Another Setback for the Officer Barbrady Chorus on the “Fairness Doctrine”

We’ve been told repeatedly that there is no serious effort to bring back the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" (what would better be called the Censorship Doctrine) in talk radio, which would put politicians and their appointees in charge of political speech on the air.

I recently wrote about efforts to mock and deride those of us concerned about the return of the "Fairness Doctrine," and to claim that it is simply paranoid delusion to worry about this. Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post, for example, wrote a piece titled "Fairness Doctrine Fears: A Fake Right Wing Firestorm," and others have written equally dismissive columns and articles.

Needless to say, the "nobody’s talking about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine" meme took a hit last week when Senator Debbie Stabenow voiced her support for the "Fairness Doctrine" on the Bill Press Show, saying "it’s absolutely time to pass a standard… whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else – I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen. Yep."

Responding to the inevitable backlash that politicians get when they suggest their support for squelching political speech, Stabenow has since backed off her original support for gutting the First Amendment, according to Politico: "Stabenow press secretary Brad Carroll has since backed off, telling Politico, "Sen. Stabenow is not calling for hearings."

Just as Senator Stabenow joined the long list of politicians pushing the return of the "Fairness Doctrine" only to back off almost immediately upon discovering that the American public is generally not in favor of stifling political speech (at least, not in so transparent and obvious a way), however, yet another politician steps up to bravely contradict the Officer Barbrady Chorus of "OK, people, move along.  There’s nothing to see here" coming from those arguing there is no real consideration or effort to bring back the "Fairness Doctrine."

Tom Harkin today, on (surprise, surprise) the Bill Press Show:

I read your Op-Ed in the Washington Post the other day. I ripped it out, I took it into my office and said ‘there you go, we gotta get the Fairness Doctrine back in law again… we need the Fairness Doctrine back."

Just a question for the Officer Barbrady Chorus, at what point should First Amendment advocates become concerned about the return of censorship on the airwaves? When 10 U.S. Senators call for its return? 20? 60? I’d like to know when I can safely mention my concerns to my family without fear they’ll immediately begin thumbing through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV.

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