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January 25, 2007

Comments

"Parenthetical note: given the journalistic standards shown by the nameless author of this article, I'll need a lot more than his/her word before I believe that this comes from Hillary Clinton's people."

So how will we ever know then?

What's the answer? Loosening the law so public figures have an easier time seeking restitution for defamation.

"I see the problems with the Fairness Doctrine. I really do. But this is exactly the sort of thing that makes it seem like a good idea: news organizations with an obvious political slant saying things that are simply and demonstrably false for political purposes, and pretending that it's news. In a fair universe, anyone who did this, on the right or on the left, would be drummed out of the journalistic profession, the way Jayson Blair was, and regarded with bewilderment and horror by people everywhere."

But Obama doesn't need the Fairness Doctrine does he? He could easily just call a press conference or send out an aide if he wanted to get something in the news.

I see the problems with the Fairness Doctrine. I really do. But this is exactly the sort of thing that makes it seem like a good idea: news organizations with an obvious political slant saying things that are simply and demonstrably false for political purposes, and pretending that it's news.

Take as an example, something as silly as John Kerry's unintended insult to our military.

Then the whole brouhaha about Kerry's remark, which shoudn't have lasted more than a minute after he released his prepared remarks (“Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”), but which has managed to displace such minor trivialities as the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

John Kerry did not say "Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.", what he literally said was "“You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."

Oddly enough, the major news services reported what he meant to say, as did Obsidian Wings without stating what words were actually spoken.

i just the think the fairness doctrine is too blunt an instrument. for one, i think it's unconstitutional (particularly when there are alternatives to broadcasting). also, i think it would be impossible to administer coherently and is the type of thing that would inevitably lead to abuse (eg, the Bush FCC could say "balance the street bombing with a school painting").

but you're right to identify the problem. the solution i think is journalistic norms and political pressure. people need to become pariahs for stuff like this -- they need to pay, ratings need to drop. this is an area where i think blogs are particularly valuable (i think the 2000 coverage of gore would have been dramatically different if blogs had been around) it's not the best solution, but it's the best of bad optoins

Oddly enough, the major news services reported what he meant to say, as did Obsidian Wings without stating what words were actually spoken.

Cites on the major news services, please, because every one I saw reported on at least the (botched) punchline to the joke. Cable news in particular replayed the exact gaffe several dozen times over the next few days.

And fwiw, I wouldn't say that ObWi "reported" on the story at all, given that that post is dated, what, a week after the event? It was a commentary on existing reportage, contemporary historiography if you will, which is a very different animal.

That's funny. The NY Times story Hilzoy links to contains the words actually spoken.

John Kerry made a gaffe. Fox News engaged in a lie.

There's, like, a difference.

"So how will we ever know then?"

Clear evidence it came from elsewhere - say the Edwards camp? An admission by the source that it was made up? An admission by Clinton's people years after her second term that it was from them?


"Parenthetical note: given the journalistic standards shown by the nameless author of this article, I'll need a lot more than his/her word before I believe that this comes from Hillary Clinton's people."

This seems not strong enough: when I see a headline in the Nation Enquirer, my reaction is not to say, "I'll need a lot more than their word". If tomorrow Insight says that it turns out the story was given to them by Obama's people in order to inoculate him against smears, I won't start waiting for more evidence.

Second oldest University in existence, too. The oldest is in Morocco, and is connected to a mosque founded by a woman.

Another university in Morocco, Cadi Ayyad of Marakech recently hosted the TUG 2006 conference.

I have to say, some of the calligraphy/typography therein is stunningly beautiful, and I certainly wish I knew how to read Arabic, so that I could understand it, as well as just admire it. Unfortunately, TUGboat does not make it easy to view the proceedings online.

Quite how reporting on the intended speech as opposed to the given speech is controversial is beyond me; Hansard does it to some extent, and Hansard records semi-spontaneous debate, as opposed to the American set-pieces involved here.

Further more, no one claimed that Kerry didn't say that; they said that Kerry didn't intend to say that.

people need to become pariahs for stuff like this -- they need to pay, ratings need to drop.

FWIW - The Madrassa story feels like a tipping point's been reached in respects to Fox's competitors.

There's ratings to be had exposing the lies now, rather than peddling them.

rilkefan: I intended understated irony.

It might have been smart for HRC's camp to have released a blistering memo of their own (if they did a cursory google misses it).

"I intended understated irony."

Gotcha.

Though for all I know it _could_ have been a dumb HRC staffer. Which might explain the missing 2nd memo...

Sebastian: But Obama doesn't need the Fairness Doctrine does he? He could easily just call a press conference or send out an aide if he wanted to get something in the news.

Ho ho.

(I hope this is a joke?)

Spartikus: There's ratings to be had exposing the lies now, rather than peddling them.

If the people who own the networks want the temporary advantage of better ratings more than they want the permanent advantage of a right-wing Republican in the White House. Sebastian's joke about "all Obama needs to do" is a joke because it's obvious that Obama's making the point that this is a crude lie - as crude as the lies told about Kerry or Gore - will likely only get out as a "According to Obama..." tag: "According to Obama, the school he went to is not a madrassa but teaches children of different faiths."

I had some Photoshop mockery in mind, but abandoned it as unfair to the Weekly World News.

I'd be pleased to see more press coverage of Rev. Moon's religious upbringing... The Insight editorial staff would (did, re. WaPo, but I'm not linking) claim that ownership linkage is scurrilous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_World_Communications>Sure.

It might also be amusing to match attendees of Moon's "coronation" with a list of vocal "Rathergate" critics. Surely some of these Congressmen would like to weigh in a second time on media failures.

I have always liked publius's idea at 2:00. I would prefer journalists police themselves and each other, like doctors or lawyers or, hey, the blogosphere. In very serious consequential ways, like denying White House credentials or taking Fox/Murdoch off wire services or strongly pressuring the cable carriers. But internally. This is obviously not completely successful for medicine and law, and it is practically difficult to shut someone down.

