A SMALL MATTER OF FREE SPEECH. Sinclair Broadcast Group's decision to order 62 of its television stations to air a vicious anti-Kerry "documentary" in the closing weeks of the campaign is loathsome, of course. But what I find fascinating is the ease with which Democrats and liberals are ready to trample over the First Amendment in order to keep Stolen Honor off the air.
This morning, I heard syndicated progressive talk-show host Stephanie Miller ask rhetorically, "That can't be legal, can it?" The Democrats are moving on two fronts. The Democratic National Committee plans to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, charging that the broadcast amounts to an illegal in-kind campaign contribution to Bush-Cheney. And 18 Democratic senators will ask the Federal Communications Commission whether broadcasting Stolen Honor just before the election amounts to an improper use of the public airwaves.
So much for freedom of speech, eh?
Now, granted, there are all kinds of ironies and hypocrisies involved here. Last night, on CNN, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz observed how outraged conservatives would be if any of the broadcast or cable networks had decided to show Fahrenheit 9/11. By contrast, the Sinclair story isn't getting much attention. CNN anchor Aaron Brown looked as though he had accidentally swallowed a cockroach as he interviewed Sinclair's unctuously disingenuous spokesman, Mark Hyman. As well he should have. What Sinclair is doing is sleazy political gamesmanship.
But in a perfect world, there would be nothing wrong with what Sinclair is doing, at least not from a constitutional, legal, or regulatory point of view. Then again, in a perfect world, Sinclair would not own 62 television stations. It might own a handful in different parts of the country. And other media companies would face the same ownership restrictions.
If 62 independent television-station owners decided to show Stolen Honor - or Fahrenheit 9/11, for that matter - well, what of it? It's the magnifying effect of huge media conglomerates that's the concern here. One decision in one corporate suite, made by executives who've given money to the Bush campaign and who depend on the regulatory favors of the Bush-appointed FCC, and anti-Kerry hate propaganda is broadcast from coast to coast.
In the current monopoly environment, it's hard to disagree with the Democrats. Still, shouldn't we be just a little uncomfortable with the notion of demanding that the government censor (and censure) speech that we don't like?
The title of Nat Hentoff's 1992 book, Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee, says it all.
COMPUTER WOES CONTINUE. For the third and what I hope will be the final time in less that three months, I am without the official Media Log iBook. This time, the problem is the internal Airport (i.e., WiFi) antenna, which is apparently disconnected or frayed. Blogging will be affected, but not too much - I hope.