Friday, October 08, 2010

An Alternative to Tyranny: Restore the Fairness Doctrine

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The right wing is lying to you again. They have rolled out the media, which they now own, to tell you, to brainwash you, to intimidate you into believing that if the Fairness Doctrine is restored, you won't have free speech anymore. That is an egregious, bald-faced lie!

You don't have free speech NOW but only because you no longer have access to media. You might have had effective free speech if the Fairness Doctrine had not been trashed by Ronald Reagan, Reagan-heads and wing nuts.

Today --the airwaves are no longer yours; the 'airwaves' are owned by about five or six huge conglomerates which oppose fairness because, it is absurdly and fallaciously said that it would infringe their rights of 'free speech'. The only rights that have been infringed are YOURS!

What about your rights?

I can answer that: you are 'outta luck'! What had been your rights are denied you and given to big corporations with but a stroke of a pen! That just five or six corporations may exercise 'free speech' while you, a real living, breathing person may not is the inevitable, perhaps defining result of fascism.
When the Sinclair Broadcast Group retreated from preelection plans to force its 62 television stations to preempt prime-time programming in favor of airing the blatantly anti-John Kerry documentary Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, the reversal wasn't triggered by a concern for fairness: Sinclair backpedaled because its stock was tanking.

The staunchly conservative broadcaster's plan had provoked calls for sponsor boycotts, and Wall Street saw a company that was putting politics ahead of profits. Sinclair's stock declined by nearly 17 percent before the company announced it would air a somewhat more balanced news program in place of the documentary (Baltimore Sun, 10/24/04).

But if fairness mattered little to Sinclair, the news that a corporation that controlled more TV licenses than any other could put the publicly owned airwaves to partisan use sparked discussion of fairness across the board, from media democracy activists to television industry executives.

--Steve Rendall, The Fairness Doctrine: How we lost it, and why we need it back
I wish Randall had entitled his article: FREE SPEECH: How we lost it and why we need it back! Fact is, there is no freedom of speech if it is reserved to just one percent of the population. That is the case today!

And it was so easy to deny you both free speech and fairness! Access that had been yours by right of free speech [First Amendment] and affirmed by law [Fairness Doctrine] was denied you with the stroke of Ronald Reagan's pen!

Huge corporations, now called 'real people' by a deluded, psychopathic SCOTUS which believes that only the very, very, very rich have rights like free speech. Because you are not rich, you must be silent. Because you cannot afford the millions of dollars it would require to buy the 'time' that is wasted by the likes of demagogues Billo Really? and Rush 'Lard Ass' Limbaugh, an opposing view, or even a correction of outright lies, is simply not possible.

Big Brother lives!

As a major market News Director, I administered the Fairness Doctrine which ensured that everyone, every group had a voice on the very airwaves that the Communications Act of 1934 said belonged to the people. Just try to get on the air today. Telling them that you worship and adore the marble bust of Reagan won't make any difference. You are just as out of luck as the rest of of us.

The domination of media by corporate power is a defining characteristic of fascism. A Fairness Doctrine was necessary to prevent the corporate/fascist powers form dominating public airwaves. It worked! Labor once had a voice! Dissenters once had a voice!

Progressives/Democrats once had a voice! Labor had a voice! And today --you don't have a voice! I don't call this outcome 'free speech' and I am incensed by the orchestrated campaign of lies that tell you that the 'Fairness Doctrine' is anti-free speech! George Orwell must be rolling in his grave!

That only legal abstractions may exercise free speech on what had been your 'property', I call a violation of the First Amendment. There is no 'freedom of speech' if only one percent, a ruling one percent of the total population, may exercise it.
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) that required broadcast licensees to cover issues of public importance and to do so in a fair manner. Issues of public importance were not limited to political campaigns. Nuclear plant construction, workers’ rights, and other issues of focus for a particular community could gain the status of an issue that broadcasters were required to cover.