But if it was consistent and repeated plagiarism, I am sure the industry would find a way.

But Obama doesn't need the Fairness Doctrine does he? He could easily just call a press conference or send out an aide if he wanted to get something in the news.

And it would, of course, be carried live on FOX News, the spreader of the lie. Right?

According to what I read yesterday (truthout.org, I think) there is an official dementi by the Clinton camp. It (not the dementi) is suspected of being an intended double-hit on both Hillary and Obama.
a) spreading false rumors about Obama effectively insinuating that he is an islamist mole
b) pretending that that attack actually comes from her Democratic rivals, showing that they use tricks as dirty as the GOP's

There is also an extensive report on the history and practices of Moon that among other things include a habit of spreading false but effective rumors against Democratic candidates that are then taken up by other media amplifiers from the right.

Oddly enough, the major news services reported what he meant to say, as did Obsidian Wings without stating what words were actually spoken.

odd. so, you take Cheney at his word when he said:

    We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past.

?

that's what he said. and if you listen to the tape, there's no pause or stutter or any other audible clues that he misspoke.

so, which is it: do people mean literally what the words they say add up to (in which case Cheney blatantly lied), or do they sometimes say things incorrectly ?

I know politicians in the US are reluctant to sue, but there's no reason Obama couldn't sue Fox for libel in the UK, where he'd win easily. British law would give him standing to sue because Fox's website is accessible in the UK, as are countless other websites which have reprinted the slander. Furthermore NewsCorp has many assets in the UK, so getting US courts to enforce the ruling wouldn't be an obstacle.

They're not going to stop until they suffer some sort of penalty. Since constantly pushing deliberate lies to slander Democrats clearly doesn't harm their ratings, I don't see why the libel laws are not an appropriate response

i think [The Fairness Doctrine]'s unconstitutional (particularly when there are alternatives to broadcasting)

But the broadcasting spectrum was and is a publicly owned resource, like a national park is. Is it likewise unconstitutional to regulate the national parks by, for example, charging admission, and prohibiting snowmobiling in certain areas?

I think it would be unconstitutional to apply the Fairness Doctrine to cable TV and web sites, and problematic to apply it to broadcasting in today's brave new world. But I protest the notion that it is unconstitutional to regulate access to publicly-owned property. Think oil drilling and logging as well.

Cleek, it's worse than that, under the DaveC doctrine, we must take Bush at his word when he says

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

In this universe, does anyone have a good idea about how to deal with manifest lies like this?

Expose them for the lies that they are. The blogosphere is good at that. Exposing the lies (or just sloppy reporting) dings their credibility and makes people more skeptical of their reporting in the future. While the organization may not learn from that, the viewers do.

(Full disclosure, I commented on this back when, not so much that I believed the Manchurian Candidate aspect of it, but that I saw it as a hit from the Clinton machine. So I swallowed at least that aspect of it.)

people need to become pariahs for stuff like this -- they need to pay, ratings need to drop.

Not gonna happen. It's in too many people's interest for stuff like this to go on.

They won't become pariahs. Lots of folks will welcome them with open arms. I doubt the editorial staff and on-air talent at Fox, or most places actually, is particularly prone to shame, anyway.

Ratings will not drop. Lots of folks love this kind of stuff. They'll line up to watch.

What to do?

They're not going to stop until they suffer some sort of penalty.

There's your answer.

Suspend their broadcast license. That would make a dent.

Require an on-air correction and apology. That would make a dent.

Make the on-air talent personally responsible for 7 figure damages to Obama. Not Fox corporate, not the station. Make actual people pay out of their own pocket. That will make a dent.

Short of that, expect more of the same. We're heading into a Presidential election cycle, they're just getting tuned up.

Thanks -

Maybe there needs to be some sort of truth in labelling act and some sort of objective rating system, the results of which would have to be displayed by shows porporting to be news.
But I like the idea of making it easierr to sue for libel.

Obama should simply say, in front of a camera:

"John Gibson is a professional liar."

I'm reminded of a scene in the very last episode of Deadwood, when mining magnate George Hearst tells the editor of the local newspaper (who has been critical of Hearst) "I'll have my people here start another paper, to lie the other way."

Newspapers and news reporting in this country have always been slanted, at least a little. The proliferation of cable news and internet media just means that more people can read or watch the "news" that agrees with their slant. It's not a great system, but I tend to think the propose cure (government intervention) would be worse than the disease.

Ask yourselves if you would want Bush & company deciding what's balanced, and who should get equal time.

I prefer Geek, Esq.'s idea. Public figures shouldn't be afraid to go on television and call out lies and liars.

"But the broadcasting spectrum was and is a publicly owned resource, like a national park is. Is it likewise unconstitutional to regulate the national parks by, for example, charging admission, and prohibiting snowmobiling in certain areas?"

Would be, if there were language in the Constutition stating that "Congress shall make no law... infringing on the right of the people to enter all public lands and engage in recreational activities there."

Like there is, you know, having to do with freedom of speech and of the press...

Spectrum ownership by the government is a false issue; If the government passed a law tomorrow seizing all newsprint and ink, rendering them government property, would it moot the 1st amendment's protection of press freedom? Seizing ownership of the airwaves was no different.

amos - you're not just regulating access, you're regulating CONTENT. that's where the national parks analogy breaks down. even though the government operates national parks, they can't force people to present ideologically opposite opinions within those parks.

And again, you have to thik about how this think of the administrative nightmare this could become (and the possibility for strategic behavior). if someone is discussing global warming, do you have to get a skeptic? same deal with stem cells?

we have the wash post op-ed page already, i'm not sure it needs to be federally institutionalized. :)

In this universe, does anyone have a good idea about how to deal with manifest lies like this?

Yes, it's called the marketplace of ideas and it used to be quite popular with liberals.

