Of late, a couple of us here at Wizbang have taken to criticizing certain aspects of the media. And the comments in reaction to our pieces have been rather enlightening. Both our articles and the responses of our detractors give some insight into the way the writers’ minds work.
Last night, Cassy took talk show host Michael Savage to task over his recent comments about autism. I’ll be honest — I didn’t read her article too carefully, and it’s not an article I’d ever write myself. But that’s not out of disagreement with Cassy’s article, only her priorities.
For me, Savage isn’t worth a full-blown article. The few times I’ve listened to some of his show, I’ve been turned off — and so has my radio. The guy does not impress me in the least. And his current cause is assailing autism, and I have no vested interest in the topic. I understand others have a great deal of interest in the issue, but I’m not one of them. So what Savage says about autism are irrelevant to me on two grounds.
And yesterday I took the New York Times to task for running Barack Obama’s op-ed on how he would end the Iraq war, but refusing to run John McCain’s response.
In both Cassy’s and my article, we talked about how we thought both media institutions — Savage and the Times — had behaved in a reprehensible fashion. We both thought that our respective targets had made poor choices, and wanted our declarations of such to be heard far and wide. And we both spelled out just what we thought they ought to do.
But neither of us said that we thought they should be MADE to comply with our wishes.
Cassy didn’t call for Savage to be taken off the air. I didn’t say that the Times should either run McCain’s piece or be shut down.
And while I’m normally reticent to speak on others’ behalf, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Cassy wouldn’t want the government to take Savage off the air over this mess, nor do I want the government to do anything similar to the Times.
That’s why I don’t support the return to the Orwellian-named “Fairness Doctrine.” I think that opposing viewpoints ought to be offered equal time, but I don’t think that it’s the government’s place to mandate that. I think that the marketplace does a pretty good job of hashing things out. There’s liberal talk radio and conservative talk radio. Conservative talk radio does well enough that its leading voice just signed a deal worth almost half a billion dollars. Liberal talk radio does so well that it needs to steal money from charities to pay its bills. Conservative and balanced newspapers are doing all right. Liberal newspapers like the New York Times are crumbling.
Among my core principles, my most strongly held beliefs, is that people haev the right to be wrong. That it is not the place of government to deny people their rights to make choices just because they might make “wrong” choices, that they need to be protected from “bad” decisions. It’s why I always wear my seat belt, but oppose seat belt laws.
Savage is wrong to say what he did. The Times was wrong to refuse to publish McCain’s piece. But in both cases, they were within their rights to do so.
And we are within our rights to point out that they are asses and idiots and utterly, completely wrong to do so.
That noted right-winger Alan Dershowitz has a saying: “the best answer to bad speech is more speech.” He’s absoltuely right. The best answer to idiots like Savage and the New York Times is to speak up ourselves, to argue with them, to denounce them, to discredit their positions and idiocies.
The second best is to ignore them, to let them fade into the obscurity they so richly deserve and deeply fear.
Some may disagree with the rankings of those two, but no one of any principle would disagree with the absolute worst response: to get the government to shut them down entirely.
As another aphorism goes, “any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” Once you get the government into the business of shutting down people for what they say, it’s hard to get them to stop — and sooner or later, they’ll turn on those with whom you agree.