It's kind of fitting that I came across Beck's idiocy on this subject, because another deal swung in the senate to get the bill passed involved the Fairness Doctrine.
The U.S. Senate passed an amendment on Thursday that would bar regulators from requiring broadcasters to give equal time to all points of view, a ban strongly supported by some Republican lawmakers.
The legislative amendment, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from reimposing the so-called Fairness Doctrine to all broadcasters. It was repealed more than 20 years ago.
Aides to President Barack Obama have said he has no intention of trying to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, but that has not stopped some Republicans from raising the issue.
DeMint added the amendment to the voting rights bill, in order to save right wing talk radio and conservative media from destruction by the forces of... Well, fairness. The right has been demagoguing the issue for some time, pretending that there was some danger of the doctrine ever returning -- while completely misrepresenting what the Fairness Doctrine actually was.
Basically, the right has been collecting off-hand comments by Democrats to convince people that there was some big lefty groundswell to bring the doctrine back. For example:
“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”
Eek!! Durbin wants to destroy Rush Limbaugh! Never mind that one casual comment does not a movement make. There was no bill, there was just two sentences thrown over the shoulder at a reporter.
Durbin had "no plans, no language, no nothing. He was asked in a hallway last year, he gave his personal view," said Durbin's press secretary in 2008. "...and it's all been blown out of proportion."
The biggest problem with the left is that the Fairness Doctrine wouldn't actually do anything. "The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters," wrote Steve Rendall in 2005. "Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented."
One of the biggest BSers about the doctrine has been Bill O'Reilly. On his FOX show, O'Reilly said that "liberal politicians hate conservative talk radio and want to lessen its impact." He sent FOX News producer Griff Jenkins to ask Sen. Jeff Bingaman, "The implication was that it would impose or infringe on the free speech rights of broadcasters. Do you not see that the Fairness Doctrine would do that?"
But here's the thing, the Fairness Doctrine could be reinstated tomorrow and Bill's show wouldn't have to change a thing. He regularly reads letters from viewers -- many of whom disagree with him -- so he'd be golden. Bill O'Reilly is complaining that he'd be ruined if he had to do exactly what he's doing now.
In fact, the Fairness Doctrine would probably have been the best thing that ever happened to the right. The media is already obsessed with "balanced reporting," which relies on repeating facts, but not in telling the truth. You can see the problem with reporting on global warming or evolution. The fact is that one group of people say one thing and another group says another, but the truth is that one side is right -- provably and inarguably. By reporting these facts, while ignoring the truth, the media fails to inform and only confuses.
And this is what they're doing now. Imagine what would happen if they were required to tell "both sides of the story." Would we be treated to some flat-earther nut saying we never landed on the moon every time there was a story about NASA? Would we watch Holocaust deniers balancing every story about WWII? There are both sides to every story, but one side is often insanity, BS, or both -- while being completely unnecessary in understanding the issue. We don't need to hear both sides, we only need to hear the truth. The right would have more to worry about if the media stopped trying to represent a balance between truth and PR.
But, in the end, the right did something they often do -- believed their own propaganda. They scored a victory in a one-sided battle against a phantom enemy. There was no push to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, making DeMint's amendment the easiest concession anyone's ever made to get a bill passed. Republicans weren't all that happy with the DC Voting Rights bill either, since the city is a guaranteed Democratic seat from now until forever. But they gave up that fight in order to win a different battle against nothing. DeMint might as well have banned elves from ever holding office.
But I guess a phony win is still a win -- at least in perception. Republicans got the base to believe that the Fairness Doctrine really was a threat to the First Amendment, an attack on conservative media, and just around the corner. I suppose the nuts will believe there was a victory, mostly because they believed there was a battle. But the Fairness Doctrine wasn't anything they ever should've been afraid of.
"If Congress really wants to help the folks, it will pass the 'Honesty Doctrine,'" says O'Reilly.
You better hope not, pal. Because then you'd be screwed.