The American people’s right to hear the truth has been shot-down and severely wounded in congress, yet again. On June 28, 2007 congress voted down the Fairness Doctrine by a vote of 309-115. Conservative Republicans call it a vote to ratify the First Amendment. They contend that the attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine is an assault on free speech. One national magazine portrayed the effort to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine by picturing Rush Limbaugh on its cover with tape across his mouth. But the fact is, the Fairness Doctrine is not an assault on free speech at all-in fact, it would serve to ensure that the American people get all the facts, and the opportunity to hear every side of every issue.
The Fairness Doctrine was a Federal Communication Commission regulation that required anyone who held a broadcasting license to present all public issues in a fair and balanced manner. One of the reasons that Rush Limbaugh, the Fox Broadcasting organization, and other conservative interests are so up in arms over the prospect of the doctrine being reinstated is the fact that conservatives require subterfuge and the twisting of facts to get the American people to accept their philosophy. Under the Fairness Doctrine, every time Fox News or Rush Limbaugh told a lie on the air, it could be challenged, and they would have to provide the challenger with equal time to present the other side of the issue. Thus, that isn’t an assault on free speech at all. On the contrary, it enhances free speech, that is, unless you want to tell a blatant lie.
Conservatives also contend that proponents of the Fairness Doctrine want to have it reinstated because liberal talk shows can’t compete against conservative talk shows in the market place of ideas. That is also a lie-the exact kind of lie that makes the Fairness Doctrine so necessary. The fact is, without the doctrine big business interests can, and did, buy up most of the radio stations and communication interests in the country in order to broadcast only their point of view. That’s why in spite of the fact that the polls say that Bush has an approval rating hovering around 28 percent—one of the lowest approval ratings of any president in the history of the United States-if you turn on just about any talk show in America you only hear Bush supporters. To listen to talk show hosts across the country one would think that Bush is one of the most effective and popular presidents that the world has ever known. On the other hand, they used the very same media to drag Clinton through the mud, while he was in fact, one of the most effective and popular presidents in the history of the United States.
Thanks to the internet and independently owned newspapers, like the Los Angeles Sentinel, a trickle of what’s going on in the world does manage to seep through to the American people, but for the most part, America has slipped behind a green curtain that serves to blot out the truth about what’s going on around us. The American people are in a similar position as the people behind the old iron curtain during the Soviet Union era. The only difference is, instead of blocking out the truth through the force of law as in the Soviet Union, big business, with the help of conservative Republicans, are effectively blocking the truth from the American people with the force of the dollar.
What makes this such a serious situation is the fact that when people hear the same thing over and over again, no matter how big the lie, it begins to sound like the truth. There’s a word for it—it’s called a “factoid.” A factoid is a lie that’s told so often that people begin to think it’s the truth. An example of how factoids work can be found in the Republican Party’s effective use of the mantra to push their point of view into the psyche of the American people. Take “weapons of mass destruction”, for example. That phrase was repeated so often by the administration, and their supporters on talk radio, that in spite of the fact that we’ve been in Iraq for five years and haven’t found a thing, there are still people who insist that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They’ve heard it so many times that in spite of clear evidence to the contrary, they can’t convince their brain to accept reality. They’ve been so brainwashed that fantasy has become more real than reality.
Another mantra is “support the war to support the troops.” Now anyone with any since at all knows that the best way to support our troops or anyone else is to keep them from being killed. But this administration, and again, their news network, have repeated that phrase so often that they’ve actually made politicians afraid to say, “Let’s stop killing our kids.” They’re afraid that if they suggest that we should give our young people a chance at life that they’ll accused of being un-American. Think about that for a minute—it’s un-American to try to save American lives. How can you convince educated people to believe than nonsense? I’ll tell you how—by controlling what they hear.
Another example of how desperately we need a truly free press is the fact that we have an entire administration of draft dodgers not only sending our troops to die, but then, lecturing us on our responsibility as a people, while not one member of their family has even passed by a military base. In addition, we have a vice president, Cheney—who admittedly had five military deferments because he had “other priorities”—who committed Treason in revealing the identity of a CIA agent during a time of war, and then turning around and demonizing the agent. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the president commuted the sentence of his crime partner. So tell me, where is fourth estate? And what is the American press doing with all of this free speech that they’re defending so passionately?
The conservative war against the Fairness Doctrine has absolutely nothing to do with their right to free speech—it’s actually a war to stifle free speech, and your right to be informed about what’s going on around you. But it goes even farther than that. Big business’s control of the media is also physically dangerous to the people. As has been pointed out above, he who has control of the media, has control of the people, because the power of the media is, literally, hypnotic. Adolf Hitler used it to convince perfectly normal people of not only the necessity, but the morally, of slaughtering 10 million men, women, and children. Now Bush has used it to engineer the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqis men women and children. Whose children are next?
The bottom line is, knowledge is power-and the Republican Party is fighting against your right to know.
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at