Monday, July 16, 2007

They say you'd better listen to the voice of reason/ But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason

Senate Democrats want to use the 1967 Fairness Doctrine to force conservative talk radio to air more progressive talk shows. Okay. Here's why this strikes me as a lousy idea.

In the first place, the FCC is already abused as is. The only legitimate use of the FCC, as far as I can tell, is to prevent bands from transmitting over each other. Why we ended up with a government agency that regulates content, sort of a state censorship board, is beyond me. It should be nearly disbanded, not expanded. Using the FCC to force the views of any political party onto the commercial airwaves is a mistake.

Moreover, it is yet another abuse of the non-argument that political speech needs to be ''balanced''. Please. Healthy societies can distinguish between worthwhile and worthless arguments in political discussions. Asking them to surrender the ability to discriminate in order to be ''fair'' is also a mistake. We don't need the state regulating the content of radio programs or university courses for that matter.

And the question has to come up whether we see Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing radio personalities as ''news'' or ''entertainment''. I'm not willing to call them news sources; they seem more like comedians or entertainers to me. I'm not even sure that many of them are representatives of a particular political viewpoint. Limbaugh certainly is, but many of these talkers don't seem to have any viewpoint of their own, aside from a free-floating hatred of the 'liberals' that exist in their minds. So, if this is commercial entertainment, I can't see how using the power of the state to force radio stations to broadcast "another viewpoint" isn't just a terrible idea all around. Next, they will be forcing Comedy Central to follow The Daily Show with a right-wing comedy program. But, perhaps conservatives just aren't good at sketch comedy (which I'd be willing to bet they're not) and liberals just aren't very good at talk radio. Conversely, maybe progressive audiences just don't listen to the radio much. Or, like me, they pay for satelite radio.

Lastly, I believe that Democrats will only be successful when they win people over to the rightness of their opinions. And persausion just doesn't work when you use the power of the state to force them to listen to your opinions.

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