Even while we are busy defending our Second Amendment rights against efforts to enhance the Brady Law, there is a movement afoot to restrict our First Amendment rights as well … a movement that can make the defense of our liberties much harder.
You may have heard of this effort as the “Hush Rush” bill or, just simply, as the Fairness Doctrine. No matter how you look at it, however, there is nothing fair about it.
Better termed the UnFairness Doctrine, it would radically limit the type of information you hear in the media and would greatly restrict access by Gun Owners of America to the airwaves.
Access to talk radio has been crucial for GOA. If we had to depend on network news alone, one would think that crime is out of control. Talk radio has given Second Amendment supporters the opportunity to present the data that more guns in the hands of the public has actually lowered crime.
On June 28, the House of Representatives voted 309 to 115 for an amendment — offered by pro-gun Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) — to defund enforcement of the unFairness Doctrine. This was a great victory. But even though the amendment — which was added to a Federal Communication Commission appropriation (HR 2829) — was a victory for supporters of the First Amendment, it does not give lasting comfort to supporters of free speech.
The vote on the appropriations amendment applies only to FCC actions in 2008. Since no one thinks the commission would move to reimpose the UnFairness Doctrine until after 2008, what is needed is enactment of S. 1748, the Broadcaster Freedom Act which was introduced by Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN).
The so-called Fairness Doctrine is openly touted as a way to squelch conservative’s market-driven dominance of talk radio. For example, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma reports overhearing a conversation between Senators Hilary Clinton (NY) and Barbara Boxer (CA). The two Senators were complaining about conservatives’ success in the free market of ideas on radio and said “We’ve got to have a balance. There’s got to be a legislative fix for this.”
The UnFairness Doctrine is on its face an attack on free speech. Were folks like Senators Clinton and Boxer truly interested in balance, they would want to extend their UnFairness Doctrine to the Public Broadcasting System and the network news programs, almost all of which tilt to the left.
The anti-free speech forces in Congress may want to gag talk radio because Air America has staggered into bankruptcy. Air America, which was the left’s failed attempt to compete with conservative talk radio, has almost no audience. It got its clock cleaned and has only itself to blame. It should not be allowed to hide behind a phony “Fairness Doctrine.”
Remember, the First Amendment protects free speech, not fairness. Free speech is a constitutional doctrine, using the power of government to mandate political “fairness” is a socialist doctrine.
Pratt is executive director of Gun Owners of America