gussie on November 14, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Why lead readers to think the Fairness Doctrine is a legitimate concern when there's no real push for the policy in the first place?

Why would they lead readers and listeners to think Obama is a marxist terrorist?

Why would they lead readers and listners to think Kerry was a traitor and Bush was a war hero?

Why would they lead readers and listeners to think Dukakis released Willy Horton to rape white women?

Because they think it helps them win elections and they want the power in the slimy hands of their whiny brats.

Posted by: tomeck on November 14, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Why lead readers to think the Fairness Doctrine is a legitimate concern when there's no real push for the policy in the first place?

What everyone's missing is that the GOPers are so desperately desperate for a victory---even just a tiny smidgen of an abstract-rendition of a victory---they are willing to "warn and threaten" if Obama does something that he's not going to do. this, then, establishes the image that "We've turned back the Socialist hordes, and saved America from the evil Obamanites!"

What I'd like to see Obama do is crank up a full-court press on the Fairness Doctrine, and re-establish it. The Rush Limbaughs of the world would either have to shut up or start paying the same premium as liberal/progressive speech would be charged by the media outlets. FOX would only be spewing their crap 12 hours of the day; they could effectively be forced to surrender 50% or daytime and prime-time to Dems.

The Washington Times would evaporate.

Sean Hannity and Bill-O would probably commit suicide---or move to some posh South American ex-pat resort---or maybe just do both

But the core here is that if you take away 50% of their time communicating their disingenuous spin, you take away their message's strength....

Posted by: Steve W. on November 14, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Saint Zak has it right...no victiminess? no Rush; no paranoia? no Sean; It's pretty fun to watch these people try to matter, when they're increasingly realizing they don't.

Posted by: bruce on November 14, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Comments with links don't seem to work for me here. Anyhow, if you go here (http://davidbroder.blogspot.com/2008/11/george-will-as-epicenter-of-fairness.html) you'll find links to Will's and Krauthammer's columns over the past few months about the Fairness Doctrine, complete with quotes.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 14, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

It would destroy the profitability of conservative talk radio and lead other outlets to avoid political issues entirely -- actually reducing the public discussion of controversial issues.

You mean that Limbaugh gave up his marathon bloviating of made-up bullshit and that he now engages in the public discussion of controversial issues?

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on November 14, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Rush Limbaugh is not a human being so far as I'm concerned. The continuous lies and bigotry and hate that comes out of his mouth is so preposterous.

I really wish folks like Chris Mathews and more regularly) Keith Olbermann would stop referencing them, quoting them in a way that makes Rush sound credible and newsworthy.

The best thing to do would be to ignore Rush as much as possible.

The only time it's helpful to reference him is when there includes substantive educative discourse about the profoundly deleterious effects his hate mongering and bully -style show creates. Bill Moyers for example, did a great show earlier this year showing direct connection to the growth of shock-jocks who spew bigotry and real life incidents and trends of violence that clergy and others such as psychologists and sociologists are also disturbed by.

Otherwise, it's just another tantalizing advertising of the guy with the cigar as "The Worst Person in the world" with that dramatic music droning over the cable...

That's really gotten old. I'll bet Rush loves the visibility whenever Olbermann or others reference him in this fashion

Posted by: Rush should be ignored on November 14, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

The radio haters are in an all out frenzy about this and also about any prosecution of anyone in the Bush administration. I listened for five minutes to Mark Levin last night (somehow it's easier, almost calming to listen to these nuts now) and he was foaming at the mouth about how liberals "better watch out" if they prosecute anyone because they're "criminalizing politics." He said "They will be punished" if they try anything, and gave as a warning the rights "retaliation" against Clinton for the "political prosecution" of Iran Contra.

He must have said, "You will be punished" about 10 times in five minutes. It's definitely a preemptive strike against any investigation and prosecution of Bush era crimes.

Posted by: Upper West on November 14, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

The best thing to do would be to ignore Rush as much as possible.

Kinda like the Bush/bin Laden strategy?

Posted by: Danp on November 14, 2008 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

"You mean to tell me there is no thirst for liberal/progressive radio?"

