Missing the Big Picture On Palin
Lost among the hooraw surrounding America's most unqualified Vice-Presidential candidate is what being chose as McCain's running mate has done to this poor, ignorant Alaskan yokel.
Recall that as late as July of this year, Palin told an interviewer that she had no idea what the job of "Vice-President" entailed ... and just two months later, she found herself in the running for just that job. However, from all indications, Palin was happy just being governor of Alaska, holding up oil companies for massive "contributions" to state coffers and "entitlement" checks for citizens, trying to get her ex-brother-in-law kicked out of his State Trooper unit, and billing the state for "work travel and hotel stays" when in fact she was living at home during those "trips."
So all of a sudden, at the end of August, Palin found herself on a national stage, reading heavily massaged scripts authored by Republican Party spin doctors to adoring throngs, trying to avoid giving interviews to anyone who might ask an intelligent question like, "What newspapers and magazines do you regularly read?" or "What Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with other than Roe v. Wade?", being drilled for a solid week on how to answer questions she might be asked during the Vice-Presidential Debate ... and racking up more than $150,000 on the Republican National Committee's (and others') credit cards shopping at tony stores for wardrobe to wear at official functions, even as she told reporters that back in Alaska, she used to get her clothes from the local thrift shop.
So what I don't think anyone's taken notice of is the effect that all that focus and attention being paid to her has had on Palin herself - and it's a lesson in how politics can change a person. One McCain aide described her as "the Wasilla hillbilly," and it's likely that that's really what she was until she became the Republican Party's new darling. She seemed to know enough to keep her mouth shut about any national issues that her handlers hadn't prepped her to answer, at least until the campaign was on its last legs and she decided to "go rogue" and begin talking about Obama's "palling around with terrorists," reportedly against the wishes of McCain's top advisors. But now that she's lost her VP bid, it seems that she can't keep her mouth shut ... though not too surprisingly, aside from the "Aw, shucks" tone and the homey aphorisms she salts into every sentence, she doesn't appear to have any greater grasp of national issues than she did on Aug. 29 when McCain announced her as his VP pick.
But y'see, now she's got The Taste of what it feels like to be the center of all media attention, and like any addict smoking the tin-foil at the bottom of the meth- or crack-pipe, she's obviously got a real Jones for it - which explains the dozen of so "exclusive" interviews she's given to news media and pundits over the past couple of weeks. Now she craves that spotlight, no matter how ignorant it makes her look ... and it probably didn't help any that it's been announced that Someone is going to pay her a $7 million advance for her autobiography, to be largely ghost-written, that'll be in stores by Christmas. (I'm guessing it's Regnery, the conservative publishing house that over the past few years has released multi-hundred-page screeds by just about every major conservative figure that's ever been mentioned in the New York Times.)
Anyway, my guess is that Palin will try to hang onto the national spotlight with all the claws a lipstick-wearing pitbull can muster, trying desperately to be seen as a legitimate presidential candidate possibility for '12 - and likely failing to appear any more knowledgeable or urbane than she currently does. It'll be pathetic - but it's a monster of the Republicans' own creation ... and now they're stuck with her.
What All This "Fairness Doctrine" Horseshit Is Really About
Seems you can't turn around, figuratively speaking, on talk radio and the conservative parts of the Internet without running into the stark, raving Fear that once Obama takes office, he's going to reinstitute the "Fairness Doctrine" that the Republicans' Great American Hero, Ronald Reagan, killed - or had the FCC kill - during the early '80s, after the Supreme Court adversely decided the case of FCC v. League of Women Voters of California in '84, calling the doctrine "unnecessary" in light of the "expanding sources of communication" then available to the public.
The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters - you know; to be "fair and balanced," like one major cable "news" network claims to be.
Of course, this is exactly what religio-conservatives don't want, especially in light of the fact that more than 90% of all talk radio programming is far-right-wing, and they aim to keep it that way. The reason is simple enough: "[I]n the big lie , there is always a certain force of credibility" - and these assholes have The Big Lie down to a science. One need look no further than the fact that for the past few days, LCBers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have continually repeated the phrase "Obama recession," as if the Republican-engineered economic meltdown had anything whatsoever to do with the President-Elect - but the dimwits who Listen and Believe will be parroting the phrase from now until the 2012 election race.
