More guest posts coming up today and tomorrow. There are 9 in all, with links in the sidebar so people can catch any they missed, if desired.
First up: Motivated Seller
Many of the problems that have been brought to light over the past four years have always been with us. Like watching a flaming dumpster floating between bodies down main street during a biblical flood, there are so many overlapping horrors, that it is hard to know where to start. And honestly, I can’t blame anyone for being stunned by the mess.
The challenge of the next administration is to convert bystanders into activists. This might not be such a big stretch for the Jackals here at Balloon Juice, but for most folks, being a bystander in America is the most normal thing to do. Not long ago, supporting the invasion of a foreign nation meant going to the mall. (And if you didn’t support the invasion, well you must hate the troops.) It comes as no surprise that so many people just gave up on government after, say, when Congress did nothing following the slaughter of 20 first-graders. Who has the fortitude to seek justice for a classroom of bullet ridden 6-year-olds when privileged people can take over the airwaves with horrid claims that it didn’t happen? In other words, right-wing efforts to blunt public participation have been largely successful.
To get the ball rolling, the Biden administration needs to act quickly to relieve the pounding stress that is raining upon Americans across the nation. We are never going to get people to mobilize if they are too busy surviving day-to-day. Many of the problems people are suffering through will take a long time to fully resolve, and unfortunately most politicians are acutely aware of exactly how long their term is for. It will require a supreme sense of duty for them to act, when in all likelihood another politician is bound to take the benefit.
Of course, let’s also not kid ourselves who we are up against. There are plenty of reactionary people out there that would rather die in poverty than see one cent go to “those people.” Assuming we get the right amount of willingness and urgency from the new administration, it’s going to be a nasty fight. Very few people arrive at this level of radicalization all on their own. This corrosive mindset is built on a poisoned media diet, and cynical politicians are happy to take advantage. Any policy advanced by Democrats is immediately rejected by nearly half of political discourse. Never mind that the survival of American constitutional democracy is at stake.
So besides hollering at Joe Biden to, “DO MORE!” what else can be done to grease the skids? The Biden administration needs to immediately restore the Fairness doctrine, backed up by congressional action, and supported by every person that wants to see a nation that is somewhat unf*cked from the one we are currently living in. The Fairness doctrine (which is NOT the same thing as the Equal-Time Rule) requires that, as part of their license to broadcast to the public, Media companies must present contrasting viewpoints. Unfortunately, hatred, masquerading as news, is very profitable. And here is where the entire Democratic apparatus needs to be ruthless.
Any move against the toxic tribe of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch will certainly be met with hysterical resistance. Expect all sorts of lies and disinformation as they resort to the same playbook they’ve been using since the Regan administration. Thanks to decades of reckless deregulatory conquest and a grossly conservative Supreme Court, companies never seem to lose. Therefore legislation that reaffirms the Fairness doctrine needs to be rock solid, regardless of how much blood and teeth are left on the floor.
Why would this have any effect? Prohibiting the lies of one-sided debate is the social equivalent of regulating environmental pollution. Just about any human activity can cause pollution. The problem with today’s media is that they hide behind the term “platform.” Media companies like to claim that they don’t cause the pollution, they just cash in on it by owning the virtual paper it is printed on, as if that makes a difference. Some are ballsy enough to fake some virtuous-sounding garbage about the 4th estate, but the wretched state of American Media is itself all the proof we need. When they socialize the harm while privatizing the gain, then they should be held to account, just like any other crooked enterprise.
The time for dialog with organizations that profitably carried Donald Trump’s “don’t believe your lying eyes” campaign is over. I don’t have especially high hopes for Joe Biden to adapt so quickly, but the moment when Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won the last two Senate seats in Georgia, it allowed me to believe that Democrats have a real shot. We have a chance to bend toxic-talk back towards reality, and to insist that media operators own their contribution to the blood shed on January 6th. I hope the leaders of the democratic party recognize that America is in grave danger. Accommodating the bad-faith wailing of Republican extremists will only result in being rolled again.
Thank you so much for your essay! (WG)
Thank you for the essay.
These folks are really hitting it out of the park!
A few minutes ago we were checking Fox and Newsmax on cable to see what memes they were pursuing. John Roberts was on Fox showing how much easier the media is being on Jenn Psaki versus than they were in the early days on Sean Spicer. Had video to compare coverage and support his conclusions. Just posting to leteveryone know there’s no effort to unify from that quarter. It’s all on the Dems, doncha know?
