The Radio Act of 1927

The Radio Act of 1927 required equal time for political candidates. That rule is still in effect. In 1949, the Federal Communications Commission enacted what was called the “fairness doctrine.” It required broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of controversial issues. Many credit this policy with preventing the extreme polarization of today. 

Ronald Reagan began a campaign against big government and government regulation. He said the government is not the solution; government is the problem. As part of his efforts against regulation, he removed the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. That allowed broadcasters to become extreme right wing (or left wing – although rare). It meant listeners and viewers never heard an opposing viewpoint. That’s not healthy; it encourages extremism and ignorance. 

A couple of mornings ago, I watched Fox News. We know that each day Fox executives give marching orders to all the anchors, telling them what to talk about and the attitude they should take. The right wing thrives in authoritarianism. That day included the Inflation Reduction Act. During the discussion, “Inflation Reduction” Act frequently streamed across the bottom of the screen. The quotation marks mean “The so-called Inflation Reduction Act.” They are an indication of ridicule. 

All the while, the panel was claiming the bill would drive up inflation. That statement depends on what the viewer knows. Given the typical educational level of a Fox News viewer, we may be sure the viewer is not well informed. Some will tell their friends and family that Joe Biden is driving up inflation. Some will take to social media to spread the poison. It becomes an “echo chamber” of propaganda that the Inflation Reduction Act is, contrary to its name, highly inflationary.

A better-informed viewer would dismiss Fox News’s claim out of hand. That person would know that on August 2, 2022, 126 of the nation’s top economists signed a letter to congressional leaders urging passage of the act. They included seven Nobel laureates, two former Treasury secretaries, two former Federal Reserve vice chairs, and two former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisors. On the other hand, Larry Kudlow is an untrained Fox News economics anchor. (Really. He did not study economics.) He is an admitted “Reagan supply-sider.” That economic theory is better known as “trickle-down economics.” It has long been debunked by professional economists. Critical thinking is having information such as this, having a knowledge database, or the ability to look it up. Kudlow headed Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors.

The next thing on Fox News that morning was an attack on the Democrat (sic) tax increases. Republicans universally don’t know that Democrat is a noun and Democratic is an adjective, both capitalized when referring to the political party. That lack of grammar is characteristic of Republicans’ anti-intellectual views against education. (Been to a Republican book-burning lately?)

One Fox panelist “expert” said the people are not going to support the “Democrat” tax increases. But polls show the vast majority support higher taxes for the rich, and that’s what this bill does. It raises taxes primarily on the top 1 percent of taxpayers. For those making greater than $1 million, the increase is $6,060. Those making over $4.4 million will pay an additional $41,580. Do you think they can afford it? For those making less than $400,000, there is no tax increase.

The sin committed at Fox was that the panel and anchor gave the impression that the tax increase falls on everybody. It does not. That is the logical fallacy of the hasty generalization. The problem for America is that most viewers, in their ignorance, will believe Fox News and dig in. That increases polarization of America, a most dangerous thing for our country. 

The restoration of the fairness doctrine would allow those who know  to challenge the false propaganda at Fox News. The fairness doctrine would prevent the unchecked propaganda from giving Uncle Sam blood poisoning.

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Fred Mittag
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