Posts from November 29, 2004

More media on media

More media on media

: I’m to be on CNBC’s Bullseye with Michael Wolff to talk about the indecency absurdity tonight at 6:30ish ET.

Odd bedfellows

Odd bedfellows

: Still catching up on weekend reading, I find the darnedest defense of Dan Rather from Bill O’Reilly.

The ordeal of Dan Rather goes far beyond the man himself. It speaks to the presumption of guilt that now rules the day in America. Because of a ruthless and callow media, no citizen, much less one who achieves fame, is given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to allegations or personal attacks. The smearing of America is in full bloom.

Methinks that Bill is still a tad sensitive about his own dragging-through-mud he now is contractually forbidden from talking about: his sexual harassment settlement.

Right-wing talk radio in particular pounded Kerry and also bludgeoned Dan Rather for his role in another smear incident – the charges against President Bush about his National Guard service. Again, Rather was found guilty without a fair hearing. Charges that he intentionally approved bogus documents that made Bush look bad were leveled and widely believed. It was chilling.

That wasn’t really the issue, Bill. It was that Rather took 12 days to even acknowledge that he could have made a mistake. He refused to leave or look down from that pedestal he built for himself. He hurt the credibility of the news business and its relationship with its public as a result. I never thought or said he intentionally lied. He intentionally ignored the truth, though.

I believe Rather, along with Andy Rooney, Walter Cronkite and other guardsmen of the old CBS News, is liberal in his thinking. That is certainly a legitimate debate – how for years CBS News has taken a rather progressive outlook. But holding a political point of view is the right of every American, and it does not entitle people to practice character assassination or deny the presumption of innocence. Dan Rather was slimed. It was disgraceful.

But, Bill, the issue for you and for Dan is transparency: admitting your perspective — or, if you prefer, bias — to the public so they can fairly judge what you say.

But you’ll be seeing more of this kind of thing in the future. All famous and successful Americans are now targets. Unscrupulous people know that any accusation can be dumped on the Internet and within hours the mainstream media will pick it up.

Or mainstream media will make a mistake and the Internet will, within hours, correct it. Works both ways, Bill.

This is not your grandfather’s country anymore.

And I, for one, am glad of it.

: UPDATE: Winfield Myers calls it the O’Reilly Fracture.

First they came for Howard Stern… and then they came for you

First they came for Howard Stern… and then they came for you

: Few were standing up protesting when the FCC went after Howard Stern…. Few were yelling about the slippery slope of government censorship…. Until it put a chill on airing Saving Private Ryan. Then the newspaper editorials finally started to act alarmed, as well they should.

Here are two more that should alarm you:

First, here’s a Billboard story saying that the FCC will go after satellite next:

With envelope-pushing air talent like Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony flocking to the less-restricted refuge of satellite radio, could the Federal Communications Commission be far behind?

Specifically, could the FCC enforce its indecency rules — which Stern claims drove him away from terrestrial radio — on satellite radio too?

That’s exactly what Saul Levine is hoping for. On Oct. 29, Levine, the president of Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters, filed a Petition for Rulemaking to amend Part 25 of the FCC’s pending satellite radio rules to include an indecency provision.

While legal experts say subscription radio enjoys deeper First Amendment protections than free radio, Levine’s petition argues that the FCC is, in fact, empowered to enforce indecency rules on satellite radio and asks the commission to “level (the) playing field.” …

According to Levine’s petition, the FCC already has subjected satellite radio to Equal Employment Opportunity and political broadcasting rules and policies. What’s more, the petition says, the type of radio service (i.e., broadcast, common carrier, etc.) “is not a relevant consideration” in the imposition of programing or public-interest rules, nor is whether satellite radio operates as a broadcast or subscription service. In fact, the FCC put satcasters on notice in 1997 that it “may adopt additional public-interest requirements at a later date.”

An unnamed Senate staffer and First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere also say in that story that this won’t work because satellite is a paid service you choose to get and because the First Amendment won’t allow it. But that won’t stop them from trying. Just watch.

