Posts Tagged ‘Fairness Doctrine’

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Mr. President, Keep the Airwaves Free

February 20, 2009

Mr. President, Keep the Airwaves Free

As a former law professor, surely you understand the Bill of Rights.

Wall Street Journal – 20 Feb. 09

Dear President Obama:

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as “local content,” “diversity of ownership,” and “public interest” rules — all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?

You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.

As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the possible excesses of the federal government. The First Amendment says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech — which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.

When I began my national talk show in 1988, no one, including radio industry professionals, thought my syndication would work. There were only about 125 radio stations programming talk. And there were numerous news articles and opinion pieces predicting the fast death of the AM band, which was hemorrhaging audience and revenue to the FM band. Some blamed the lower-fidelity AM signals. But the big issue was broadcast content. It is no accident that the AM band was dying under the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which choked robust debate about important issues because of its onerous attempts at rationing the content of speech.

After the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980s, Congress passed legislation to reinstitute it. When President Reagan vetoed it, he declared that “This doctrine . . . requires Federal officials to supervise the editorial practices of broadcasters in an effort to ensure that they provide coverage of controversial issues and a reasonable opportunity for the airing of contrasting viewpoints of those issues. This type of content-based regulation by the Federal Government is . . . antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. . . . History has shown that 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.”

Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages. The explosion of talk radio has created legions of jobs and billions in economic value. Not bad for an industry that only 20 years ago was moribund. Content, content, content, Mr. President, is the reason for the huge turnaround of the past 20 years, not “funding” or “big money,” as Mr. Clinton stated. And not only has the AM band been revitalized, but there is competition from other venues, such as Internet and satellite broadcasting. It is not an exaggeration to say that today, more than ever, anyone with a microphone and a computer can broadcast their views. And thousands do.

Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You’ve said you’re against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you’ve not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.

I do not favor content-based regulation of National Public Radio, newspapers, or broadcast or cable TV networks. I would encourage you not to allow your office to be misused to advance a political vendetta against certain broadcasters whose opinions are not shared by many in your party and ideologically liberal groups such as Acorn, the Center for American Progress, and MoveOn.org. There is no groundswell of support behind this movement. Indeed, there is a groundswell against it.

The fact that the federal government issues broadcast licenses, the original purpose of which was to regulate radio signals, ought not become an excuse to destroy one of the most accessible and popular marketplaces of expression. The AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a “scarce” resource. So as the temporary custodian of your office, you should agree that the Constitution is more important than scoring transient political victories, even when couched in the language of public interest.

We in talk radio await your answer. What will it be? Government-imposed censorship disguised as “fairness” and “balance”? Or will the arena of ideas remain a free market?

Mr. Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.

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Free Speech Vs. Fairness Dogma

February 12, 2009

Free Speech Vs. Fairness Dogma

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | 11 Feb. 2009

First Amendment: Beyond the various threats that President Obama has said require confrontation — financial, military, nuclear, climate — another danger looms large: Those in his party who want government to muzzle dissent.



A lot has changed in the two decades since the federal government stopped requiring broadcast licensees to provide varied viewpoints within their programming.

Talk radio, for instance, has become a counterweight to the liberal establishment media. Blogs have allowed anyone and everyone to become a pundit with no limit to the number of readers who can be reached. And Fox News has overwhelmed CNN and the Big Three networks on American TV screens.

Stabenow: Eyeing the airwaves.

Liberal politicians see it all — rightly — as a threat to their power. And so the scheming for a new “Fairness Doctrine” on steroids has begun in earnest.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in an interview last week with liberal radio host and former CNN “Crossfire” co-host Bill Press, said: “I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves.”

When Press asked if he could depend on the senator to push for hearings on the issue, Stabenow indicated that she had already discussed the matter with fellow senators “and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen. Yep.”

Is it an exaggeration to say that mulling the notion of restricting political speech is a practice more suited to the Reich stag of Nazi Berlin than the Congress of Barack Obama’s Washington?

Sad to say, when the McCain-Feingold campaign law was enacted in 2002 and endorsed by a 5-4 liberal majority on the Supreme Court the next year, it signaled to politicians that restrictions on political speech were OK in America.

There is also an obvious conflict of interest: Stabenow’s husband, Tom Athans, is co-founder of the liberal TalkUSA radio network and served as executive vice president of the liberal Air America network — now bankrupt because so few Americans were interested in listening to its left-wing versions of Sean Hannity and Michael Reagan.

With hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus being spent on every imaginable Democratic wish item, does Stabenow see some loot available from the taxpayers’ pockets to subsidize her husband’s radio ventures (since they can’t seem to succeed on their own)?

Stabenow is by no means alone among congressional Democrats in yearning for a return to the days of the Fairness Doctrine.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., has remarked that “the public discussion was at a higher level and more intelligent in those days than it has become since.” The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, has said “the Fairness Doctrine ought to be there, and I also think the equal-time doctrine ought to come back.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., a member of the House telecommunications subcommittee, has also promised to work on bringing back a revamped version of the Fairness Doctrine. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Human Events political editor John Gizzi that she personally supported the Fairness Doctrine.

As Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a former broadcaster, stated in reaction to Stabenow’s comments, “Congress has no business pursuing hearings on censorship of our radio airwaves.”

Don’t bet on Pence’s Broadcaster Freedom Act, prohibiting a new Fairness Doctrine, getting a vote in Pelosi’s House of Representatives. Pence guarantees that if it did, it would “surely pass, because every time freedom gets a vote in the People’s House, freedom always wins.”

We can think of another effective way to shut down all this outrageous talk of regulating political discussion in America: a bold statement from our new president to those in his party making it clear that the “change” he is bringing to Washington must not include government meddling in the sources of information that free people choose for themselves.

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A Modern-day Islamist Inquisition?

January 6, 2009

Like our hate speech issues that Canada has endorsed at much peril to their liberty – and America is promised the same by Obama – we read about the “fairness doctrine” promised by the Democrats.

Both were promised by a new Administration as first priorities.

Dr. Walid Phares’ article is similar in importance – (Coral Ridge Ministries has hosted Dr. Phares at several of our conferences.)

A Modern-day Islamist Inquisition?

By Walid Phares

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an association of the world’s Islamic states, is pushing the United Nations to outlaw “defamation” of religion in general, and of one religion in particular.

My remarks that follow are based on 27 years of researching in the field of international relations and conflicts, and on a decade of teaching Religions and World Politics. Since I published my first book in Arabic in 1979, where I addressed the issue of relationships between civilizations and cultural blocs worldwide, I have had the opportunity to publish ten books and hundreds of articles focusing on the rise of ideologies including self-described, theologically-inspired ones such as Jihadism. I also had the opportunity to interact and meet politicians, legislators, authors and academics on three continents, particularly under the auspices of the European Foundation for Democracy. In addition, I was pleased to contribute to the preparation of legislation in the US Congress and initiatives at the European Parliament to defend religious freedom and basic rights of minorities around the world. Last but not least I was privileged to work with diplomats and NGOS on preparing for and passing UN Security Council Resolutions related to the Middle East.
From this background I have prepared a few comments about some initiatives put forth by members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to be introduced at the UN Human Rights Council (headquartered in Geneva) and at the Durban II Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination. These initiatives center on the driving principle of sanctioning what was coined as “defamation” of religions, and particularly the Islamic faith, under the term “Islamophobia.”
Let me first state clearly that I do agree with UN efforts, declarations and legislations aimed at countering incitement to violence, physical and psychological against any religion or religious group, or on behalf of any religion or ideology against others. This principle is universal and should apply in protection of Muslims anywhere, and of non-Muslims as well. Any religion or religious group who are the victims of discrimination, intimidation or suppression must receive protection under international law. The United Nations and all of its institutions, including the Human Rights Council, as well as its conferences, including Durban II, must be even-handed and fair in extending their protection on a universal basis, to Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, Taoists, all other religions as well as to Atheists and Agnostics. No exception should be made to a particular faith or community and no privilege should be granted to one at the exception of the other. Thus we believe that the highest protection granted to all is epitomized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948. Creating another special Charter for one particular religion group would be an act of discrimination against all others.
However, the current proposal by the OIC member States to create legislation that would sanction perpetrators of “defamation of religion” has at least five problems.
Problem of Definition

First, there is a problem about the substance of the concept. Indeed how can one define “defamation” as an aggression against faith, any faith? Where is the limit between criticizing a set of beliefs or ideas and defaming a whole religion? How can members of a religion reform their system if they cannot criticize it? Will reform become synonymous to defamation? If the very concept of “defamation” is not clarified and thoroughly defined, legislation such a sought would lead to blocking reforms and punishing reformers. As it stands at this stage the wording of “defamation of religion” — even if some are well intentioned in pushing for it — is a stark reminder of the blasphemy laws of medieval times which were behind religious persecution and the Inquisition. Defamation of religion as a concept has to be specified and accepted within the state of international consensus so that it won’t become a serious setback to human rights instead of an additional protection to it.
Targets of “Defamation”