Therefore, the Fairness Doctrine was distinct from the so-called “equal time” rule, which requires broadcasters to grant equal time to qualified candidates for public office, because the Fairness Doctrine applied to a much broader range of topics. In 1987, after a period of study, the FCC repealed the Fairness Doctrine. The FCC found that the doctrine likely violated the free speech rights of broadcasters, led to less speech about issues of public importance over broadcast airwaves, and was no longer required because of the increase in competition among mass media.

The repeal of the doctrine did not end the debate among lawmakers, scholars, and others about its constitutionality and impact on the availability of diverse information to the public. The debate in Congress regarding whether to reinstate the doctrine continues today. In the 109th Congress, bills such as H.R. 3302 were introduced to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. In the 111th Congress, the proposed legislation related to the Fairness Doctrine would prohibit the FCC from reinstating it.

--CRS Report for Congress
Trashing the Fairness Doctrine is but one of many lingering harms inflicted upon us by one Ronald Reagan. Reagan is no hero. Read the Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters. Reagan ARMED Iran which was --at the time --an enemy of the United States. By law, that makes, Reagan a traitor. See FINDLAW or the Cornell University Law library online. As we have come to expect from right wing regimes, the laws that apply to you, do not apply to the rich, the powerful or to those entities newly 'created' people by SCOTUS:
In terms of abstract doctrine, the law of treason condemns anyone who owes allegiance to the U.S., who adheres to U.S. enemies, and who gives them aid and comfort by an overt act to which two witnesses testify. As courts have applied that doctrine, however, it threatens any citizen or resident of the U.S. who publicly expresses disloyal sentiments. The Internet has made it cheap, easy, and dangerous to publish such sentiments. It hosts many an expression that an eager prosecutor could cite both as proof of adherence to U.S. enemies—a subjective state of mind—and as proof of an overt act giving them aid and comfort—an objective fact to which any two of the expression’s readers could testify. Even if no prosecutions for treason arise, the alarmingly broad yet ill-defined reach of the law of treason threatens to unconstitutionally chill innocent dissent.

Clearly, Ronald Reagan and many throughout our government at various times since the right of the rabid 'right wing' have committed treason as it is legally defined. Should you try it, you will be prosecuted. That different laws, standards and procedures apply to you even as you are denied a voice upon what had been publically owned airwaves is tyranny!

I have defended the Fairness Doctrine on principle. But there is yet another case to be made. The Fairness Doctrine is essential, it is 'needed' as a practical matter. That so many have never heard of the Fairness Doctrine and at last as many misunderstand it, it proof that the corporate media has not and is not informing the population. Cynically, the ruling elites, just one percent of the total population, prefer to keep you ignorant, uninformed. Better to deny your rights; better to enslave you; better to effect the corporation domination which has, in fact, enriched a ruling one percent of the total population.

Edward R. Murrow: Restore the Fairness Doctrine

Dennis Kucinich on Fairness

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Bigot-Whisperers of the Right

by Phil Rockstroh, Guest Author

I was born, at slightly past the midpoint of the Twentieth Century, in the Deep South city of Birmingham, Alabama -- “The Heart of Dixie.” My earliest memories are of a time of societal upheaval and cultural trauma. At the time, as the world witnessed and history chronicles, Birmingham could be an ugly, mean place.

My father, employed at the time as a freelance photojournalist, would arrive home from work, his clothes redolent of tear gas, his adrenal system locked in overdrive, his mind reeling, trying to make sense of the brutality he witnessed, perpetrated by both city officials and ordinary citizens, transpiring on the streets of the city.

The print and media images transmitted from Birmingham shocked and baffled the nation as well. But there was a hidden calculus underpinning the architecture of institutionalized hatred of the Jim Crow South. The viciousness of Birmingham’s white underclass served the purpose of the ruling order. The city was controlled, in de facto colonial manner, by coal and steel barons whose seat of power was located up the Appalachian mountain chain in Pittsburgh, PA. The locals dubbed them the Big Mules. They resided in the lofty air up on Red Mountain; most everyone else dwelled down in the industrial smog.