Sorry for the snark, but this is ridiculous. The premise of the fairness doctrine is the assumption that there is limited bandwidth and limited points of views on any given subject. The former is becoming highly debatable in the age of the internet and rise of digital television (with its capacity to transmit literally hundreds more channels), and the latter has been demonstrably false forever. Moreover, the suggestion that the Fairness doctrine would prohibit folks in the media from telling demonstrative lies is ridiculous. The fairness doctrine would merely limit the views expressed by the hosts and may, in some circumstances (and depending on your point of view), require the media to recite the "lies" of a so-called "opposing party."

The fairness doctrine was bad policy when it was removed, and the environment has made it an even worse policy today.

Spartikus, upthread, mentioned loosening the law to permit public figures to sue for defamation.

Wikipedia mentions in its entry on the Fairness Doctrine that a corollary rule stipulating that those who might be subject to a personal attack were to be given notice beforehand and a chance to respond. THAT rule, and another, were dropped in 2000.

FOX commentators are public figures. They have a past. Their mothers have a past. Their children, if the yuckee individual exists who would let each of them accomplish the awful deed, have a past. Their grandmothers have a past, the passel of minxes.

As well as identifying them with great detail as professional liars in a press conference and calling them out, parade their lives before the camera. If they are clean, make up dirt.

The Democratic Party needs a posse of folks who like to fight dirty to be available to appear on FOX and similar outlets (like the local sewage plant). Go toe to toe, yell, threaten the hosts who lie. Do it on camera. Throw stuff. Sean Penn would be the man for the job. A wrecked set or two would be photogenic.

If FOX doesn't permit access, I'm sure Colbert and company would like to buy a funny spot to answer the dirt of the day.

Keep it up until the Republican Party itself begs for a return to the Fairness Doctrine. If they do so, tell them no, not just yet, liberals are having too much fun. Then examine your nails with a bored expression.

Re Gibson: His hair. That's where I would look for Osama Bin Laden. Something's up there, cemented in by a daily can of hairspray. Tall, blond, lacquered weeds would be where I would look for terrorists. Satellite imagery of his hair might be required.

Re Hillary: Well, she has made a great effort to court Rupert Murdoch. He likes her, what with his middle finger held up to the political winds. I would not be surprised if this was some sort of cooperative effort. If the Democrats win, he needs to own someone.

As an aside, what are the chances that events line up so that our number one enemy is named Osama and a candidate appears whose name is Obama? Paddy Chayevsky, the big scriptwriter in the sky, is still churning them out.

It seems to me that a "Hillstreet Blues" episode years ago had a character who wanted to be a cop and hung around the station. His name was Vic. Vic what? Umm, Vic Hitler. Imagine this: Ma'am, I'm Officer Hitler, what's the trouble?"

I'll preface this by saying I'm not entirely sure how any of this affects a cable channel like Fox News, which is regulated by the FCC, but is transmitted over wires rather than over the airwaves and involves a private intermediary in the cable TV provider.

Publius: amos - you're not just regulating access, you're regulating CONTENT. that's where the national parks analogy breaks down. even though the government operates national parks, they can't force people to present ideologically opposite opinions within those parks.

Can the government grant private entities the exclusive power to control what people say in national parks? Because that's what we have on the airwaves, sans something akin to the Fairness Doctrine.

Von: Yes, it's called the marketplace of ideas and it used to be quite popular with liberals.

How does government licensing of the means of expression fit into the marketplace of ideas? Why does it seem like the primary function of the FCC is sitting in a giant blind spot as far as this discussion is concerned?

And, given all the extra (non-government-licensed) bandwidth you mention, the marketplace of ideas will do just fine under the FD, will it not?

I just wanted to confirm, from one of the things I learned from two semesters of Arabic, that "madrassa" is indeed the word for school. Any school at all. So yeah, anybody who attends a school in an Arabic speaking country attends a madrassa, which doesn't matter in the slightest to the attempted smearers.

How does government licensing of the means of expression fit into the marketplace of ideas? Why does it seem like the primary function of the FCC is sitting in a giant blind spot as far as this discussion is concerned?

And, given all the extra (non-government-licensed) bandwidth you mention, the marketplace of ideas will do just fine under the FD, will it not?

I do not understand your argument: What do you think that FD is intended to do?

Spartikus, upthread, mentioned loosening the law to permit public figures to sue for defamation.

The First Amendment is the "law" that Spartikus proposes "loosening."* Also, wouldn't such a loosened law potentially allow Gibson to sue based on the following statement (included upthread):

Obama should simply say, in front of a camera:

"John Gibson is a professional liar."

von

* Specifically, New York Times v Sullivan -- once a proud moment for liberals, now derided, apparently, by the Left.

Change "marketplace of ideas" to "marketplace of lies" and I think we would more accurately and fairly identify the bazaar in which Gibson hawks his stolen wares.

Someone wake me next time Gibson and ilk have an idea.

Von:

"Also, wouldn't such a loosened law potentially allow Gibson to sue..."

Sure. Nancy Grace could cover the trial. I'm all for New York Times v Sullivan, but I like the lapsed little rule about prior notice of personal attacks, too, as it applies to the narrow purview of the Fairness Doctrine.

potentially allow Gibson to sue based on the following statement: "John Gibson is a professional liar."

Heavens, no! Truth is its own defense.

Change "marketplace of ideas" to "marketplace of lies" and I think we would more accurately and fairly identify the bazaar in which Gibson hawks his stolen wares.

Are you rejecting what had been (for good reason, I had thought) a central tenet of liberalism? Or are you simply noting that, like democracy, the marketplace of ideas is not perfect -- it is simply far better than the alternatives?

Sure. Nancy Grace could cover the trial. I'm all for New York Times v Sullivan, but I like the lapsed little rule about prior notice of personal attacks, too, as it applies to the narrow purview of the Fairness Doctrine.

It's not narrow.

potentially allow Gibson to sue based on the following statement: "John Gibson is a professional liar."

Heavens, no! Truth is its own defense.

Ah. So you've seen Gibson's contract, and you know that it provides that, pursuant to it, Gibson is paid for lying?

FTR, this post and this thread is exactly why I see little common ground with the Left.

FTR, this post and this thread is exactly why I see little common ground with the Left.

Erm, "are exactly why".

Carry on.

Von conveniently ignores the fact that freedom of the press only applies to those who own the presses. In Von's world - only the wealthy have the right to speak, and that is how it should be. How exactly is one to engage in this marketplace of ideas that requires a several million dollar investment before one can open one's mouth? TV blares what its ownership wants it to blare, and that has become ridiculously homogenized into the slickly sold deceits of the likes of Fox News and ABC/Disney.
How can that be corrected WITHOUT abridging the first amendment is the question Hilzoy was asking that Von so disengenuously dismissed as "the Left" trying to silence its opposition. I, personally, would like to see "absence of malice" removed from lible law, people should think before they talk.

FTR, this post and this thread is exactly why I see little common ground with the Left

Well, yeah: if we may for a minute trespass on the posting rules, the Right wants the freedom to spread pretty lies about its own policies and candidates, and damaging lies about its opponents and their policies, since the Right cannot win an election without lying about its own policies and the policies of its opponents (and it appears that the Republican Party can't even come close to winning an election without lying about its opponents, too).

So, naturally, any means of preventing the Right from having a clear field to spread whatever lies it needs to win elections, won't win much common ground with right-wing supporters, but will be popular with left-wing supporters, since the Left can win elections on truthful platforms.

Von conveniently ignores the fact that freedom of the press only applies to those who own the presses. In Von's world - only the wealthy have the right to speak, and that is how it should be.

What a ridiculous canard. So, to balance the playing field, you'd endorse giving everyone a "press" so that they, too, can enjoy the so-called privilege of the wealthy? Or maybe we can ration the presses -- you know, to each according to their (state-determined) need? Or perhaps you'd like to take a Sharpie to the Bill of Rights, and make some revisions to the First Amendment's dictate that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Or maybe you're one of those folks who disagree with the 14th amendment's incorporation doctrine, thereby allowing the States to regulate speech (and impose Jim Crow, segregation, and the like)?

So, naturally, any means of preventing the Right from having a clear field to spread whatever lies it needs to win elections, won't win much common ground with right-wing supporters, but will be popular with left-wing supporters, since the Left can win elections on truthful platforms.

The belief that one side (or another) has a monopoly on truth is the surest sign that you've jumped the shark.

What I advocate is a marketplace of ideas. It is inevitable in such a marketplace that you will be occasionally offended and that some of your dearest causes will lose. It is inevitable that you will see what you regard as "lies" to gain currency in the world. But it is better than any alternative.

Oh God von, now you're talking about the Left with a capital L? Spare me a little, okay? Isn't lying about a politician to appeal to bigotry somewhat more indicative of problems with The Right than overreacting and offering not fully thought out solutions to those lies?

Gibson is in fact showing "reckless disregard for the truth or falsity" of what he's saying, but he's probably staying too far away from factual assertions to qualify for libel...and in any case even if he met the U.S. legal def'n it would be bad form for a politician to sue absent something more compelling and damaging than this.

But our libel laws are better than England's. There's a good reason it's hard. Really, everyone should read NY Times v. Sullivan before they go too far in this direction. You could argue that gross negligence about the truth or falsity of a statement should be sufficient, and a lot of courts aborad have rejected the premise about libel laws in private disputes being state action, but I don't want English libel laws.

On the other hand airily appealing to the "marketplace of ideas" doesn't cut it. That is how it should work but in practice good ideas and truthful reporting are, in fact, not reliably more profitable nor more politicially effective than professional liars and propagandists like Gibson.

Normally when you have a market failure the gov't steps in. In this case there are limits to how that could work for First Amendment reasons--though better financed public broadcasting, free air time for candidates, etc. and other gov't interventions are okay. So what fills the breach?

Maybe journalists should worry less about bloggers' ethics and more about the ethical standards of paid media. You're not going to have a system like law or medicine, obviously, because there's no such thing as a license to practice journalism & it would be utterly unconstituional to require it. But some seriously organized peer pressure and pushback would not be amiss.

and von: could you please explain the scare quotes around "lies"?

von: I do not understand your argument: What do you think that FD is intended to do?

I think it is intended to mitigate, in some small way, the fact that the government grants select private broadcasters exclusive license to use certain frequencies. Our government already controls who can speak on the airwaves. To ignore this is to fail to discuss this subject in anything approaching a meaningful fashion. Access to the particular corner of that marketplace of ideas to which the FD would apply is not a free market under any definition of the word.

"Sebastian's joke about "all Obama needs to do" is a joke because it's obvious that Obama's making the point that this is a crude lie - as crude as the lies told about Kerry or Gore - will likely only get out as a "According to Obama..." tag: "According to Obama, the school he went to is not a madrassa but teaches children of different faiths."

And you think "This is a publically mandated response time" would do so much better?

Interesting.

The belief that one side (or another) has a monopoly on truth is the surest sign that you've jumped the shark.
As is the belief that both sides must be equally guilty of lying.

I am extremely skeptical about the prospects of crafting a government invention that wouldn't be a cure worse than the disease, but I'm also disturbed that Von and Sebastian find Gibson's behavior so yawn-worthy.

"Normally when you have a market failure the gov't steps in."

I don't buy that as a general solution premise. IF and only IF the government can do better on a regular basis to correct the failure and IF and only IF the government can do so without trampling on other important rights and outside issues should we engage in a long term government solution. If we find it almost impossible to make useful Constitutional distinctions about obscenity--not a core part of 1st amendment protections--it is ridiculous to think that we can make useful Constitutional distinctions between the very most core part of the 1st amendment free speech protection.

The First Amendment is the "law" that Spartikus proposes "loosening."*

If that's how you wish to characterize it, so be it. Funnily enough, I think Barack Obama might possibly win under the rules set down by NYT v. Sullivan. But I don't think the idea that Fox News can be made to prove it did basic due diligence in airing this story is a threat to the First Amendment.

