Liberals Against Freedom: When Fairness Is Unfair

by Kiko Matsing

My favorite motormouth libertarian slash dissident feminist, Camille Paglia, weighs in on the proposed reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine that are aimed principally at castrating the hegemony of conservative talk radio in the public airwaves. Paglia, a staunch libertarian, who aligns herself politically with the liberal Democrats, nevertheless, does not flinch at calling out her party mates on this most liberal of causes: ahem, free speech.

Paglia on Fairness Doctrine Listen to audio at “Not for one second should the government be wandering into surveillance of the ideological content of talk radio. The Democrats have totally betrayed the soul of the party to even mention this! It’s immature for people of one party to try to squelch and erase the thoughts of another. AM radio is a distinct medium, not like FM radio. [The latter] is the voice of the upper white middle class, but the voice of the AM radio is the voice of the people, it’s the voice of the working class, it’s the voice of the lower middle class, it’s the voice of early rock-and-roll. Liberals have got to wake up and have to realize they have to recover those populist roots if they want to succeed on talk radio. What I find objectionable is this “let’s break up this monopoly”. Excuse me! These guys have worked their way up from the bottom, from NOTHING, and have achieved that through audience share. They commanded the market; it’s the audience who has voted them in. This is not some conspiracy. It’s like this stupid theory that the Ivy League is saturated with. The idea that there’s somehow a conspiracy of a bunch of people someplace to impose their will on a mass audience. That’s not it. The mass audience votes with its dollars for movies, for TV, or for radio.”

A short history of the Fairness Doctrine, from the progressives themselves, can be found at a non-profit website for Internet activism.

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.

Formally adopted as an FCC rule in 1949 and repealed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan’s pro-broadcaster FCC, the doctrine can be traced back to the early days of broadcast regulation.

(from Steve Rendall, The Fairness Doctrine: How We Lost It and Why We Need It Back)

By invoking the Fairness Doctrine in the current context, the Democrats are making it appear they want to railroad the economic bailout right under the public’s nose by attempting to silence due criticism from opposing voices.

Clinton on Fairness Doctrine Listen to audio at Essentially there’s always been a lot of big money to support the right wing talk shows. So I think the American people know now that we’re in a very serious time, when we all need to be questioned… everything should be debated, but basically with the future of the country hanging in the balance, we shouldn’t be playing petty politics, or just going for entertainment. So what I think we need to do is to either have more balance in the programs or have some opportunity for people to offer countervailing opinions. If you have only one side like this–this blatant drumbeat against the stimulus program, this doesn’t reflect the economic reality we’re facing. It’s an example of why we need more debate not less, and if you hear only one side on the radio, that’s pretty tough.

Given the vertiginous size of the spending spree that the one-party-controlled executive and legislature proposes, is it not in the public interest that there be ample, even antagonistic, cross-examination of their schemes? Scare tactics on the public, of apocalyptic proportions, combined with the shutting down of dissenting views, are typical authoritarian moves which have no place in an open democracy.

It so happens that conservative talk radio rose precisely out of the imbalance in American mainstream media that has been long dominated by liberals. As Paglia says: “Liberals have a stranglehold on the major media and has for 50 years, for heaven’s sake. All the major big city newspapers, all the major networks, NPR, PBS, the universities. What more do liberals want? Come on! Your talk radio rose as a counter voice to that!”

Here’s my favorite motormouth conservative talk show host, Laura Ingraham, appealing to the public, in that fervent populist voice, to push Congress to pass the Broadcaster Freedom Act.

I hate to sandwich Bubba between these strong, boisterous women, lest he look like (according to Paglia) a total dweeb. But hey, THAT’S pretty tough.

(Listen to Camille Paglia’s complete interview.)