These social and economic inequities, perpetuated by exploitive labor practices, roiled Birmingham’s white men with resentment. If they asked for higher wages, they were told: “I can hire any n*gg*r off the street for half of what I pay you.” In the colonial model, all the big dollars flowed back to Pennsylvania, and economic rivalry and state-codified delusions of racial entitlement, vis-à-vis Jim Crow Laws, was used to insure the working class white majority rage at the ruling elite remained displaced -- their animus fixed on those with even less power and economic security than themselves. This was the poisoned cultural milieu, wherein George Wallace’s “segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever” demagogic dirt kicking caused the embedded rage of the white working class to pour forth like fire ants from a trampled bed.

In a similar manner, manufactured controversies such as the gay marriage and gays in the military dust-ups of the present time have little to do with gays or marriage or the military. These issues are served as red meat to arouse the passions -- and loosen the purse strings -- of the fear-driven, status quo-enabling, confused souls residing at the center of the black spleen of the Republican ideological base.

Although, as a rule, the right’s lies and displacements are most effective when liberals offer working people only bromides, platitudes, and lectures on propriety and good taste. Obama and the Democrats, time and time again, present demagogues with an opening the size of the cracks in Glen Beck’s gray matter. Hence, the bigot-whisperers of the right are provided with a void that they can seed with false narratives; wherein, they are given free reign to cloud the air and clog the airwaves with palaver about fifth columnist threats from terrorist-toady mosque builders and gays in uniform undermining moral in the ranks by belting out show tunes in foxholes and impromptu shower stall instruction on the art of hand to hand sodomy.

Cultures are organic in nature. Combine the elements of the scorched earth policies of neoliberal capitalism, its austerity cuts and downsizing, plus the hybrid seeds of the consumer age -- and what alien foliage will rise from the degraded soil -- fields of right-wing AstroTurf. Add: industrial strength fertilizer. And see how our garden grows, with: Glen Beck and Sarah Palin -- the mutant seed sprouted Chia Pets of corporate oligarchy.

Yet the idea of Beck and Palin leading a populist, pitchforks and torches style uprising in the US is sheer fantasy. Most Americans wouldn’t rally en mass unless they could bring their couches with them. It would look like The Prague Spring but held in a Rooms to Go showroom.

The recent demonstrations, in Washington, DC, attended by the ranks of the chronically discontent right, are about as populist as a vintage Soviet-era May Day parade was a celebration of the proletarian masses.

By the informal design of our present oligarchs and the self-referential nature of the corporate owned media, US citizens have the right to say almost anything that is on their minds, as long as it has little to no effect on the status quo. If there was ever a mass movement that effectively challenged the nation’s massive class inequity and threatened to reign in the excesses of the National Security State, it would be shut down faster than an open air, live sex show in the middle of Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Moreover, the mid-life snit-fest engendered by the fading political power of the country’s white, middle class majority, as was the case with the racial resentment of the white underclass of my native Birmingham, serves the agenda of the moneyed elite. And its goals (which its rank and file seem ill-equipped to define, i.e., vague resentments and inarticulate rage, hardly constitutes an agenda for societal transformation and governmental reform) are equally as self-defeating in their ramifications for debt-beleaguered, economic security-bereft working people as were the racist displacement of rage embraced and perpetuated by the exploited, working class, white majority of the Jim Crow south. Working and middle class Republicans agitating for lower taxes for the wealthy is as silly as gaunt peasants, clutching torches and welding pitchforks, besieging Louis XVI’s palace at Versailles, demanding their bread rations be cut so that the royal court could enjoy larger and more lavish feasts.

Part of the irrational fear arising from economically forsaken members of the white laboring class toward President Obama is informed by race. Another aspect of it is more inchoate, as evanescent as the nature of the man himself.