Other countries have higher standards in regards to what people and media can say about each other in the public discourse, and their democracies seem to be healthy, indeed, healthier. Yes, it's true these countries haven't had to deal (recently) with problems of the scale of the institutionalized racism that existed in the United States of the era of NYT v. Sullivan....

....I suppose, at the end of the day and to cut to the chase, it was in society's best interest that the rules be such that documenting the oppression and violence occurring in the American South be made public.

I'm not sure what the public interest is in having a leading candidate for the President of the United States falsely accused of being an Islamic Manchurian Candidate.

Such practices undermine, in a serious fashion, the foundations of the American democracy, in my opinion.


Also, wouldn't such a loosened law potentially allow Gibson to sue based on the following statement

He would lose the case.

actually, in context, you may not be referring specifically to Gibson. So if not scratch that question.

I wouldn't claim that The Left has a monopoly on truth or the The Right on lies--not least because those entities do not actually exist--but there is no question which side relies more on disinformation to win elections. Fox, talk radio, and a fair # of blogs are basically volunteer propaganda organizations for the Republican party: whether a piece of news "feels true" & serves your agenda matters more than its factual accuracy. There are liberal weblogs that do this, and I suppose there must be Air America hosts, etc. but they have nowhere close to the influence. The New Yorker may be as far left of center of US public opinion as Fox News is right--the Nation is further left--but they are fundamentally not in the same business. Hilzoy and I may be as far left of center on detainee issues as, say, Powerline is right--but we research our posts, and they're accurate, and when they aren't we correct them. And you can be damn sure we would not behave that way if a Democratic administration were doing this stuff. And I just can't think of a liberal equivalent of the Swift Boaters. etc. etc.

Granted, I'm liberal, I'm going to think my side is more honest, saying so doesn't make it so--but you know, it's possible that I'm right. Can you give me any evidence to the contrary?

"but I'm also disturbed that Von and Sebastian find Gibson's behavior so yawn-worthy."

Who said yawn-worthy? This post offers his case as suggesting the need for government action. I think that a worse case of more blatant lies wouldn't suggest government action. That isn't an endorsement of lying, that is saying that government games with free speech aren't a good idea even in really bad cases.

And you can be damn sure we would not behave that way if a Democratic administration were doing this stuff.

This isn't clear: I think you mean to say the standards you use in your writing would not change, regardless of which party is in power.

it was in society's best interest that the rules be such that documenting the oppression and violence occurring in the American South be made public.

This isn't clear either. Rewind the tape, and...: the rules be such that documenting the oppression and violence occurring in the American South be possible.

"The New Yorker may be as far left of center of US public opinion as Fox News is right--the Nation is further left--but they are fundamentally not in the same business."

No, actually the are in much the same business, but not as successful at it. They are from the model where influencing an elite cadre was more important than caring about the general population thought. Which was the correct model for when they began I suppose--swaying one Kennedy would be worth far more than talking to 10 million rural Americans.

"I wouldn't claim that The Left has a monopoly on truth or the The Right on lies--not least because those entities do not actually exist--but there is no question which side relies more on disinformation to win elections

...

Granted, I'm liberal, I'm going to think my side is more honest, saying so doesn't make it so--but you know, it's possible that I'm right."

For sufficiently large definitions of the Right coupled with sufficiently small definitions of the Left and for sufficiently tight historical looks (say 12 years) you might be correct. Otherwise, no.

And you load a lot of analytical baggage onto the 'more' in "more honest".

Enough that government should be allowed to meddle with free speech? Not hardly.

Just for the record: we aren't actually talking about a Fairness Doctrine for cable TV, or print, or the internet, are we? I know I'm not.

Thanks for mentioning Fox's latest bit of mendacity, Hilzoy. To paraphrase one of my own paraphrases of Twain, "There are liars, damned liars, and people who work for Fox News."

Von- I agree in principle with your objection to the fairness doctrine (I hang out near the less authoritarian end of liberalism, along with Camus)...you say:

So, to balance the playing field, you'd endorse giving everyone a "press" so that they, too, can enjoy the so-called privilege of the wealthy?
As Seb and others here have already noted, we've already got such a system -- the Internet.

Technology is not the problem, nor is scarcity on the technological side. The majority of people don't have the time or the skills or the inclination to track down and evaluate the information that is already available, and the majority of that majority would rather that someone else do all that work for them anyway. Teaching a college course in rhetoric and research is enlightening. It takes a ton of effort to shift any the students, whatever their political leanings, out of their informational habits and into actual analysis.

The problem is not a lack of information, which can be corrected by mandating that more information of a wider ideological range be carried on each channel. The problem is that too many people only want information that reinforces their own biases and worldviews.

Sebastian Holsclaw: Enough that government should be allowed to meddle with free speech?

Good grief! Government is already meddling with free speech when it comes to broadcasting! The FD was a remedy for this. Maybe it wasn't a good remedy in your view, but what it absolutely was not was an instance of government interfering in an otherwise free exercise of the first amendment. Am I shouting into a hole in the ground here?

"Just for the record: we aren't actually talking about a Fairness Doctrine for cable TV"

We're talking about FoxNews, correct? That is cable TV.

"but there is no question which side relies more on disinformation to win elections

...

Can you give me any evidence to the contrary? "

Sure:

the Social Security lockbox;

the Byrd dragging death ads by the NAACP;

in local campaigns I often see massive promises for new spending with allegedly no need for higher taxes (from both sides but more from Democrats)

Democrats (not just THE LEFT) engage in disinformation to win elections.

as too often happens in threads like this, people are conflating issues that are and should remain both logically and legally distinct.

[and now that i've insulted everyone...]

