Soon To Be Classics

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Step #1 : Silence Your Critics

The first step to complete and absolute power is silencing your critics. It goes beyond just outright censorship. It comes in many forms.

First, it comes as impassioned pleas to "come together" and "finally stop the hate and rhetoric ". That generally happens only AFTER your guy gets elected. Before that point, it was perfectly acceptable to spew bile and hatred on TV, in the classroom, and on the street corner.

It also happens in the form of violent removal of legal rights. We're not quite there yet, but I certainly wouldn't put it past some.

And, it comes in a more subtle form as well. It's an age old argument that we all learn on the playground when we're young. Fairness. We have to be fair, right? We share the ball. We take turns on the slide. We break the cookie in half to share it. That's fair? Right? Everything should be 50/50. Split. Equal. Dare I say, social?

My biggest beef with the new political makeup of our country, is this policy of "spreading the wealth". But I'm not talking about money, or food, or jobs. I'm talking about free speech, the free market system and the abomination known as the "Fairness Doctrine".

The long and short of the Fairness Doctrine, is that Talk Radio leans disproportionately to the conservative side. Host like Rush Limbaugh (who I don't listen to), Sean Hannity (ditto), Dennis Prager (who I very much enjoy) and others have the lion's share of the market. Democratic "leadership" in Congress like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, John Kerry, Dick Durbin and of late Senator Debbie Stabenow (D. from Michigan and not-so-coincidentally married to a liberal talk radio host) are pushing to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine. This doctrine, if passed and reinstated (it was in effect from 1949 to 1987), would force Radio stations to split their airtime equally over competing messaging.

As it has been mentioned by the politicians above in various forms, it would ONLY affect Radio. Not television. Not movies. And not newspapers. I guess if you have a monopoly on the television news and the theaters are filled with hack job movies for your cause, there's no reason to be fair there. But on Radio, where conservative talk beats liberal talk by a 1000 to one, well, there's suddenly a problem.

This leads us to discuss why that is. It's not that conservative talk radio gets any advantage. There are no grants or funding. (Note that our tax dollars pay for NPR which is highly biased the other way.) Radio is supported by advertisers. Advertisers generally support messages they approve of or are at least savvy enough business people to buy ads where people are listening. For some reason, more people like to listen to conservative talk radio than liberal talk radio. I was in radio when Air America went live. Air America was a liberal talk radio network that had hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment behind it. I received numerous calls (as Program Director of an AM station) trying to get me to pick up the feeds. I had built a conservative / slightly moral lineup for my station and politely refused, but said I would watch the ratings and consider adding shows if I needed filler (154 hours to fill each week was a lot!). So what happened? Air America pretty much went to crap. No one listened, ad support and sponsorship dried up. It declared bankruptcy, left a lot of debt, was sold and is sputtering along. It still exists in some form but the fact is, no one wanted to hear that message or didn't want to hear it the way it was presented. That's called the free market system. The market determines what it wants and rejects what it doesn't. It's economic Darwinism. It reminds me of when Bill Maher made the idiotic comment on his show that the 9/11 hijackers were "the real patriots". After his show was canceled, he screamed "censorship!" It wasn't censorship at all. His advertisers, Sears being one of the biggest, was smart enough to realize that America didn't want to hear that garbage and they pulled their ad spend. The network saw the writing on the wall, realized that they were not going to be able to fill the spots in that show and canceled it. Censorship? No, the free market system in action.

So the intention of the Fairness Doctrine is essentially designed to force Air America or whatever gets set up to fill this gap down the throats of American's who rejected it the first time. If a conservative host talks for 4 hours, then under the Fairness Doctrine, a liberal host gets to talk for four hours. Right there, you have a radio station who just lost half of their TSL or time spent listening.

Now, I don't think for one minute that the Fairness Doctrine will pass. There are democrats in Congress that have openly said they wouldn't support this. I'm sure there are a lot of people who want it to pass, but I think just like this moronic, pork-bloated "stimulus package", people will see the legislation for what it truly is. Control. Silencing. Socialism.