By opening the door to create a new set of protected categories under international law, in this case religions — and particularly the Islamic faith — one has to expect that other religious groups, faiths and sects will also want to protect their entities from “defamation.” To the camp irritated by so-called “Islamophobia” (since it still has to be debated internationally) other quarters will respond with “Christaphobia,” “Judeophobia” or “Hinduophobia,” let alone possibly “Atheophobia.”
Muslims have serious reasons to fear discrimination and these fears have to be addressed, but Christians, Jews and Hindus (to name a few) also have significant reasons to fear discrimination. One example can illustrate so-called “defamation” as applied theologically to non-Muslims: the principle of “Infidels.” Indeed, the theological identification of non-Muslims as Kuffar is considered by the latter as a standing, institutional, theologically-based defamation of their very faiths. If the “defamation of religion” initiative led by the OIC passes as legislation its very first implementation should automatically sanction the xenophobic principle of “Kuffar.” If that concept is to be sanctioned under “defamation” those who are attempting to abuse the concept of “defamation” would have opened Pandora’s box, exploding the relationship between modernity and religions. Is the OIC ready to include banning the term “Infidels” as part of its initiative?
Muslims’ Human Rights

Such an international law, if enacted, will be harmful first to Muslims seeking their Human Rights inside the Muslim world. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, particularly those claiming theological supremacy, are already abusing their own Muslim citizens on the ground of defamation to religion, as they see it. The Taliban oppression of the Afghan people, including women and minorities, was claimed to be in defense of their faith against those who defamed it. The use of the principle of defending religion from defamation by ideological regimes has led to unparalleled abuse of human rights.
Such abuses, in different versions and degrees, have been practiced in Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. In other more moderate or secular countries in the Muslim world, courts and clerics have issued rulings against so-called defamation, not always fairly. We’ve seen militant organizations and individuals taking the matter in their own hands despite the rule of law. Muslim women, students, artists, workers and secular political parties have been abused in the name of defending the faith against “defamation”.
Such realities have also been part of the history of both Western and Eastern Christianity and other religious civilizations. In the contemporary Muslim world — with all the tensions provoked by radicalization — such an international “defamation law” would provide oppressive regimes and extremist factions with a formidable weapon to suppress opposition and intellectuals. Those Muslims who see “otherwise” would be accused of defamation of the official interpretation of the faith. Radical Sunni and Shia clerics would invoke this international legislation to suppress each other’s sects. In short, if this concept is irresponsibly approved at the UN, it will have incalculable negative consequences on the Muslim world’s civil societies and their future.
Non Muslim Minorities

In Muslim countries where non Muslims form a minority, such an anti-defamation agenda will be devastating against the weakest segments of society. The legislation will be used by Islamist regimes and militant organizations to repress these minorities under the aegis of defending “faith.” Christian Copts in Egypt, who call for equality of treatment with other citizens, are often accused of “defaming” the state religion and thus kept in an awkward state of political backwardness. Baha’is, Christians and Jews are suppressed in Iran in the guise of defaming the established religious hierarchy. In Iraq, Assyro-Chaldeans have been physically attacked by Jihadi terrorists under the slogan of “insulting religion.” In many cases, as in South Sudan, minorities reject the application of Sharia on their own communities. With “anti-defamation” becoming UN sponsored, any rejection of Sharia will automatically become synonymous with “insulting the faith.” Hence religious minorities which should be protected under human rights laws will find themselves persecuted by such a declaration.
Jihadist abuse

Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of the adoption of vague “anti-defamation” legislation — allegedly to address “Islamophobia” — will be to embolden the Jihadi Islamist movements around the world into further violence. Indeed, both Salafists and Khomeinists already claim they are defending the Muslim world against infidels. If the OIC is successful in forcing such a declaration through the UN or the Durban Conference into international law, Jihadists around the world will score a tremendous moral and psychological victory by claiming that the present conflicts are indeed about religion, and that Islam is indeed under attack at the hands of Infidels. An anti-defamation declaration will validate al Qaeda’s agenda and reinforce the Iranian regime’s ambitions. The Jihadists’ ideology, based essentially on their interpretation of theology, builds radicalization by asserting that they are the defenders of the faith. A declaration against the defamation of Islam declaration will serve their strategic interests perfectly, and fuel their indoctrination processes. In short, it will protect their Takfiri ideology.
Dangerous Consequences

