Privatize the Airwaves

Friday, May 11, 2007

Over at is a column by Neal Boortz which says almost everything except what needs to be said (i.e., the title of this post) about the Opie and Anthony controversy. (A particularly vile example of the crude exploits of a now-unemployed pair of shock jocks has been making the rounds.) And not only does Boortz fail to "connect the dots" of his good points, his answer to the threat he rightly perceives will do nothing to head it off.

In sum, it seems that the the Democrats are quietly continuing their attempts to re-tighten the federal noose around talk radio and that the show in question, being particularly vile, has given them the excuse to include satellite radio in their plans.

Here is Boortz's take on how the Democrats will use this show to further their agenda, along with an update on a serious threat to talk radio that is brewing in Congress.

By the end of the day today you're going to hear liberals in congress and the media referring to these two morons as talk show hosts. Comparisons will be drawn between them and people like Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and myself. You’ll hear the phrases "hate speech" and "hate radio" over and over again as these leftists push their Stalinist-inspired plans to destroy conservative and libertarian talk radio. By the time the dust has settled the majority of the people in this country --- who don't by the way, listen to talk radio --- will absolutely believe in their hearts that this Opie and Anthony stunt is representative of all talk radio, and these people will be eager to support their politicians in their goal to shut us all down.

Right now we have a little gem called H.R. 3302, the "Media Ownership Reform Act," in the congress. H.R. 3302 is a project of DC Democrats who know that conservative talk radio constitutes a real threat to their plans for total victory in 2008. If H.R. 3302 were to become law, talk radio as you know it would be dead inside of nine months. Period. Thanks to the antics of these two idiots there will be more congressmen who will be willing to join in this and other efforts to control broadcast radio and, incidentally, to control satellite broadcasting as well. [bold added]
Shortly after this, Boortz explains the basis for these efforts, rightly characterizing said basis as a "fiction".
[B]y the time broadcasting came around politicians were savvy enough to find a way around the First Amendment in their goal of controlling broadcast content. [They] created this ridiculous fiction of "the public's airwaves" and have exploited that asinine idea to their benefit for years. Now they're working to increase that control through H.R. 3302 and, at the same time, considering ways to spread their censorship agenda to satellite radio. After all, don't those satellite signals come through those very same airwaves that the politicians claim are owned by the people? [bold added]
So is Boortz getting ready to launch a massive PR campaign about the importance of freedom of speech and how it depends on consistent government protection of property rights? No. Does he plan to hold Opie and Anthony up between his thumb and index finger as an example of how free speech is so important that we must accept the existence of such shows? No.

He is instead calling for a boycott of shock jocks like Opie and Anthony and public pressure on their employers to fire them in order to remove this particular excuse for censorship of satellite radio before the Democrats use it! To his credit, Boortz at least notes how this differs from government censorship when he does so.
[F]ree speech does not mean that you have the right to say anything you please on any radio station or any private satellite cannel. Whoever owns and controls that station and/or satellite has every right in the world to control content. Opie and Anthony are content. XM ought to show some responsibility ... now ... today.

Exercise control.

Get rid of them --- before their virus spreads. [bold added]
Unfortunately, Boortz plays right into the hands of Democrats who want to kill talk radio as well as those of religionists who want to censor broadcast content with this proposal. First of all, this course of action will not stop someone from hiring even Opie and Anthony once the fanfare dies down. Second, by what standards should someone be deemed a "shock jock"? Considering what some leftist and religious constituencies manage to find "offensive", this idea sounds like a very closely-related "virus" to me.

Furthermore, so what if satellite radio were somehow to clean itself up to the satisfaction of all the wannabe censors out there? Their response will not be to retreat in the face of massive evidence of "corporate responsibility", but to frame such behavior as a cynical ploy and call for the government to take over satellite radio anyway to make sure things "stay clean". After all, if it got into this mess once when left unattended, it can do so again.

Worse still, and this is what permits the above scenario to remain possible indefinitely, Boortz fails to explicitly call for the privatization of our airwaves or even to offer a serious moral challenge to the idea that the government "owns" them. "Whoever owns and controls that station and/or satellite has every right in the world to control content." The Democrats see themselves doing just that -- in the name of "the public", who they think is the "real" owner of satellite radio, anyway.

There is nothing wrong with boycotting garbage like Opie and Anthony, but doing so in order to deter government censorship is no substitute for making a direct, moral challenge to the fundamental premise behind what makes government censorship possible. In this case, it is the fiction of public property that ought to be challenged.

-- CAV


: Corrected a factual error and related passages.
5-12-07: Corrected a typo.


Darren said...

Gus, I know what you mean when you say Boortz won't connect the dots. I think Boortz is a good example of the problems with libertarians. He is usually correct when he identifies problems, such as the IRS and the public school system (two of his favorite issues). But what are his solutions? He wants to implement his "Fair Tax" and school vouchers. In other words, his solution to the tax code is a tax code and his solution to the public school system is a public school system. He doesn't look to find the root cause of the problems with these issues or identify a key principle that can be used to determine whether something is wrong. He just follows the libertarian idea that "competition" fixes everything.

That said, his radio show is still my favorite. And he knew enough to include an Ayn Rand quote in his book when he wrote about the war on individualism.

Gus Van Horn said...

Beyond knowing that he was a Libertarian, I am almost completely unfamiliar with Boortz. But, as he is a Libertarian, what you say comes as no surprise.

If you refuse to think in terms of fundamental principles, you will live in the box made by those of others.