The Moar You Know
Doesn’t apply to cable or the internet. Only to over-the-air broadcast licenses issued by the FCC. It would do some good with regards to Sinclair’s radio network. It will do literally nothing to Fox.
You can’t apply the Doctrine to cable TV – the vast majority of how people get TV these days – or the internet because they are not using public resources (i.e. broadcast spectrum, which is public property) to conduct their operations.
@The Moar You Know: I thought that was the case. Maybe we could figure out a way to make it poisonous to advertise on Fox, et. al.
I do think it would be worth having the doctrine back for Sinclair.
Regarding your comment on the Fairness Doctrine, I have this weird belief that the importance of Free Speech is not being able to flap one’s jaw as much as one wants, but lies in being able to hear all sides of an issue.
It seems to me we need some kind of long form discussions (2 hours in one bite?) on tv and radio, that is carried out over weeks, with some fact verification. Something Vidal/Buckley style debate maybe. Sound bites are not the way to communicate. The airwaves do belong to the public. The gigantic media conglomerates need to be broken up. 1/6 just seemed like one huge, smoking, stinking pizzagate. I love Jordan Klepper, but it’s more a horror show than a comedy sometimes. And Citizens United needs to be revisited.
The Moar You Know
@The Moar You Know: PS: in the interest of not being a rain on everyone’s parade, there is another option that would be far more effective than restoring the Fairness Doctrine.
Do what Trump did not suggest (he wanted to get rid of the moderation provision): yank the safe harbor provisions from Section 230 of the CDA. Make the Internet liable for what it publishes. THAT will at least slow down the rate of transmission of these mind viruses.
Without the safe harbor provisions, Fox is a second-tier local cable news network for angry oldsters and QAnon doesn’t exist. Trump would never have had Twitter to propel him to the presidency. Among many other blessings. Yeah, there will be collateral damage, the loss of sites like this, but can anyone honestly say you’re better off with the internet as it is currently constituted and functioning than you were without it?
Major Major Major Major
Open thread? In case people were curious, I’m apparently friends with Bernie’s budget policy director, and I asked him about the filibuster. He can’t see any reason why Democrats couldn’t vote to change the rules again later with a simple majority–the “power sharing agreement” is after all just the normal rules package, and we’ve changed filibuster rules before like that. So, no real cause for concern here.
The Moar You Know
@Lapassionara: We did. Have you sat and watched Fox recently? (I wouldn’t ask anyone to)
Fox News advertising is a cesspit of goldbug scams and fourth-rate bedroom furniture distributors. If they recoup a tenth of their operating expenses through ads I’d be shocked. They get their money through VERY good dealmaking with the cable providers, and capital infusions from wealthy Nazis. Taking away their ad revenue didn’t hurt them at all. And we liberals did that, with stunning effectiveness.
The problem with that idea is that it would presumably mean that MSNBC has to give air to Steve Bannon and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Major Major Major Major
@The Moar You Know:
Yeah I think most people don’t really understand this. Or Section 230, which this post also obliquely references.
Thought-provoking piece. Putting limits back onto how many stations a company can own, might help- anything to get more diversity of opinion.
But I don’t know how one overcomes the desire to only have one’s own biases reaffirmed.
IMO media consolidation has impacted broadcast and print more than removing the Fairness Doctrine. Here’s a timeline.
The Sinclairs and Clear Channels and Murdochs would not have gained traction under the old rules.
The Moar You Know
@Nicole: Another great idea. It would help immensely. Trollhattan’s link above shows just how helpful it might be. Especially WRT terrestrial broadcast radio, which is really the only arena in which the FCC can do anything effective. Broadcast TV…that boat has sailed.
@Major Major Major Major:
They can do it. But that’s why Mcconnell wants a commitment that they won’t.
There are a shitload of extremely bright and partisan Democrats in the Senate and on Senate staffs. They know what they are doing. They aren’t going to be trapped into some sort of dead end by McConnell’s deviousness. Everything comes down to votes. And the Dems need to get every single one of the 50 Dem votes in the Senate to do anything at all. That is going to be the rub. All it takes is one geriatric senile Senator like Feinstein to torpedo anything because she wants to bring the Senate back to the days of TipandRonnie.
Major Major Major Major
@Baud: Yeah but who cares? Not the parliamentarian. If this is the fig leaf he demands, whatever.
