Freedom of Media and Partisan Divide

From the opening essay in the March issue of Harper’s, Tyranny of the Minority by Rebecca Solnit. It’s about Repubican efforts to disenfranchise people unlikely to vote Republican, with this interesting aside:

In 1987, for example, Republican appointees eliminated the rule that required radio and TV stations to air a range of political views. The move helped make possible the rise of right-wing talk radio and of Fox News, which for twenty years has effectively served the Republican Party as a powerful propaganda arm.

Yes, I remember that now. One can see how such a rule would seem to violate free speech; who is the government to ‘enforce’ a range of political views? At the same time, the consequences have been dire. Nor was the web imagined in that earlier rule. Not just partisan websites, but the way in which Facebook and other filtering sites limit viewers to seeing only things that confirm their predispositions.

Can’t help but quote the following paragraphs also, which speak to conservative animus toward social programs that support civic good for the entire population (i.e. the larger ‘tribe’ beyond the immediate ‘tribe’ of one’s compatriots).

Democracy thrives best in a society whose water is drinkable, whose schools impart a decent education, whose denizens have adequate incomes and hope for the future. People have less time, less energy, and fewer resources to participate in civic life when they lack reliable access to food and shelter, when they are overworked and scrambling to stay afloat, when they have been burdened with immense debt by the cost of an education or housing or health care, when they have been criminalized, marginalized, terrorized.

You and I are equal in theory to people like Thiel and Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and G.O.P. supporter, but not in practice. Their wealth buys them influence, and lately that influence has only increased, as Republicans have pushed to open the floodgates for money in politics. They are creating economic inequality — which inevitably results in social and political inequality.

This speaks toward the liberal priority for equality and social good, and the conservative priority for freedom and individuality. Cf., again, Haidt.

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