I don't think there is, to be perfectly honest. Right wingers and conservatives need to be told what to think, how they should react to any issue, what key words and catch-phrases to use. They're not independant thinkers, curious or questioning. They gravitate towards con men like Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter and Palin who direct and determine their opinions and thought process for them. They're sheep who need an iron fist telling them what to do.

I think progressive/liberal types have a much greater intellectual curioisity and openess to new ideas and different concepts.

Talk radio is a rigid, static format. It depends on a very loyal listener base. That's impossible to maintain with more open minded people. Let's face it, Air America is insufferable. Its not caustic and hateful like conservative talk radio, but it is mind-numbing in the way it drumbeats its agenda relentlessly. I can't listen to talk radio.

Posted by: Saint Zak on November 14, 2008 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The "War Against Christmas-kind" (WACK) will only go so far in ginning up rightwing outrage. Time to introduce a new bogeyman (or rotate in an old one.)

Posted by: dennisS on November 14, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The old days of the Fairness Doctrine were really bad; when a network ran an ad for a Chevrolet, they also had to then run ads for Fords, Toyotas, and Yugos.

Posted by: AJB on November 14, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, this is one of the righties few chances for victory--start a campaign against something that isn't going to happen anyway, and then preen and strut when it doesn't.

Posted by: les on November 14, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to second Grinning Cat; The Fairness Doctrine doesn't tell Rush or the rest they can't speak, it merely says that if they are going to use a PUBLIC resource (the airwaves) they can't monopolize said public resource with no rebuttal. And their crap is so ridiculous that any rebuttal would destroy them.

One of the reasons the Wurlitzer is at Defcon One over this is that it would be a really devastating blow to them. It's also one of the reasons we really ought to do it.

The best thing to do would be to ignore Rush as much as possible.

Yeah, that worked real well back when they were first constructing the Wurlitzer. Now many areas of the country are so deep red that they'd vote for a turnip if it had an "R" after its name. (See Palin, Sarah.)

Posted by: jmBOB on November 14, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Do any of the righties ever even make a cursory attempt to square their "Phear tha Phairness" position with their "ZOMG!!! The Washington Post printed 211 pictures of Obama in October but only 206 of McCain BIAS BIAS BIAS!" position? Or is it just one of those things?

Posted by: syl on November 14, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

So how does the "fairness doctrine" apply to the blog world?

Posted by: LJR on November 14, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The absence of the Fairness Doctrine has played a major role in producing today's increasingly bitter, vicious, and highly partisan political climate. When people are exposed to just one viewpoint, they cannot help but become more intolerant of opposing views which have never been explained to them because the networks and programs they watch or listen to offer just one point of view.

The absence of the Fairness Doctrine has NOT produced more political discussion. Instead it has generated political brainwashing. During the past election season I saw more of MS-NBC and even Fox News than I ever had before. The dishonest one-sidedness on both networks, particularly Fox, was frightening to anybody interested in honest political discussion. Instead viewers are bombarded with a constant, incredibly biased view of the news that really amounts to brainwashing. They are rarely exposed to opposing viewpoints -- so they just absorb one view without any critical thought.

Posted by: Dan Lauber on November 14, 2008 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

I think the right wing wants a "win" to feel good right now. If they rile up the masses with fear for reinstatment of the fairness doctrine and then it doesn't happen the RW will point to that as proof of how important they are.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on November 14, 2008 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Right wingers listen to radio. Left wingers watch YouTube or listen to iPods. Let them stay in the twentieth century.

Posted by: jen f on November 14, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks?"

Because that's what The Washington Post pays him for -- because just like the "far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks", The Washington Post is part of the propaganda machinery of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. and its mission is to advance the ruthless and rapacious class warfare of the ultra-rich corporate oligarchy against everyone else.

This isn't really about an unlikely reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine. It is about the handful of giant corporations that own and control virtually all of America's mass media and use it to propagandize the American people in furtherance of their corporate agenda -- which includes their drive to control more and more of America's media and use it for their own interests, not the public interest.

Gerson wrote: "It would destroy the profitability of conservative talk radio ..."

Radio stations and networks, "conservative" and otherwise, are licensed by We The People, through our government, to use the public airwaves, in the public interest. Radio stations and networks are not guaranteed "profitability" by that license nor is there any particular obligation on the part of We The People or our government to protect their "profitability" through whatever regulations we deem appropriate, or not, to place on those licensees.

