Most of you are probably unaware that there used to exist in radio and TV land something called the “Fairness Doctrine.” This was a rule established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and applied to all companies seeking licenses to broadcast on radio and TV. The rule required that TV and radio stations holding FCC issued licenses be required to devote some of their broadcast time to controversial issues of public importance. It also required that equal time be devoted to both sides of, say, a political controversy. For example, if a Rush Limbaugh type ranted for an hour on the radio demonizing liberals and Democrats; another hour had to be set aside for some one to talk in favor of the liberal position, and in turn castigate conservatives and Republicans. Broadcasters were required to actively determine the full spectrum of views on any given issue, and to present those people best suited toward representing both sides being discussed. Additionally the rule required that broadcasters alert any public figure of the fact that they, or their views were being attacked on the air; and allow them equal time to rebut those accusations. The “Fairness Doctrine” originated back in 1927, and was further strengthened in 1949 with the advent of commercial television. It had thus been around for quite some time as we headed into the 1980s; and it seemed to work reasonably well.
Come the Reagan era in the 1980s, the “Fairness Doctrine” was increasingly being challenged in the courts as being an infringement on the first amendment’s constitutional right to freedom of speech. The FCC began to reconsider this rule in the mid-1980s, after Congress passed a resolution expressing its disapproval. The FCC then revoked the rule in 1987, and, thereby, opened the floodgates of what is called “talk radio” in present day vernacular. Democrats were completely clueless as to the havoc that dissolving the “Fairness Doctrine” would wreck on their political fortunes and aspirations. But without the requirement of having to broadcast both sides of all controversial or political issues, the door was open to any looney-tunes, crackpot with a reasonably good speaking voice, and the ability to master the art of demagoguery. The first one on the scene was Rush Limbaugh, who until the late 1980s, was basically a small time radio sports and news broadcaster. But with the “Fairness Doctrine” gone, Rush, ever the opportunist, realized “thar was gold in them thar hills” of bashing and demonizing Democrats and progressives. With demagogic skills approaching that of a Josef Goebbels, (if you don’t know who he is, look it up in your Funk&Wagnalls), Rush developed a loyal audience of millions tuning in every day to get their 3 hours of first Clinton and then Obama demonization. When a Republican became President, such as George W. Bush, Rush’s format would switch to protective coating of each dumb decision they made, such as the Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, or the whole Iraqi invasion fiasco. But, as I’ve said, millions bought his drivel, which made Rush a very, very wealthy man.
Not long after, other opportunists such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and hosts of other Rush wannabes joined the right-wing whacko parade, each seeking to outdo the others in demonizing what they consider to be their political enemies. Using, perhaps 5-10% fact, and 90-95% fiction, each uses the same basic format steeped in demagoguery to make a good living off the gullibility of millions of adherents. One such lunatic deserves special mention, because even the lunatic-fringe considers him too unhinged to be allowed recognition in polite society. His name is Michael Wiener; but he changed it to Michael Savage, and hosts a radio program called the “Savage Nation.” After all, I guess the Wiener Nation wouldn’t sound quite so fearsome. In any event, his bellicose rantings against Obama, the Democrats, liberals, minorities, environmentalists, etc. are so vile and hate-filled that Great Britain has put him on a list banning him from entry into their country. The other names on this British list are known terrorists, serial killers, or recognized criminals. He’s the only one on that list that talks on the radio for a living. Yet, we, in this country, allow him freedom of the airways to spread his filth and poison. Ain’t democracy wonderful.
The most disturbing aspect of all this, is not the fact that there are so many unhinged lunatics freely pounding away on the radio, and TV also, (Fox News.) The most disturbing aspect is that millions of Americans are not only rabid fans of all this right-wing drivel, but apparently can’t get through their days without listening to a steady stream of such demagogic lunacy. One might say, to be fair, that there are also left-wing zealots on the radio and TV airwaves. That may be true; but apparently they can’t perform nearly as well as the right-wingers do, and no prominent name stands out on the left side of the spectrum.
So why does all this matter in current day realtime. Because Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and all their wannabes are basically shills for the Republican Party. Republican fortunes over the past 25 years have improved vastly, in no large part due to these right-wing broadcasts on talk radio. Tomorrow we have an election coming up, in which all the pundits have predicted that the GOP will win the Senate and increase their majority in the House. To say nothing of electing more Governors and state legislators. We’ll have a total Republican Congress that basically despises President Obama, and Democrats in general. Won’t life be fun then. Look for lots of Government shutdowns, as well as more extreme hyper-partainship, polarization and dysfunction. One might be well advised to examine how we painted ourselves into this corner in the first place.