The Two Americas
There are two Americas, John Edwards likes to say. He's right, but the difference is not between rich and poor, but between free and less free. You can desecrate the sacred rite of communion in a Catholic church, as some mocking gays in nuns' habits did in San Francisco, and enjoy the explicit support of the mayor. However, you can't erect a manger scene on public property during Christmas. You can't say a prayer in a public school. If your city seal has any remotely religious image on it, your city will be sued by the ACLU.
You are free to kill an innocent child in the womb. However, you are not free to discourage that violent act within a few hundred feet of facilities where it occurs or where it is encouraged.
You are free to attend the college of your choice. If you attend Harvard, you can take classes studying gender differences in government and sociology. However, if you are the president of Harvard, and suggest that there are differences between the way men and women think, which is obvious to anyone who has more than a one-weekend relationship with a member of the opposite sex, then you can be hounded from your position by radical feminists and their allies.
You can even be the leader of a nation that hates this one, a leader who supplies terrorists with the weapons to kill American soldiers and innocent civilians, a leader who denies the Holocaust that thousands of Americans gave their lives to end, a leader who openly pursues nuclear weapons and threatens neighboring nations with them, and still be invited to speak before students at Columbia University.
However, if you're a member of a citizen organization dedicated to stopping illegal immigration, and you, too are invited to speak at Columbia University, you won't get very far. You will be heckled, shouted down, accosted, and strong-armed off the stage by protestors in the time-honored tradition of fascists.
If you're a student at Columbia who has made the selfless and noble decision to dedicate a portion of his life to the defense of this country, you are free to participate in the ROTC program, but only since Columbia was forced by federal law to make that program available. But you will be required to leave campus, hop a subway to a remote location, and attend your ROTC classes somewhere other than the university that enjoys federal subsidies because Columbia's administration wants to make the path of the patriot as difficult as possible.
This is the ultimate irony, because the freedoms Americans enjoy are defended by those very Americans who make the choice that Columbia University and the Left so disdain. USA Today this week noted that those who serve and have served in the military are more likely to vote than those who have not. Perhaps this is because they know the cost of freedom, having paid it themselves.
Liberals vs. the First Amendment
Until the FCC scrapped the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, it required broadcasters to provide equal time to all sides of "controversial" issues. In practice, this led to what Bill Monroe, a former host of NBC's "Meet the Press," called "timid, don't-rock-the-boat coverage." On radio, Newsweek's Howard Fineman notes, it "effectively kept partisan shows off the airwaves," so that in 1980 there were a mere 75 talk radio stations. Today there are 1,800.
But the Fairness Doctrine has always had fans in the corridors of power because it gave incumbents a way of muzzling their opponents. The Kennedy administration used it as a political weapon. Bill Ruder, Kennedy's assistant secretary of commerce, explained: "Our strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue." The Nixon administration similarly used the doctrine to torment left-wing broadcasters.
Democrats who have become "Fairness" mongers insist they simply want to restore civility and balance to the airwaves. Al Gore, in a typically overheated speech last year bemoaned "the destruction of [the] marketplace of ideas" which he blamed in part on the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, after which "Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein rails against "one-sided programming" that has pushed the American people into "extreme views without a lot of information." She thinks Americans deserve to know "both sides of the story." Isn't it enough that National Public Radio, subsidized by the government, serves as a vehicle for liberal voices in just about every community in the country?
True, commercial radio is dominated by conservatives, but perhaps that's because liberal arguments in their full-throated glory just haven't sold as well. Air America, the liberal talk radio network that debuted in 2004, is in perpetual financial trouble. Then there's the GreenStone talk radio network started last year by feminists Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem. It offered cutting-edge liberal thinking pitched to a female audience--and flopped completely.
Rep. Pence says he knows all about the power of talk radio because he used to host a statewide show in Indiana, where he describes himself as "the decaf Rush Limbaugh." He believes the Fairness Doctrine would "amount to government control over political views expressed on the public airwaves." In June his first effort to impose a one-year moratorium on any revival of the Fairness Doctrine by the FCC passed, 309-115, with nearly half of House Democrats voting in favor. But a one-year moratorium was an easy vote, because there is no reason to expect the Fairness Doctrine to make a comeback before 2009, when a new president--perhaps a Democrat--appoints a majority of FCC commissioners.
That's why Mr. Pence is proposing the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a bill that would permanently bury the Fairness Doctrine. Because House Democratic leaders are unlikely to allow it to come to the floor for a vote, Mr. Pence has launched a "discharge petition," a device to bypass House committees and move the bill directly to the floor. He needs 218 members--a House majority--to sign the petition. He has collected 185 signatures, but all from Republicans. Democrats are being told by their leadership that signing such a petition would undermine their control of the House.
Mr. Pence, says that "freedom should not be a partisan issue" and that he is optimistic that he can collect the signature of every Republican and then pluck off some 20 of the Democrats who voted for his one-year moratorium last summer (he'd need at least 18). The stakes are high. "Lovers of liberty must expose calls to restore the Fairness Doctrine for the fraudulent power-grab that they plainly are," writes Brian Anderson, editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.
