President Obama is the most tightly scripted President in history, partly due to the relatively new technology of the teleprompter. The teleprompter is vital to the Obama image because he is an excellent reader and a lousy orator. The few times his handlers have allowed him to speak in public without a teleprompter his rhetoric has been filled with pauses, “uhs”, “ahs”, “umms” and clichés as he casts about in his mind for words that will convey the “official” populist message without revealing his true intentions.
Looking at his rise from obscurity to the most powerful office on the globe in less than four years could cause those of a conspiratorial nature to think of him as a “Manchurian Candidate”. However, I am not given to conspiracies. I look rather to trends brought about by the collective influence of thousands and sometimes millions of individuals making up a political or social movement. There is no doubt that we have been trending toward socialism since the advent of the “progressive movement” at the beginning of the twentieth century. Obama is simply the culmination of that movement.
The problem for Obama and his socialist supporters is that Americans are overwhelmingly center right conservatives with a visceral aversion to socialism. That being the case, his challenge is to get his agenda firmly into place before the American people fully realize what he is doing. To accomplish this it is imperative that his supporters control the flow of information. That should be an insurmountable obstacle in a nation whose Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Such is not the case, however.
Presidents and Congresses have cooperated throughout our history to find ways of getting around the First Amendment and control the flow of information. John Adams, our second President and a dedicated big government Federalist used the threat of an unpopular war with France to call for, and get, the “Sedition Act of 1798”. This, less than a decade after the Bill of Rights was ratified by the states. Article Two of the Sedition Act says,
“And be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or publishing, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.”
Fortunately, the Sedition Act had a “sunset clause” calling for it to expire at the beginning of the next Presidential term, March 3, 1801. Thomas Jefferson won the 1800 election and immediately pardoned everyone who had been convicted under the unconstitutional law. Other administrations, including those of Lincoln, Hoover, Roosevelt and others have attempted to limit free speech to one degree or another.
The most far-reaching Act in terms of its effects today came during the roaring twenties. Between Congress’ first attempt to regulate broadcasting in 1912 when radio transmissions were mostly used in communicating between ships and shore and the mid-twenties radio became popular with the public. Then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover controlled broadcasting. Anyone could obtain permission to broadcast over any frequency chosen by Hoover by simply mailing a post card to the Secretary.
By 1926, there were 15,111 amateur stations, 1,902 ship stations, 553 land based stations for maritime use and 536 broadcasting stations. The chaos created by overlapping signals and the complaints they caused among the public made it obvious that some type of control over the use of the airwaves was necessary. The Attorney General’s office issued a decision in 1926 stating that the Radio Act of 1912 did not give the Secretary of Commerce the authority to assign wavelengths. Consequently, Congress passed the Radio Act of 1927 establishing the Federal Radio Commission.
The new law was intended to bring order out of the chaos that existed in radio broadcasting at the time. However, politicians could not resist the temptation to set guidelines as to what could or could not be broadcast over the airwaves. In crafting the new legislation, they revived the spirit of the Sedition Act but did not give it the same specificity in terms of what was or was not acceptable. Fearing what they perceived as the potential of radio to be the means of calling for radical political or social reform, Congress gave the RFC authority to determine when broadcaster were not operating their stations according to “the public interest, convenience and necessity”. The threat of withholding licenses or not renewing them kept most stations in line.
The ’27 law was revised in 1934 creating the FCC and expanding the licensing powers of the government. In 1945, the FCC established the “fairness doctrine” requiring broadcasters to provide equal time to all sides of controversial issues. The result was that broadcasters simply avoided the airing of controversial issues. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled the FCC was not required to enforce the fairness doctrine since it was an FCC regulation and not a statute. Under the leadership of President Reagan the doctrine was dropped.
Since the abolition of the fairness doctrine created the conditions allowing for the rise of conservative talk radio, most conservatives expect there to be an attempt by the Obama administration to bring it back. In reality, some form of the fairness doctrine is essential to the Obama agenda. The so-called “mainstream media” including the broadcast TV networks, NPR, PBS, and most national newspapers have been willing propagandists for the liberal and socialist wings of the Democratic Party for decades. In addition, the most heavily funded Internet sites are those promoting the liberal/socialist agenda.
With the exception of the Fox News cable network, talk radio provides the only mass opposition to the Obama agenda with up to fifty million listeners, twenty to thirty million of them also being listeners to Rush Limbaugh. President Obama has said he has no interest in reviving the fairness doctrine. That’s a pretty good indication that he is working behind the scenes to bring it about. Actually, his administration has launched a two-pronged attack on talk radio, utilizing both Congress and the tested and proven tactic that worked so well against President Bush, demonization.
A concerted effort has been launched over the past month or so to marginalize and destroy the creditability of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, the best known of conservative talk show hosts. Similar efforts have been directed against Ingraham, Beck, Hewitt, Reagan, Gallagher and others. While the talking heads and scribblers in the mass media are carrying on this campaign, Congress is preparing the way for legislation to give it more control over the airwaves.
Last week Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) attached an amendment to the DC Voting Rights Act, another unconstitutional Bill, calling for more “diversity of ownership” and “localism” in radio broadcasting. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mi) has called for Senate hearings, requiring station owners to explain their programming practices. “I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, 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.” Stabenow said.
Other Congressional leaders on record as approving of some form of information control over the airwaves, include Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Harry Reid (D-Nev), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and, of course Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, among others. The latest U.S. Senator to fall in line with the liberal/socialists in Congress concerning the idea behind the fairness doctrine is Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. Last week he told liberal talk show host Bill Press, “We gotta get the fairness doctrine back in law again.”
Talk radio is both the number one threat to the Obama agenda and the number one channel for conservative’s ability to successfully oppose it. It is imperative that we protect our freedom to express our political opinions freely without censorship by government; otherwise, we can look forward to the wholesale loss of all our freedoms.