Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Return To Fairness

I like driving to Las Vegas from Denver, more than flying. True, flying is quicker and--the price of gas being what it's been like for a couple of years--cheaper, too. But when I fly, I miss the chance to stop at Canyonlands and Arches, two of my favorite places in the world. (Incidentally, President Bush is trying to open the land surrounding them up for drilling, in the last gasp of the OIL* Administration.) The drive through Utah's desert and red rock landscape never gets old for me, no matter how many times I've done it.

The only problem is, I cannot listen to the radio. You see, I like listening to talk radio and political commentary, and when I am looking for the news I turn to NPR. But during most of the Denver-Las Vegas drive all I can hear is a cacophony of voices like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Savage, Dr. Laura's, and so on. No Air America. No NPR. No Thom Hartmann, let alone Randi Rhodes. None of the progressive voices one might be able to hear in a big, blue town when you are driving through a land populated by ranchers, farmers, and Mormons.

This dearth of progressive voices on AM radio is due in large part to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, brought about by former appointees of Ronald Reagan during his administration. The Fairness Doctrine's main requirement was that contrasting viewpoints had to be allowed by each broadcaster, though it did not set any requirements in terms of the time allotted to each opposing viewpoint. That, of course, made it possible for hate-spewing, falsehood-peddling personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to push their viewpoints without fear of rebuttal, without any moderating influences, and without any need for restraint. The negative consequences of the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine have now been under everyone's eyes for close to thirty years.

But now that Barack Obama has risen to the presidency, and that the House and the Senate have seen big Democratic gains, there have been rumors that the Fairness Doctrine may be brought back in some form.

The airwaves have been dominated by right wing hate-mongers for too long, under the pretense that this was what a center-right country wanted to listen to. But with the majority in the House and Senate firmly in Democratic hands, and now that the country has even found the ability to look away from racism and elect a Democratic black president, the right's explanation for its domination of the airwaves is getting harder to believe. The right is going to fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo and, in so doing, it will be fighting against fairness. What else is new?

Resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine seems only fair. It will give the country a more balanced outlook on political matters, and it will make my drives through Utah all the more enjoyable.

*OIL also stands for Operation Iraqi Liberation, as the Bush administration had originally termed Operation Iraqi Freedom, in an belated effort to hide its true motives.

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