Stealing Freedom: Democrat 'Media Reform'

"Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue."
--Bill Ruder, Democratic campaign consultant and Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Kennedy Administration

The usual suspects will be doing the dirty work. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) or Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) will likely resurrect the failed Media Act (Meaningful Expression of Democracy in America Act) intended to make political commentary unflattering to Democrats more difficult to deliver and easier to suppress through congressional oversight and, of course, litigation. They have been trying for years. The Media Ownership Reform Acts, H.R. 4069 & H.R. 3302, and H.R. 4710, the MEDIA Act, all tried to control ownership, force their definition of "diversity" and "localism" and reinstate the defunct "fairness doctrine" that was used until 1987 to suppress conservative broadcasters with tit-for-tat opposing view requirements. These became a prohibitive financial burden if a broadcast was challenged, so controversial topics were assiduously avoided and programming was lackluster and innocuous.

While challenges were filed from both sides of the political spectrum, the long-term effect was to discourage any meaningful discussion of issues by conservatives on the radio. Since the fairness doctrine repeal, Talk Radio has become a significant voice in today's media world, one the left wishes to silence. Luckily, attempts to reinstate "fairness" in recent years have not been successful, the legislative language was weak, and their justification a transparent exaggeration. The 2004 House Resolution 4710 (Media Act) was obviously not directed at CBS or NPR and it revealed an underlying pathology of the left; an inability to accept that conservative opinion is necessary within the national debate, it's very existence brings balance. However, balance is not really what they want.

(2) There is a substantial governmental interest in conditioning the award or renewal of a broadcast license on the requirement that the licensee ensure the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources by presenting a reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.

(3) Since the removal of the Fairness Doctrine standard in 1987, we have seen a polarization in America due to the dissemination of false and misleading information and the growing proliferation of highly partisan news outlets.

Conservative radio, to which a sizable minority of adult Americans listens to on any given day, infuriatingly exposes leftist schemes and is harshly critical of their agenda. Translated, "highly partisan" means "not in agreement with us." Just enough information gets through the stranglehold on the rest of the media that Democrats' dominance is not assured. Rush Limbaugh, in particular, puts them into a rage, as he is so effective at turning over the leftist stones to reveal the ugly ideological vermin underneath.

In a softball 2004 interview with the publicly funded leftist anti-American Bill Moyer of PBS, congressperson Slaughter revealed her prejudices while selling media reform to the socialist home team.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you know some serious people, including some liberals have said that one reason Rush Limbaugh has succeeded is because he is good entertainment.

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: Exactly. He doesn't make any pretense of being a news person or even telling you the truth. He says he's an entertainer.

BILL MOYERS: And you're saying that kind of discourse is dominating America right now.

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: Dominating America and a waste of good broadcast time and a waste of our airwaves.

BILL MOYERS: Not to the people who agree with him.

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: Well, they don't hear anything else. Why would they disagree with him?

"Dominating America" is, of course, nonsense; most people still get their news from mainstream broadcast and print, which is overwhelmingly liberal, leftist and biased. The statement reveals just how important a show like Limbaugh's is. If it were not effective, they would not care.

What Democrat socialists cannot win in an honest debate, they try to steal by removing their opponent's access to the public view, by suppressing discussion and by inserting propaganda. Their starting assumptions are simple: conservatives are liars, their beliefs are false, their criticisms are unfounded and they need to be controlled "in the public interest." They also believe that Americans are stupid. Rep. Slaughter's double talk in the interview continued along that vein.

BILL MOYERS: What does your bill before Congress propose?

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: So far, it just reinstates [the fairness doctrine.] But you know, I've been giving some thought to it this week. I will in no way do anything to hurt the first amendment. I'd die for it. I certainly don't want to do anything about censorship or anything. I simply want equal time. As simple as we can make it is that we simply want to reinstate it. That people have an opportunity to give them an opposing view, that you can't own a radio station in the United States that simply gives one side all day long.

BILL MOYERS: So you're primarily concerned about radio?

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: No. I'm concerned about television as well. But radio is probably where we're going to get the biggest problems in trying to get this done, because people have the radio on all day. They listen to it. And I think that says a lot. I think we can see that reflected in what people are thinking and feeling today.

BILL MOYERS: You know people say well, "Yes, it is in principle true that the government, the people passed to the television and radio companies the right to use the airwaves, the public spectrum." But cable's a different baby altogether. Cable is unregulated.


BILL MOYERS: Are you proposing the fairness doctrine for Fox News or MSNBC?


I'll bet not. MSNBC will be fine under any new Fairness laws, as long as it tows the Democrat line. In the battle for America's mind, the socialist and radical left never rest. They know that whoever controls the information citizens see and hear has enormous influence on how they vote. In the tradition of those who care for party and power more than country, they work diligently to undermine the basic freedoms that guarantee dissenting voices are heard. They disguise their intentions under buzz words like "fairness" and "democratic expression" to appeal to the public's sense of fair play, all while funneling millions of dollars into false front "bi-partisan" think tanks and media "watchdog groups" designed to mislead millions with push-polls, straw-man studies, and outright disinformation. Organizations like the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, the Open Society Institute and dozens like them are intended to desensitize the public, to steadily chip away at the foundations of specific constitutional rights, those that do not mesh well with leftist progressive, socialist and communitarian dogma.

BILL MOYERS: You're saying that your fairness doctrine would simply mean that if a radio station or television station offers one position, like Rush Limbaugh, on a bill or a campaign of President or an election, they should also have people who disagree with Rush Limbaugh?

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: Absolutely. They should not be putting their own bias and their own feelings out on their radio station because they think they own it. It has to be done as a public trust and in the public interest.

BILL MOYERS: But the first amendment guarantees the right of free press.

LOUISE SLAUGHTER: If they owned the airwaves, then I'd probably have no complaint. But they don't. It belongs to us. Part of our democracy. It's part of the ability that we have to contact our citizens. It's a way that we want our children to grow up with some understanding of what this country is about and what it's based on and what their choices are.

Rep. Slaughter's words are a rhetorical sleight of hand. She sets up the interview with the common leftist theme of "us versus them," painting the unspoken conservative "them" not as participants, but exploiters. She tries to make the bitter pill of media control taste sweet. "It belongs to us," she says. Who is "us" specifically? Are we to suppose that by the congresswoman's definition conservatives are not really citizens? Are they not Americans with an opposing view that also understand what this country is "about?" This is a clear "disenfranchisement" of a large number of Americans, to use their own slogan against them. For all their endless complaining about political polarization, Democrats readily contribute to it.

A week or so ago, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated she supported the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Now that the Democrats have conservative talk radio in their sights again, new proposals will be more carefully crafted, full of convoluted language in an attempt to hide the substance of the legislation in long pages of distracters and patriotic phrasing. Who will define the "public trust" and the "public interest?" It is apparent the leftists in congress bet they will. If they succeed, media reform will inevitably morph from an attack on talk radio to an assault on cable, to new print "standards," and to broadcast "guidelines." It is all about control and the totalitarian instincts the socialist left gravitates to, they cannot help it, it is in their bones. This is not a slippery slope, it is a roller coaster ride to censorship and if the left defines the rules, the freedom of speech we enjoy now will be a thing of the past, buried in regulation, litigation and outright intimidation.
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