1. The opportunity to rebut. One core justification of the FD was that the limited number of venues available at the time justified mandating a rebuttal opportunity. Obama clearly does not need to force Fox to give him TV or radio time to have the opportunity to have his rebuttal heard. CNN, frex, is willing to give him air time.

so, we don't need and shouldn't want the FD. CNN still serves.

2. Effective punishment for gross lies.

Even given Fox's strong links to the Republican party, I think NYT v. Sullivan was correctly decided. But if there's one thing reading blog comments should teach us, it's that people love hearing lies / gross misrepresentations / distortions so long as they're good for our side and bad for the other.

I think the idea of Obama suing Fox in Great Britain is kinda funny and maybe a remedy. Imagine a press release which states: Fox's conduct was perfectly legal in the US. But Fox rebroadcast the same show in countries where that conduct is against the law. As an American politician, I have the right and obligation to my constituents and my country to pursue legal remedies overseas when libel is committed against me overseas. VTY, Barack Obama.

to be honest, i think the backlash for seeking foreign jurisdictions to suppress free speech would far far outweigh any possible benefit. The better idea is for Obama to press publicly for an opportunity to appear on Gibson's show, and call Gibson a coward if he refuses.

"Good grief! Government is already meddling with free speech when it comes to broadcasting!"

Are we talking about FoxNews and the WashingtonTimes or not? I believe that is a newsPAPER and a CABLE TV channel.

Brett: If the government passed a law tomorrow seizing all newsprint and ink, rendering them government property, would it moot the 1st amendment's protection of press freedom? Seizing ownership of the airwaves was no different.

It was plenty different. Newsprint and ink are already privately owned and protected by the 5th amendment. The broadcast spectrum was a new resource. Claiming ownership of it was like claiming ownership of great tracts of western lands (except for the absence of an indigenous population in the broadcast spectrum).

publius: you're not just regulating access, you're regulating CONTENT. that's where the national parks analogy breaks down. even though the government operates national parks, they can't force people to present ideologically opposite opinions within those parks.

Evidently they can.

But the regulation of content did not attempt to suppress anyone's speech, or any one particular point of view. It was an attempt to manage an important public asset in the public interest, rather than surrender control to whichever corporations got there first, and, at the time, a reasonable compromise with the 1st amendment issues.

we have the wash post op-ed page already, i'm not sure it needs to be federally institutionalized. :)

No argument here -- no broadcast spectrum involved. And in case I didn't make it clear above, I think the time for the FD has passed, due to technological changes that reduce the importance of the broadcast spectrum in the nation's public life. But I still protest the idea that it was unconstitutional.

"No, actually the are in much the same business, but not as successful at it. They are from the model where influencing an elite cadre was more important than caring about the general population thought. "

I do believe this makes me as angry as anything you have ever written.

Oh God von, now you're talking about the Left with a capital L? Spare me a little, okay?

Is there not such a thing as the Left, Lefists, etc.? Have discussions regarding the Left over the course of the last 100+ years been totally misguided and stupid? Is there not some common governing philosophy to which (say) Jes, Spartikus, and Thullen subscribe -- albeit to greater or lesser degress (and with the natural caveats and exceptions that you find anywhere)?

But our libel laws are better than England's. There's a good reason it's hard. Really, everyone should read NY Times v. Sullivan before they go too far in this direction. You could argue that gross negligence about the truth or falsity of a statement should be sufficient, and a lot of courts aborad have rejected the premise about libel laws in private disputes being state action, but I don't want English libel laws.

Agreed (obviously).

On the other hand airily appealing to the "marketplace of ideas" doesn't cut it. That is how it should work but in practice good ideas and truthful reporting are, in fact, not reliably more profitable nor more politicially effective than professional liars and propagandists like Gibson.

No one (least of all me) is claiming that the marketplace of ideas is perfect. The argument -- with which you seem to at least partially agree in light of your defense of NYT v. Sullivan -- is that the alternative is worse.

But some seriously organized peer pressure and pushback would not be amiss.

That I would very much like to see.

and von: could you please explain the scare quotes around "lies"?

Because not everyone will agree on what is a "lie" and what is not.

"but I'm also disturbed that Von and Sebastian find Gibson's behavior so yawn-worthy."

I can't provide a better response than Sebastian, who's comment (upthread) demands repetition:

Who said yawn-worthy? This post offers his case as suggesting the need for government action. I think that a worse case of more blatant lies wouldn't suggest government action. That isn't an endorsement of lying, that is saying that government games with free speech aren't a good idea even in really bad cases.

A lot of truly stupid & terrible things have been done for the best reasons. ("The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions" is an old saw for a reason.)

Von- I agree in principle with your objection to the fairness doctrine (I hang out near the less authoritarian end of liberalism, along with Camus)...you say:

There is no authoritarian wing of liberalism. There is leftism and socialism, which may make common cause with liberalism from time to time (and are frequently confused with it because of the fact), but they are not liberals.* This used to be quite explicit in places like the UK, where you had a Liberal Party that was quite different & distinct from Labour.

*Indeed, if the Republican party is the bastard child of evangelicals and finance types, the Democratic party could be viewed as the bastard child of liberals and leftists.

unless I completely misunderstand you--are you just saying they're both trying to make money and that the New Yorker are going for rich people and Fox isn't? I stll totally disagree but that's a bit less offensive.

"Because not everyone will agree on what is a "lie" and what is not. "

But some of them will be right. And some of them won't. The number of people who hold a belief doesn't make it true or false.

Is there not such a thing as the Left, Lefists, etc.? Have discussions regarding the Left over the course of the last 100+ years been totally misguided and stupid? Is there not some common governing philosophy to which (say) Jes, Spartikus, and Thullen subscribe -- albeit to greater or lesser degress (and with the natural caveats and exceptions that you find anywhere)?

As a denizen of that vast, murky end of things, I don't think it's useful to think monolithically. If it was, there'd be more internal discipline, akin to what we actually do see on the Right. The ideology, and , more importantly, the behavior is much more fragmented and is just not useful to be speaking of a singular entity.