@Kent: Sure, but pledging to not nuke the filibuster vs. not pledging to not nuke the filibuster doesn’t change that equation.
Sorry, I’m just seeing a lot of people on Twitter freaking out and it’s annoying me.
As others have pointed out, the worst of the fever swamps don’t even _have_ broadcast licenses, so good luck with that.
But the other operational consequence of reinstating the fairness doctrine would mean mandatory airtime for fascist shit on every “serious” news channel. “6MWE is a ‘contrasting viewpoint’!” will be the right’s rallying cry to shovel even more trash at people.
Meanwhile, of course Sinclair will be merrily rolling along unchanged and breaking that law – any attempt to enforce it will be re-spun as “persecution of conservative viewpoints” on every newscast by the show’s required fascist mouthpiece.
What this country needs from its media is not fairness but honesty: we need them to call liars liars when they lie, and they need to find the truth. In this age of unlimited GOP lies, that’s not going to be “fair”. It shouldn’t be fair.
Yes, but that is also more an issue of the lack of enforcement of anti-trust law rather than the Fairness Doctrine.
@Major Major Major Major: It sounds like the Democrats are going to tell McConnell to stuff it on his request to PROMISE not to nuke the filibuster, but they are also going to keep it for the time being. Which is probably about as good of a result as we could have expected.
Honestly what I think the Dems should do is say that they aren’t going to count the votes of seditionist senators on cloture votes. So the 8 fucking traitor Senators lost their ability to filibuster. That will drop the cloture vote from 60 down to 52. That is one way that the Senate Dems can extract punishment for sedition.
Cruz and Hawley can still be Senators, they aren’t going to be expelled from the Senate. But the Dems are no longer going to extend them the courtesy of being able to block Dem legislation.
A possible angle would be to give the FEC real teeth and start examining this propaganda as in-kind-contributions.
Another one would be to require evidence. Not sure how and where to draw the line but the gish gallop needs to stop.
And lastly, demonization needs to be outlawed. The right wing media creates bogeymen and focuses over and over on a few targets. ACORN, Antifa, Pelosi, AOC, HRC, etc.
This follows clear playbooks of propaganda and is concerted, it can be identified and if it can be identified it can be regulated.
WATCH LIVE: House to vote on waiver for Biden defense secretary nominee Lloyd Austin (PBS stream)
Brilliant. Can this be enforced?
Of course. The Dems can enforce any change to Senate “norms”. like cloture votes and other bullshit like blue slips. They could also declare they are going to ignore any blue slips from seditionist Senators. What they can’t do is ignore their votes on legislation, confirmations, and such where there is a majority vote threshold. The can’t for example, state that they only need a minority of 42 Senators to pass legislation. But cloture votes and blue slips are just courtesies and not constitutional.
Under FCC rules there were explicit regulations (47 CFR § 73.3555) setting limits on the number of radio and television stations that could be owned in a single market, which also considered newspaper ownership. IIRC the rule began eroding under Clinton and has effectively been abandoned. The next FCC quadrennial review will be in 2024.
@Major Major Major Major:
Here is the deal to use a sports analogy. Every single day for the past 4 years we have been on defense. Every ounce of effort in Congress and government was to prevent or slow down Trump and McConnell from doing bad shit. There wasn’t even any thought of pushing progressive change, It was all defense. And we did manage to block a lot of stuff like dismantling the ACA.
Now for the first time in 4 years we are on offense and the GOP is on defense. We aren’t remotely going to get everything that we want. But all our efforts are now about pushing change rather than preventing it. I would 1000x rather be on offense than defense. Even knowing full well we aren’t going to get everything done and will have to prioritize the most important issues and work within the constraints that we have.
These are good arguments to have. And we drew an inside straight by winning both GA Senate seats. Without Trump shitting all over GA we might still be dealing with McConnel as majority leader. For once in my fucking lifetime, things tilted our way.
So the rules are still there, all the FEC needs to do is actually start enforcing them? That wouldn’t even take legislation.
Major Major Major Major
@Kent: Eliminating the filibuster isn’t even on the table right now, so I don’t see why we need to get worked up over a pinkie-swear.
@The Moar You Know:
As you pointed out, cable channels were never covered by the Fairness Doctrine. I have a simpler solution. Since most of the revenue for Fox comes from cable subscribers, pass a law that allows said subscribers to pay only for the channels they want. This could be very popular with many folks, myself included. I really hate knowing that I am paying Fox every month for not watching them.
