Modern Politics Without The Fairness Doctrine

Today’s political dialogue is full of intensely absolutist rhetoric that at times borders on the apocalyptic. In terms of pure theatre and drama, the constant parades of verbal and written shout-downs ensure high ratings, popular social media sites, and a steady audience of gawkers. However…is this the best way to address the issues facing our country?

Obviously, strong debate and dialogue has and will always be necessary in political circles. This is because the issues at stake are so very important to all of us. Unfortunately though, the level of political noise now being generated often leaves little room for the opposition to truly debate. On a rhetorical level, many political pundits and politicians infer that the opposition is now an enemy that needs to be defeated totally and at all costs.

Sadly, such rhetoric can lead to unfortunate consequences on both sides. As we’ve seen, political gatherings are sometimes being upstaged with violence, and some politicians, political pundits, and government officials have been verbally assaulted or escorted out of restaurants simply because of their political views. Is this the type of America that we want?

Although the social unrest of the 1960’s is often talked of as a high-water mark for American unrest, there’s a chance that we border on surpassing that era. After all, in the 1960’s the civil unrest pitted those in the Civil Rights, Anti-War, and other movements against the “Establishment.” In those days “The Establishment” consisted of both Republican and Democratic politicians at all levels. When we fast-forward to today, the social unrest centers around a philosophical split between Republican and Democratic ideals. This split not only impacts politics, it impacts all of society. This is the reason why America is experiencing a surge in “Political Segregation” maybe unseen since the Civil War era. As we know, friendships between those with opposing political views are now being highly discouraged. As a result, not only are friendships being destroyed over politics, families are sometimes split over irreconcilable political views.

There’s a line where the concept of Us vs. Them can cross over into chaos. On a political level, we may be experiencing that. By dehumanizing those with opposing political views as an enemy to be ridiculed at all costs, we’re creating the angry-mob mindset that philosophers such as Montesquieu warned could occur with democracy. This herd-like propensity of being quick to anger is being shown with the frequent social media gaffes that occur lately on all levels. Some people now react first, and think later.

As a result of these trends many ask…how did we get here?

Although there are many theories for how we got to this point, one important factor that led to today’s political climate was the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine for media in 1987. Once this was repealed it became easy for media outlets to tilt their presentation of factual information more towards the perception of either Liberal or Conservative bias. When the Fairness Doctrine was in place there was a need to present both sides of an issue as factually accurate as possible so that the viewer could decide what to think.

Thirty years after the repeal of the doctrine we’re now seeing that relying on actual facts in the news has been replaced with bending the facts as far as possible for either a Liberal or Conservative effect. This has led to the frequent charge on both sides politically about “fake news.” And yes, this mindset has infiltrated social media strongly. A glance at some political social media sites will quickly give a glimpse of the subjective bias in store.

Although Conservative media has often been blamed for creating the echo-chamber media that we have today, it’s become apparent that Liberals have caught up to Conservatives in regards to media bias. In addition, some feel that Liberals are surpassing Conservatives in sheer numbers of media advocates for their cause.

As for an answer to the political chaos we see, there’s no single answer that’ll restore civility and fair play. Basically, an important thing to remember on all levels is that the concepts of Liberal-Progressive vs. Conservative-Traditional have been around for centuries. Each has their place. After all, as the cliché “today’s radical is tomorrow’s conservative” implies, each of us can possess both Progressive and Traditional tendencies at different times. Therefore, many of us can at times both understand and empathize with opposing political views.

Although the chance is slim to none that the Fairness Doctrine can be ever put back in place, it’s important to realize that all of us have within ourselves the ability to be fair. This idea is so very important to remember in these chaotic political times.








7 thoughts on “Modern Politics Without The Fairness Doctrine

  1. Yes, I remember the Fairness Doctrine but not why it was repealed. One can guess. We are more divided than anytime in my lifetime. As an attorney I, like most attorneys, tend to spend most of time debating issues without negative personal behavior. It is the most expedient way of solving disputes. I also was on Mediation Works board and had their training.

    But now, reason and civility have given way to personal attacks, preying on people’s negative emotions. Civil debate is not used much anymore it has been a cost to our democracy (?). It has pitted relatives and family members against each other and views them as enemies who no longer can have a serious conversation. Therefore, problems don’t get solved.

    There has been many who have called trump stupid and he is in many areas. But he is very bright in knowing how to bring out the worst in people. Think Adolf. Of course, trump didn’t invent this and this division predates his presidency. It is all a symptom of an empire on the way down. The division is getting worse and it has the potential of violence.

    Well, other than that Mrs Lincoln, how was the play.

    Take care. D

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Nice to hear from you again Dave!