"Conservative talk radio" has never, ever been anything other than whining. This is just more whining from the poor, pitiful, "conservative" victims of "powerful liberal elites". Gerson is just another dittohead spouting the Gospel Of Poor Pitiful Millionaire Conservative Victim-In-Chief Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on November 14, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

This seems like a secular version of the recurring UL that the FCC wants to ban all Christian broadcasting.

Posted by: DonBoy on November 14, 2008 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

The point is not to outright avoid or pretend Rush isn't there. Read the post over in full, and stop taking it out of context.

The point is unless there is critical review of the effect of his behavior-- versus sound byte showy negative blurbs that often serve to even glamorize him, he gains power-- and lots of free advertising!

It's what these types of guys love. I'll bet Rush's ratings and listening audience has expanded since the likes of Olbermann and supposed more serious journalists like Mathews reference his statements and yet fail to show how utterly fallacious and damaging they are in ways small and large.

Feed something and it grows. It's a no-brainer.

Posted by: Rush should for the most part be ignored on November 14, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

But it is a classic case where the "unintended consequences" are so obvious that those consequences must be intended. It would destroy the profitability of conservative talk radio...

Hold on -- why would having a station balance three hours of Rush with three hours of a liberal commentator destroy Rush's profitability? Are they that afraid that having their Mighty Wurlitzer echo chamber being disrupted -- that if people learn how much Rush is full of bullshit, they might stop listening?

If so, that sounds like an argumetn in favor of the Fairness Doctrine, not against.

(Anyway, how many times has the GOP used its power to try to screw over Democratic constituencies like teachers and lawyers? To hell with them.)

Posted by: Gregory on November 14, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Why would conservatives oppose the fairness doctrine? Right wing radio would be less profitable, sure, but they could really stick it to the 'liberal' mainstream media, which is much larger.

I'm guessing it's because they know the mainstream media isn't actually 'liberal', but then acknowledging that would remove one of their key talking points. Sarah Palin would lose anything to talk about at all.

Posted by: Mike on November 14, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

grinning cat wrote: "You mean to tell me there is no thirst for liberal/progressive radio?"

Sure there is. That's why Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! is on the air all over the place, and simulcasting on satellite TV as well.

The difference is that real "liberal/progressive radio" means hard-hitting, in-depth, investigative journalism, and providing a forum for diverse, challenging, critical voices -- not nonstop spewing of Goebbels-esque hate speech and fake, phony, scripted right-wing corporate talking point bullshit.

That's why programs like Democracy Now! and networks like Pacifica Radio are 100 percent listener-supported and don't have the financial support of right-wing extremist corporations that bankroll Rush Limbaugh and his clones.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on November 14, 2008 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Step 1: Warn about the huge controversy of Obama supporting the Fairness Doctrine.
Step 2: Obama doesn't suddenly support the Fairness Doctrine
Step 3: Rightwing gasbags beat Obama! Right rulez! Left droolz!

Posted by: Grimmstail on November 14, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Gerson is a Republican operative hired straight from the Bush team, where his assignment was liaison with the Armageddonists. If he takes his cues from rightwing radio that's not surprising at all. (My theory is that the Post was required to hire him because Brooks is Jewish and too liberal.)

Conservatives imposed on the Times and the Post don't report to Sulzberger or Graham. They report to the Movement Republicans, and supporting the Republican is part of their job description. They're like political commiassars in the USSR, or like Mafiosi planted in the ledership of mobbed-up unions.

Posted by: John Emerson on November 14, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

I think I agree with Saint Zak. I don't want to listen to a liberal version of Rush. I don't want to be brainwashed in any direction!

I also agree with Rush should be ignored. I like to watch Olberman at his best, but I've never liked "Worst Person in the World".

The networks seem to believe we want our news to be entertainment. Maybe it's even true, but I wish it weren't.

Posted by: Mari on November 14, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

It would destroy the profitability of conservative talk radio and lead other outlets to avoid political issues entirely -- actually reducing the public discussion of controversial issues.

