Because of Rush Limbaugh’s success as the trendsetter and trailblazer of talk radio, the self-proclaimed “Doctor of Democracy” has been called everything from “a big, fat idiot,” by that big, fat, idiot Al Franken, to “hateful” and “unpatriotic” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently took accusations and name-calling to new low when he equated talk radio — and by implication Limbaugh — with pornography. This accusation was part of Schumer’s argument that the government ought to be able to “regulate” talk radio because it regulates pornography.
In a Fox News interview, Schumer said, “The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC to limit pornography on the air. I am for that… But you can’t say government hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise but you are allowed to intervene in another.”
This is just Schumer’s attempt to justify reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, which was a FCC regulation that Ronald Reagan struck down in 1987. It required that radio stations which aired an hour of one type of media — conservative talk radio for example — air an equal amount of an opposing viewpoint — liberal talk radio in this instance. Reagan saw this law for what it was: a means to stifle free, market-driven speech, and he liberated us from it. When he did, Limbaugh took to the airwaves in Sacramento, California.
When Limbaugh did this in the late 1980s, he was easy for Democrats to shrug off: his audience only numbered in thousands, whereas today it averages around 20 million. Perhaps it’s easiest to grasp the magnitude of having 20 million people in your audience if you think about it this way: Chris Matthews, Larry King, Keith Olbermann, and Katie Couric combined don’t draw as big of an audience. (I know what you’re thinking — “Who’s Chris Matthews?” As pollster Frank Luntz said recently, MSNBC is the only network that has more letters in its name than viewers.)
Limbaugh’s very existence is an insult to the Left. They’ll never admit that. Instead, they’ll take the low road, comparing him to pornography or pointing out how unpatriotic he is. I vaguely remember Democrat complaints against President Bush, wherein they accused him of falsely accusing them of being unpatriotic. They cried foul over the fact that anyone would dare question someone else’s patriotism and hurled words like “fascism” and “dictator” at Bush and the Republican Party for doing it.
Now, Senate Majority Leader Reid — whom you may remember as the one who gleefully announced that our troops had lost the war in Iraq, a war we are in fact winning — begins his newest battle against the undisputed king of talk radio by calling him “unpatriotic.” These people are shameless.
Of course, Limbaugh is more than an insult to the Left: he and all conservative talk radio are very potent political weapons. Limbaugh personifies freedom of speech Reagan-style: speech that is free as our Founding Fathers intended. The First Amendment was designed to protect unpopular speech, not only the speech that those in power favor. Any time the people are truly free, they are threat to the plans and machinations of would-be dictators (i.e., Democrats like Reid and Schumer). Thus the Fairness Doctrine was designed to be a tool which demagogues could use to shut down their opposition.
Since its conception in 1949, the doctrine provided office-holding incumbents with a “nuclear option,” according to Daniel Hanninger, so that in the event that “a local broadcaster’s news operation made [a] local congressman or his party look bad, [the federal government] could threaten to blow up his broadcast license.” In other words, if a broadcaster revealed that an office holder running for re-election on a platform of lowering taxes actually planned to raise taxes, that broadcaster could lose his job for telling the truth.
How would the broadcaster lose his job, you ask? He would lose it when the federal government stepped in and said his radio station was giving too much of one side of the story and not enough of the other. They would then force that channel to carry an equal number of liberal talk show hours based on the number of conservative hours the station had been airing, and this would effectively drive the station out of business (and on the way to going out of the business such regulations would lead to the firing of broadcasters who criticized politicians running for re-election).
This is exactly what Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is pushing for now. It was Durbin who, in 2007, said, “It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.” Of course, he really has no intention for Americans to hear both sides of the story. His real goal, just like Reid and Schumer, is to silence every part of the story except those parts they like.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is the way in which talk radio is structured as a business in the post-Fairness Doctrine world. The programming at any given station is driven by the people — period. If people show their approval for certain shows by listening to them, programmers put those shows on their radio stations, and if people disapprove of certain programs by not listening, programmers pull those programs from their lineup because the stations cannot sell advertising for shows to which no one listens and therefore cannot make money. In light of this, one thing is obvious — people love Limbaugh and the message he communicates daily.
Limbaugh is not on the radio because radio station owners necessarily agree with him; he is on the radio because the people agree with him, and listen to him in such large numbers that his show is lucrative on the airwaves. It is that simple.
In addition to Durbin, Reid, and Schumer, Speaker of the House Pelosi has been clear about her support for silencing talk radio through the Fairness Doctrine as well. When Indiana Congressman Mike Pence recently sought a vote on banning the Fairness Doctrine from ever being allowed to be reinstated, Pelosi would not even allow Pence’s proposal to come to the floor. Whatever happened to hearing both sides of the story, Speaker Pelosi?
What does President-elect Obama think about this? He is a strong advocate of the reintroduction of the Fairness Doctrine. And because he has so much to hide, this makes sense. But be careful not to be fooled by Obama’s aversion to speaking plainly — as of late, he has not voiced his support for the Fairness Doctrine but for “network neutrality.”
Fortunately, Limbaugh is not only ahead of the curve as far as talk radio goes but also as far as exposing the Democrat plan to silence free speech through the Fairness Doctrine goes. He has been so effective at pointing out this goal of the Democrats under the coming Obama administration that David Gergen has begun popping up on 24 hour news outlets talking about how Limbaugh should wait until Obama is sworn in before attacking his policies.
Quick note to Gergen — if we wait till Durbin, Pelosi, Reid, and Schumer have the added advantage of a Democrat administration in place before we oppose such regulations, we will have lost before we start.
We need to call and write Pence and the new conservatives who were elected to the Congress last week and ask them to begin opposing this legislation now. By doing this, they will easily demonstrate which politicians are on the side of the people and which are not. And, hopefully, they can derail this train before it picks up momentum.
Also, we need to support Limbaugh. In addition to doing this by listening to him, perhaps someone could make bumper stickers that read: “LIMBAUGH: The people love him, tyrants fear him.”
It ain’t pornography, Sen. Schumer — it’s freedom.