Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who, exactly, are these "reactionary liberals"?

George Will's column today is on the perils to the Republic posed by the threat of reviving the Fairness Doctrine. I'll let him summarize it:

[T]he doctrine required broadcasters to devote reasonable time to fairly presenting all sides of any controversial issue discussed on the air. The government decided the meaning of the italicized words.
He points out, quite correctly, that the original argument in favor of the Doctrine was scarcity of spectrum; with only a relatively few stations, and those stations using the public's airwaves for private profit, they had a responsibility to present different sides of an issue. (From his comments, it appears Will found the rationale unpersuasive, but that's a separate issue.)

And he observes, correctly, in an era of 100-channel cable packages, exploding talk radio, and that there Internet thingy, the scarcity argument doesn't carry nearly as much weight as it used to. BUT... check out the last few paragraphs. Note what's there, and what isn't.
[S]ome liberals now say: The problem is not maldistribution of opinion and information but too much of both. Until recently, liberals fretted that the media were homogenizing America into blandness. Now they say speech management by government is needed because of a different scarcity -- the public's attention....

And these worrywarts say the proliferation of radio, cable, satellite broadcasting and Internet choices allows people to choose their own universe of commentary, which takes us far from the good old days when everyone had the communitarian delight of gathering around the cozy campfire of the NBC-ABC-CBS oligopoly. Being a liberal is exhausting...

If reactionary liberals, unsatisfied with dominating the mainstream media, academia and Hollywood, were competitive on talk radio, they would be uninterested in reviving the fairness doctrine. Having so sullied liberalism's name that they have taken to calling themselves progressives, liberals are now ruining the reputation of reactionaries, which really is unfair.

So I have a question: Who, exactly, are these "reactionary liberals"? Part of why I read Will is his careful research, his willingness to name names, cite sources, and in general provide a factually-grounded as well as well-reasoned argument. (I seldom agree with him, but his columns are always thought-provoking.)

Yet here he simply invokes the right-wing bugaboo of "reactionary liberals." Um, I spend a fair amount of time cruising through the left blogosphere. Not all my time--I do have a life, such as it is--but I'm simply not seeing a groundswell from the Left for reviving the Fairness Doctrine. I'm hearing a lot of bloviating from the right about how restoring the Doctrine is going to be Barack Hussein Obama's first step in turning America into a Socialist Muslim Atheist Marxist Dictatorship. The Lefties I'm reading are more concerned with the economy in free-fall, the Iraq mess, and health care, than with restoring the Fairness Doctrine.

So who are these people, Mr Will? What are your sources? Or, to keep your readership up with the base, do you just occasionally take a Limbaugh rant, edit it for tone, and run it?

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