It is this statement that makes the whole argument against the Fairness Doctrine such a farcical mess.

Limbaugh and his fellows on radio and TV do not discuss issues. They discuss made up facts, fears, and ad hominem attacks that distract from the real issues and actually increase people's ignorance.

If this isn't a call to restore the Fairness Doctrine I don't know what is.

Posted by: nerd on November 14, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks?

Because he IS one, in his pyjamas in his mother's basement, frantically banging away at his computer. Also, Mr. Gerson never was very clued in to reality so why not pick something that isn't important?

On the other hand, the idea of fair, balanced reporting does appeal to the average American so letting him froth and spume away in his mother's basement against fairness doesn't do his side any good at all.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on November 14, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

When there was a Fairness Doctrine in the '60s, Rev Carl McIntyre out of Collingswood, NJ, would spend a third of his air time railing against that doctrine, another third smearing the Pope, and the final third smoozing with Ian Paisley.

And Amen Charlie would sit in the background saying "Amen, Amen" over and over.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 14, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I confess, I listen to AM talk radio; not that I expect to glean any usable information from their daily rants or re-enforce any personal beliefs, but rather to remind myself that there is a fairly large segment of our population that is dumber than a sack of rocks when it comes to being politically aware. The ones who call Limbaugh with "mega dittos" or call Hannity just to say "you're a great American" are beyond help; they're take great pride in their ignorance.(sorry Al) They're the 25% who still think that Bush is doing a good job and will be remembered as a great president. They actively campaign to have Ronald Reagan declared a saint--put his face on money, add him to MT Rushmore, and name something in every county across America after him. Ask them exactly what he did that was so great and the silence would be deafening. They have their beliefs and no counter argument will change them because God is on their side. Requiring the media to offer a counter argument will not change their minds, so why bother. As long as their corporate sponsors and the Heritage foundation are spending their money to facilitate this constant stream of drivel they have less money to spend elsewhere, so let them spend it. They're not going to convert any progressives. Right now they're ranting daily about congress' plan to silence them with the fairness doctrine. Ask most of their listeners to explain the fairness doctrine and they'd sound like Sarah Palin discussing foreign policy.Please don't even address the issue in Congress since to do so will allow them to say "see, we told you so, they're against free speech", and if Obama comes out against addressing the fairness doctrine they can say "look how powerful we are, we made the President back down." Instead the FCC needs to take a hard look at media consolidation and expand media ownership to include outlets for opposing viewpoints--Fox news is obviously biased to the right, but MSNBC offers the left an alternative which has a growing market share. I'm sure this fact isn't ignored by corporate sponsors.The fairness should come is issuing broadcast licenses, not is determining content. No corporation should be allowed to control all media outlets in any given market, but the government should not try to control the broadcast content.

Posted by: sparky on November 14, 2008 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Are we telling the truth here?

John Kerry: �I think the Fairness Doctrine ought to be there and I also think equal time doctrine ought to come back. I mean these are the people who wiped out one of the most profound changes in the balance of the media is when the conservatives got rid of the equal time requirements. And the result is that, you know, they�ve been able to squeeze down and squeeze out opinion of opposing views and I think it�s been an important transition in the imbalance of our public��

Dick Durbin: �It�s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,� said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Kuchinish: Scarcity-obsessed Dennis Kucinich has recently introduced plans in Congress to revive the Fairness Doctrine,...

Feinstein: http://hotair.com/archives/2007/06/24/video-feinstein-looking-at-reviving-the-fairness-doctrine/

Posted by: Luther on November 14, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh can't be ignored. His show draws 20 million listeners. That's more than Mathews, Olbermann, Maddow, and anyone else you might care to mention put together. He has to be fought, mocked, attacked, whatever. Can't ignore him, sorry.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on November 14, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

"Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks? Why lead readers to think the Fairness Doctrine is a legitimate concern when there's no real push for the policy in the first place?"

I say good.

Three words: Feed that fear.

Let's keep Rush et al so worried about this it will be 80% of his show for the next 6 months.

While the right is busy chasing phantoms, we can actually get some work done.

Posted by: TB on November 14, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

It would also give the radio hosts a "win" in their column- "We warned you about the Dems agenda, we fought them for you and we won. We told we are righteous!"

