May 30, 2024

The Intellectual Left and Censorship

It’s common knowledge that conservatives are old, white-haired, white-skinned men with money who don’t care what anyone thinks save for those like them.  The corollary is that it’s the left who are the staunch defenders of freedom in everything from retroactive birth control to homosexual marriage to free speech.  Everyone knows that.

Unfortunately there’s one little problem with the last of these in that it’s not true.  The American left abhors free speech.  They hate it even though it gives them the right to fling their ideological dogma about in the air as if it were manna from heaven.  They hate it because it gives others, people who dare to disagree with them – how rude! – the ability to say so out loud.

Michael Barone discusses several well-known examples of the left’s determined chilling of free speech in this piece, one that deserves to be read.  So read it.  Now!  One pithy quote:

Today’s liberals seem to be taking their marching orders from other quarters. Specifically, from the college and university campuses where administrators, armed with speech codes, have for years been disciplining and subjecting to sensitivity training any students who dare to utter thoughts that liberals find offensive. The campuses that used to pride themselves as zones of free expression are now the least free part of our society.

America’s college campuses have largely been abandoned by conservative thinkers who, tired of low wages and fighting uphill against the leftist tide, fled the field in recent decades.  This leaves the shaping of young minds and our next generation of leaders in exactly the wrong hands.  That’s the thing about an ideological agenda – it seeks to gain positions of advantage.  In this case it’s been very successful to date.

In other areas of national life, the ascendancy of politically correct thought has not been as completely achieved; therefore, it seems to me that a discussion of the “Fairness Doctrine” would be rather illuminating.


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. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials.

One of Ronald Reagan’s little-known but rather important accomplishments was the dismantling of this regulatory function of the Federal Communications Commission.  The left, recognizing that they were the ones whose views had to be forced onto consumers, quickly tried to re-institute the FD but were repelled, first by Reagan and then by the George Bush (41).

In the 20 years since conservative talk radio has burst into being like a flower in the desert, much to the dismay, loathing, and hatred of the left.  The new version of the FD that they have been attempting to force into law is meant to crush the windpipes of the conservative voices they so despise by forcing talk radio to transmit liberal messages whether they want to or not and whether anyone wants to listen or not.

Barone again:

Liberal talk-show hosts have mostly failed to draw audiences, and many liberals can’t abide having citizens hear contrary views.

To their credit, some liberal old-timers — like House Appropriations Chairman David Obey — voted against the “fairness doctrine,” in line with their longstanding support of free speech. But you can expect the “fairness doctrine” to get another vote if Barack Obama wins and Democrats increase their congressional majorities.

Obey’s disobedience will likely get him punished at some point – one doesn’t go against the progressive wing of the party in this day and age without paying a price eventually.  But his vote illustrates the point that liberals have lost their way.  Where they once stood for something there is now only the mad desire to force their views on people whether we want them or not.

In the case of the FD it’s unclear that Americans whether Americans want it revived or not, despite vocal, public support from leading Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, and John Kerry.

In this Rasmussen poll, 47% of Americans agreed with these Democrats that the FD should be forced back on radio and television stations while 57% thought it should NOT be mandated on the Internet.  Puzzling.

More significantly, 71% of Americans believe that there’s already enough distribution of alternative points of view in the media.  This should tell proponents of the FD that it’s not needed.  But backing off would conflict with the twin goals of modern liberalism: 

  • the forcing itself into every area of America and American’s lives, wanted or not, and
  • the silencing the voices of those who disagree. 

That’s why I suspect that we’ll see the FD voted back into law during the coming Obama administration.  The fact that the FD violates one of the oldest and most elemental principles of liberalism is completely lost on today’s Democrats, though with notable exceptions like David Obey.

The 1st Amendment of the Constitution is the one that gives the voice of the minority its right to exist.  By definition it protects and empowers agents of change by ensuring their ability to speak.  And liberalism originated as a social agent provocateur to bring much-needed causes such as women’s voting rights and black’s civil rights to fruition.  Now the guardians of the right to speech, ideologically the very ones who have benefited the most from it, no longer acknowledge its sacredness to America.

I’m reminded of an occasion I’ve mentioned before, I think, in which I was debating with a liberal commenter the rights of parents to make and view “clean” versions of popular movies.  When I mentioned the excessive vulgar language in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, he shot back with, “Kevin Smith gets to have his free speech and you get to shut the fuck up.”

While this is a fine intellectual argument – certainly on par with John Kerry’s parroting of the liberal pro-FD argument last year – I am somehow nonplussed by its logic.  At the same time, I clearly recognize how the same argument is being used by today’s liberals to shut down open discussion and free thought by their opponents.

Fundamentally the issue is simple:  There is not enough interest in liberal talk radio to warrant its existence.  It’s been tried and it failed, on more than one occasion. 

(In part this is because of the pre-existence of public broadcasting, a government-funded endeavor that ensures that liberal thought is present whether commercially viable or not.  Having an advantageous cost structure helps the public stations against would-be liberal upstarts, no doubt.  Government interference in the market stymied liberals’ attempts at innovation, IOW.  But try to get them to understand that’s what happened.)

That should be the end of the discussion.  But the market’s rejection of the liberal’s antidote to Rush Limbaugh, et al, cannot be allowed to stand.  Not only does it sting liberals’ pride that their baby was called ugly, but the damnable, thriving conservative radio market is still there!  This cannot be allowed, naturally, as its continued success casts doubt on the left’s ideological superiority and denies the inevitability of its ultimate implementation. 

Hence the Fairness Doctrine, version X, my friends.  Long may it live in the infamy of defeat and shame, whence it was banished and to where it should be confined for eternity.  But that it could be so.

Looking ahead to the next 4 (or 8) years, with full knowledge of how small a matter it is, I have to say that I will nuke this site and its content before I will allow “unsatisfactory material” to be published here, Fairness Doctrine or no.


h/t gaius


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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