Far-right rallies against imaginary threat

FAR-RIGHT RALLIES AGAINST IMAGINARY THREAT…. It seemed odd to me, at first, when the right started hyperventilating after the election about the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. Almost no one in the Democratic Party or the progressive movement seemed to care about the policy, but with each passing week, conservative panic became more palpable.

As the far-right obsession grew, TNR’s Marin Cogan wrote a great piece, noting that she couldn’t find anyone on the left who really wants to reinstate the policy, and highlighting the campaign against a non-existent initiative. Cogan explained, “The prospect of being in the opposition often brings out the worst in conservatives — paranoia and self-pity.”

And speaking of the Fairness Doctrine, paranoia, and self-pity, it appears the Media Research Center has apparently begun an organized campaign to combat a policy initiative that doesn’t exist. My friend Alex Koppelman at Salon has the report:

Monday, the MRC announced the formation of the Free Speech Alliance, a group dedicated to fighting against the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, an old FCC regulation that mandated equal time for opposing viewpoints in opinion programming. The move was announced in a post on MRC’s blog, Newsbusters, that was titled “The Free Speech Alliance Declares War on the ‘Censorship Doctrine.'”

The MRC is also asking people to sign a petition against revival of the regulation. “In 1987, President Ronald Reagan rescinded the Fairness Doctrine and since then, talk radio has flourished. Conservatives dominate it, and liberals can’t stand it. By re-instating the Fairness Doctrine, liberals would effectively silence the conservative leaders of the day … and would essentially take control of all forms of media,” the group says in an introduction on the Web page that hosts the petition. On the same page, the MRC warns, “In recent months, the groundswell for reinstatement is intensifying. In fact, a growing number of liberal leaders in Washington, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have openly stated their intent to do so.”

Actually, that’s not even close to true. Obama opposes the idea, Pelosi hasn’t “openly stated” anything about pursuing this, and Reid’s office told Salon that the Senate Majority Leader “is not contemplating anything like that.” The “groundswell for reinstatement” exists only in the overactive imaginations of paranoid right-wing activists.

And yet, here we are. The MRC is not only railing against a policy proposal that doesn’t exist, it’s created an organization committed to fighting a policy proposal that doesn’t exist. To help in the endeavor against the imaginary foe, the MRC has roped in Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Women for America, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, among others, to help.

I’m still astounded by all of this. Far-right activists mislead people about progressive policy ideas all the time, but as Yglesias recently noted, “I’ve never heard of anything like the current conservative mania for blocking a particular legislative provision that nobody is trying to enact.”

One thing’s for sure: the right has struggled of late against real rivals, but they shouldn’t have any trouble defeating an imaginary one.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation