in Broadcasting Just Ain't on the Radar Screen
(or How I learned to stop worrying and love the propaganda wars.)
Back in June when uberslut Ann Coulter began hustling her book, "Slander,"
she did a phone interview with Howie Carr,
the local hate-radio quisling who follows Pigboy here in Boston. The
two of them sat there blatantly lying about how
absurd it was to complain about the conservative bias in talk radio.
According to Herr Carr and Frau Coulter, all the liberal talk shows
went down the tubes because their hosts were
laughably stupid, and therefore had no audience appeal. They started
naming some good people who used to be
on the radio, laughing at them as if it were unquestionable what clowns
these liberals were. "Obviously, conservative talk
is what the people wanted," Coulter lied. Carr, in his annoyingly supercilious
Oh yeah? Well, for starters, many of those liberals were at least as
entertaining as anyone you get now -- and a
damn-site more truthful and intelligent. Jim Hightower was one they
dismissed as a joke. Jim is more entertaining and
would expose more relevant truths about government in one broadcast
than either of you nasty-ass truthbenders come up
with in a year! And he could do it without the low-road slurs, too.
(Well, most of 'em, anyway.) ...It was along these lines
my mind raced as I struggled to remember the facts that I knew would
confute these two obnoxious mendicants.
The truth, as I remembered it, is that around 1996 Newt and the house
Pigboy-Wing gave the ax to the Federal Communication Commission's "Fairness
Doctrine," that required stations to offer a fair representation of political
(actually it was deep-sixed in 1987, this was an attempted resurrection);
and once that regulation was killed, it was like Dominoes: all the liberal
talk show hosts went down. Across the country. It happened so fast, I could
hardly believe it.
It was around that time, too, that left-leaning columnists and radio
news commentators were being dumped wholesale
in small-market media outlets (probably owing to buyouts by konservative
Now, these creeps, Coulter and Carr, have to know this -- they're in
the damn business, after all! Still, there they were,
lying their asses off about liberals who lie about conservatives.
At any rate, that's how I saw it: there was this lying duo's thesis
that wall-to-wall konservative political kommentary was
what the American public had chosen of it's own free will. And then
there was my thesis (aka, "the truth"), that the American public had had
this ubiquitous barrage of konservative propaganda foisted upon them as
a result of a legislative coup.
Or could it be that I was wrong? Did the country really take a konservative
turn and demand right-wing hate-mongering
and Limbaugh style harangues in place of a genuine debate over the
issues of the day? Should we be fighting to reinstate
the Fairness Doctrine?
I decided to do some research on these questions. As a result, I still
don't know how far to the right the country's gone; but now I am convinced
that, at this juncture in the national debate, it would be pure folly to
reenact the Fairness Doctrine (FD).
The FD was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949
in response to the realization by congress and others that the airwaves
were a pervasive medium and therefore a valuable means of keeping the public
engaged in the arena of important public issues. The Commission approached
this task with a two-pronged program.
1. They required stations to provide reasonable coverage of controversial
issues of public importance in the community.
2. They required stations to offer a reasonable opportunity for contrasting
viewpoints on those issues.
The first prong would've yielded the desired result if only the second
prong hadn't undermined it. You see, the stations had to supply rebuttal
time -- for free! This led to the perverse irony of jeopardizing broadcasters
for complying with the demand to air controversial issues by leaving them
vulnerable to litigation and demands for free airtime for those with opposing
There are many examples in broadcast history of how this particular
little glitch served to dampen rather than facilitate a meaningful dialog.
But first let me pose a hypothetical and I think you'll get my point.
I think we can all agree that the "Bartcop Radio Hour" would be the
perfect antidote to the Rush Limbaugh Show.
But what if the Fairness Doctrine were reenacted the day before poor
Now for this to work, we'd have to let ol' Bartcop be himself, right?
So Bart (I hope) would call for impeachment, special prosecutors, investigations,
criminal arrests of top government and korporate officials, a legitimate
declaration of war by congress; he'd rail against the churches, slap the
hypocrites, demolish the ditto logic of hapless monkey callers, ridicule
the ridiculous, and so much more. It would all be so intoxicating,
Before he even got off the air, the station would have hundreds of
freepers demanding free air time to rebut Bartcop's
positions. And that's only the freeps; there'd be Rush-led ditto-spanks;
there'd be konservative pundicks, Repuglican
political operatives, and fundies by the score -- all demanding to
be heard. For free, mind you.
