Irrational fear of the Fairness Doctrine

IRRATIONAL FEAR OF THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE…. Over the weekend, my friend Hilzoy had a terrific piece highlighting the need to ignore lazy, intellectually-dishonest conservatives.

There was a point at which it made sense to read the arguments at National Review’s “The Corner,” and probably even take them seriously. It’s not that the arguments had merit, but it was reasonable to think NR contributors were presenting foolish ideas that might be credible in, say, the Bush White House. That time has now passed, and serious people, Hilzoy argued, would be wise to only consider arguments from “thoughtful, sane conservatives who argue in good faith.”

I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. But Hilzoy warned that some of “The Corner’s” nonsense might “gain broader currency,” which makes it harder to ignore. With that in mind, it’s probably worth talking about the Fairness Doctrine a bit.

Victor Davis Hanson had an odd item yesterday, for example, predicting a series of radically liberal moves an Obama administration is likely to make early next year. Hanson predicted “quick action on the fairness doctrine” and “a leftward lurch, especially on structural things like … fairness doctrine/talk radio.”

Perusing “The Corner” over the last several days, discussion of the Fairness Doctrine is so common, one might think it was at or near the top of Democrats’ to-do list. (I’m not trying to pick exclusively on the peculiar panic at National Review; other far-right blogs have been needlessly ringing the alarm on this with equal zeal.)

Given this bizarre fixation, it’s worth noting that these conservatives have wildly misplaced anxiety. Yglesias had a good item on this the other day.

Am I the only one who’s confused by all this conservative organizing against the re-imposition of the “fairness doctrine” on talk radio? I understand why they oppose that move, but why are they putting so much energy into blocking something that nobody is trying to do. A Fairness Act bill was submitted in the House in 2005, but it only 16 cosponsors. No such bill was submitted in the last conference. Barack Obama opposes reintroducing the Fairness Act.

And speaking as a paid-up member of the vast left-wing conspiracy, nobody on our side is getting any marching orders about this.

So why the wild-eyed panic? The American Spectator, a right-wing magazine, claims to who have spoken to “two members of the House Democrat [sic] Caucus” who warned the hard-right publication that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer plan to “aggressively pursue” reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine over the next six months.

Folks at “The Corner” believe this and have, apparently, gotten a little hysterical. It’s sad to watch.