The fairness doctrine, paranoia, and right-wing self-pity

THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE, PARANOIA, AND RIGHT-WING SELF-PITY…. I’ve been fascinated of late with the far-right hysteria about the reemergence of the “fairness doctrine,” because conservative activists are gearing up for a knock-down brawl against an enemy that doesn’t exist. Everyone from obscure right-wing bloggers to Rush Limbaugh to Washington Post columnists are prepared for a fight that isn’t going to happen.

And yet, the nonsense doesn’t stop. Perusing the news this morning, there are still more conservative columnists railing against the “plan” to bring back the fairness doctrine, and unhinged propaganda about the “unprecedented government assault upon the First Amendment” that is allegedly on the way.

The New Republic’s Marin Cogan asked around, trying to find Democrats who actually support bringing the fairness doctrine back, or media-reform liberals who might push for action on this. Cogan couldn’t find any.

Obama opposes it. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D) of New Mexico, allegedly a supporter, said, “Somebody plucked this out of the clear blue sky. This is a completely made-up issue.” Mark Lloyd, co-author of a Center for American Progress media report, said, “I don’t think there’s any movement [to restore the fairness doctrine] at all…. We don’t support it. ” Craig Aaron of the media-reform group FreePress says, “[I]n reality, the fairness doctrine as it existed is never ever coming back.”

So, what’s the point of baseless right-wing hysteria? Cogan makes the case:

Republican paranoia is nothing more than that.

Democrats may scratch their heads over why this has lately become a right-wing obsession, but the paranoia is not without precedent. The prospect of being in the opposition often brings out the worst in conservatives — paranoia and self-pity. Plus, when the conservative coalition seems threatened, there’s no better way to unify the party than scaring up liberal bogeymen.

Quite right. Given the collapse of the Republican Party’s electoral fortunes, folks like Limbaugh and Michael Gerson have to create a rallying cry, and there’s no better way to whip up the Republican base than to make far-right activists feel like victims. “Liberals are coming to take away your talk radio!” is, obviously, pretty effective.

It’s kind of pathetic, actually.