The First Amendment, of course, was designed to protect unpopular speech – the minority view , if you will, to make sure that ALL voices are heard, particularly in political discourse. At least, that’s the way I see it. A lot of folks think “free speech” means it’s protected only for those who agree with their point of view, and forget the part about protecting the expression of a minority viewpoint. I understand the First Amendment to mean that it gives you a right to say what you want, within certain limits, but it also gives the person on the other side of the equation the same right.
There’s a video going around the internet of West Virginia Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, at a committee hearing regarding telecommunications, saying “There's a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to FOX and to MSNBC: Out. Off. End. Goodbye”.
I understand Senator Rockefeller’s little bug, and admit to having a little bug like that myself. I don’t need to lecture the Senator on what the First Amendment means. I’m sure he knows perfectly well what it means, even though he doesn’t have a law degree, like so many of his fellow Senators do.
Political discourse in this nation, fanned by Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left, has become so coarse, so divisive, so blatantly partisan and self-serving, that there’s a temptation to do exactly what that little bug is ooching the Senator and me to do: pull the plug on BOTH of them. And tie the can to El Rushbo’s big butt, and Rachel Maddow’s, and Glen Boeck’s, and Ed Schultz’s, and Sean Hannity’s, and Alan Colmes’s, and the whole lot of the partisan talking heads.
The simple solution, of which I’m sure the Senator is well aware, is not to have the FCC (which doesn’t really regulate cable-casting) “pull the plug” on them, but to simply make different viewing and listening choices. But, as we well know, that’s simply not the way it works in the real world. The most-listened-to radio program in the nation, Rush Limbaugh’s, didn’t get to be number one because it caters to the far right. I consider myself an independent, but I listen to Rush occasionally simply to laugh at how far he goes to pander to the ultra-conservatives. A lot of my lefty friends listen to Rush to be enraged. Rush’s program has been going strong in Madison for years, and this is one of the most liberal cities in the nation.
I guess the difference is, I view Rush’s radio show as pure entertainment. Too many people think it’s “news”, and that’s why Senator Rockefeller and I have that little bug.