Shut Up, America: A Warning Siren for the Future of Free Speech
One of the many inaccurate memes running through the Bush years was that free speech was under constant attack. Meanwhile, more artists spoke out more often in more media outlets about the president's policies.
Enter Shut Up, America: The End of Free Speech, Brad O'Leary's alarmist tome about how the new Obama administration could clamp down on free speech. Is the fear of losing our free speech bipartisan? Not according to O'Leary, who lays out some pretty convincing arguments about what we might expect over the next four -- or eight -- years.
Like the left's attacks on President Bush, O'Leary's predictions may not come to pass. Recent headlines regarding a revival of the Fairness Doctrine -- a radio regulation that would essentially shut down conservative talkers -- ended without any such legislation passing. But Shut Up, America warns that many of the pieces for the Fairness Doctrine's revival, as well as other attempts to clamp down on conservative chatter, are already in place. The death of the original Fairness Doctrine paved the way for Rush Limbaugh's rise to prominence and, in the intervening years, the rise of Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, and other like-minded gabbers. However, it's not just talk radio that could be silenced. Net neutrality backers could work similar restrictions on the Internet, O'Leary posits, using sources from both sides of the political aisle to buttress his claims. A 1987 Washington Post editorial called the Fairness Doctrine "repulsive." And none other than Dan "Memogate" Rather lashed out at the doctrine during testimony to the Federal Communications Commission.
The book begins with a quick summation of the media's left-wing slant. O'Leary quotes the few brave mainstream reporters and editors who shared their shock at the one-sided, glowing coverage of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The material isn't groundbreaking, but it's sufficient to set the stage for subsequent chapters. Plus, preserving conservative talk radio becomes even more important given the current media landscape. Who else -- the book posits -- will keep the powerful in check?
Next, the author serves up a concise history of the Fairness Doctrine, which demanded radio stations give equal time to both sides of major issues. The legislation was born during an era of limited media outlets, and even those who disagreed with it could understand a fraction of the rationale for its existence -- even if they disagreed with it on principle.