Stop, children, what’s that sound…everyone look what’s going down

Fairness Doctrine? What a bunch of pikers. Those who are serious about bringing back the so-called Fairness Doctrine are either flat-out ignorant or disingenous about their real motives (place your bets). To find out what they really mean, simply look to Venezuela where the darling of the American left, Hugo Chávez, has already nationalized the energy and telecommunications companies, declared — following his (un-Constitutional) third inauguration — that the country “requires a deep reform of our national Constitution” in order to become a socialistic republic and is now threatening to shut down the last vestiges of a free press.

Yet the predictable celebrity “psycho-phants” like Cindy Sheehan, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Princeton professor Cornel West knock the paté out of each other’s hands as they jostle to have their picture taken with this man of the people. Presumably they do so because political dissidents, artists and academics such as themselves have historically fared so very well under totalitarian “socialist” regimes. No, wait, that’s not the reason: they love Chávez because he taunts and insults George Bush — and they hate George Bush, too, reportedly because he’s a meanie who is ravaging our Constitution and destroying free speech.

Nevertheless I’m sure Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and the Dixie Chicks felt a distinct chill come over them when this article by the Chairman of Radio Caracas Television (who’s livelihood and possibly his life are being jeopardized) appeared in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ subscription required for full article).

Remote Control
January 24, 2007; Page A12

CARACAS — The president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, has verbally announced his decision to shut down Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) — our TV station, the oldest in Venezuela as well as the one with the largest audience.

So continues a long series of attacks against journalists, employees, management and shareholders of many independent media companies. The aim of all this is to limit the citizens’ right to seek information and entertainment in the media of their choice, to impede public access to those media where they might express or encounter criticism of the government or their proposals for reform, to stifle the pluralism of opinion in news and talk programs, and to cut off the free flow of information and debate in Venezuela. Instead, the Chávez government seeks to install a system that it has described, without apparent irony, as the “communicational and informative hegemony of the state.”

On June 14, 2006, President Chávez — dressed in military fatigues — gave a speech on the occasion of the delivery of a batch of Kalashnikov AK-103s to an army battalion. He brandished a weapon, then pointed it at a cameraman and said: “With this rifle, which has a range of 1,000 meters, I could take out that wee red light on your camera.” Moments later, he declared: “We have to review the licenses of the TV companies.”

In the weeks that followed the incident, various government officials repeated the same threat and started to monitor the editorial positions of the media. “There have been qualitative changes in programming, in news selection, and in the editorial line” of some media, an official observed; “[but] there are other cases in which we have not seen this change, this rectification . . .” He reminded us all that the government “has the ability not to renew a [media] license.”

On Nov. 3, 2006, a month before the Venezuelan presidential elections, President Chávez repeated his threat: “I’m reminding certain media, above all in television, that they mustn’t be surprised if I say, ‘There are no more licenses for certain TV channels.’ . . . I’m the head of state.”

On Dec. 28, 2006, President Chávez, again in military uniform, declared that the broadcasting license for RCTV would not be renewed: “The order has already been drafted, so they should start shutting down their studios.”

Apparently President Chávez is the only one who knows what is best and can be trusted to watch over what happens to the people’s resources, whether it’s oil revenues, electric power … or what they hear or see.

On Jan. 13, in his annual address to the National Assembly, he changed his tune again and said: “The transmission signal belongs to the Venezuelan people and will be nationalized for all Venezuelans.” He added: “RCTV has only a few days left . . . they can scream, stomp their feet, do whatever they want, but the license is finished. They can say whatever they want, I don’t care, it’s over.”

President Chávez has violated the presumption of innocence and has denied us due process…The actions against RCTV of President Chávez and his subordinates are in violation of the Venezuelan constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. They are a clear example of abuse of power, and violate the right to work of all those in the media industry, not to mention a violation of the freedom of thought and expression of millions of citizens who seek information and ideas of their own free choice.

We are faced, in effect, with an aggressive campaign to extinguish all thought that differs from that which is officially dubbed “revolutionary.”

I added the bold-face emphasis above about the airwaves “belonging to the people” because it is also a central theme for those advocating a return to government control of what is “appropriate” political commentary and discussion of issues. Admittedly, the marketplace can be an ugly monster depending on your perspective, spawning Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, though in terms of ideas it has been harsher on the lefties who through incompetence, intellectual barrenness and their own corruption have failed spectacularly in attracting a paying audience.

When the market has brought forth something I’ve found to be offensive, the typical response has been “you don’t have to watch/listen to it.” I find that an emminently “fair” solution that leaves the power in my hands. No matter how ugly things might be without the “Unfairness” Doctrine, it is nowhere near as ugly or scary as putting the government in charge of deciding what I can or cannot listen to (I know, that’s kind of a “liberal” position).

The idea that the government can create a marketplace of ideas is as flawed and demonstrably untrue as the belief that the government can produce wealth.

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