Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”
“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.
“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”
“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”
George Will – my favorite columnist – had a stunningly wrong-headed column this weekend on the Fairness Doctrine. I certainly would expect him to dislike the long-vanquished doctrine.
What I wouldn’t expect was for Will to write an entire column to refute a straw man argument used merely to bash liberals. Will constantly invokes what liberals want to do regarding this – but cites not a single one in his piece. In fact, Marin Cogan of The New Republic was unable to find any congressperson pushing legislation to this effect or any liberal policy wonks promoting a return to the Fairness Doctrine.
Will though manages to be an expert on what these anonymous liberals think:
And these worrywarts say the proliferation of radio, cable, satellite broadcasting and Internet choices allows people to choose their own universe of commentary, which takes us far from the good old days when everyone had the communitarian delight of gathering around the cozy campfire of the NBC-ABC-CBS oligopoly. Being a liberal is exhausting when you must simultaneously argue for illiberal policies on the basis of dangerous scarcity and menacing abundance.
If reactionary liberals, unsatisfied with dominating the mainstream media, academia and Hollywood, were competitive on talk radio, they would be uninterested in reviving the fairness doctrine. Having so sullied liberalism’s name that they have taken to calling themselves progressives, liberals are now ruining the reputation of reactionaries, which really is unfair.
Next up would be George Will’s column on how Net Neutrality would be like a Fairness Doctrine for the internet.
Matt Yglesias summed up this Fairness Doctrine controversy best a few weeks ago:
Political movements mischaracterize the other side’s general goals all the time. But I’ve never heard of anything like the current conservative mania for blocking a particular legislative provision that nobody is trying to enact.