There is convincing historical evidence to warrant that this would
be the case. For example, past Democratic and Republican presidential administrations
alike have taken advantage of the FD -- not to facilitate the debates,
however, but more to silence their opposition. When the Kennedy administration
wanted to pass the nuclear test-ban treaty, there were several konservative
broadcasters across the country railing in opposition, so the DNC responded
by establishing and funding The Citizens Committee for a Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty. The function of this committee was to organize a massive protest
against anti-test ban radio editorials, demanding free rebuttals under
the Fairness Doctrine. It was a harassment technique
that succeeded so well that a little later the DNC began funding professional
listening posts to monitor right-wing radio
shows. As a political operative under President Kennedy disclosed,
"Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine
to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters in the hope that the
challenges would be so costly to them that they would
be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue." (Don't get
me wrong, I'm glad the Dems won, but this tactic is
not exactly conducive to the healthy kind of debate the FD was conceived
The Nixon administration, during the Watergate scandal, used Fairness-Doctrine
threats against the major networks' license-renewal proceedings to evil
effect, too. The Washington Post owned three television stations and Haldeman
send Colson around regularly to threaten their licenses with FD-related
charges. (The Post's newspapers were never in
danger, though, because you don't need a license to publish a newspaper.)
Now I ask you, with a reinstated Fairness Doctrine in place, given
the well-funded, vast, right-wing conspiracy of today,
what radio station in its right mind would even consider giving Bartcop
And given the bottom-line mentality of modern media, who do you think
would want to get involved in trying to set up
a truly fair debate?
Remember that the media are now a wholly owned subsidiary of korporate
konservative amerika: why SHOULD they be fair?
** If I want to find out anything, I´m not gonna read Time magazine,
I´m not gonna read Newsweek, I´m not gonna read
any of these magazines. Because they have too much to lose by printing
-- Bob Dylan (Don´t Look Back, 1965) **
Remember, too, that in fact there never would have been a Rush Limbaugh
if it hadn't been for the scrapping of the FD in 1987, about the time pigboy
started. Propaganda is effective without a fairness doctrine, and
it's time we got OUR propaganda out there!
BTW, wanna hear Rush's take on the FD?
** The American model of democracy was firmly grounded on the imperative
of free speech-and an absolute rejection of licensing or regulating the
press. But absurd as it may seem, these bedrock rights and freedoms do
not necessarily apply to broadcasting. The US has freedom of the press.
until we get to the electronic press. The American Revolution has not yet
spread to the nationís airwaves. Radio & television broadcasters must
be licensed by the federal government-and there lies a slippery slope.
To beg any governmentís permission to speak is to ask for trouble. That
kind of government shackling of freedom of speech-in defiance of the First
Amendment-is precisely what we will have in store if the Fairness Doctrine
is re-enacted. As we go to press, "fairness" legislation is popping up
[in several bills].
Would somebody please find "fairness" for me in the Constitution? You
Yet somehow we have gotten this notion that fairness is a guiding principle.
Source: See, I Told You So, p.361-64 Jul 2, 1993 **
The cat is out of the bag. The konservatives have spread their propaganda
far and wide, permeated the very air with their poison. The last thing
we need now is to put that filter back in place and stifle the debate.
Either we pull out all the stops and say it the Bartcop way, or we get
the debate shut down and turned back into bland public service announcements.
With a fairness doctrine in place, controversy would be too much trouble,
So screw the fairness doctrine. I don't want to be "fair" with these
konservative pricks anyway. Not when night after night shows like Crossfire
can come on the air and allow liar after liar to repeat the same arguments
that have been refuted 5, 10, 15 times before, on the classic propaganda
principle that if you repeat it enough it's as good as true. Is that "fair?"
Is it fair that konservative broadcasters can still refer to the "trashed
White House" when it's been proven that no such thing occurred? How about
Bill and Hillary's "gift register?" Al Gore's "Invented the Internet?"
and the latest outré slur: "President Bush was handed an economy
that was in a shambles." Over and over they repeat the same lies. Over
and over they are refuted, but it doesn't matter. Say it enough and it
is believed. So, what if there WERE a fairness doctrine in place? How could
that stop them from lying? What -- we could appeal to Powell's FCC? Ha,
ha. Don't make me laugh. Or to a higher court? The Supreme Court, maybe?
One alternative was proposed by Bill Bradley during his Presidential
bid. It was to make the writer of an ad on a political issue pay for the
other side's rebuttal. (I think Bartcop likes this idea, too.)
I think it's silly. Just imagine how ol' Bartcop would feel about publishing
his page if he had to pay for publishing the
Bird's page, too.
** On Sept. 21, Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson
asked Bill Bradley the following question:
"If the NAACP ran an ad promoting racial equality, would Bradley's
bureaucrats impose 'a 100 percent tax' on the
NAACP to pay for equal time ads by the Ku Klux Klan?" -- Nat Hentoff
(who sees it my way)**
No, we don't need no stinkin' fairness doctrines. We need more and
bigger hammers. Although Bartcop, MWO,
Democrats dot com, AlterNet, and a host of other web sites are certainly
on the right track, we need to get our hands
on more microphones. The Internet doesn't seem to be doing the trick.
Not by itself.
Additionally, we Internet readers should think globally and act locally.
More Bartcop stickers. And, hey, we all have computers: we can print and
distribute flyers, pamphlets, put stickers up on walls. And, most important
WE CAN SCREAM. The propaganda war can be won. But a fairness doctrine
ain't gonna help.
Ann Coulter eats those for breakfast.