Talk, talk, talk

November 13, 2008

Yesterday, I wrote about people getting prematurely agitated over Barack Obama and the Second Amendment. Some are predicting an early demise for the First Amendment as well, specifically the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine as a way of shutting up conservative talk radio. That one’s not high up on my worry list, either. There are some Democrats for it, and some against it, and Obama has said it’s not something he would push for. And I think these Democrats are right about how problematic it would be these days to enforce “fairness”:

. . . the Fairness Doctrine is a difficult issue for President-elect Barack Obama and the new Democratic Congress to deal with because of today’s “new media.”
 
“I think it’s increasingly difficult, because it’s kind of like a balloon,” said Van Hollen. “In other words, even if you wanted to go there – and I’m not saying we do – but if you wanted to go there, when you squeeze one end of the balloon, you know, simply the conversation can just go to others.
 
“I think even if you wanted to go back to the Fairness Doctrine, technology may have passed it by,” he said.

If you regulate talk radio, the commentariat will just go to satellite. If you regulate the networks, cable TV will flourish even more. Then there’s the Internet, which seems almost beyond control now. Any government that tried to regulate everything would be seen as a censor, not the arbiter of fairness.

The same problem is faced by those who want to keep vulgarity off the public airwaves. The Supreme Court is considering the FCC’s harsh fines against even a one-time slip of the f-bomb and other forbidden words. Even if our delicate ears are protected when we watch the networks (which we less frequently do), there are too many other avenues to the popular culture.

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