October 12, 2004
SOME PEOPLE ARE UNHAPPY that Sinclair Broadcasting will be showing the documentary Stolen Honor on its stations. The DNC is even trying to shut down the broadcast.
This leads Fritz Schranck to observe:
I wonder what itís like to live an irony-free life.
This question came up as I read the news that some folks are spitting mad about a broadcasting companyís plans to air all or significant portions of an anti-Kerry documentary before the November 2 election.
According to various news outlets, Sinclair Broadcasting plans to pre-empt its stationsí regular programming in order to show Stolen Honor. On its web site's home page, the company says it has invited Senator Kerry to participate in the upcoming program, and also says that the final details of the show are yet to be determined.
Of course, the irony is that the people who are most angry about this upcoming event were also highly likely to be among Michael Mooreís biggest fans, who eagerly lined up in droves to watch Fahrenheit 9/11 earlier this year.
I canít say that the audience for that movie was entirely sympathetic to Kerry, of course, since I was among those sitting in the theater. However, it was pretty obvious that I was in a decided minority. . . .
What I really find distressing is the attempt to enlist the government in an effort to suppress Sinclair's exercise of free speech, as suggested in The Nation article noted earlier.
Who are these people? Do they really think the First Amendment is a one-way ratchet that only turns to the left?
The effort to censor Sinclair seems to me to be a bigger -- and more significant -- assault on free speech than fines against Howard Stern for using dirty words. I wonder if the free-speech defenders will turn out for Sinclair like they did for Stern?
UPDATE: This, reported by Drudge, seems rather thuggish of the Kerry campaign:
Kerry Senior Advisor Chad Clanton to SINCLAIR Broadcasting: 'They better hope we don't win' [said on FOX NEWS DAYSIDE]...
I hope this will mobilize the free speech lobby. Meanwhile, Sissy Willis writes: "John McCain and Russ Feingold, your offices are calling you. Is that you, goose? Gander here."
[LATER: Reader Michael Morgan emails: "Doesn't Chad Clanton's remark seem to be the kind of rhetoric that the Kerry-Edwards campaign should be directing against terrorists rather than, you know, their fellow Americans?" Why yes, yes it does.]
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ed Clark emails:
I would love for someone to explain to me, without using double-speak, how airing Stolen Honor is any different than what CBS has been doing on the public airwaves for months. Except that Stolen Honor may actually be true.
I note they invited Kerry on the air, to comment on any inaccuracies or unfairness.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Oliver Willis -- not to be confused with Sissy, above, because although Oliver is a bit overwrought since he started working for the Media Matters outfit, he's no Sissy -- emails:
Fahrenheit wasn't broadcast over the public airwaves. And remember this movie called "The Reagans"? The cries of free speech ring a bit hollow when the movie's a campaign ad run by the Swift Boat Vets.
Howard Stern was broadcast over the public airwaves, and that didn't stop people from calling the fines against him censorship. And "The Reagans" was stopped by public outcry, not government action. As for the rest -- why do the cries of free speech "ring a bit hollow" here? Because it's a campaign ad? (Like Moore's film?) Or because it's a campaign ad for the wrong side? Sounds to me like Oliver's endorsed the one-way ratchet theory.
Related post here, from Professor Bainbridge.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Richard Roark emails that the Moore / Stolen Honor comparison isn't fair:
Why are all these people trying to compare Stolen Honor to Fahrenheit 911? Is it that the obvious comparison is just too obvious?
Sinclair Broadcasting is saying it is a news program. A news program about something that happened 30 years ago. But in this case instead of citing "unimpeachable source(s)" without names and documents that are forged, this news program can cite the federal register for direct quotes and the sources testifying to the aftereffects of those quotes are actually willing to appear on camera, with their identity being openly displayed instead of hidden. The possibly aggrieved party has even been invited to respond.
MORE: Andrew Sullivan somewhat disagrees. I havent seen this film, so I don't know if his characterization of it as a "rank smear" fits. But he doesn't help me here. What, exactly, is untrue about this film? To demonstrate that it's a "rank smear," he needs to point to some fairly serious lies. But I don't think he has -- they're assumed, not proven, or even identified. As for his CBS example, well, CBS has already done enough, as have quite a few media outfits. They tried to influence the election on the public airwaves, after all.
Given the media's extensive efforts to deliver its 15% for Kerry, it's funny that this is suddenly so outrageous.
I think this whole thing illustrates that campaign finance "reform" is a terrible disaster. First, it hasn't cleaned things up -- it's just produced a sub rosa battle of rich guys and interest groups. Second, it's coarsened the political dialogue even further, since candidates have some incentive to play nice, but independent groups don't. Third, controversies like these are undermining free speech. And, finally, all of this is hitting in wartime, when we don't need this kind of nastiness, etc.
McCain, Feingold, and the many editorialists who supported this bill -- and President Bush, who signed it in the mistaken belief that the courts would overturn it, and the Supreme Court, which wrongly upheld it -- all ought to admit their error. Will they?
Another reader emails:
Sundance channel aired the "Concert for Change," a six-hour anti-Bush concert. Are the free-speech-for-me-but-not-for-thee types open to the idea of a six-hour Ted Nugent jam fest?
I'm cool with it.
STILL MORE: Reader Ed Paul, who unlike me is watching PBS tonight, emails:
I assume that if The Sinclair Kerry special is an illegal contribution in kind the the Kerry hagiography on PBS tonight will also be illegal. Jeese, they have one of his crew members telling the Silver Star story and NOT one word about the Swift Boat Veterans.
Sounds like that one-way ratchet.