If an “anti defamation” declaration or covenant were to be forced through the UN Human Rights Council and the Durban II Conference in 2009 by the OIC, it would have dangerous consequences for the credibility of the UN Council in Geneva, for the state of international law, and for the state of human rights around the world. Among these consequences would be:
1. It will find itself opposed by many democratic and Human Rights NGOs and activists, both within the Muslim World and internationally, on the grounds of it creating discrimination against liberal Muslims, non Muslims and other faiths as well. Such a declaration will create more “phobia” than ever before since it is the product of the medieval concept of inquisition rather than the progressive concept of equality among individuals.
2. The Human Rights Council of the UN would thus be transformed by authoritarian regimes and radical ideologues into a “super regime” covering up and aiding in the oppression of democratic opposition, women and minorities in many countries. This would constitute a major blow to the credibility not only of the highest international institution in defense of Human Rights but eventually of the United Nations as a whole.
3. Such a declaration would naturally unleash a massive protest movement against the “super discrimination regime” by NGOs and activists from Arab, Muslim, and Hindu, African, Asian, Westerner and other backgrounds. The inquisitorial system advanced by members of the OIC against criticism and reform would be opposed as a return to the oppressive, medieval methods of the Dark Ages, which through harsh religious defamation laws caused great harm to Humanity and obstructed progress for centuries. There is no doubt that a contemporary Inquisition — as proposed by some members from the OIC — would deeply affect the Durban II Conference on Racism and Xenophobia, establishing a more lethal form of discrimination via this UN sponsored (and funded) event.
4. One would also expect to see Human Rights groups and pro-democracy movements demanding from national assemblies, particularly in liberal democracies, legislation to protect targeted segments of society such as women, intellectuals, artists, authors, publishers, minorities, reformists and other entities expected to suffer from “defamation persecution.” Democratic constitutions cannot accept a setback to their long evolution away from religious inquisition and theological legal frameworks. It is to be expected that civil societies will rise against such a modern-day inquisition and blast its authors, including unfortunately those UN institutions which were initially designed to protect individuals from religious persecution.
5. Last but not least one would not be surprised if NGOs and individual citizens would take the matter to courts around the world where justice is independent. Intellectuals and opinion makers would seek both protection and reparation from the potential implementation of such an international declaration or legislation. Governments who pushed the “defamation-inquisition” through the UN, and the latter as well, may find themselves taken to court, regardless of the results. The image of judges requesting states and international organization to pay reparation for moral and physical damages caused by a UN declaration responsible for discrimination is not a bright one, but could very much become reality if the OIC project, initially designed by radical ideologues, is not withdrawn or at least restructured.
Suggestions

Here are some suggestions which might help in defusing the emerging crisis between the OIC members who are pushing for this declaration and those pro-democracy and Human Rights NGOs who are opposing it.
1. We suggest that neutral members in the UN Human Rights Council intervene to prevent this crisis by calling for a special forum where both points of views are heard and a new consensus is built: Government representatives, NGOs, and International Organizations should be invited by member states of the Council who wish to engage in this mediation. The mediation forum must find ways to address the real and specific concerns of the OIC regarding the psychological stress induced by severe attacks on religion on the one hand and the concerns of the Human Rights community with regards the discriminatory dimension of the current “anti-defamation” project on the other.
2. We also suggest the organization of a special conference of experts to address the following questions:
a. Define the concept of defamation of religions in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
b. Define the body that can determine the nature of defamation of religions, including the concept of “Kuffar” (infidels) and incorporate this issue in the general discussion of Racism and Xenophobia at the forthcoming Durban II Conference.
Conclusion

In the end, we hope that the voices of reason within the United Nations will prevail over the movement towards increasing radicalization, and strike a balance between the right to be protected emotionally and the right of expression: the one must not eliminate the other.
Dr Walid Phares is a Visiting Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels and a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC. Dr Phares is a professor of Global Strategies and author of numerous books on International Conflicts, including The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracies

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/12/a_modernday_islamist_inquisiti.html at January 06, 2009 – 12:44:55 PM EST

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Liberal Censorship and Its Roots

December 3, 2008
Relating to the content of this article – you may be interested in viewing Coral Ridge Ministries productions on Hate Speech.
Assault on Liberty: The Impact of Hate Crime Laws, DVD http://www.coralridge.org/medialibrary/default.aspx?mediaID=HateCrime01
10 Truths About Hate Crime Laws
http://store.coralridge.org/ProductDetails.aspx?pc=115328
Hate Crime Laws, DVD
http://store.coralridge.org/ProductDetails.aspx?pc=115375
http://townhall.com/columnists/DavidLimbaugh/2008/11/11/liberal_censorship_and_its_roots
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Townhall.com Columnist
Liberal Censorship and Its Roots
by David Limbaugh

The most unnerving aspects about the Democrats’ sweeping victory Nov. 4 are their intolerance for dissent and their willingness to censor and otherwise suppress their opponents.