If it's just that they're trying to make money, then McDonald's is in the same business too.

"I do believe this makes me as angry as anything you have ever written."

You aren't seriously suggesting that the New Yorker isn't (and especially wasn't) about influencing an elite cadre of powerful people are you? And the Nation was all about influencing an elite cadre that it hoped would become powerful.

They are both in the business of telling their target audience what they want to hear often in a very slanted way. They have moments of good reporting (well the New Yorker does anyway) but that doesn't change their general function.

So what precisely are you mad about?

Sorry, katherine, I cross posted with you, but I think I attempted to answer your question anyway so tell me if it did.

Are we talking about FoxNews and the WashingtonTimes or not? I believe that is a newsPAPER and a CABLE TV channel.

Well that's the rub, isn't it?. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the FD didn't apply to print or cable. Hilzoy didn't lay out a specific policy proposal (and, indeed, carefully distanced herself from the FD, only saying that these attacks might tend to justify it) so I can only assume she is talking about the FD as it was implemented or as it is proposed to be implemented (which still would not apply to cable as I understand it).

I don't even think TV is the major concern here with respect to the proposed return of the FD. The TV broadcasters actually do a passable job of providing a diversity of views. I suspect this is all about radio.

But some of them will be right. And some of them won't. The number of people who hold a belief doesn't make it true or false.

Sure, but I'm not the final arbiter of such things (nor could I be).

If it was, there'd be more internal discipline, akin to what we actually do see on the Right.

Yes. Unlike the front-page posters at RedState Jes, Spartikus and Thullen don't actually communicate via IM to ensure our stories stay on message.

As a denizen of that vast, murky end of things, I don't think it's useful to think monolithically. If it was, there'd be more internal discipline, akin to what we actually do see on the Right. The ideology, and , more importantly, the behavior is much more fragmented and is just not useful to be speaking of a singular entity.

It's useful only to the extent that I used it, which is to point out that I am not a member of that vast, murky end of things or the arguments that it inspires.

RedState? Are we applying the Fairness Doctrine to the INTERNET?

Okay, you do think what I thought you did.

Wow. Okay, we have nothing to say to each other about this. Wow. Please never claim to oppose relativism in any context ever, okay?

von--of course you're not the final arbiter, and that sort of thing is why most gov't intervention probably hurts more than it helps (though not all--I'm all for public TV, and the courts do make themselves arbiters of truth in libel cases), but isn't your own judgment a more trustworthy arbiter than the Nielsen ratings or a poll?

Are we applying the Fairness Doctrine to the INTERNET?

Uh, no. "We're" making about about a different topic.

Making a point that is.

Also, I'm the one in favour of giving public figures an easier time in court.

I've never said anything about the Fairness Doctrine.

In this universe, does anyone have a good idea about how to deal with manifest lies like this?

Two points:

1) Historically, this type of lying media has always been present since before the Constitution was written, and probably more so in the past. The founders provided for freedom of the press and freedom of speech knowing that the press could be this awful. Standards are probably lower now than in the recent past, but by no means as low as they have been.

2) The Fairness Doctrine's only justification is alleged lack of access to public airwaves such that the licensing process for granting access must provide for some degree of balance. (i.e., what von said) It is the affirmative action doctrine for media access, and maybe made some sense when network television was very dominant. It should remain happily dead since the alleged lack of access for other points of view is no longer what it once was.

The best response to bad speech is more speech.

"As I've said in the earlier posts on the Fairness Doctrine, I'm ambivalent about it."

Well to put on my mind reading hat... I suppose it makes sense that you are ambivalent. Bush didn't propose it and crushing freedom of speech for conservatives probably isn't going to keep you up at night.

One could just as easily apply this Act to all the lies Joe Wilson told, but have been reported in the MSM as truth for the last few years. But you never really had a problem with those "mistakes" so its easy to be ambivalent.

I can't believe I have been reading this site for so long and all the talk about the evils of the Patriot Act, BusHitler and such. But now when Democrats really are trying to take away one of our basic freedoms all Hilzoy can muster up is ambivalence.

Well, not surprised, just disappointed. I am comtemplating not posting here anymore. I really don't see any reason. I thought this might become a reality based blog when the Democrats took Congress. But instead people like Hilzoy are just trying to help them gain more political capital at the expense of some of our basic freedoms.

I think I'm done here. I really do.

Perhaps "yawn-worthy" was overstating things, but the title of the post and the last sentence in it are both questions -- questions that make no reference to the Fairness Doctrine. Von's and Sebastian's answers aren't yawns, but seem pretty much equivalent to "There's no problem, or at least no need to do anything -- the marketplace of ideas will take care of it."

I am largely going to agree with dmbeaster, especially his first point.

However, part of the "more speech" answer is for persons who generally share the point of view with the person making the bad speech, but objecting to this specific bad speech, to denounce the bad speech. And that is not what I am seeing happen, either here or in the larger world.

With respect, both von and Sebastian's responses are effectively the same as a yawn. They are not even offering a perfunctory "Bad Fox" -- von is even suggesting that a denunciation of Gibson as a professional liar could lead to a legal action against the denouncer.

Katherine:

"Because not everyone will agree on what is a "lie" and what is not."

But some of them will be right. And some of them won't. The number of people who hold a belief doesn't make it true or false.

I understood von's point in part to be that the principal of equal access to address "lies" means that even the manifest liars will get equal time to respond to truth. Express opinions that global warming is underway, and Exxon/Mobil hacks get to provide a rebuttal? Talk about evolution, and creationists or IDers get equal time?

A Fairness Doctrine has every possiblity of ending up being enforced in this manner.

von is even suggesting that a denunciation of Gibson as a professional liar could lead to a legal action against the denouncer.
I believe he was talking about what might happen under "loosened" laws, not in the world we currently live in.

KCinDC,

"I believe he was talking about what might happen under "loosened" laws, not in the world we currently live in."

