Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fairness Doctrine as Modernism

One of my main interests on this blog is describing the transition from an Apollonian culture to a Dionysian one that started in the 1960s and was generally complete by 1990.  In other terms, this is the transition from Modernism to romantic Post Modernism.

There are, of course, many minor patterns of Modernism that persist simply because some are hard to change due to laws or they are bundled up with other patterns that are Dionysian.  Additionally, there are still many older people active in the public sphere who cling to older thoughts and values.   In the political economic sphere, those who still adhere to the “Neoliberal” agenda, and that includes the more radical neocons, are part of this older tradition.   In more political terms, those whom Lakoff called “neoliberal” and some of the moderate conservatives fall into this group (the extreme conservatives, are by definition, Dionysian) .

One Modernist idea recently closed out is the Fairness Doctrine.  From wikipediA :

“The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission's view, honest, equitable and balanced. The FCC decided to eliminate the Doctrine in 1987, and in August 2011 the FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine… The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented… The main agenda for the doctrine was to ensure that viewers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints.

In the mid-1980s, under FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler, a communications attorney who had served on Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign staff in 1976 and 1980, the commission began to repeal parts of the Fairness Doctrine, stating in 1985 that the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In June 2011, the Chairman and a subcommittee chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, both Republicans, said that the FCC, in response to their requests, had set a target date of August 2011 for removing the Fairness Doctrine and other "outdated" regulations from the FCC's rulebook.

On August 22, 2011, the FCC formally voted to repeal the language that implemented the Fairness Doctrine, along with removal of more than eighty other rules and regulations, from the Federal Register following a White House executive order directing a "government-wide review of regulations already on the books", to eliminate unnecessary regulations.

News items are found here,

The Fairness Doctrine is a fine example of Modernism.  The whole intent is to allow the assessment of ideas and concepts in a public format.  And, Modernists were all about ideas and their merits.  The Doctrine also supported the sense of objectivity that was expected in journalistic venues.

In a Dionysian culture, the emphasis is on power and control.  The merits of ideas are less relevant.  Objectivity, or the farce of it, is now a tool for manipulating people into voting blocks.  Journalism now has a preacher style instead of an inquisitive intellectual one.

The best example of the Doctrine is found in the old Firing Line series hosted by William F Buckley, although many other shows had it too (Dick Cavett, Point/Counterpoint).  Today, the PBS News Hour seems to be the last real attempt at implementing the Doctrine.

Here is a video of Buckley in action with Huey Newton, circa 1970, as they discuss the idea of revolution:

The inquisitive nature of Modernism also  influenced other forms of public culture. Here is a link to a 1950s You Bet Your Life show; watch the inter play between a scientist and Groucho Marx

Groucho even says at one point “do you want my job?”

Under Modernism Fair Doctrine conversations were exposés in questioning.  Today, the goal is to be dogmatic and convey a position.

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