OF ALL the Big Lies told by the pooh-bahs of talk radio - that our biracial president hates white people, that global warming is a hoax, that a public health care plan to compete with private insurers equals socialism - the most desperate and deluded is this: that the so-called Fairness Doctrine would squash free speech.
The Fairness Doctrine would not stop talk radio hosts from spewing the invective that has made them so fabulously wealthy. All it would do is subject their invective to a real-time reality check.
If you don’t believe me, consult the historical evidence. The Federal Communications Commission adopted the Fairness Doctrine in 1949. Because the airwaves were both public and limited, the FCC wanted to ensure that licensees devoted “a reasonable amount of broadcast time to the discussion of controversial issues,’’ and that they did so “fairly, in order to afford reasonable opportunity for opposing viewpoints.’’ That’s the whole shebang.
If Obama and his congressional counterparts don’t have the guts for that fight, Americans of all political persuasions will continue to seek out “news’’ and opinions that merely reinforce their biases, rather than forcing them to question those biases. America will continue to limp along as a nation of enraged dittoheads, rather than free-thinking citizens who may differ in our politics, but share an honest desire to solve our common plights.
Which brings me to a final mystery: If today’s conservative talkers are so sure they’re right about everything (and they certainly sound sure), and if they believe so ardently in the First Amendment, why don’t a few of them screw up the courage to invite me onto their programs to discuss the risks and rewards of the Fairness Doctrine? No shouting or cutting off microphones. Just good, old-fashioned freedom of speech.
Actually, consider that a dare.