Posted by: ID on November 14, 2008 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh is already blaming the economic crisis on Obama. People who want to believe this are going to believe this because the only alternative is to accept the fact that the policies that they believe in have driven this country off a cliff. Joe the Plumber on steroids. Don't confuse them with the truth; they don't want to hear it.

Posted by: sparky on November 14, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Of course the republicans think private corporate media profit is more important than the public interest. I say bring back the fairness doctrine. Let's not forget it was the partisan Fox network that called the 2000 election for Bush. Their media network is how they set the agenda, and is their biggest advantage. Time to level the playing field. And they are always crying about 'liberal media bias' - which is the perfect reasoning to sell it to the public. Who could be against fairness, where both sides get to air their point of view?

Posted by: James G on November 14, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

My first time here and I can tell that "AL" is the resident DICK!!!

Hey Al,

Rush is on somewhere so go listen and leave intelligent, reasoned conversation to the adults.

Posted by: drinksforall on November 14, 2008 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I find it ironic that the folks who rail against the return of the Fairness Doctrine are the same people who advocate for Affirmative Action for Conservatives - ie, including more conservative voices in the MSM.

Go figure.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on November 14, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

As of this week, Hannity no longer speaks of the Fairness Doctrine: it has been re-christened "The Censorship Doctrine," just the latest example of the conservative penchant for destroying the language.

Posted by: yellowdogfox on November 14, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Can we just call all of this "fairness doctrine" nonsense for what it is> A way for right wing groups to squeeze more money from the base. I mean heck, it's worked wonderfully for the NRA. Nothing like some good liberal-bashing fear mongering to separate a fool from his/her money.

Posted by: Southern Beale on November 14, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Destroying the profitability of conservative talk radio" would be a good thing. We wouldn't be a better country with Limpdick off in Santo Domingo with a lifetime supply of Oxy-Contin, Viagra, and 10 year olds??? We wouldn't be a better country with Michael Savage back living in a box under a freeway overpass??? We wouldn't be a better country without all the other otherwise-unemployable blowhards back to whatever dead-end existence they so thoroughly deserve?

Isn't smashing the right wing, then sweeping it up and throwing it out with the rest of the trash a Good Thing????

Like my great-granduncle who worked for Truman told me at an early age: "The only 'good Republicans' are pushing up daisies."

Posted by: TCinLA on November 14, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

It is the Clintonization of Obama and his administration. Create controversy where there is none, and marginalize Obama at every turn. Vilify Obama so that those on the right can be portrayed as heroic rather than obstuctionists.

We've seen this movie before.

Posted by: Kane on November 14, 2008 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

"It would destroy the profitability of conservative talk radio and lead other outlets to avoid political issues entirely -- actually reducing the public discussion of controversial issues."

Has this moron been living under a rock for the last 30 years? The MSM are a political topic medium. Poltical issues haven't been part of their content since Huntley-Brinkley went off the air.....

Posted by: iconoclast on November 14, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Al is the most famous resident dick on the whole internet!

A few days before the election Limbaugh told his audience that the Democrats were planning to take their 401Ks and fold them into the Social Security general fund. I heard it from someone I canvassed on the Sunday before the election. I'm usually up on these rumors, but this one was new to me and I didn't know what to say beyond "that makes no sense". Very carefully timed.

Posted by: John Emerson on November 14, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should occasionally have a senator make some noise about it, maybe introduce a resolution and just let it sit in commmittee.

This will distract the wingnuts who will spend all their time attacking it while the rest of us try to figure out how to save the world from the economic crash/bird flu/nuclear exchange/climate change. Just like how they spent the whole fucking election obsessing over the birth certificate.

Posted by: MNPundit on November 14, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

MN Pundit - "This will distract the wingnuts who will spend all their time attacking it "

I guess we could play the same game they've playe for 8 years, distracting us two by two.

But can we be better at it then they were?

Our band is bigger, but their amplifier goes to 11.

What we need to do is force them to go a capella, somehow.

Posted by: mdh on November 14, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sayeth the Parson: "...such regulation of speech is both unnecessary and Orwellian."

