23 September 2009

closed the door on the barn with the horse still in it, on fire


I'm not sure, but I think an elite culture that attempts to or even succeeds in completely denying access to the press is not to be trusted. Between the O'Reilly acceptance of the "media courage" award speech (with no press) and the Palin speech in China (with no press), and the lack of most any right-wing populist to go on anything other than Faux where they will get softball questions, I'm not sure what the hell is the matter with people. I guess the pretense of press coverage through Faux News, essentially a state-run media for populist conservatism, gives people the idea that this is still an open forum of ideas.

If you are a public figure, your opinions, thoughts, and yes, even facts, are things to be studied, debated, and criticized. They are not privileged state secrets. Even if you come from an ideological perspective that they should be, ala Cheney. Now sure, the press on the center-left doesn't do all that great at digging into issues either (the ACORN scandal shows up as a red flag here). But I don't think for the most part you could say that it's always simply a mouthpiece for liberal Democrats either (MSNBC would be an exception here, but I don't know that that many people on the right care what MSNBC says either, lots of people on the left care what the Rush-Beck-O'Reilly triumvirate says ).

Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, I've seen renewed calls for the "Fairness Doctrine". I don't know why people think this is a good idea. Okay fine, we could shut up the idiocy of Glenn Beck's faux populism now. We could assume that's a good thing (I disagree fully, even though I thoroughly disagree with much of Beck's antics). The problem is that an issue like the Fairness Doctrine is a tool to be used by whoever is in power to silence dissent. It is a blunt instrument that can and will be seized upon to silence anyone that the government wants to silence. Not just the people who currently "deserve it".

The first object of a true classical liberal is to preserve the ability and freedom of his critics and opponents to oppose and criticize. They are not suddenly obligated to begin agreeing with such people, to take them seriously, or even to pay any attention at all to them. But they are indeed obligated to protect their ability to exist and to speak their thoughts. The reason: it creates an expectation that others will do the same and thus tolerate your own wacky and controversial opinions. When you pay your enemies the respect that they deserve (such as it is), the atmosphere is created that others should do the same. Even if your enemies do not, the vast middle ground of politics will. So far as this applies to Beck et al, I say let them talk. They will only succeed in hanging themselves with the vast majority of the public. To the grounds that they are whipping up a frenzied portion, I would say that there is a certain percentage of the population that is always susceptible to populist rhetoric (of any variety, as the Huey Long's of the world can attest). Usually the best response is to educate and catch them before they go that far.
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