@Major Major Major Major: Why? Because our word has to be good. You can only violate that one time, and you have lost trust forever.
@WaterGirl: There’s some truth to that… but, also, you know there are people out there being paid good rubles to insist, AT ALL COSTS and no matter what the facts are, that trust IS lost forever. Forever!
That the Dems have already ruined everything, forever, and are utterly treacherous bastards and you might as well give up or go back to Trump.
For these reasons I am extremely wary of anyone saying ‘you can only violate trust in Dems one time and then it’s lost forever’. I’m like, no. I want to know who’s making that suggestion. It’s a convenient suggestion.
But then I’m the one who just deleted Twitter AND Facebook AND Discord . I got fed up with being manipulated and gaslit. So I’m guaranteed to mistrust your sources, if it’s Twitter wisdom suggesting these things :)
Thanks for this. I was thinking something tangentially related to this last night. The relationship between Trump and various radical right groups was really one of mutualism (in the biological sense, like parasitism, commensalism, etc.) that was mediated by Twitter. Trump would broadcast far right and radical right ideas, beliefs, memes. Trump would get a lot of attention, which fed the black hole of his narcissism. And the radical right would get their ideas normalized in public discourse. And the two things amplified each other an a mutual feedback loop. If Twitter had banned Trump early for violating their terms of service, I don’t think things would have gotten so bad or so polarized so quickly or to the extent it has.
Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony
@The Moar You Know: My mom became brainwashed through AM radio.
Why didn’t Obama’s whitehouse do that?
@The Moar You Know: I get what you are saying. I probably should have started with, “I am not a lawyer, but that is why we have legislators.”
I might not have the mechanics just right, but there is an undeniable connection between right-wing “news,” and the destruction of the faith in government. You don’t get to claim freedom of the press when you make money by undermining democracy.
@Cervantes: I disagree. You don’t have to give equal time to the opposing view. (Thought I predict this is how Tucker Carlson would argue against it.) Instead “news” sources need to be Fair in their coverage. You can’t just say things and repeat them until they are accepted as truth (Donald Trump WON!!!). If you are incapable of following journalistic ethics, then you don’t deserve to be on air.
Use anti-trust laws to break up corporate consolidation – including social and other media. Enforce current FCC Regs and strengthen them in 2024. Prohibit networks from including news in entertainment. Staff up at the IRS and rescind tax exempt status from dark money sluices.
@Nicole: The way I look at it is that rights of constituents are more important than the rights of customers. If you can’t make money without undermining democracy, than you don’t deserve to be in business.
@Zelma: Yes, I like that idea. It’s a win-win (I hate cable bundles). We need legislators that can do what you just did.
@laura: Yeah, this is the core of Fox News rot. The company says, “But we have a separate Opinion side and News side!” when they are called on it.
Of course what they are really saying is, “But we have a separate Opinion side and News side, so its OK if we lie when we want to.”
Insisting that they would never let the unethical behavior of their Opinion side infect their news gathering side is about as laughable as their old tag line, “Fair and Balanced.”
For what its worth, that second-to-last link, “socialize the harm while privatizing the gain” was supposed to point to this youtube video of David Cay Johnston entitled, “The Perils Of Our Growing Inequality.”
Major Major Major Major
It’s the senate, nobody trusts anybody any more! This is just Mitch thinking he can get Dems on the record and then they’ll be afraid to renege, but like, we don’t actually have to play his game.
@The Moar You Know:
It also means the loss of most of decentralized participation in politics.
Get a billionaire to fund real-time disruption of malignant influence operations. A few hundred million dollars per year would work wonders if the right talent was funded.
The COVID-19 stimulus (loans, mostly) gave the filthy rich, most of them amoral and some of them psychopaths, at least several hundred billion dollars more in influence money; it’ll get spent on vile stuff like delaying action on global heating, but at least online there are ways to fight back, and the right wing has lost the advantage it had in e.g. 2016 in influence operations.
([REDACTED]] for advocating for the silencing of ordinary citizens. Take that away and ordinary citizens have no serious tools left but monkey wrenching and assassination (to counter right wing media and lobbying and advertising) and local F2F politics if and only if they’re extroverts. All quite doable, also by the way.
But, but… Obama did not support the Fairness Doctrine!