Umm, no. In response to a truth would be a defense, von said:

"Ah. So you've seen Gibson's contract, and you know that it provides that, pursuant to it, Gibson is paid for lying?"

I'm a perfectly mainstream Democrat - yes I am - and I happen to be 100% in agreement with von on the Fairness Doctrine. In fact, there are two things that leave me bewildered:

1) After the episode with Kenneth Tomlinson and PBS, how can liberals not understand how dangerous it is to let government bureaucrats be the arbiters of "fairness" on the airwaves?

2) Given how swiftly the Obama smear was debunked far and wide, why doesn't this example demonstrate that the Fairness Doctrine is utterly unnecessary?

I understand that we all long for a world where any untrue smear instantly results in the speaker vanishing in a sulfurous puff of smoke, never to be heard from again. The Fairness Doctrine is not the silver bullet you're looking for. As Seb says, requiring the announcers on Fox News to make some perfunctory acknowledgment that Obama disagrees with the story is not going to accomplish anything. And what's more, if you assume Democrats are more often on the side of truth, this means that the Democrats cannot use the media to get out their truthful message without simultaneously watering it down with Republican lies. Is this really the world we want?

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention bril's trademark hand-wringing about how ObWi is not sufficiently outraged at this threat to our freedoms. I decided to Google "democrats fairness doctrine" to get a sense of just how major a part of the Democratic agenda this might be. Sure enough, on the first page of hits I see WorldNetDaily, LaShawn Barber, Captain's Quarters, CNS News, the "Radio Equalizer"... leading me to believe this is more a case of overreaction from the right than a strong legislative push from the left.

If it ever looks like there's a serious chance of the Fairness Doctrine being reinstituted, I will happily call my legislators, write diaries against it on Daily Kos, and do whatever I reasonably can to make the case. But I don't think we're there yet.

"Wow. Okay, we have nothing to say to each other about this. Wow. Please never claim to oppose relativism in any context ever, okay?"

Huh? Self-righteous retreat, umm ok its becoming a pattern. Are we talking about free speech or not? Why do you feel the need to drag in everything at once?

My claim very limited. For purposes of free speech protections, Nazis and good faith speakers are identical. For purposes of free speech, the New Yorker, and the Lyndon LaRouche

The purpose of the New Yorker has self conciously been to influence policy elites from a particular point of view (or that is the purpose of its political side). Its otherwise purpose was to celebrate a certain type of humor, and taste which it believes represents a certain New York refinement. It is hugely elitist in concept which is precisely why I said that it comes from a model where influencing a Kennedy is much more important than appealing to much of the rest of America. It self-conciously tailors to that crowd.

Do you disagree with that somehow? Do you read the magazine and somehow miss that?

Seriously?

Steve,

"Given how swiftly the Obama smear was debunked far and wide"

Assumes facts not in evidence.

"There's no problem, or at least no need to do anything -- the marketplace of ideas will take care of it."

No. This is a classic liberal/conservative failure to communicate with each other.

Von's position and mine is not that there is no problem here. It is that there is no problem THAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN BE TRUSTED TO CORRECT here. This is especially true with free speech because free speech is how we communicate to and about the government in order to change the government. Trying to get that very same government to police that is going to squelch the feedback process which free speech is supposed to provide.

Just because there is a problem doesn't mean there is a government solution.

And I would like to second the idea that how quickly the truth came out (one day) suggests that the truth really can get out.

I would also like to note that liberals were not suggesting such things when Republicans controlled the Congress and Administration. In the "would you give this power to people who don't like you" category, I suspect this should set off alarm bells.

"Assumes facts not in evidence."

It was widely reported on CNN without Obama even actively trying. If he wanted to make a formal statement he could have gotten it on ABC, NBC and CBS with no big problem.

how can liberals not understand how dangerous it is to let government bureaucrats be the arbiters of "fairness" on the airwaves?

this liberal understands.

Sebastian,

"If he [Obama] wanted to make a formal statement he could have gotten it on ABC, NBC and CBS with no big problem."

As the post noted, he has. I have not seen it on the nightly news, nor on MSNBC's website.

More importantly, as noted in the original post, Gibson and Fox are standing behind this smear disguised as a story. And paying no price for it.

From the "for what it is worth" department.

"I would also like to note that liberals were not suggesting such things when Republicans controlled the Congress and Administration. In the "would you give this power to people who don't like you" category, I suspect this should set off alarm bells."

It wouldn't have mattered if they did, so why bother. Also, some liberals (not necessarily in public office) where talking about it.

"the marketplace of ideas will take care of it."

Here the problem is that "idea" is being conflated with "facts". Gibson was not presenting an "idea", he was presenting something as a "Fact" knowing it wasn't.

And that is a real problem, no matter which side is doing the presenting.

"And I would like to second the idea that how quickly the truth came out (one day) suggests that the truth really can get out."

Kind of. Although, since (I presume) most Fox viewers don't watch CNN and vice versa, the original target audience is not really being exposed to the truth.

See, none of this has anything to do with the FD. This has to do with a societal problem as well as an industry problem. I agree the FD is not the answer.

And that is what hilzoy is asking. What is an answer to this form of deceit presented as fact?

I really don't know, except, as was suggested above, to start teaching our children (and responsive adults) how to really develop analytical thinking and to search for "truth."

What price would you have them pay, Dantheman? Who decides that they should pay, and who decides how much?

It is that there is no problem THAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN BE TRUSTED TO CORRECT here.

Which is why you need me. Or something like me.

Sebastian, the government is already involved. By saying that the correct response is to do nothing, you're not saying that the government should stay out. You're saying that the current environment of laws and regulations regarding corporations and communications is the best of all possible worlds.

ThirdGorchBro,

"What price would you have them pay, Dantheman? Who decides that they should pay, and who decides how much?"

I'd like the price to be in their market, by losing credibility and viewers. As noted, I am not seeing it happen, and seeing the opposite occur. They are getting away with this, as no one on the right side of the aisle is denouncing them.

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