Standing Up for Truly Free Speech

 Posted by on 17 May 2009 at 11:01 pm  Activism, Free Speech
May 172009
Brian Jennings is the author of a new book on the Fairness Doctrine, Censorship: The Threat to Silence Talk Radio, and he came through Boise on his promotional tour a couple days ago. The biggest talk-radio station in the area had a live-broadcast event featuring him and local talk show host Nate Shelman (who was the anchor speaker for Boise’s Tax Day Tea Party). It was all about free speech, censorship, and the Fairness Doctrine.

The book’s author is a Conservative, distressed at the Left’s use of the Fairness Doctrine to disrupt or destroy Conservative talk radio, and most everyone in the audience seemed to identify as a Conservative as well. After listening for a while, I decided to actually go there in person to see if I could get some mic time and maybe inject a little principled thought into the conversation. I figured a couple minutes on air had to be at least as effective as a letter to the editor. :^)

Why did I go there? Well, people recognize there’s something seriously wrong with the Fairness Doctrine, and they can (and did) talk about how it is a blunt political weapon involving arbitrary powers and undefined terms, constitutes censorship, is a violation of free speech, and so on. But what I wasn’t hearing was any principled stand for the absolute right to free speech and the consistent rejection of censorship. Without this, their argument is basically reduced to a flowery appeal to partisan interests. Demanding that people follow a principle only works if you’re doing so yourself! More important, they should uphold the crucial ideas that make human life possible in society, and which brought about the best country in the world.

So there I was, sitting among a couple hundred conservative folks, trying to figure out how I could point out hypocrisy and inspire a genuine stand for liberty without being booed out of the room.

I waited, surveying the discussion… Eventually, a lady who was known and liked by the host and audience took the mic and talked about how the Left says the Right is “just as bad” and should therefore feel guilty, which she and the audience of course rejected out of hand. Sweet! Now all I had to do was try to springboard from her comments, contradict her in a way that wouldn’t make me seem like a jerk, articulate my point while the host did his thing, and keep my own off-the-cuff mental chaos from making me look like a fool or a crank. :^)

Here’s an mp3 of me working it out: greg-on-kboi.mp3 (That’s a 2.5 minute slice of the entire three-hour program, starting from 2:14:56.)

I think it was worth the effort. While I wasn’t nearly as smooth and clear as I would have liked, I managed to get the essential points across, and in a way that worked for an audience that could have easily been alienated. Either way, it was good training for the next opportunity! And nice fodder for a letter to the editor I’m about to go write.

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