January 14, 2006


OK, this is quite partisan, admittedly.
Still, the basic question seems sound enough: Is the end of uncontested 'Liberal' (= leftist) cultural dominion provoking a reactionary Statist crack-down on the freedom of expression?

Brian C. Anderson made his name with the discovery of 'South Park Republicans.' Anyone interested in the 21st Century culture wars will find his archive at City Journal extremely stimulating.

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at January 14, 2006 12:08 PM | TrackBack




Is there any field of human activity or controversy where 'fairness' is not a mask for tyrannical dictat? I'm beginning to think 'fair' should join 'fascist' in the list of terms triggering utter knee-jerk aversion. (This on the despotic 'Fairness Doctrine' - i.e. abolition of free political expression - for those who haven't read Anderson's article (which is truly scary IMHO))

PS. Fairness Doctrine abolished by Reagan, but the bastards are angling to bring it back ...

Posted by: Nick at January 14, 2006 01:11 PM



Yes, totally partisan. The extreme right and the extreme left are exactly the same: they want to stamp out the other--in every possible way. All you have to do is read the leading spokesmen of either side and either can be temporarily convincing.

No centrists or moderates allowed.

Leftists and liberals aren't the same thing, and disown each other more now than ever before. Some liberals are conservative, even if they aren't right wing. I see myself as a more or less conservative liberal, slightly more than a liberal conservative, I guess.

Who cares about O'Reilly or Limbaugh? They won’t be suppressed anyway, and I don’t know why anyone would care. After all, PBS has been the subject of corrupt pressures applied by CPB head Kenneth Tomlinson, and Bill Moyers had to leave. And they’re not exactly intelligent, which Moyers certainly is, even if you want to call him 'leftist'. Anyway, Bush and Cheney themselves say what they want to: In New Orleans this week, Bush said 'It's a heck of a place to bring your family' and ‘New Orleans has some of the greatest food in the world and some wonderful fun.’ Meanwhile, the city is still totally devastated and continues to die, and that’s not leftist ‘pathetique’ talk; just fact, and everybody knows it. Bush only went to the untouched Garden District and wouldn’t even tolerate the protesting schoolgirls at Jackson Square, who want secure levees (heaven forfend! These girls’ ungratefulness boggles the mind.) Even the communists are right about the killing of New Orleans (although I’m convinced that they would have, at the time of the hurricane, probably preferred the full-scale riots that would have made the Bush govt. look even more negligent in Katrina. Somehow those buses got there before the squalour ate the temporary citizens of the Convention Center and Superdome completely up, before they had to eat each other up. They didn’t even finish the first course.)

If the New York Times writes about the NSA, then, according to the POTUS, the Times has caused the nation ‘great harm.’ Of course, the Times put that story off for a year and also let Judith Miller get away with not talking about the Plame matter, which helped the administration’s agenda immeasurably--you know, little things like securing the election--so it works both ways.

Come to think of it, Bush doesn’t really have free speech: He won’t listen to his father, who’s got a lot more sense, since he’s trying to better him, but does listen now to a ‘higher father,’ and God never has let anybody say a goddam thing, while doing very little Herself.

I can't see much good about the extremists of either side except they may provide a kind of 'checks and balances' system as long as both keep from drowning.

Posted by: Patrick J. Mullins at January 14, 2006 05:37 PM



PJM - lots of provocative points here, but before responding in detail, what do you think about Anderson's criticisms of McCain-Feingold and the threatened return of the Fairness Doctrine? His arguements in both cases seem extremely strong to me. Given a choice between 'fairness' and freedom, it's crazy not to go for freedom 100% every time.

Posted by: Nick at January 14, 2006 11:29 PM



PJM II- my usage of "'Liberal' (=leftist)" wasn't intended to be snarky.
1) It was a futile protest against the now far-gone degeneration of the most excellent political doctrine in history (Classical Liberalism) into its present sense of socia*list, social democrat, or (most accurate but tends to be misunderstood) soft fascist.
2) My understanding is that American political scientists now use 'liberal' to denote (basically) left-wing Democrats - about 20% of the Ammerican electorate. 'Conservative Democrat' is a different category. 'Liberals' in this sense harbour a deep suspicion of market economics, tend to New England pacifism and disdain traditional social values (trying not to be judgemental about this - I've no particular problem with the last of the three)
3) Think a post entirely devoted to political labels would be interesting ... what do you think?

