ALLAN JEFFERYS: Hands Off the First Amendment
There was a time, within the memory of many of us, when dictators, emperors and other tyrants lopped off the heads of any who dared criticize them.
Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Saddam Hussein are perfect examples of recent villains. But they were not the first. We can go back through centuries of history and find dozens more.
Mindful of that, our Founding Fathers wrote a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution designed to prevent those oppressors from ever gaining control. The first amendment they wrote to our Constitution specifically prohibited Congress from "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."
In other words, we the people have every right to take issue with any part of our government and say so in loud terms. Or so it reads. But beware. Certain elements are conniving to outflank that amendment.
The current administration is mad at Fox News, the Glenn Becks and Hannitys and O'Reillys who catch the government in lies and get wind of anti-American schemes to gain control of us.
Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators are also targets. The government approach seems to fly in the face of the old saying that you should never get in a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. However, print media is not the target -- yet broadcasters are, and those broadcasters must answer to the FCC.
You remember the FCC; they're the folks who used to guard the airwaves against obscenities and pornography and violence. Of course, a look at today's prime time programs makes you wonder if the FCC is paying attention to anything. Or don't they think that the gutter garbage offered to youth has anything to do with abortions and out-of-wedlock babies and violent gangs the inner cities develop? But that is for another column.
Maybe the FCC exists today to protect those folks in government who get mad and don't want to hear any criticism. How to do that? Let's try the old Fairness Doctrine, for openers.
We used to call that one Section 315. It was designed to give equal time to all candidates running for office. Its problem was that every kook with three followers was able to get as much air time as major candidates with millions of constituents. It just plain did not work. Its fairness was a myth.
But suppose you put it back in with the idea that it would force broadcasters to offer the same pay and air time to a liberal as is offered to a Rush Limbaugh. The stations could not afford that, so Limbaugh and his ilk would have to go. Criticism of the government would also have to go. We would throw out the baby with the bathwater, and we would now have broadcasting a la Venezuela and Cuba.
That's on the agenda of one of Obama's czars: Mark Lloyd, chief diversity czar, who wants to force talk radio people to pony up money for public broadcasting.
I seldom listen to Rush Limbaugh and only catch about 10 or 15 minutes of Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly per day. It isn't that I disagree with them; it just works out that way. But, that is a matter of choice. Today, we have choices, which angers the White House, especially when more and more people are choosing the conservative talk show hosts and Fox News.
The White House contends Fox is not really news. No? What do they call Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson, who are refugees from early morning shows? Let's be honest: not everyone on Fox is a true journalist, and not everyone on mass media is a biased liberal. But what we tune in to is our choice. We can always switch channels or hit the "Off" button.
Let's keep it that way. Let the government hear it loud and clear: Hands off the First Amendment.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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