Conservatives band together against nonexistent threat

A prominent right-wing media watchdog announces the formation of a group dedicated to fighting against the Fairness Doctrine.

Published December 1, 2008 10:40PM (EST)

Whether they know it or not, the staff at the Media Research Center -- a conservative press watchdog -- seems to have hit upon an ingenious new strategy: make a big deal about getting involved in fights in which your enemy is nonexistent. You can't possibly lose!

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 "In 1987, President Ronald Reagan rescinded the Fairness Doctrine and since then, talk radio has flourished.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."

In fact, as I wrote in a post last month -- and in an article dating back to an earlier explosion of these fears in April of 2007 -- all the hysteria about the Fairness Doctrine's supposedly imminent return is unwarranted. Democrats have little or no interest in bringing it back. President-elect Barack Obama opposes the idea, and in 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, told me, "I'm not aware that there's any kind of debate about the Fairness Doctrine. To be honest, I barely even know what it is ... [Sen. Reid] is not contemplating anything like that. It truly is not on his radar screen."

According to the MRC, Fairness Alliance member organizations include Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Women for America and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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