Posted by: Nick at January 14, 2006 11:51 PM



nick. excellent topic. first, we need to look at who owns american newspapers, radio & television & consider american & foreign ownership. remember, a small portion owns most of the wealth in this country. we may want to check out "Clear Channelization" & "Rally for America". but wait a sec, who owns the airwaves? apparently, the public does — they're public property. but that's not quite right, is it? actually, the american government owns the airwaves for the "public interest". apparently, airwaves are like diamonds, they're rare. however, the number keeps growing and growing and growing. was this an artificial restriction? not exactly. who invented airwaves & who's expanding unused frequency bands today? all this new stuff gets approved by the government. the FCC licenses airwaves to private broadcasters. as a matter of fact, telecommunication companies developing (ie, spending lots of money for) new frequencies must buy the rights to use them from the FCC. since broadcasters do not own the airwaves they operate (they actually get "permssion"), the FCC can revoke licenses if certain standards of decency are not met. on behalf of "public interest", mind you. recently, fines increased tenfold where the maximum fine grew from $27,500 to $275,000.

is the cherry on top of all this the "fairness doctrine" or that we call it a "free market"?

Posted by: northanger at January 15, 2006 01:46 AM



btw, Telecommunications Act of 1996 provided 24 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for first responders. american television, which occupies this band, currently transitioning from analog to digital with December 31, 2006 vacate date. however, "85% households able to view digital" rule created loophole. 9/11 Commission report card graded "Provide adequate radio spectrum for first responders" with "Minimal Progress". dedicated spectrum could have saved lives in NYC & might have provided better situational awareness between federal-state-local governments during 9/11 attacks. maybe the better question is why the federal government, which owns the airwaves to protect "public interest", is unable to expedite this issue. the american government maintains standards for public decency, but cannot expedite communications interoperability for homeland security.

Digital TV – Where’s the Transition?

Posted by: northanger at January 15, 2006 03:02 AM



northanger - not sure I'm getting your drift with the spectrum question. Shouldn't the govt just auction it off and use the revenue windfall to cut taxes? How does it impinge on the sacredness of the First Amendment?

Posted by: Nick at January 15, 2006 04:50 AM



nick, maybe this will help.

Property Rights In Radio Communication: The Key to the Reform of Telecommunications Regulation

The FCC's regulation is double-edged; it restricts what licensees can do, as the industry is quick to complain, but it also protects licensees from competition. The FCC's frequency allocation and assignment criteria, as we shall see in greater detail later, limit the number of available channels and do not allow the users of these channels to subdivide and reconstitute them to make more available to new entrants. Within such a politico-economic framework, removing the restrictions on licensees without removing the protection afforded by the FCC's control of frequency allocation continues to give established firms a powerful advantage over new competitors.

Posted by: northanger at January 15, 2006 05:37 AM



Are We Really Deregulating Telecom?

Simply stated, the notion that the telecom industry has been deregulated is a fairy tale. Asking how well telecom deregulation has worked makes as much sense as asking how well Social Security privatization or post office privatization have worked. We don't know because none of these sensible ideas has been tried. Instead, we've seen what might be called "Deregulation Lite," with some minor rules and restrictions relaxed by the Telecom Act. Policy makers give a great deal of lip service to the benefits of free markets, but they refuse to allow a truly free market in telecom services to develop. Prices and market entry are micro-managed, and powerful state, federal and international bureaucracies sit in judgment of this sector ... In sum, the era of "deregulation" has seen the FCC issue one of the biggest regulatory edicts in U.S. history; create an unconstitutional new federal program plus a hidden tax to pay for it; and grow to become bigger and more powerful than ever. Deregulation should mean the removal of regulations -- not the imposition of new forms of regulation to replace old ones. And deregulation should also mean the eventual "sunsetting" of the agency that oversees the sector that legislators hope to deregulate.

Posted by: northanger at January 15, 2006 05:43 AM



nick. as a minority i know minority broadcasters cover different issues than non-minority broadcasters. in order to create broadcast diversity we'd need a (true) free market supporting open entry to the broadcast spectrum.

