ACTIONS TO BLOCK THE POISON IN RIGHT-WING MEDIA

Q

^^ a mob of “Qanon” crazies instigated by a crackpot, bigot conspiracy p0ublsiher who goes by the name of “Q”

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On January 20, 2021 Mr. Trump will depart the Presidency, and every tentacle of his corruption will trouble us less. That is a good thing. The basis of his rise to power, however, will remain untrimmed, unfettered.

Of right-wing media I speak. You know what it is. It began with talk show hosts, who pretty quickly realized that they could attract a sizeable following — and bushels of ad dollars — by saying outrageous things. It became a devilishly profitable shtick. Say crazy stuff — none of which you had to actually believe — and millions would come flocking to take the bait. People who should have known better than to respond, responded. Some of talk radio’s greatest hits were when ordinary people would call in, and their (naively “Liberal”) conversation with the host was broadcasted and laughed at.

For as long as that was all that talk radio was — crazy commentary, slapstick political, and zany callers taking the bait — it was fun entertainment, a kind of Sid Caesar – Howard Morris, Your Show of Shows version of political campaigns. Unfortunately, a new wave of shtick practitioners soon sought graver, angrier ambitions.

They believed their own crap and sought to influence actual politics with it.

Thus right -wing talk became a vehicle for loony theories, purposely false accusations, crackpot narratives, and — incongruously — worship of Trump, who eats up bad entertainments for lunch and spits out his loonier versions of them after dinner. It has gone from a slimy sideshow to an actual driver of actual votes in actual campaigns, — much of it pornographically racist or plastered with other kinds of bigotries — and, as we have seen, it has enabled Trump to contest an election he lost by 7,060,000 votes and be believed. It has also had consequences deadly, vigilante cosplay including recklessly lethal Covid behavior, and is still having them.

Doing so, it has hyperbolically increased its following and thus its profits. It is, as my cousin Chris Mugglebee calls it, “hate profiteering.” It is more dangerous still It now aspires to take over the Federal government, to overturn an election, to in effect install a dictator for life who will wreak its hallucinatory revenges upon everybody who the disinformers have schooled its followers to hate.

What do we do about this ? Can we do anything about it ?

I think we can.

First of all : every broadcast medium is licensed by the FCC. Congress should restore the “fairness doctrine,” by which media are required to tell, or give time to, all sides of a story.

Second : there is no First Amendment protection for defamation, lies, or disinformation. Broadcasters — including intermediaries like facebook, twitter, parler, and gab — must be found just as liable for defamatory or disinformatioonal content carried by them as are the person who input the content.

Third : the criminal law should import the tort law notion of “proximate cause,” so that those who publish lies, disinformation, and defamatory content are prosecuted for resulting violence just as surely as the actual perpetrators of said violence. There can be no “get out of jail free” card for public enabalers.

Fourth : to the extent that the trail from publisher of disinformation, etc. to the perpetrator of violence runs across State lines, the disnformation, lie, or defamation should be a Federal offence prosecutable by the Department of Justice.

(I speak of course of published material that the content maker knows (“scienter”) or should know to be false. This is the same principle as “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”)

Fifth : punitive damages should be foremost. There might not be much economic damage in a defamation case — such as the ones being brought by Dominion Software and its chief officer — but there is loss of reputation to the aggrieved, but what is much more, the conduct complained of is enormously widespread, or looks certain to be, and such conduct can be cut off at the knees by a punitive damage award that leaves the defendant(s) bankrupt or almost, and having to issue a public disclaimer fir its conduct.

Sixth : the publication of doctored, altered, or selectively edited videos should be classified as disinformative and actionable at law.

Seventh : entry onto a premises without explicit permission, for the purpose of obtaining a video which later ends up doctored, altered, or selectively edited, or which is obtained without express permission to record it, even if not altered, should be a criminal trespass punishable by a fine proportionate to the scienter and consequences. This will end the practices of such as Project Veritas, a name which cloaks exactly the opposite.

I am sure that the above hardly exhausts the methods at law by which the wrongs of right-wing media are to be put to rest, but for discussion’s sake, these proposals will do. I invite my readers to offer their own suggestions. Because this nation cannot survive as a participatory democracy if a substantial numbef of us take our politics from lies, disinformation, and defamation.

One thing more to note : these abuses are so far specific to right-wing politics. There is no equivalent left-wing media broadcasting loony conspiracies, idiotic non-events, “truthers,” and the like nor defaming businesses and persons. The left does engage in “doxxing,” and it certainly practices street violence, arson, looting, and harassment of officials at their homes, but these are standard criminality already punishable by ordinary means. To my knowledge there are no mediums of the left misusing broadcasting in the way — much less the degree — that right wing tortfeasors are doing.

So no, there is no equivalence. The problem I am writing about is entirrly a right-wing, anti-democratic event.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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