Normally I'd put a post about the Fairness Doctrine in the First Amendment category, but not this one. Fred Thompson serves up more red meat, this time on Dennis Kucinich's back, by comparing the Democrat's efforts to revive the speech-limitation legislation to Hugo Chavez' media clampdown in Venezuela:
I had planned on talking a bit today about Venezuela. The president there doesn’t like the way his media is covering him, so he’s doing away with the free press. He’s established rules on what he thinks is fair, and he’s denying licenses to television and radio stations that don’t play by government rules.
I can’t criticize him now, though. After all, how would it seem for me to complain about another country, when our own congressional leadership is trying to put the same sort of rules in place here? To do so, they’re pulling the Fairness Doctrine out of the dustbin of history. ...
The real issue here is not what you “can” see or hear — which is what the Fairness Doctrine was about originally. It’s what you’re “choosing” to see or hear.
Insiders say it was the collapse of the radio station “Air America” that led to this attempt to retool the Fairness Doctrine as a form of de facto censorship. I guess the idea is that, if you can’t compete in the world of ideas, you pass a law that forces radio stations to air your views. In effect, it would force a lot of radio stations to drop some talk show hosts — because they would lose money providing equal airtime to people who can’t attract a market or advertisers.
Fred hits all the right notes in this broadside against the Democrats. The Fairness Doctrine isn't about fairness at all -- it's about their unhappiness over the choices made by talk-radio listeners. Conservatives have built an industry on talk radio because they have developed talented hosts who produce shows that garner listeners and attention -- and influence. It turns out that the liberals couldn't buy into that market, and now their Representatives want to kill the market altogether.
None of this is news. We all have watched Air America die slowly, and some of us understood its implications. If the liberals could not get market penetration, some of them would attempt a dog-in-the-manger ploy to ensure that conservatives could not use it. That's why I started talking about the Fairness Doctrine three years ago.
However, this column and the sudden flood of missives from Fred Thompson securely indicates that he's running for the Presidency. Fred has spent the last few years in Hollywood, far from the political fray, engaging only occasionally. Since the beginning of the year, though, Fred has treated us to a stream of well-written essays on a broad range of public policy, and has emerged as the rational voice of federalism among the Republican cognoscenti. He has issued video statements and ensured that he provides commentary on every major issue that arises. He's even engaging the blogosphere to a level that surpasses even some declared candidates.
At some point, though, Fred has to actually get in the race. He needs to build an organization and start raising funds. He needs to appear at debates and make his case explicitly. When will he do that? Hopefully soon, before people tire of his attempts to play coy.
In the meantime, though, enjoy this essay against an attempt to stifle free political speech. It should remind everyone of the stakes in elections, and why principled non-engagement harms freedom in the long run.