June 6, 2023

back the Fairness Doctrine

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 21 January 2021WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932Bring back the Fairness DoctrineBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON – There will always be demagogues and lying liars, but they are not to blame for what has befallen America.          In his Inaugural address, Pres. Joe Biden said, “There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit,” a line directed not only at his predecessor but more significantly at the media infrastructure that disseminates those lies.          With no evidence, Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo, for example, says the mob that ransacked the U.S. Capitol were followers of Antifa and that the Pres. Donald Trump protesters that breached the building were “infiltrated” by Democrats in MAGA hats and clothing. This would be stunning were it not so ubiquitous among her ilk.          Make no mistake. A liar without media is a voice in the wind. Propaganda needs outlets, and outlets created the insurrection of January 6, not white supremacists, not Donald Trump, and certainly not the mass of people who believed the lies when all they read and heard were lies.          There once was a way to counter this.          There was a way to hold dear our 1st Amendment right to free speech and still counter these purveyors of propaganda.          It was called the Fairness Doctrine. Established in 1949 by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), it compelled broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of controversial issues and allow individuals to respond when attacked. But this bulwark of open speech changed in 1987 when Pres. Ronald Reagan’s FCC voted unanimously to end it, opening the venomous floodgates to poisonous propaganda.          And, as Biden said, there is profit in propaganda. These peddlers of propaganda are smart people. Unrestrained by the Fairness Doctrine, they fill minds with unrefuted falsehoods because, in the age of cable and the Internet, people read and hear what they choose free from opposing views or fact checks. Audiences swell, advertisers flock, and the spewers of hate fill their coffers.          This is not likely to get better in the aftermath of the events of January 6th. That was an attempted coup, and the fact that it got as far as it did is emboldening insurrectionists. Biden declared in his Inaugural address that democracy has been tested, and that democracy prevailed, but has it? The same rhetoric that inspired thousands to come to D.C. to protest the election continues to inspire those susceptible to the lies peddled by media profiteers.          The 1st Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, but fractured modern media undermines that right through suppression. The genius of the Fairness Doctrine is that it restores the 1st Amendment, not by changing minds, but by opening them.          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND


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