Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Watchdog.net would deny freedom of press to Fox News

Watchdog.net has launched a petition campaign to get the FCC to revoke Fox New's broadcasting license.  See http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/109.  Liberals and conservatives alike should not only recoil at such a campaign, but it their imperative duty to oppose it.

Thomas Jefferson, the patron saint of American liberals, held sacrosanct the freedom of the press.  "The only security of all is in a free press." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. 
15 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 491 (Memorial Edition, Libpscomb and Bergh eds., 1903-04).

Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson identified freedom of convictions as a fundamental axiom of United States constitutional law: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943).

In my own field, where I study how information environments affect stability and the rule of law, I have argued that freedom of the press and information, with broad participation by many voices and actors, is not just axiomatic to democracy and rule of law, but it is a prerequisite for long-term stability, and peace,   "Not only do freedoms of speech, press, and religion constitute the “fixed star” of democracy, they are essential to harmony and stability, and consequently must be a cornerstone of U.S. policy." Identity and Market for Loyalties Theory, 25 Saint Louis University Public Law Review 123, 153 (2006), available at http://works.bepress.com/paul_callister/3/.  Regardless of how one feels about Fox News, excluding them from the market place of ideas would not bring peace and harmony to the news environment; it will ultimately be a destabilizing act.  The analysis of why this is so is found in the aforementioned article.

Perhaps watchdog.net believes like many of my colleagues, myself once included, that Americans have segregated themselves by their news gathering habits into segments that seek only to view news from sources that reaffirm their views.  Many wring their hands over whether this may lead to civil strife.  Apparently, self-segregation of news may not actual be what's happening.  See a recent article from the Monkey Cage, at
http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/04/30/a-balanced-news-diet-after-all/ that finds that the majority of viewers are looking at ideologically diverse sets of new sources and are much more balanced than supposed. 

The petition was launched through watchdog.net. I cannot find who launched the petition. However, the site is run by Aaron Schwartz, founder of demandprogress.org. You can reach Aaaron at

1 comment:

  1. Possibly Fox news or should I say, fox entertainment, has set such a low standard of reporting the truth, this watch dog group, feels it is OK to fight fire w/ fire?