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It was in the Fillmore West, hallowed hall of rock music in late-’60s San Francisco. The place was jammed, and an increasingly familiar herbal haze hung like a cloud over the young crowd grooving to the guitar wizardry of Jimi Hendrix.

As the reverberating echo of his last chord died away, a young man yelled with all his might, “Jimi, you’re the truth!” And the whole audience cheered and applauded its agreement.

But Jimi stood as if frozen, waiting for the clamor to subside. Soon there was an uneasy silence – and Jimi Hendrix finally answered, almost to himself, “Truth? What is truth?”

I’ve thought about that profound moment a lot lately. I’ve pondered words and their meanings, what certain words meant originally, and what – if anything – they’ve come to mean today.

Take the words “fairness doctrine,” for example.

Even without consulting a dictionary, we’d surely all agree that they connote equality, openness, evenhandedness, wouldn’t we? Almost like the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

But now, somehow, those words have been chosen to name a proposed legislative decree that, while proposing to promote the qualities enunciated above, would accomplish in reality the exact opposite of those meanings. Instead, if enacted, the so-called “fairness doctrine” would throttle the speech of some to give unrestricted prominence to others. Its actual purpose is to silence opposition and resistance to the philosophies and intents of a liberal faction in our society – and even to classify some biblical pronouncements and doctrines as “hate speech.”

Oh, the proponents of this “doctrine” will deny this intent, but reason shows there can be no other rationale for it.

It’s like abortion. The majority of Americans still abhor the practice of abortion, and even our new president has said he does, too. There’s no question, medically, that every single abortion extinguishes a human life in development.

So those who think otherwise came up with another word – “choice.” They shifted the focus from the innocent baby to its mother, a female who surely has the right to “choose.” And the “pro-choice” movement has steadily grown in appeal and acceptance. Now proponents by the millions clamor for the “right” to “choose.” It sounds so much more appealing and humane, doesn’t it?

Of course, if you ask a woman heading for an abortion exactly what her “choice” is, she’ll look for any answer other than “I’m going to kill this baby; I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it, and I’m going to get rid of it; and it’s my choice.” That is the fact, but it does sound, well … heartless.

And so it is with the cunningly named “fairness doctrine.” When asked directly on the Hannity TV show a few nights ago if he thought such a decree was justifiable constitutionally, Willie Brown phumphed a little and said, “Well, I do think we need to find a balance between conservative and liberal viewpoints. After all, the airwaves belong to the people, and shouldn’t be heavily weighted in just one direction. …”

Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?

It might unless you remember that 95 percent of the media, in television and newspapers and almost all publications, are admittedly, unashamedly and openly liberal. Only radio, and a very few television programs, feature conservative hosts and perspectives.

And why is that? Did some unscrupulous group of thugs barge in and take over the programming? Are those stations and regular programs owned by “a conniving right-wing conspiracy” of wealthy conservatives, commandeering public airwaves?

No, the good old American free enterprise system, and democratic choice itself, is at work. See, the majority of Americans are still rather center-right politically, and decidedly more conservative and traditional than most media personnel. So they understandably tune in to hear what they like, and to agree with sentiments and concerns voiced by people who think the way they do.

If the shows didn’t get high ratings – which translate into profitability for the stations and sponsors – the shows would soon disappear. Exactly the way the liberal attempt to copy this success, Air America, has all but disappeared. Though wealthy liberals poured millions into the ill-fated venture built around such personalities as Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo – and other media promoted it heavily – it has faded to practical oblivion after filing for bankruptcy in late 2006. No legislative action was required. The hoped-for audience just didn’t show up.

And that’s exactly why Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and John Kerry feel we need a “fairness doctrine.” They don’t think it’s fair for people not to like a liberal-slanted program, so they want to throttle conservative broadcasting and force all stations to give “equal time to opposing viewpoints.” Their viewpoints.

Do you suppose they want to follow Chris Matthews with equal time given to Sean Hannity? Or Keith Olbermann with Rush Limbaugh? Or Katie Couric with Laura Ingraham? Charles Gibson with Michael Savage? That would be complicated, but maybe equal, and “fair.”

No – they want to force all conservative broadcasters to give, not sell, equal time to opposing liberal views and spokespersons. Not the other way around. When this doctrine was in effect some years ago, broadcasters did without conservative opinion, trying to avoid having to give equal time to anybody who might disagree. It was just a hassle and too expensive – and that’s what the creators of the doctrine hoped would happen.

President Ronald Reagan canceled the doctrine, reminding America that the very first amendment to our Constitution proclaimed, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

Conservative speech? Liberal speech? Religious speech? No, any speech, as long as it’s not inciting riot or sedition. It’s very interesting, that although liberals won control of both houses of Congress and the White House in the last election – in spite of all-out vocal opposition by all conservative voices – they still want to silence the broadcast voices of conservatism, lest the public hear inspiration to defend their threatened liberties more zealously in the next election.

“Fairness”? Has the word lost its meaning? Or will Americans insist that it really means we still have the First Amendment-protected right to speak – and hear – what we choose?

 


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