      Yeah…as we remember, in the pre-1987 era there was a calmer tone to political media + American life. One sees this from looking at political shows ranging from Buckley’s “Firing Line,” to “Meet The Press,” etc. This tone was reflected in Congress + society as a whole. Although not perfect, there was an ability back then for people to use reason to debate in a civil way to not only solve problems, but also redress issues if one felt their problem wasn’t solved.

      As ya well note Dave, mediation without personal attacks is now rare. Although I personally believe a certain amount of conflict is inevitable in life, it appears we may be bordering on being so conflict driven that we’re stuck in mud due to adherence to rigid dogma first, and America second.

      Politics has become a winner-take all sport. Unfortunately, since political + social chemistry is the glue holding democracy together, we’re verging on democracy being torn apart due to dogma. The beauty in democracy is how it balanced out the interests of those wanting a certain amount of progressive thought + change with those that are more traditional + conservative.

      Political balance + chemistry is thrown off now since each side wants more + more of their ideas in place to the point to where only progressive or only conservative values are present. However, this isn’t the purpose of democracy. Democracy’s existed well due to being able to balance opposites. Just as a food recipe can be ruined with too much of one ingredient, so can democracy.

      I can understand why many liberals like yourself are concerned with Trump’s intense rhetoric + policies. However, since I study both sides in politics closely I understand how some conservatives had the same fear of misuse of power with both Hillary Clinton + Obama. After all, conservative concerns went beyond being described by Democrats as deplorables that cling to their guns + religion. It involved government policies that appeared to target conservatives negatively. Now unfortunately, liberals feel the same way…

      Hopefully, we can try in our own ways to keep the spirit of The Fairness Doctrine alive. It may actually help.

      Thx for the dialogue Dave!

  2. NIce what you’re trying to do here, but some historical context would be useful to understand whether it’s the Conservatives or Liberals to blame for the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. The info is readily available, I’m not sure why you didn’t include it.

    The Fairness Doctrine was repealed under the FCC of Ronald Reagan by a 4-0 vote. Three of the four FCC members were appointed by Reagan, the fourth by Nixon. “In June 1987, Congress attempted to preempt the FCC decision and codify the Fairness Doctrine, but the legislation was vetoed by President Ronald Reagan. Another attempt to revive the doctrine in 1991 was stopped when President George H.W. Bush threatened another veto.

    So let’s be clear: Conservatives destroyed the Fairness Doctrine. Then prevented it from being revived.

    Also, you write, “government officials have been verbally assaulted or escorted out of restaurants simply because of their political views.” This is not true. No govt officials have been verbally assaulted in restaurants *for their views.* They have been verbally jeered at for their *actions* –concrete actions which have led to the separation of families and assault of family members. That is a huge difference.

    Discourse should be met with discourse; but violent government action needs to be met by self-defense. History will judge us as having done too little to stop the inhumanity of powerful people, not condemn those who disturbed the meals of those perps.

    1. Nice to hear from you Jack + thx for the supportive words!

      Yeah…I remember when the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. As many know, the Reagan administration codified the deregulation movement begun under President Carter. Although certain amounts of deregulation, such the telephone industry, are successful, its hard to apply a one-size-fits all approach to it. Each deregulated industry reacts different.

      Ironically, Conservatives at the time hoped the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine would lead to balancing out perceived Liberal bias in the media. However, with the exception of the popular FOX News, one can say the repeal of the doctrine didn’t really tilt the media more Conservative.

      The trends to Liberal media dominance has been cemented in by recent studies that hint that most media members lean Liberal now. And yes, although its apparent President Trump plays into the back + forth with Liberals to create today’s intense politics, one wonders that maybe things would be a little different if the media had listened to President Carter’s comments last year about media bias against Trump. After all, if the media had lightened up on Trump would it have helped him calm down?

      Regarding your explanation that the ends justify the means in relation to intense ridiculing that members of the Conservative community have suffered since Trump’s election, lets not forget that public harassment of Conservatives predates Trump’s recent questionable approach to immigration. After all, not only were Conservatives harassed publicly before his immigration policies were codified, there was a prominent comedian who produced a video with violent overtones that was offensive to the President, his family + supporters.

      By no means do I defend all of the President’s intense language. As anyone that reads my blog knows, I lean Liberal on issues such as the Homeless Crisis, Poverty, + Race Relations, etc. However, I do believe the government deserves to be a balance between Progressives + Traditionalists. Although most of us may disagree at times, the political dynamic with democracy calls for co-existence of opposites. That’s our strength.

      Interestingly, Liberals are understandably concerned when anti-abortion Conservatives protest at clinics. Liberals have felt that such intense displays of emotion in public by Conservatives are inappropriate + amount to harassment.

      Therefore, why is it ok for Liberals to now display the same type of negative emotional displays in public towards Conservatives?

      Thx a lot for the stopping by Jack. I appreciate the dialogue!

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