Sunday, May 17, 2009

Crucify the FCC

The FCC is an independent United States government agency. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by terrestrial radio, broadcast television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions. The FCC is not made up of publicly elected individuals.

What I’d like to know is after all of the years of this commission’s haranguing of Howard Stern, and most recently CBS, due to the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson nipplecast is:

Why doesn’t the FCC ever fine television networks for egregious factual inaccuracies and lies?

While judgments like “offensive,” “tasteless,” “biased,” “unfair” and “profane” are entirely subjective; the factual truth is never open to interpretations of its concrete meaning. A factual truth such as “2+2=4” can only ever be presented as “2+2=4,” and not “2+2 doesn’t equal 4, only 4 equals 4; Liberals want to focus on the number 2 only and take attention away from 4…” Statements like the second hypothetical example are inflicted on news audiences, under the guise of opinion and “news analysis,” but the second statement is a lie, not an opinion: 2+2 always equals 4, regardless of who says it, or why, and irregardless (thank you President Nixon for that bizarre but oft appropriate term) of anyone’s desire to only chant 4 equals 4 over and over. A preferred fact such as “4=4” does negate another fact such as “2+2=4” -no matter how undesirable or politically compromising that other fact may be.

This dynamic is playing out right now, with Republicans like John Boehner, and people who aren’t even in elected office anymore like Dick Cheney, attempting to switch the issue of a potential investigation on what we now know factually to be a torture program instituted by the Bush administration, into a matter of “who knew what when” among Democratic Party members, specifically Nancy Pelosi.

This is a great big “dodge:” the question is, who was responsible for designing and authorizing the unconstitutional, illegal torture policy?
Pointing out political opponents who also broke or abetted the violation of the nation’s laws does not absolve George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John C. Yoo, et al from their crimes. The manner in which this dodge is repeated, promoted and presented illustrates just how ineffectual and useless the FCC is, as a commission that supposedly regulates the quality of television content, specifically the news. John Boehner’s opinions about what Nancy Pelosi knew, or was told or even her actual guilt in the matter does not settle the possible criminal torture issues for Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. When a talking head on Fox News like Sean Hannity says that the complicity or knowledge of Democrats during the Bush Administration’s ramp up to torture and war make the investigation of all their illicit actions unnecessary; that is a lie. It is not opinion.

It is intentionally obfuscated reasoning.

The comedian Lewis Black said last year that the country has devolved to a point where a Democrat sees an SUV run over a cat and says “That cat was run over,” and a Republican sees the same event as says “That cat committed suicide, and we’ll start a special commission to find the suicide note.”
We can disagree about truths, even the so-called “self evident” ones, but we cannot disagree about the facts. -A cat has been run over. –A nation’s Constitution and rule of law has been violated.

If the FCC can’t ensure that the facts are always presented ahead of and in tandem with opinion, then what use are they as a regulatory body? They currently exist to inform me about what other people find offensive, like a nipple, or Bono cursing at an award’s show. I know these things offend other people. I don’t need the FCC to tell me that. I need the FCC to make sure that the news is always the news and that entertainment and opinion never masquerade as the former.

You see, the biggest lie Fox News tells the world daily, is that it is a "news network."
It is from that statement that all of its lies emanate.

I doubt the FCC will ever do a thing about lies, so what use are they to any of us in America?



Jack Jodell said...

SJ, you raise a very valid point. The hell of it is, though, the government cannot constitutionally limit freedom of speech, and that means, unfortunately, that people have the right to deliberately and publicly distort and lie. Responsible, honest people do not do this, of course, but no one ever correctly said politicians (especially of the modern conservative vintage) are responsible. I'm with you 100% on this, brother, but I think it is only a wistful dream on our part. Think of it, though: If the FCC WERE able to fine for lies, Fox "News" alone would be able to fully fund the agency itself. Throw in Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of right wing talk radio, and those fines could easily fund Social Security, Welfare, and a single-payer National Health Care program! We can always dream...

SJ said...

I agree. It's a pipe dream ultimately.
But I think if we've found a way to hold Pharmaceutical advertisers accountable for their claims for example, news networks should be no different.
Freedom of Speech does not cover lying about facts.
It could all start by citing FNC for false advertising: their name Fox "News" Channel for one, their slogan, "we report, you decide" for another.
But it won't happen.
People are perfectly happy to have an FCC that does little and leaves its responsibilities up to groups like Media Matters, The Pew Center, The Daily Show and The Onion.