Two Final Political Points…for a While

With the election over, it’s time to talk about other things.  The amount of attention I give to politics, I have realized, is disproportional to the subject’s importance.  The things that matter most in this world don’t happen in the oval office; they happen in the creaky pews of local churches.  So I look forward to taking the discussion elsewhere for a while.

But before I do, let me finish up with two more points:

(1) I do hope President Obama will stay clear of the Fairness Doctrine.  I’m not sure about all the details of this proposal, but it sounds like a measure that would regulate the content of the airwaves, bogging down radio stations by forcing them to give equal time to opposing viewpoints.  The reasons for rejecting this are legion:

1. It appears to be selective.  I have heard nothing about forcing The New York Times to include an equal number of conservative editorials as it does liberal editorials, or printing an equal number of stories that are favorable to Republicans as those that are negative, and vice versa for Democrats.  Furthermore, I have heard nothing about requiring ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Time, and Newsweek to do the same.  From where I sit, this looks like a ploy by those in power to silence their critics, or at least to muffle them.  It is targeted at talk radio, which is overwhelmingly conservative. 

2. It is naive.  How can some government agency claim that its viewpoint is sufficiently objective to stand above the competing voices and deem that a government-enforced arrangement for hearing them actually constitutes “fairness”?  Of all people, postmoderns should be all over this.  The idea that the government can legislate fairness presupposes that the government itself is a neutral party, unaffected by presuppositions.  And, of course, that is simply not true.

3. It is unfair to a great number of viewpoints.  By now we should know that there are more than two views on every question.  There is not just conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican.  There is a whole spectrum of views.  Ron Paul represents a different kind of conservatism than does Michael Medved.  And Ralph Nader represents a different kind of liberalism than does Al Franken.  So, if we truly want to be fair, then we would have to give equal time not just to two different viewpoints, but to every single viewpoint on the spectrum.  That means the loonies from the KKK and the Black Panthers get their allotted time as well.  How could radio stations possibly accomodate all of this?  And why would we, as a society, want to legitimize extremist views by giving them equal time on the airwaves?  But then, if we don’t give them equal time, it’s not really a “fairness” doctrine at all, is it?  It sounds more like ignoring the minority voices in that case.  There is simply no way to do it well.

4. It will put a burden of regulation on radio stations that will lead to the end of talk radio as we know it.  Radio stations will be so sick of trying to jump through government hoops that they will get out of the game of substantive conversation and start airing recipe shows. 

5. It will constitute a violation of the First Amendment.  We are guaranteed freedom of speech in this country.  Nobody has said that liberals can’t have their own talk radio shows.  In fact, they have some.  The difference, however, is decided by the market.  The demand for conservative talk radio far exceeds the demand for liberal talk radio, and that’s why liberal talk shows are confined mostly to National Public Radio (which, by the way, should also come under the purview of the Fairness Doctrine if it passes, but will that be the case?).  I have my own theory about why conservative radio has trampled liberal radio in competition, but the bottom line is that Americans who listen to talk radio by far prefer to listen to conservative opinions, not liberal ones.  And now a liberal government wants to step in and tell us that if we want to do that, we better make sure we listen to liberal radio too.  Where is the Constitution in all of this?  What kind of a government, other than a totalitarian one, goes so far as to regulate the ideas that circulate in society?  It is really a frightening proposal, and all who value civil rights–whether they be conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between–should oppose a measure that would so blatantly deny us the right to freedom of speech. 

6. Finally, where does it end?  How long before the government starts telling churches that they must have speakers who represent all kinds of different viewpoints on controversial issues?  How long before they begin to regulate speech in all areas of life?  How long before we find ourselves under the power of a regime that tolerates no dissent whatsoever?  I’m not saying that would happen in the next four or eight years.  But I am saying that the Fairness Doctrine would kick open a door that could lead in that direction.  Once the government begins to regulate ideas in one sector of society, what inherent barrier is there to keep it from moving on to other sectors? 

All of that is my first point in this post.  Here is my second, much shorter, point:

(2) I think the sound thumping we Republicans have received in the last two elections will ultimately be good for us.  Having had control of Congress since 1994 and the presidency since 2000, we had become corrupted by Washington.  We needed to get kicked out so we could be reborn at the grassroots level.  I look for a return to the principles of true conservatism in years to come.  And who knows?  We may see another Gingrich-like takeover in 2010, and perhaps another Reagan will arise by 2012.  Let’s hope so.

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2 Responses to “Two Final Political Points…for a While”

  1. Clay Says:

    I think I love you…lol.

  2. fenderpooh Says:

    Thanks, Clay. Now I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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