The argument against a new Fairness Doctrine, aside from the claim that it's unconstitutional, is that it will force stations that cater to people who normally only listen to right-wing propaganda day in and day out to intersperse their steady stream of horseshit with an opposing view aired for the same amount of air-time as the conservative view, and during roughly the same time periods as the conservative material. Stations shouldn't be forced to do that, the argument goes, because listeners will tune out the liberal stuff and the station won't be able to sell any ads during that programming.
What's left out of this argument is that these religio-reactionary broadcasters don't own the airwaves which they use to spread their lies; they're owned by the American citizenry, which licenses them to various broadcasters essentially on a promise of "good behavior", which historically has translated to mean not using "dirty words" and making sure there's a certain amount of local programming along with the national punditry. But perhaps it's time to reassess whether broadcasters who continually present so-called "facts" which they know to be untrue, and opinions based on those lies, as well as innuendo and character assassination, are truly "broadcasting in the public interest" on the airwaves owned by the very people to whom they're lying!
Look, aside from the racists, the religious nutbars and the congenitally stupid, anyone else who voted Republican in the last election - in all, 46% of the voting population - did so because of the misinformation deliberately spread by the Lying Cocksucker Brigade. So contrary to the protests of the on-air fascisti, it's not that more people voted for Obama because of the "liberal media"; it's that an overwhelming number voted for McCain because they were seduced by the Big Lies told by the LCBers.
But that's actually beside the point of this piece.
The real argument against a Fairness Doctrine, since it would force some broadcasters to program against the apparent tastes of their audience, is that people wouldn't listen to the "balancing" programming, and therefore nobody would buy ads during those shows ... and therefore, the revenues of the broadcaster would be reduced - and after all, everybody has a right to make as much profit from their business as they can possibly squeeze out of it, aren't they?
Well, let's remember that radio broadcasters in the U.S. pay the government a pittance for their broadcasting licenses - for instance, KFI, a major right-wing L.A. AM station, pays just $7,925 per year, while KRLA, another local right-talker, pays even less: $6,125 - so assuming they abide by the rules set down by the FCC, they're free to broadcast whatever shows they can afford to buy or create - and the public sees a micro-miniscule revenue from the hundreds of millions of dollars of commercial time bought by advertisers on these stations. And while we are of course fully in favor of unfettered speech, consumer advocate Common Cause has noted that "the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has long required broadcasters to serve the needs and interests of the communities to which they are licensed." There is, in other words, a contractual obligation existing between the licensee broadcaster and the licensor FCC/federal government.
So the question we should be asking is, does the constant drone of religio-conservative spin, full as it is of lies, half-truths, innuendo, "guilt by association" and myriad other agenda-driven tricks and ploys that emanate from these right-wing talk stations, actually "serve the needs and interests of the communities to which they are licensed" - that is, fulfill the contract? Or is all the "truth" found practically 24/7 on the more than 90% of the talk media that houses Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Boortz, Savage, Liddy, Hewitt, Ingraham, etc. simply the Republican-run equivalent of Nazi Germany's Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda ?
More simply, can the public good ever truly be served by deliberate, outright lying about, and the creation of false impressions about, public figures and initiatives, which tactics are the stock-in-trade of conservative talk radio?
If the answer is "no," then we have to rethink what "free speech" means in the context of propagandists whose every phrase is calculated to serve a particular political agenda, yet who make up over 90% of the radio talk media in the U.S..
I've already suggested that one stop-gap would be the implementation of a "Factness Doctrine ," which would force every on-air talker to spend whatever time it takes during their shows to correct, during a comparable day- and time-slot, the verifiable misstatements of fact they have made during the previous day's programming ... but that may not be enough.
The answer seems far from simple. Legitimate political comment should not be stifled, but if 90% of radio's on-air talk is actually directed to creating and/or upholding what Karl Rove called the "permanent Republican majority," then this country is faced with a danger that far surpasses the current economic crisis, global climate change and worldwide religious tyranny all rolled into one.