Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Fairness Doctrine 2016

I play by the rules. OK, sometimes I play fast and loose – but mostly I stay within the lines. I may have skipped one day of classes during my school years. (It was Senior Skip Day and everybody was doing it so maybe that doesn’t count?) Now in my midlife living it’s rare that I even exceed the speed limit. My halcyon days of yesteryear where I was once stopped for going 110 are history. Rules and policies exist for good reason and if you don’t like them, change them. I’ve spent a lot of time working to make change where I think it’s needed. This blog is an example of drawing attention to issues and being part of conversations about how things could be different. And boy could things be different this election season.

The Boston Globe reflects its core New England audience – largely progressive but with streaks of fiscal conservatism. The paper long ago endorsed John Kasich who it defines as a “mainstream conservative.” On the Democratic side Hilary Clinton received their nod of approval as “the better choice.”

Newspaper endorsements no longer carry the sway that they once did. Same with Union endorsements or even celebrities standing up for a particular candidate. They are important as they can begin to shift the narrative in a larger media environment, but I doubt that many people read The Boston Globe and then say “oh now I’m going to vote for…” Independent minds are the majority.

The paper this week wrote a different kind of editorial. It encouraged Democrats (and Republicans) to vote for any candidate other than Donald Trump. “STOPPING DONALD J. TRUMP is imperative — and not just for his fellow Republicans.” The piece continues with their reasoning. “Trump’s campaign has revived some of the ugliest traditions in American politics, including the scapegoating of religious minorities and immigrants. He has yet to put forth a serious platform of ideas about how he would govern or what a Trump administration would seek to accomplish. Just his nomination by one of the nation’s major parties would be an international embarrassment.”

I don’t support Donald J. Trump. Much of what The Globe says is spot on. But manipulating the electoral system isn’t the answer. If the majority of people want Trump, then Trump it should be. That’s democracy.

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the Commission's view—honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the Doctrine in 1987, and in August 2011 the FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine.” With the advent of hundreds of cable channels and access to information via the Internet the government no longer felt that was necessary to regulate the airways since different opinions were readily available.

Theoretically social media is another great equalizer. I’m not sure it’s actually true though. Having seen so many ‘friends’ post things like “If I see that you ‘follow’ Donald Trump don’t be surprised when I unfriend you. We have nothing in common.” So a progressive or liberal who wants to keep up with the attacks, insults and even have a defense is automatically assumed to be crazy if they do the responsible thing and gather information from those who they disagree with.

We live in a time where people get their view of the world filtered through the prism that they most agree with: Fox News, MSNBC or even CNN who claims the middle road but has a decidedly progressive leaning. Particular blogs, newspapers and opinion pieces are read and opinions that may present even a slightly different perspective aren’t even considered. It’s why nothing happens in Washington. Even with a deluge of opinions available, citizens are less educated about the issues today than they were under the Doctrine.  

The Washington Post didn’t go quite as far as telling its readers to jimmy the system in its editorial against the GOP front runner. Instead they outlined the lies, prejudices and ugliness that the Trump campaign represents and begs people to stand up to the bully Trump.

The Post has the right idea, The Globe doesn’t. The fair thing to do with a bully is to use the bully pulpit back. It requires looking at issues from multiple perspectives and even embrace things we may not fully agree with – and that is something that is missing the most from our discourse and our politics that is what made America the Greatest Country On The Earth. Ever.

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