Well, Limbaugh's bilge is Gbbelsian, so there.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on November 14, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute. Why wouldn't we want to undo an action taken by a partisan - Ronald Raygun - which set in motion the noise machine that has polluted both the public airwaves and, by extentsion, our political discourse, for the past 20-some years?

Let's not forget that these are OUR airwaves, not Rush Limbaugh's or Clear Channel's or Salem broadcasting's. It pisses me off that I can't escape their nonsense if I choose to listen to AM radio. Sorry, guys, but there's only so much AM band big signal licenses to go around, so you're going to have to share it, just like my kids have to share the Wii or the basketball hoop in the driveway. Ergo, Fairness Doctrine.

If they want to compete in the open marketplace unhindered by the limitations imposed by broadcast spectrum, let Rush and Hugh and the rest spew their nonsense on XM or start up their own cable news network (if Fox won't have 'em). Then we'll see how many of their listeners follow them there.

To be sure, we can also pursue trust-busting, restoration of proper local ownership limitations by the FCC, and defamation litigation that will hopefully undo the Sullivan "malice" requirement (not that that couldn't be proven, either). In time, if Rush isn't syndicated across 1,000 stations owned by a single company, my guess is he won't have the coin to pay lawyers to defend himself in 1,000 jurisdictions at the same time.

Until then, damn right we should restore the Fairness Doctrine. It's repeal with a stroke of Reagan's pen is where this whole mess started.

Posted by: mak on November 14, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

This kind of heavy-handed approach is a remnant of a time when public sources of information -- mainly the three networks and large radio stations -- were so limited that government felt compelled to guarantee balance. Given today's proliferation of media outlets, such regulation of speech is both unnecessary and Orwellian.

Let's try this ...

This kind of heavy-handed approach is a remnant of a time when public sources of information -- mainly the three networks and large radio stations -- were so limited that government felt compelled to guarantee balance. Given today's massive media consolidation, perhaps it is time to reinstate the fairness doctrine

There ... all fixed!

Posted by: DAS on November 14, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

President-elect Obama: Please please please push the Fairness Doctrine!

Tactically, this would be the greatest move ever. The right-wing radio/TV/blog freaks would spend all their time spazzing out about this.

Meanwhile, as their attention is diverted by this nonissue, you would work with your Democratic majority to pass and implement a Green New Deal for the 21st century.

Please give these freaks the nonissue they want!! While they burst their blood vessels, the rest of us will save the country.

Posted by: Tohjiro on November 14, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

The Fairness Doctrine does not require equal time for opposing opinions. According to Steve Rendall of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting),

The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented.


Whether it's a good idea or not

Posted by: Jack Rabinowitz on November 14, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, maybe we don't need to reinstall the Fairness Doctrine. But we should perhaps insist that such 3 hour a day, 365 days a year, infomercials for the Republican party be treated as campaign contributions, "donations in kind" ... and that they comply with all applicable federal and state campaign financing laws....

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on November 14, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

OTOH, could you imagine what the GOP would do with a fairness doctrine?

Any news report that didn't balance "the world is round" with "the world is flat" and note "opinions on this controversial matter differ" would be not only accused of having a "liberal bias" but complaints would be continuously filed with the FCC.

The right wing noise machine is very good at whining people into submission. While I generally support the idea of a fairness doctrine (c.f. my comment above), just imagine how the GOoPers would use it -- if a media outlet didn't provide multiple, contrasting opinions but rather only gave one winger a chance to give a right-wing opinion (without all manners of wingnuts getting represented) ... imagine the howls you'd hear ... and the media itself would insist the FCC "do something" and disaster might very well result ...

Posted by: DAS on November 14, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Why ask why. Drink Bud Dry.

Makes the same amount of sense/

Two words:

Chewbacca. Defense.

-

Posted by: Hank Essay on November 14, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

A few days before the election Limbaugh told his audience that the Democrats were planning to take their 401Ks and fold them into the Social Security general fund.

Is the right wing finally acknowledging that 401(k)s and IRAs exist? They've spent the past 8 years pretending that Social Security was the only way people were permitted to save for retirement.

