The notion that the left is more liberal-minded than the right is one of those thoroughly wrong ideas that nearly everybody believes despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Consider, for example, the specter of censorship of the press.
While in possession of the presidency or Congress for most of the past three decades, the right has done a grand total of . . . nothing . . . to censor the press on the national level.
Which is as it should be. True liberalisam and a respect for America’s federalist system recognize that Congress shall make no law restricting freedom of the press, and that’s that. According to the U.S. Constitution, that is entirely up to the states, and they may indeed regulate public dissemination of information pretty much to their heart’s content, contra a half-century of asinine rulings against state authority in the matter by the U.S. Supreme Court.
And the right has done nothing substantive to censor the media on a national level. On the contrary, the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan added immeasurably to the freedom of the American media by jettisoning rules that restricted freedom of the press.
The left takes a far different attitude toward the media.
When an outcry against rock music lyrics arose in the 1980s and led to congressional hearings, it was from the left, from Tipper Gore and other Democrats.
Similarly, Democrats have been complaining about violence in the media for decades now, although they heartily approve of obscenity and depictions of all sorts of sexual activities.
Then there was the atrocious McCain-Feingold "campaign finance" political speech censorship bill, one of the most outrageous incursions against freedom of speech in the nation’s history. Yes, McCain is indeed a leftist on issues such as these.
And now the left is at it again, as the Los Angeles Times notes:
Despite efforts to quell complaints that they air too much death, blood and mayhem, broadcasters are facing a renewed battle over regulating televised violence.
With a fresh Congress sworn in and a major federal report expected soon on TV gore, pressure is likely to mount to more aggressively stem graphic and gratuitous scenes in shows. One proposal would give regulators powers similar to those they have now to punish indecency and coarse language over the airwaves.
In addition, TV violence is shaping up as a 2008 presidential campaign issue with some of the leading potential candidates already at the forefront of the issue. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has long talked about the effect of gory TV shows and video games on children. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) favors allowing families to buy cable channels separately so they can spurn objectionable shows. Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) also have bemoaned TV violence.
Yes, conservative Sen. Sam Brownback has "bemoaned TV violence," but he voted against the aforementioned, atrocious McCain-Feingold Bill after originally co-sponsoring it. So when the chips were down, he supported free speech.
It’s true that Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and other figures on the religious right continually complain about things they don’t like in the culture, but they’re preachers, after all, and that’s their job. And as noted earlier, their complaints amount to exactly nothing when it comes to actual government action. They have done no harm to freedom of speech, other than to make some people yearn for a chance to censor them.
Let’s hope that the left will be all talk and no action as well.
I’m not optimistic, however. This train is moving fast, as the LA Times article reports,
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, this month warned that the door might be opening to regulation of violent programs.
"In the absence of action from the industry, I think we need to be looking at all our options," Copps said.
This should not be a federal issue, if the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has any meaning at all, but that’s not stopping anybody, the LA Times article notes:
But although the FCC has regulatory power over coarse language and sexual content, it has no clear authority to fine broadcasters for excessive bloodshed and mayhem.
Some in Congress have been eager to change that. In 2004, a bipartisan group of 39 House members—including the new Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.)—asked the FCC to study the effect of violent programming on children and how its airing might be restricted.
One option pushed by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) would give the FCC the authority to address graphic violence in TV programming, including cable and satellite. His 2005 bill went nowhere, but he plans to reintroduce it. With his own party now in the majority, Rockefeller may get hearings and a vote, further propelling the issue.
"Obviously, the preference would be to have the industry police itself when it comes to excessive violence," Rockefeller said. "However, if they can’t or won’t do it, then Congress must step in and address this growing societal problem."
"Obviously, the preference" for normal, sensible people would be for Congress and the FCC to stay the hell out of this, but that’s clearly too much too wish for.
And we call these people liberals!