“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
— Winston Churchill
Outside of the economic disaster our country now faces, and of course, the wars across the globe, the issue most worrisome now zooming in under the radar is the support brewing in the Democratic congress for reinstatement of the “Fairness Doctrine.” Swept with a new sense of clout following the November election, Democrats aim to silence conservative critics on the radio airways by sidestepping the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech in the name of legislation.
There has never been a president, senator or congressperson immune to scrutiny. It’s simply comes with the territory. For certain, past president G.W. Bush underwent an unending barrage of unanswered criticism by commentators over the last eight years, particularly by the likes of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann who repeatedly called for Bush’s impeachment.
It comes with the territory. Had Bush or his supporters entertained even the thought of passing legislation that would silence his critics, he would have added fuel to the fire for those who called him a hate-mongering demagogue.
But, dare not Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity use their radio talk show to opine critically of Mr. Obama or any of his supporters in the new congress. That, they say, violates fairness over the airwaves and thus, the Doctrine should be re-instated. So say such notables as Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dick Durbin, and many others.
Without going into the long complicated history, which is easily accessible at Wikipedia.com, the Fairness Doctrine was first introduced in 1949 and was designed to require radio stations to allow equal time to opposing points of view. Supported by the Reagan administration, the Doctrine was abolished in 1987. Courts found that muzzling talk show hosts was tantamount to infringement on free speech. And it is.
This is all about fear and exercising muscle. The Democrats are afraid of Rush Limbaugh, and while they are in power for at least these next two years, they aim to silence Rush, and his like. That’s the bottom line. To hell with free speech. They don’t want to lose their gains in the 2010 election.
I am not a fan of Rush Limbaugh. He is the epitome of one-sidedness. While I agree with some — not all — of his views, I find his style pompous and his thoughts predictable. He can’t utter an intelligent sentence without using one of two words: Conservative/Liberal, as though there was nothing in between. On the conservative side, I prefer Bill O’Reilly who is more balanced, and the more centered, Neil Boortz, a self-professed Libertarian who often presents various sides of an issue. But Rush Limbaugh boasts an audience of over 14 million listeners a week, even though a Rasmussen Poll in 2007 showed 62% of people had an unfavorable opinion of him. Surely, he is a force to be reckoned with.
It is true that talk radio leans conservative, which bodes poorly for liberal talk show hosts like Al Franken who fizzled because of low ratings. Democratic base attracts the low-income, immigrants and minorities, and in general, the needier side of Americana. For the most part, they are radio not talk show fans.
One of the more successful liberal hosts is the talented Randi Rhodes who is just as one-sided on the left as Limbaugh is on the right. Should she be muzzled also? I think not.
Other than the obvious dangers created by hollering “Fire” in a theater, free speech should not be up for political interpretation. Criticism is as much a part of politics as gloves and bases are to baseball. You can’t play without them.
Just as Republicans need to get over it, so do the Democrats. Rush and Sean may be their worst nightmare, but politicians cannot act as babies whining about criticism.
If reinstated, this could be one of the stepping stones toward more government control over our rights. I urge all Americans to write their congressional representatives and voice their objection.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
Attorney General Holder was grilled at his confirmation hearing by Senator Spector, particularly about the Fairness Doctrine. Here’s an excerpt from that dialogue. Notice the tap dance, Fred Astaire would be put to shame.
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