Obama seems no more real, nor connected with the concerns of their lives than any other ghost in the media hologram. But Glen Beck’s flutterhead histrionics reflect their desperation. This is the seduction of any garden-variety demagogue: Although their narrative is fictive, even malevolent in its deception, the emotional tone resonates with the deep-seated, helpless rage and nebulous night terrors of their audience. Beck’s community theatre actor’s ability to cry on cue and work himself into a lather of outrage and anguish reflects the inner desperation of his audience’s experiences regarding their powerlessness before the crushing, impersonal complexity of events.

My childhood, in Birmingham, bestowed the knowledge: do not underestimate the danger of ignorant, angry people in large groups.

The feelings of drift of contemporary life in the US: its media empires -- with content as weightless in meaning and resonance as the electrons that transport the images, and the Internet’s pixel fiefdoms, in combination with the ad hoc, fast-buck-driven architecture of suburban nothingvilles gives present day life in the US a flimsy, provisional quality.

President Obama’s aura of weightlessness, his quality of emotional remoteness, only exacerbates the nebulous sense of unease on the irrational right who think with their guts not their minds. Conversely, guns feel real to these adrift denizens of the nation’s spleenland. The weapon’s weight in their hands wards off their unfocused sense of dread; its heft, momentarily, mitigates the unease inherent in feelings of being helplessly unmoored . . . Looking down the precise beauty of its barrel distills hazy hatreds into identifiable targets. Momentarily, the ground feels solid beneath their feet. Hence, guns must be stockpiled; massive amounts of ammunition stored for ballast. The mystifying events of the era . . . so muffled by the white noise of uncertainty, must yield to something as clear and decisive as the crack of a rifle shot.

Human beings will never transcend being capable of dwelling in madness on a collective level. David Hare quotes Rebecca West, in the introduction to his play, The Secret Rapture: “Only half of us is sane: only part of us loves . . . [desires] happiness, wants to die in peace . . . in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable . . . and wants to die in a catastrophe . . . and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.”

Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, chose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half can live out the latter on a collective basis. Empires gather their élan vital from such bacchanals of blood. Individually, the atomized populace of empire attempts to mitigate alienation by a vicarious revelry in violence; collectively, in the manner of any mob, from the road rage and carnage enacted on soul-devoid US interstate to the phosphorous-poisoned flesh of the people of Fallujah, the mob finds its collective comfort zone in catastrophe. Beck, Palin, and their followers are the empire’s human delivery system of The Second Law of Thermodynamics. Used as tools, by corporatists, to preserve the status quo, their hidden half might well serve as its wrecking crew.

The paranoid, domestic douchescape works in the service of the US created deathscapes overseas and vice versa in a self-resonating feedback loop. Therefore, whenever the neoliberal economic policies of corporate oligarchy and the empire’s ever expanding military industrial/national security/surveillance/prison complex are questioned, many conservatives
personalize the critique. In their gut, they feel as if their identity is under attack. Consequently, the limbic system ascends to the throne of consciousness, as palace guards of casuistry defend the status quo. This could be termed Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) -- a pathology manifested in personalities who have been traumatized by authority, but who seek to assuage the hurt and humiliation by identification with their victimizer.

This phenomenon is what is at the root of the rage rising from the faux populist right: the ground level realities of life in the corporate state are vastly incommensurate with the capitalist hagiography they hold in their heads. Moreover, when one’s mental imprinting and social conditioning is challenged, one can find oneself in a bewildering place. Though the state is emotional in nature, it feels akin to being physically lost . . . same disorientation, same sense of panic. Many people were never given and/or didn’t develop a compass of logic by which to navigate the novel landscape that one is cast into when one’s sacred beliefs are challenged. This is why change is a long time coming, and when it arrives it will not be greeted fondly.

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: Visit Phil's site And at FaceBook:

Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership, Global Issues, Updated: January 02, 2009




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