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RealClearPolitics - Articles - Selwyn Duke





Last Build Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 15:48:49 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007
 



The Barker and the Shill: The Fraud of the Fairness Doctrine

Wed, 24 Jan 2007 15:48:49 -0600

This occurs to me when I ponder the attempt to resurrect the "Fairness Doctrine" by politicians such as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and avowedly socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. For those of you not acquainted with this proposal, it harks back to a federal regulation in place from 1949 to 1987. Ostensibly it was designed to ensure "fairness" in broadcasting, mandating that if radio and TV stations air controversial viewpoints, they must provide equal time for the "other" side. Now, as many have pointed out, this effort is motivated by a desire to stifle conservative commentary. After all, it isn't lost on the radical left that the dumping of this doctrine in 1987 directly coincided with the rise of conservative talk radio. Freed from the threat of hefty government fines, stations were finally able to formulate programs based on market forces and not government regulation. Thus did Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and many others give voice to the usually silent majority. Of course, many may wonder why I'd take issue with fairness. Shouldn't we give the "other side" its day in court, one may ask? The problem is that this regulation would be applied to talk radio but not arenas dominated by liberal thought, a perfect example of which is the ever-present mainstream media (which presents the "other side"). This is because talk show hosts trade in red meat commentary, whereas the mainstream press is more subtle in its opinion-making. Fine then, say the critics, that's as it should be. We don't have to worry about "responsible journalists"; it's those acid-tongued firebrands who pollute discourse with their pyro-polemics who bedevil us. And on the surface this sounds convincing, which is why I tell you of the talker and the shill. The dirty little secret behind the Fairness Doctrine is that it punishes the honest. Think about it: Radio hosts are the talkers; they wear their banners openly as they proclaim who and what they are. Sure, they may be brash and hyperbolic, loud and oft-sardonic, but there is no pretense, little guile, and you know what they want you to believe. You know what they're sellin' and if you're buyin'. The mainstream media, however, is a shill. Oh, not shills working with talk radio, of course, as their talkers are entities such as MoveOn.org and Media Matters, but they are shills nonetheless. They masquerade as impartial purveyors of information, almost-automatons who, like Joe Friday, are just interested in the facts, ma'am. They flutter their eyes and read their Teleprompters, and we are to believe God graced them with a singular ability to render facts uncolored by personal perspective. In reality, though, the Shill Media are about as impartial as an Imam in a comparative religion class. Let's not forget that they used to call Republican reductions in the rate of spending growth "budget cuts," have a habit of referring to pro-lifers as "anti-abortion groups" (they don't call pro-choice groups "pro-abortion") and to terrorists as insurgents or even "freedom fighters," and only seem to perceive hate crime when the victim's group has victim status. And while I can't comprehensively document news bias here, suffice it to say the Shill Media are at least as ideologically monolithic as talk radio. Why, in 1992, 89 percent of Washington journalists voted for Bill Clinton; in 1996 the figure was 92 percent. Even outside the Beltway liberal bias reigns, with scribes so situated favoring Democrats by about a three to one margin. But the point here isn't the nature or pervasiveness of the bias, but its insidiousness. The Shill Media are infinitely more dangerous because of their illusion of impartiality. There's a reason why we trust what Consumer Reports says about Buick a lot more than what Buick says about Buick. And if we discovered that Buick's marketing arm was masquerading as a consumer advocacy magazine, we'd want the subterfuge revealed. Remember, brainwashing is only effective if you're not aware it's occurring. This is why the Fairness Doctr[...]