Letters to the Boston editor, February 12, 2010
Adam Reilly’s analysis of right-wing talk radio’s support of Scott Brown was nearly perfect. The constant vitriol directed at Barack Obama and Martha Coakley was occasionally interrupted so that the Brown girls could talk about how shabbily their dad was being treated.
WTTK conservative hosts are unfair players. I used to listen to them, but after repeatedly hearing them cut off knowledgeable liberal callers only to insultingly berate them after they’ve been shut off the air, what’s the sense? I want to hear arguments, not be subject to propaganda. Those shows are clearly unbalanced and a wasted effort for a liberal caller. It’s not for nothing that Michael Graham and Jay Severin have only conservative experts as guests. They wouldn’t be able to silence their guest the same way they abruptly end telephone calls when their conservative arguments are exposed as illogical or based on falsities.
I was also dismayed that Margery Egan and Jim Braude had Mike Barnicle on air the day of the election. There was Barnicle spouting economic nonsense to explain why voters should and were voting Brown. I was hoping Braude would set Barnicle straight, but he didn’t.
The listener success of WBUR and other stations indicate that liberal talk radio could work. It’s pretty apparent that corporate sponsors have a political motivation to sponsor a single political outlook.
Free speech, elections for sale
In “Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee," you write about the Saxe v. State College Area School District case, “one has to wonder whether [Justice Samuel] Alito was more interested in protecting a religious student’s right to criticize a gay classmate than he was in neutrally protecting the First Amendment.” I would guess the former.
If the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case is seen simply on First Amendment grounds, the argument for the Supreme Court decision (which Alito supported) is fairly compelling. And you’re right, everyone’s in favor of free speech they like. That being said, there might also be a “compelling state interest” in not having the government’s elective offices be reduced to a bidding war to determine the deepest pockets (to whatever extent it isn’t already).
There seem to be two issues at play, perhaps inextricably linked. The first is that even “offensive” speech must be explicitly protected. The other seems to be a power issue. A few global corporations could outspend all the small donors in the world without breaking a sweat and, by specific pressure and spending, wield both club and scalpel to legislation and legislators alike.
I don’t think that latter part can be addressed as a free-speech issue, but it’s the one that those who are attacking the Citizens United decision feel deeply. The remedy is not at all clear.
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