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Fairness Doctrine Not A Panacea For Violence Against Public Figures
By Brian Johnson - Brian's Right Perspective
The Fairness Doctrine, established by the FCC in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission's view, honest, equitable and balanced. In other words, if a Rush Limbaugh made a controversial statement, the station had to provide equal time to someone to rebut what Limbaugh said. Instead of promoting debate, the Fairness Doctrine caused stations to avoid anything controversial at all. The talk airwaves were littered with programs on how to get the perfect pie crust, green gardening, and a host of other programming that were more conducive to putting you to sleep than provoking debate. In 1987, Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine through executive order. Since that time talk radio has flourished, starting with Rush Limbaugh, and the medium now has scores of successful hosts and programming. There are hosts across the political spectrum which challenge a persons worldview, and sometimes may even piss you off. The point is is that there is something there for pretty much everyone. You just have to find it, or in the case that you don't like what you're hearing, change the station.
The Left in this country argues that talk radio incites violence through what they claim is "hateful" rhetoric. For the Left, all of the rhetoric comes from the conservative side of the spectrum. I have listened to everything from Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and Levin on the right, to Amy Goodman, Ed Schultz, and Mike Malloy on the left, and have serious issues with their assessment. I have posted very recently on a lot of what has been said from the left and I will not rehash it here. They are all in the archives of my blog. What I do want to do is address this accusation from the left, that the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine has somehow made it more dangerous for our political figures. Was the political climate more or less charged when the Fairness Doctrine was in place? Has the rise of talk radio since its repeal seen an uptick in violence toward our elected officials and political public figures?
The Fairness Doctrine was in place from 1949 to 1987.
In the "era" of the Fairness Doctrine we saw the following:
1950 - An assassination attempt on U.S. President Harry S. Truman occurred on November 1, 1950. It was perpetrated by two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola.
Nov. 22, 1963 - President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.
February 21, 1965 - Malcolm X assassinated in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom by three members of the Nation Of Islam.
April 4, 1968 - Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray.
June 4, 1968 - Robert F. Kennedy assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles
September 5, 1975 - An assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, who pointed a Colt .45-caliber handgun at Ford. Larry Buendorf, a Secret Service agent, grabbed the gun and managed to insert the webbing of his thumb under the hammer, preventing the gun from firing.
September 22, 1975 - An Assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford by Sara Jane Moore, while standing in a crowd of onlookers across the street, pointed her .38-caliber revolver at him. Just before she fired, former Marine Oliver Sipple grabbed at the gun and deflected her shot.
December 8, 1980 - John Lennon was assassinated outside Lennon's Dakota apartments by Mark David Chapman.
March 30, 1981 - Assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan by John Hinkley outside the Hilton Washington hotel.
Post Fainess Doctrine 1987 - 2010:
January 8, 2010 - Assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords In Tuscon, Arizona by Jared Loughner.
The contrast is startling. This, in no way, proves that the Fairness Doctrine causes people to want to harm politicians or politically active public figures. It is to illustrate that the entire argument to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, which I believe is an attempt by some of those in positions of power to squelch the free expression of ideas, is devoid of logic. Radio is a medium which operates on the number of listeners the host can attract (ratings). Revenue is thus generated by those ratings. The most successful of those hosts generate the greatest revenue for those stations. Even with that, there are shows which are liberal, conservative, socialist, religious, and every other kind of genre you can think of - literally hundreds. Many of those are not huge ratings getter's, but they are on the air. Reviving the Fairness Doctrine would limit, not increase your choices. Instead it would put another nail into the coffin of free speech.