The second story is in today’s Wall Street Journal arguing that computers and the internet are the next target of the prudes, prigs, and self-appointed national nannies:

If America gets serious about doing battle over “values,” will the Internet-enabled personal computer be able to stay out of the crosshairs?

It’s a wonder that no one has yet run for office by campaigning against the computer. After all, you couldn’t ask for a better sin-delivery system than a PC with a fast Web connection….

According to their stereotypes, conservatives worry about sex while liberals worry about violence, and the world according to the personal computer provides a lot about which both sides can fret….

If you don’t protect Howard Stern’s speech from government censorship, yours is not far behind.

Yo, Canada

Yo, Canada

: Here’s a heretical thought coming out of four nice days in Toronto:

Would our world in America be all that different if we had not revolted against England?

I don’t mean to piss off Canadians with another observation that, gosh, we’re so much alike. Of course, there are differences, cultural and philosophical. Robertson Davies used to argue that Canada actually has more in common in its worldview with Scandanavia than with the U.S. and I think he had a point. And I will say that Canadians are lousy at making left turns.

I also don’t mean to piss off Americans by devaluing that which we value so strongly: our Constitution and Bill of Rights (well, except when we find the First Amendment politically inconvenient) and dogged individualism. Nor do I necessarily want to get into an argument about what I still view as the superiority, even with its problems, of the Canadian health-insurance system.

And perhaps one could argue that we’re similar because of the gravitational pull of our oomph and that oomph comes from the independence bred of the revolution.

But having given all those caveats, it is still true that we and our lives are remarkably similar for having taken such different paths 200 years ago. And our lives are similar to the lives in England and then by extension in Europe and what we haughtily call the “modern” Western world.

What ties us together, I think, is not history or revolution or philosophy but simply democracy.

What ties us together is that when you give people the right to determine their own destiny, they will find the water levels of freedom and civilization.

: I was sitting in the Toronto airport thinking about this as I read a Q&A with Natan Sharansky in the National Post (which, stupidly, won’t let us see the story; I wish I could tell you to read the whole thing but I can’t) as he flogged his new book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror. Sharansky makes powerful arguments in favor of democracy for all people and against the prejudiced and wrong-headed belief that some people do not want or are not ready for democracy.

Why are you optimistic that people will be achieved in the Middle East?

Because I believe that every society on earth can be free and that if freedom comes to the Middle East, there can be peace. The question is whether the free world will do everything in its power to help this region become democratic.

Amen to that. Ultimately, democracy is what will tie the people of the world together. We may seem to be on radically, dangerously different courses now but in the long run, let people govern themselves, give the people control of their lives, and people will be people.

: By the way, here’s the proof that the U.S. and Canada are alike after all. I pick up Maclean’s magazine and what’s the cover story but:

The War Between Town and Country. Cottagers vs. farmers. Suburbs vs. small towns. Urban cash vs. rural clout. This is Canada’s next culture war.

AKA red provinces vs. blue.

Media on media

Media on media

: If you’re by a radio now (9:30a ET), I’ll be on Air America’s Unfiltered on the FCC.

The national nanny

The national nanny

: In a National Post piece about Michael Powell as the new darling of religious nutjobs, there’s this quote I like:

Jerrold Nadler, a Democratic congressman from New York and ranking member of the House constitution subcommittee, says Powell’s complaints against ABC and Monday Night Football “make it abundantly clear that he is less interested in doing his job than he is in becoming the country’s chief censor.”

Good for you, Congressman. And how did you vote on the indecent indecency bill? The right way. Thank you.

: UPDATE: I didn’t make it clear enough that Nadler voted against the indecency indecency bill; I just added that clarification above. Others who had the courage to vote for free speech (even if accused of voting for smut):

Only 22 members, including Paul and Ackerman, had the courage to actually vote “no,” with most of them voicing free speech concerns. Another 20 members voted “present” or simply did not vote at all. Among those voting “no” were many of the House’s most progressive members, including California Democrats Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren and Pete Stark, as well as New Yorkers Jerry Nadler and Jose Serrano. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, also voted “no,” as did Georgia Democrat John Lewis, the veteran civil rights activist. Michigan Democrat John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was among the members who did not vote.