That's because the attempts to control the airwaves won't stop with so-called equal time rules. Al Franken, the liberal former Air America host who is now running for the Senate in Minnesota, is already slipping into the role of potential legislative censor of his old industry. "You shouldn't be able to lie on the air," he told Newsweek's Mr. Fineman earlier this year. "You can't utter obscenities in a broadcast, so why should you be able to lie? You should be fined for lying."
In fact, you can be "fined" for lying, if the person you lie about successfully sues for defamation. But the First Amendment makes it exceedingly difficult for defamation plaintiffs to prevail, especially if they are public figures--and for good reason. Under a more pro-plaintiff legal regime, "the pall of fear and timidity imposed upon those who would give voice to public criticism is an atmosphere in which the First Amendment freedoms cannot survive," Justice William Brennan wrote in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964). Justice Brennan used to be a liberal hero. If he were alive today, he would surely be dismayed to learn that liberals seem to have concluded they have no use for the First Amendment.
Our Depressogenic Media
Can the media make you sick? It is a real question. Do you read a news headline and get that sinking feeling in your stomach? Or have you learned to avoid those headlines completely? I know one woman who can burst into tears from reading the newspaper. A medical doctor I know feels close to despair on an everyday basis, set off by media headlines --- most of which are dubious or plain false. Other people I know hate George W. Bush, not because of anything real, but because they have been constantly indoctrinated with media falsehoods, day after day after day.
The recent smear campaign against Rush Limbaugh provides an excellent example: Even though the facts were entirely clear, the mainstream media reports still suggested that Rush had insulted the US military. No knowledgeable person believed that, since Rush has his own mass media megaphone to counter the lie. Anyone could find out the truth simply by turning on the radio or reading the web. But the established media still peddled a plain lie. Only the really indoctrinated fell for this particular piece of disinformation. But those are the people who cannot exercise normal skepticism when it comes to the news. They would never just fall for a used car sales pitch or a Nigerian email scam. But they are constantly victimized by the depressogenic media, which are about as objective on political issues as an email scammer. The liberal media harm their own gullible audiences most of all.
"Depressogenic" is one of those overly long medical words, meaning "to cause depression." We know what causes depression in many individuals --- it is the overly harsh and constantly repeated self-criticism that many of us train ourselves to rehearse in our minds, and which can become automatic and uncontrollable after years of practice, in much the way that an annoying little habit can become uncontrollable. Musicians often develop such little out-of-control habits; Glenn Gould could not stop himself from singing during his piano recitals, as can be heard on his studio recordings. That is even more true for habits like our inner monologue, which we rarely understand to be habits. We tend to take our inner monologue for granted.
For decades, research has shown that excessive self-critical thoughts can lead to depression. A little self-criticism is obviously healthy. Out-of-control and unrealistic self-criticism can be pathogenic. People sometimes commit suicide because of depression, and those with a biological predisposition could actually kill themselves statistically more often, because of the atmosphere of gloom that is constantly spread by our established media, which are almost sadistic in the intensity of their anti-American hatred. It is a pathogenic condition, just as one can see pathogenic situations in families and organizations.
It is the high achievers in the world who are often the most self-critical, and therefore the most vulnerable to self-inflicted depression. The habit of compulsive self-criticism allows high achievers to leap hurdle after hurdle in schools and careers. But the psychological cost can be a kind of out-of-control self-loathing, self-doubt, and discounting of one's own achievements. Ultimately nothing is good enough. Some high achievers have a pervasive feeling of being impostors, always having to prove to themselves that they are really as good as everyone else believes them to be.
The media do to our national conversation what depressed people do in their inner monologue. They are compulsively self-critical to the point of national self-hatred. It is not far from the truth to talk about our self-loathing media, except that the media don't loathe themselves: They exempt themselves from criticism. Instead, they hate our country, and teach millions of their psychological victims to do the same. This pattern has now gone way beyond the healthy self-criticism that any nation needs. It has turned into the compulsive anti-Americanism of the American media. (The Europeans are all too happy to echo our own anti-American media, which makes them feel a lot better about themselves.)
The sources of our media self-hatred are not as important as the solution. Depressed people don't have to dig into the history of their self-critical thoughts. Rather, they just need to gently guide their thoughts into saner and less self-destructive directions. Psychiatrists have long helped depressed people learn to spot their excessively self-critical thoughts, and to "argue" against them in the inner monologue.
We have a depressogenic media. Diagnosis is a useful step toward a cure. For better national mental health we need a balanced or even an optimistic media, in exactly the same way individuals thrive with an optimistic or at least a balanced attitude to themselves. News consumers are finally figuring out the media's sadistic "flagellate-America" style. They are now changing in droves to more constructive media voices. That process should accelerate and snowball, with new media emphasizing a more balanced understanding of America's virtues, and more constructive solutions for our problems. The present established media are far too stuck to change. We need a New Media for improved national mental health. The media could start by taking a long course in saner thinking themselves.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.