Friday, April 09, 2010

Free Speech?

Still coughing a bit and stuffy, but much better today and feeling like there is light (breath?) at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

I'll post new words for next week's wordzzle in the next day or so when my brain is functioning more creatively, but I want to rant a bit this morning, or to raise a question that's been bothering me for a long time now.

Is there a difference between free speech and disinformation offered by news organizations like Fox News? Are hate and fear mongers like Glen Beck exercising freedom of speech or are they doing something else. If Beck was standing on the street corner, spewing venom and lies, I'd have no problem with it. That IS free speech. Ugly, but constitutional. But when someone is using public airways - that my taxes pay for as much as anyone else's, does it become something else? I don't know the answer, but it troubles me that a larger portion of the American public gets its information from a source that acts very intentionally to mislead, misinform and frighten them.

I don't know what the solution to a problem like this is. We certainly don't want the state monitoring or news broadcasts, but what about instating financial penalties for every inaccuracy and or distortion offered by left or right-leaning news organizations? Fox News alone could probably balance the budget in no time.... and such a system might make all broadcasters return to the strange antique custom of fact checking. We could fine politicians who lie too. That's shakier ground, because they really are exercising freedom of speech, even when they lie. But wouldn't it be fun to charge them for verbal pollution? Imagine how quickly we could bring deficit down! I really love this idea. I know it will never happen, but I actually think it would be a good thing to hold news organizations accountable for the crap they spew.

And that's used up all my energy for the day, I think... except maybe to go and find an clip from last night's Daily Show.

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quilly said...

The most influential way to hold the media accountable for the news they broadcast, is to stop paying for and watching that of which you don't approve. My TV in off 99.9% of the week. Do you know what kind of power that would weld if everybody did it?

The thing is, these shows survive because they have rating and advertisers pay to keep them spewing their propaganda.

Argent said...

Quilly makes a good point. I like the idea of penalising liars - imagine the money that would be raised. The question then arises: who gets to be the arbiter of truth? I might say something which I genuinely believe to be true when in fact it's not. How would we distinguish between a mistake and a lie? I think the real antidote to falsehood is freedom of information. We're having our general election soon here in Blighty and I'm heartily sick of it already as the politicians aren't proposing any solutions, just deriding one another. I predict it'll be the lowest voter turnout in history. On a happier note, I'm pleased to hear you're recovering and very much look forward to new word challenges.

Raven said...

Hi... I grant that it's a slippery slope in some ways... I think lie or mistake should both be punished, perhaps with different fines. First error X amount, 2nd error X amount times 2. The idea is to create accountability, not to control speech. Right now there is no accountability. We have malpractice insurance for doctors and and lawyers and others. Why not reporters? If people had to start fact checking instead of just spewing whatever bullshit came into their heads, the news might just turn into news again.