Though I admit, I would love to see the arguments in favor of privatization and the wisdom of investing your Social Security withholdings in the stock market make a comeback. I think rotten tomatoes would be thrown now that people have gotten a good look at what happened to their 401(k)s in the past six months.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on November 14, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

', and which Democrats have no apparent interest in pursuing.'

Who says a person can't be fooled more than twice? Don't the Democrats have the decency to at least pretend they are liberal?

Posted by: Michael7843853 on November 14, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

why, you ask? Because Gerson is a fucking idiot and a full right wing pawn.

Posted by: sean on November 14, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Why would obama care about the fairness doctrine. once he starts sending all dissenters to Hope Camps who is going to be left to listen?

Posted by: ron on November 14, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Why would a Washington Post columnist take his cues from far-right blogs and radio shock-jocks? Why lead readers to think the Fairness Doctrine is a legitimate concern when there's no real push for the policy in the first place?"

So that when Obama doesn't propose it, and Congress doesn't revive it, the right-wing can claim "Victory!" and pretend they still have influence.

You're welcome.

.

Posted by: MFA on November 14, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

we are faced with a liberal marxist muslim presidentt, and a congress that is bent on taking a hard left turn

That's what the American prople voted for, bitch.

Posted by: Trig Palin on November 14, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

You all are missing the obvious point. Gerson says this BECAUSE it IS the policy. And when the policy of not changing the fairness doctrine is implemented, he can say that he said it first. He's looking for credibility. See, it was HIS idea. What a maroon!

Posted by: bajsa on November 14, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

I want a return to the fairness doctrine.

Enjoy.

Posted by: Tim Fuller on November 14, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

The proliferation of media outlets and the net notwithstanding, and whether it is the reimposition of the so-called fairness doctrine or measures to break up the media consolidation that Clinton permitted with the 1996 Communications Act, Obama must do something to neutralize the daily dose of vitriol, bile, hate, intolerance, and bigotry spewed out by the shock jocks.

With this election the country has effectively rejected the racist right-wing lunatic fringe, which will only incite Lush Bimbo and company to greater lunacy, if not outright advocacy to riot. Their listeners, in the far hinterlands of the homeland, are given daily permission to break the law, or take the law into their own hands, to become vigilantes, and basically get out their guns to "take the country back." In their rural enclaves these undereducated and poorly informed citizens of Dumfuckistan hang onto every word of Faux News and their local hooded representative of the KKK masquerading as a talk show host.

Hate radio, etc., has gone on for far too long, and corrodes the framework of our democracy. There is no reason why the airwaves, or cable TV, should foster such divisiveness and intolerance. The net is another problem altogether, but the lunatic hate sites could certainly be controlled.

Posted by: rich on November 14, 2008 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that the Fairness Doctrine requires equal time be dedicated to liberal and conservative viewpoints is wrong. There is no time requirement in modern iterations of the Fairness Doctrine. It is frustrating that Gerson perpetuates this idea. As is outline in places like Debatepedia's article on this topic,

http://wiki.idebate.org/index.php/Debate:_Fairness_Doctrine#No

...The Fairness Doctrine is more a code of conduct than a specific mandate.

Posted by: Brooks on November 14, 2008 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

It's pretty pointless to talk about the Fairness Doctrine -- or even respond to right-wing hacks like Gerson that do.

The only thing that matters now is the economy: If Obama can rescue it, the Dems will rule for the next 50 years, and Rush and the dittoheads can go on babbling until their blue about the evil liberal Muslim Marxists. They'll just be another cranky cult on the fringe of America, the land of cranky cults. People will look back on "movement" conservatives the way we look back now on Bill Ayers and the Weathermen.

If Obama fails, on the other hand, all the broadcast "fairness" in the world wouldn't save him or the Dems. And we'll have to learn to bow down to our Alaskan mistress and her Nieman Marcus agenda.

Posted by: Peter Principle on November 14, 2008 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't read through all of the 80+ comments...

Just the mere fact that they are throwing a fit about it, and the knowledge that the Democrats aren't seriously considering implementing it anyway, makes it that much easier for them to claim victory.

They'll say that because of their staunch opposition, the Democrats backed off.

And the room temperature IQ listeners/readers will feel proud to be part of a movement that makes the Democrats shake in their boots.

Posted by: bruno on November 14, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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