The popularity of our recent piece, “What is Critical Race Theory and Why Does FOX News Hate It?,” got us thinking again about the Fairness Doctrine and how FOX and other hate-news operations have thrived because of it is no longer with us.
This has become even more relevant with the news that Governor of Texas yesterday signed into law a bill forbidding the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the Texas school system.
So here is the bulk of our earlier piece on the Fairness Doctrine.
Make no mistake about it. Hate can be manufactured on a broad basis. Propaganda and one-sided perspectives via the airwaves are a classic tool for doing this. The use of broadcast media to “mold” and create broad public opinion is not new. This became well-plowed ground in World War II with the work of Josef Goebbels, who saw to it that every German household had a radio set as he controlled literally everything they heard.
Today we have entire networks of radio and TV broadcast operations that run on a frighteningly similar pattern. One such operation is Sinclair. Over the past few years they have become infamous for their “must air” segments of editorials from personalities like former White House aide Boris Epshteyn. These segments were clearly slanted editorials made to appear as news items. Station managers had to air them or fear losing their jobs.
Until Ronald Reagan was in office, these abuses would not have been possible because of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine.
What was the Fairness Doctrine? According to Brittanica.com,
Fairness doctrine, U.S. communications policy (1949–87) formulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that required licensed radio and television broadcasters to present fair and balanced coverage of controversial issues of interest to their communities, including by devoting equal airtime to opposing points of view.
The origins of the fairness doctrine lay in the Radio Act (1927), which limited radio broadcasting to licensed broadcasters but mandated that the licensees serve the public interest. The Federal Communications Act (1934) supplanted the Radio Act and created the FCC, the chief regulatory body governing the U.S. airwaves, with a mission to “encourage the larger and more effective use of radio in the public interest.” In 1949 the commission promulgated a report, In the Matter of Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees, that interpreted the public interest provisions of the Radio Act and the Communications Act as a mandate to promote “a basic standard of fairness” in broadcasting. Licensees had the duty to devote airtime to fair and balanced coverage of controversial issues that were of interest to their home communities. Individuals who were the subject of editorials or who perceived themselves to be the subject of unfair attacks in news programming were to be granted an opportunity to reply. Also, candidates for public office were entitled to equal airtime.
Once the Fairness Doctrine was struck down we saw the flood gates of “hate” broadcasting open. Rush Limbaugh went on the air in 1988. Others followed and with the advent of the Internet and the ability to “broadcast” over the net, many more crackpots took to spouting all manner of insanity for profit.
Profit is a key word in this. Rush Limbaugh became fabulously wealthy with an estimated worth of over $600 million at the time of his death. Lots of advertisers were happy to pay to get into the ears of his listeners. The same is true for hate-casters like Alex Jones of InfoWars. He made a fortune hawking over-priced vitamins to the gullible folks that believed the insane conspiracies he literally made up on his shows. Happily, he will probably not be able to spend it except in court settlements to people whose lives he harmed with his insanity. But as shown by Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News—and like William Randolph Hearst before him—earning money from the manufacture of hate is a profitable original business model.
The First Amendment
Outfits like FOX, OAN, Breitbart, Newsmax and others who spout a continuous stream of hate and divisive propaganda immediately decry any effort to rein them in as a violation of their First Amendment rights. And they use this argument as loudly as possible at the mere mention of a restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. Of course this ignores the fact that the Supreme Court already found by unanimous decision that the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine did not violate the First Amendment.
There are many types of speech not protected by the First Amendment, such as shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or speech designed or intended to incite violence.
But the purveyors of hate shout out that anyone who tries to stop their stream of lies is engaging in censorship.
Hate and Racism
Hate and Racism are closely related in the hate-speech world. Joined at the hip is a more apt description. A person engaged in hating is very divorced from any concept of truth. We dare anyone to find an angry man who will actually tell the truth. So falsity is a necessary and inevitable component of hate propaganda. And since there is always an attempt to get people on their “side,” that hate has to be directed at others. The creation of artificial “others” is at the heart of this. Various mechanisms are used for this: skin color, general appearance, ethnicity, religion, language, economics, social status, even genetic factors (the Nazis used the fake science of eugenics).
The Final Analysis
The Fairness Doctrine actually forced an equity upon an audience’s information rights and had a benefit that many to this day fail to recognize. It allowed for the inclusion of other viewpoints. A government that does not care for and refuses to take into account opposing or differing viewpoints is simply a fascism.
The elimination of the requirement of fairness in broadcast media opened the door to massive exclusion of “others.” And exclusion always leads to insanity because it essentially allows for the dehumanization of these “others.”
Our history on Earth is rife with the evidence of this. Travesties like the genocide of the native population of America, the Apartheid government of South Africa, the genocides of WWII, Armenia, Rwanda, Bosnia, etc., etc., are all the result of hate leveled against those that are “different.”
As a race (and there is only one human race), we need to seek fairness and inclusion in all things and restoring the Fairness Doctrine should be a component of making this happen. For the United States as a country, this will be a necessary component to establishing a moral standard from which this country seeks to operate with the rest of the world.
Marty Kassowitz is co-founder of Factkeepers. As founder of Interest Factory and View360, he brings more than 30 years experience in effective online communications, social media management, and platform development to the site. He is a writer, designer, editor and long time observer of the ill-logic demonstrated by too many members of the species known as Mankind. After a long history of somewhat private commentary on a subject he totally hates: politics, Marty was encouraged to build this site and put up his own analyses as well as curate relevant content from other sources.