Here at TLF we often worry about government encroachment on the latest and greatest technologies. It seems that federal regulators want to control everything that has to do with our beloved and still largely free Internet—how data moves around, whether or not we can encrypt it, how long it is stored, who owns it, and how we can get their hands on it.
But even relatively low-tech means of communication are under attack too, or at least are rumored to be.
Lately there has been so much clamor over the Fairness Doctrine—an abandoned rule mandating equal time for all sides of controversial issues discussed on broadcast radio & television—that the Obama administration has stated publicly that the President is against reviving it.
Mr. Limbaugh’s position is obvious: he doesn’t like the Fairness Doctrine. Not because he’s against fairness or thinks that liberal voices shouldn’t be heard, but because, as he puts it, “The dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee.”
It’s undeniable that the freedom of speech the founders spoke about in the Constitution was never meant to be construed and stretched so far as to mean that government should control our means of communications. Though I don’t agree with a lot of the things Limbaugh opines about during his daily three-hour broadcasts, Mr. Limbaugh is right when it comes to the fairness doctrine.
But my agreeing with Mr. Limbaugh on this issue doesn’t matter much, as it seems many in Congress don’t see the issue in the same light. As Mr. Limbaugh explains it in the Journal:
A number of members of [President Obama's] party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.
Many accuse Mr. Limbaugh of hyperbole—a charge which he sometimes deserves—but in this case he’s not exaggerating. Adopting the Fairness Doctrine would mark a fundamental change in America’s attitude toward basic freedoms.
Though the country suffered greatly under President Bush and his cavalier and often hostile attitude toward our Constitution and founding freedoms, our ability to criticize the administration and our government was maintained—if not sharpened—during Mr. Bush’s tenure.
It is my hope that Mr. Obama can reverse the “Guantanamization” of America while holding strong against his own party’s desire to undo the civil liberties they find inconvenient.