The First Amendment is a tough one to get around, Nevertheless, liberals, socialist, Democrats and other enemies of the Constitution keep trying. Assaults on the First Amendment are nothing new. The first one of any consequence was the “Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798“.
The Sedition Act was one of four laws passed by Congress and signed by President John Adams, designed to outlaw any criticism of the government. Adams, a staunch Federalist, was the successor to George Washington. By today’s standards he would be considered a “big government liberal”.
The Sedition Act became a major issue in the 1800 election campaign and is considered to be the main factor in Adams defeat by Thomas Jefferson. It also contributed to the ultimate demise of the Federalist Party in the 1820s. Set to expire in 1801, the act was not renewed, and Jefferson issued pardons to anyone convicted of violating the Sedition Act when he took office in 1801.
Other efforts to curtail the protections of the First Amendments took place over the next century and a half; a few during the Civil War era were partially successful but short lived. It was not until the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt that lasting opposition to free speech gained a foothold. The Communications Act of 1937, designed to insure equal broadcast time for political candidates on the new broadcast medium of radio became the starting point for a number of restrictions on free speech over the airwaves.
The federal bureaucracy given the oversight of the emerging broadcast industry was the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). During the forties the FCC used its rulemaking powers to expand its influence and by 1949 had established what came to be known as the “fairness doctrine” which was a type of affirmative action program for unpopular points of view. Whenever a broadcaster aired programming expressing a controversial viewpoint, they were required by the FCC to actively seek out spokespersons for the opposite point of view and give them equal time. They were also required to file reports documenting their efforts with the FCC each year or risk losing their license to broadcast. The result was that most programming directors simply made it a point not to air broadcasts discussing controversial social and political issues in order to avoid hassles with the FCC.
During the administration of Ronald Reagan the FCC stopped enforcing the fairness doctrine after the Supreme Court ruled in “Meredith Corp. v. FCC” (1987) that the doctrine had not been mandated by Congress but was simply an FCC rule. Congress attempted to reestablish the doctrine by passing a law that was promptly vetoed by President Reagan. After Reagan left office they attempted again, this time the law was vetoed by President Bush.
Unable to get the fairness doctrine established by law, the left began to concentrate their efforts on promoting the doctrine of “political correctness” which had been gaining in popularity for a number of years. Political correctness has the advantage of not requiring Congressional action since it relies on social and economic pressures brought to bear by public opinion guided by social activists.
Political correctness was a tool developed by the Communist government of China during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) led by Mao Zedong, popularly known as “Chairman Mao”. Mao established the Red Guard and issued millions of copies of his “Little Red Book” containing the “sayings of Chairman Mao” which was considered the final authority on acceptable political thought in China. For a long period of time anyone caught without a copy of the Little Red Book in their possession were routinely beaten by the Red Guard and subject to arrest and imprisonment as enemies of the state.
Political Correctness was so effective in molding public opinion in China that it began to be adopted by the left in America during the mid-seventies. By the time the fairness doctrine fell into disuse in the late eighties, political correctness had become the number one tool of the left for censoring political and social thought and expression. Political correctness, like the fairness doctrine is used almost entirely to suppress the expression of conservative thought.
The campaign of Barack Obama and the current plight of Don Imus are both prime examples of how political correctness works. In Obama’s case any criticism of his proposed policies are labeled as “racist” by the left. Charges of “racism”, “homophobia” and “sexism” have proven to be the most effective means used by the left to stifle conservative opposition to the takeover of the American culture by the liberal/socialist/progressive movement.
One of the things that make political correctness such a potent weapon of the left is the unwitting validation given to the technique by conservative commentators. The case of Don Imus is a good case in point. During his early morning radio show Monday morning Imus became engaged in a conversation with another member of his show’s cast concerning Adam “Pacman” Jones, an NFL player who had been suspended by the league in 2007 because of his link to a shooting incident in Las Vegas.
It was pointed out that Jones had been arrested six times during his three years with the Tennessee Titans. Imus asked what color he was, and when told he was an African-American, Imus responded, “Well, there you go, now we know”, a remark that Imus says was a sarcastic comment concerning alleged police harassment of young black men.
Immediately, Imus was accused of being “insensitive”, “racist”, and of promoting a stereotypical view of young black men. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network had been monitoring Imus’ shows issued a statement saying, “We will determine in the next day or so whether or not his remark warrants direct action on our part.”
In a similar incident last year, Sharpton was instrumental in getting Imus fired from his previous radio show. It is not clear at this point, what actions Sharpton will attempt to take in this matter. It is certain however, that he will use it to generate maximum publicity for himself and further strengthen the power of the political correctness faction.
Radio talk show host Michael Medved, a liberal turned conservative, turned moderate, spent a major portion of his Tuesday show discussing the incident and called on Imus to apologize for the remark. When quasi-conservative commentators like Medved and O’Reilly attempt to showcase their “sensitivity” by giving credence to the political correctness crowd they do a disservice to freedom of speech and the First Amendment.
Neither Obama nor McCain are particular fans of free speech and after the next election we can expect there will be a major attempt to revive the fairness doctrine in order to silence conservative talk radio. More than likely, there will also be an attempt to bring the Internet under tighter controls.
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