I love Radio. It was the most rewarding job of my life and every day a small part of me is sorry I left. But I saw what government intervention has done to an industry that used to be the major source of information and entertainment in the world. Think radio sucks? Think all the stations sound the same? You can thank Bill Clinton for that. Tucked away inside the 1996 Tele-Comm Bill (remember that one? It was guaranteed to lower your cable bill. Did that EVER happen?) there was a provision that loosened ownership restrictions on radio station buyers. This allowed corporate vampires like Clear Channel and CBS to buy up thousands of radio stations, site-unseen, fire over 20,000 personnel, and homogenize the entire industry. Why does every radio station sound alike? Because every 5 stations have the same jocks, liners and music lists. The only real plus here is that these large radio groups are now tanking. The free market system at work, again.

I suppose we'll all see what happens together. But this is certainly an issue I'll watch with great interest. Like I said, this is the first step and a number of the most powerful lawmakers and gleefully waiting to make it happen.


  • OK, first, I'll argue -- vigorously -- that the Bush Regime were the all-time champs at silencing opponents and removing legal rights. Sorry; you will score no points at ALL by trying to pin those traits on the new administration. (I'm sure this means that I side with the terrorists and I hate freedom and I'm actually a watermelon masquerading as a leader in corporate America. So be it.)


    I think that radio is a salwart bastion of free speech. There should be no "Fairness Doctrine" in free speech. If people don't like what you're saying, they won't listen. But we cannot and should not legislate the content of radio, outside of ensuring it does not promote violence or wanton lawlessness.

    Now, I'll say for my own part that I find ALL "opinion talk" (I don't include news or NPR in this category) distasteful and I simply don't listen. (I'll keep my opinions of the fan base of Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern and others of their ilk to myself, as I don't want to appear un-ladylike. )

    Thanks for the food for thought, M. I'll go look this up.

    wismods (wiz'-mods) (pl. n.) Popular among the nerd crowd in the late 1950's these novelty accoutrements were marketed as a part of the "Be A Wizard" costume collection. They were removed from the market in 1958, after Ernie Lustick of Pete Towsend WA, actually succeeded in using one to turn the local football hero into a newt. Authorities suspect that the young Mr. Lustick might actually have been a practitioner of the dark arts, but nevertheless the toys were blamed for the incident. Hasbro declines to disclose the whereabouts of its remaining inventory.

    By Blogger Beanie, at 7:22 AM  

  • Hey B,

    I dunno, but I have to call "bullshit" here. Exactly who was silenced in the last 8 years and how? Michael Moore and Oliver Stone didn't get to make their movies? Springsteen and the Dixie Chicks were prevented from writing whole albums full of personal attacks? Oberman, Fey, Stewart, Maher, Striesand, Maddow, Colmes, O'Donnell, etc were forced off of television?

    Don't get me wrong, I disagree with a lot of what the last administration did and I get painted into a specific picture because I lean conservative. But I can't recall a single instance of anyone being "silenced" the last 8 years. If anyone, even during the Republican administration, it was the Conversative message that was shouted down everywhere but Talk Radio and Fox News.

    By Blogger Mkae, at 9:35 AM  

  • M,

    Three things:

    1) Does Scooter Libby believe nobody got silenced by the last administration? This broad in Michigan is proposing something that's patently out-of-bounds, but at least she's up-front about it! lol

    2) Can you say "Warrantless Wire-Tapping"? Ditto my last remark.

    3) The Administration is NOT a fan of this proposal, and I can't imagine that it will have any legs whatsoever.

    I understand that conservative talk radio is more popular than liberal talk radio, frankly because it seeks moreso to provoke and because of the type audience that it attracts (ie: much more likely to shoot their mouths off on air).

    Please understand that I know I'm speaking in generalities; YMMV. Not everyone who calls into Rush Limbaugh is a Bubba and there are plenty of brain-damaged bliss-ninnies who watch Keith Olberman. And I think I blogged very publicly about my distaste for the Oliver Stone movie. I'll say that It felt like Stone took a page from the playbook of films like Primary Colors. Which I also found distasteful.

    I won't comment on what this trend portends for the fall of civilization; watch for my book of predictions to come out post-humously, after I've done my Rasputin impression. ;)

    By Blogger Beanie, at 9:53 AM  

  • good read, wish I had more time to comment. R

    By Blogger Roycer, at 5:16 PM  

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