Posted by: northanger at January 15, 2006 05:59 AM



northanger - sounds weird i know (and scary for you), but think i'm in complete agreement with you on this - more when I've had a chance to follow the links (but sure I'll agree with CATO on a domestic economics issue)

Posted by: Nick at January 15, 2006 10:25 AM



... but it's hard to see how the spectrum 'problem' extends to cable or the blogosphere (Cyberpace not being a finite resource).

Posted by: Nick at January 15, 2006 11:04 AM



Of course, it's highly questionable whether even electromagnetic spectrum is really a finite resource. Auctioning it off in relatively large chunks on 5-10 year leases would be a good way to encourage a secondary market, incentivized to improve the technological efficiency of band slicing. Large specialized businesses would then drive the progressive fractioning of the spectrum, selling on usable fragments to broadcasters of whatever kind. No need for any kind of criteria other than techonomic ones to enter into the process at all.

Posted by: Nick at January 17, 2006 06:28 AM



"Anderson's article (which is truly scary IMHO))"

A bit confused by the dramatic tone - maybe due to being largely ignorant of phenomena such as talk radio in the US - but aren't all attempts at trying to regulate the blogosphere doomed to failure, by the very nature of the medium? (anonymity, speed, low-cost maintenance, the capacity to shut down and start up again in the blink of an eye.) Opinion is a lot harder to pin down and regulate than copyright infringement (and that's difficult enough). Like the Creationist-ID attack on NeoDarwinian evolution, attacks on certain terrains of the blogosphere would actually bring issues into focus (in the public domain) and help draw up the battlelines... It depends what your definition of scary is - compared with the powers granted to Lenin's Cheka, Stalin's NKVD or Hitler's Gestapo, "McCain-Feingold and the threatened return of the Fairness Doctrine" is extremely soft fascism - which doesn't mean it should be ignored, of course, but it doesn't warrant panic, especially as it could help clarify in the long run.

[isn't censorship in China a more pressing issue?]

"a post entirely devoted to political labels would be interesting" - yezpleez.

Posted by: sd at January 17, 2006 06:00 PM



sd - It's true I'm holding America to a higher standard (deservedly, since free speech is far more secure there than anywhere else). As the world's torch of freedom, a deterioration in the foundations of liberty within the US has appalling effects everywhere - eventually. Without the mix of competitve example and - when necessary - judicious application of military force by the US, the flickerings of liberty would long have been extinguished worldwide. For this reason the failure of the US supreme court to defend the express principles of the constitution is indeed 'scary.'

As to the supposed technical invulnerability of the blogosphere to suppression, this seems to me definitely overrated. Clearly it can be overcome technically (I can't get blogspot here, for (trivial?) instance). More importantly, intimidation of persons is highly effective - whatever the technical background, the threat of imprisonment has an obvious and profound cooling effect on the ardour for controversial speech (this also seems an issue in the American context, if Anderson is to be believed).

Posted by: Nick at January 18, 2006 01:27 AM



okay, point taken.

Posted by: sd at January 18, 2006 10:33 AM



nick (apologies for delay). no, spectrum "problem" does not extend to cable or blogosphere; "Fairness Doctrine" does, perhaps, extend to cable. imho, overlaying existing perceptions from tv/radio onto the blogosphere is a big mistake. television & radio usually controlled by governments limiting open access & ownership; however, blogosphere extremely user-friendly & highly accessible. which is more inherently democratic?

brain farts: {1} "The Persistence of Vision" by John Varley. haven't read it in ages, but think it mentions some type of device. however, persistence of vision theory describes how the eye perceives motion; images temporarily burned on the retina. used to explain the apparent illusion of motion, since film is a series of static images. total bunk, some argue, since eye/brain combo doesn't operate like a camera. {2} another idea involving sd's "self-interest": Alistair Horne, on C-SPAN2 the other night. the French, he said, would never ban fox-hunting because of self-interest.

imho, subtle distinction between tv/radio vs. blogosphere involves former persistently maintaining THE "good housekeeping seal of approval" for "news" & public discourse. a small set of issues jockeying for position with interactivity managed by things like the "Fairness Doctrine". the challenge in the blogosphere, imho, involves challenging this perception & defining new mechanisms where issues emerge & become part of public policy.


Posted by: northanger at January 22, 2006 10:08 AM



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