Consider:

We keep hearing that Sarah Palin’s criticism of Obama for “palling around with terrorists” increased death threats against him, which is bogus in the extreme but consistent with the inveterate liberal tactic of chilling conservative speech by saying it incites violence.

Ohio state employee Vanessa Niekamp said she was ordered to run a child-support check on Joe the Plumber, the man who asked Barack Obama an innocuous question about redistributing taxpayer income. Niekamp doesn’t remember ever having checked into anyone else without having a legitimate reason to do so, such as discovering that someone recently came into money.

Democratic prosecutors in St. Louis threatened criminal prosecution against candidate Obama’s critics. In Pennsylvania, lawyers for Obama wrote intimidating letters to TV and radio stations that aired unflattering ads documenting Obama’s anti-gun record. The Obama campaign complained to the Department of Justice about the American Issues Project’s ad tying Obama to William Ayers. Obama supporters flooded Chicago radio station WGN with harassing calls during its interviews of conservative writers investigating Obama.

On election night, Philadelphia police arrested a man who dared to wear a McCain-Palin ’08 T-shirt at an Obama celebration rally. What’s scarier is that the Obama crowd reportedly chanted with joy as cops arrested the man for exercising his freedom of political expression. According to the liberal worldview, arresting someone for disagreeing with you is not censorship, but implying someone is not patriotic is.

Obama has made no secret of his plan to pass “card-check” legislation, which some have described as the most radical revision of labor law since 1935. It would permit unions to eliminate secret ballots — against the wishes of 78 percent of union members — which would represent a radical blow to democratic principles.

Democrats fully intend to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine, a euphemistically named regulation aimed at shutting down conservative talk radio, which Sen. Chuck Schumer has compared to pornography. Remember that conservatives have never advocated government action to suppress or censor the liberal media monopoly, which has existed for decades and still dominates mainstream media today. Their answer was the alternative media.

But what is even more frightening than the sinister schemes of liberal politicians to silence and criminalize political opposition is the apparent eagerness of rank-and-file liberals to go along with them, as witnessed by the many examples I’ve cited and numerous gleeful e-mails I get taunting me about the imminent re-invocation of the Fairness Doctrine.

I believe this arrogant attitude can largely be traced to the top-down indoctrination in our schools, cultural  nstitutions and media that liberalism is morally superior because it is tolerant, diverse, intellectual and enlightened. This view holds that conservative expression doesn’t deserve constitutional protection because it is inherently evil. As one liberal academic administrator said in justifying his Draconian action in suppressing a Christian viewpoint, “We cannot tolerate the intolerable.”

This self-blinding, superior mindset explains how liberals can accuse conservatives of racism for their legitimate political differences with Barack Obama while demeaning, with racist epithets, Condoleezza Rice or Clarence Thomas. It’s how they can mock conservatives for being close-minded while nilaterallydeclaring the end to the debate on global warming because of a mythical consensus they have decreed. It’s how they can demand every vote count and exclude military ballots. It’s how they can glamorize Jimmy Carter for gallivanting to foreign countries to supervise “fair elections” and pooh-pooh ACORN’s serial voter fraud in their own country. It’s how they can threaten the tax-exempt status of evangelical churches for preaching on values, even when the churches don’t endorse candidates, but fully support a liberal church’s direct electioneering for specific candidates. It’s how they can ludicrously depict President Bush as a dictator while
romanticizing brute thug tyrants Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. It’s how they can falsely accuse President Bush of targeting innocent civilians in Iraq when he does everything possible to avoid civilian casualties but demand our withdrawal from South Vietnam, which resulted in the massacre of millions of innocents. It’s how they can advocate the banning of DDT in the name of environmental progress but be unconcerned about the untold malaria deaths that resulted. It’s how they can oppose the death penalty for the guilty but protect the death penalty for the innocent unborn. It’s how they can prevent the teaching of “intelligent design” in schools in the name of science but defend the many documented myths of biological evolution in public-school textbooks, also in the name of science.

If you believe the left is tolerant, open-minded and democratic, you’re in for a rude awakening.