Friday, August 1, 2008

Congratulations, Rush -- Now Shut Up

By Rick Pearcey

In today's Examiner:

As Rush Limbaugh and his estimated 20 million daily listeners celebrate the talk radio titan’s 20th anniversary on the air, Democratic leaders in Congress are moving to turn his mike off.

Their weapon is restoration of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. Even folks who would rather have a root canal than listen to Rush’s daily pronouncements should hope they don’t succeed. If they do bring back this bureaucratic relic from the days of Harry Truman, it won’t be just Rush’s voice that will be muted, it will be free and open political debate in general that will suffer.

Question: Where's the "off switch" for Congress? In the old days of freedom, we had the Constitution.

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Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report (articles).

1 comment:

Steven Wales said...

I wholeheartedly agree.

An issue usually ignored is the fact that such "fairness" is as impossible as the utopia from which the idea springs.

Imagine being asked simply to count the number of opinions in an hour of radio. Even defining such statements is difficult. When is a statement pure fact, or "slanted" but mostly factual, or true, but misleading because of what it leaves unspoken?

If you could somehow overcome this dilemma, perfectly sifting fact from opinion, you still have the impossible task of deciding where each opinion fits on some spectrum, and what sort of alternate opinion is required to achieve "fairness." This is likewise impossible, because there are a dozen sides to every political opinion.

We talk about the left wing and right wing. But the bird/plane metaphor only addresses our two-party system. There are so many views available besides North and South. Perhaps the petals of a flower might convey something of the points of view available on any subject. Yet this too fails. Opinions are more like the spines of a sea urchin--there's the 360 degrees of the compass, but there's also altitude, up and down....

Like the tentacles of an octopus, opinions branch in any and all directions. They cannot be reduced to a mathematical quality, measured, predicted, and somehow "balanced." The notion reduces human thought to something so much smaller than it is.

Are broadcasters to balance conservatives with liberals? What about the libertarian view? Or the Green Party? Or PETA? Or American Communists? What do you mean by "fair" anyway?

Do we ignore religious opinion? The rule could easily make an exception for religious broadcasters, but does it?

Further, even Rush talks about God, Sean Hannity talks about his faith, and Laura Ingraham speaks of her conversion to Catholicism, and her admiration for the pope. Must these opinions also be cataloged and balanced?

What about opinions on the theory of evolution? Do you balance that with Intelligent Design? If one caller is an Old Earth Creationist, must the next be a Young Earth Creationist? Or can he be merely another atheist?

If this sounds like splitting hairs, it's just my attempt to illustrate the impossible task the Fairness Doctrine aspires to.

Opinions are as unique as the people who hold them. Where one point may have an obvious counterpoint, the combination of opinions contained in an hour or two of talk is as impossibly complex as a strand of DNA. There is no "opposite" in such a case. (Just as Al Franken is in no way the "opposite" of Rush Limbaugh.) Such "Fairness" is a myth.

Real fairness is leaving radio alone, providing an "open mic" to all parties willing to pay the bill.

Fairness is letting the audience make the decisions, not further enlarging the suffocating hand of Big Brother.