20 April 2009

"Traditional Values Coalition" vs. "Fairness"

It's been months since I received a really good fundraising letter in my mailbox, but the drought ended this morning with a masterpiece of the genre. I suspect I must blame my subscription to The American Conservative for putting me on a mailing list for the Traditional Values Coalition, which has sent me one of "A National Ballot of 1,000,000 Voters." This document invites me to protest against the reinstatement of the Federal Communication Commission's old "Fairness Doctrine."

You may recall that most other Republicans were fretting about such a prospect a few months ago, until the Obama administration made it known that it had no interest in pursuing that course. That quieted down most people, but not Rev. Lou Sheldon, the Founder-President of the TVC. "I don't believe it!" He writes, "Our sources say that Liberal lawyers in the Obama Administration and Congress are right now working on a version of the so-called 'Fairness Doctrine' that would be enforced locally, rather than nationally." A conspiracy theory follows:

The idea they are working on is this.
If local Left-wing activists groups (such as ACORN and Rev. Al Sharpton) oppose the renewal of the broadcast license for a radio station that carries mostly Christian or conservative talk radio, the broadcast license would be denied.
That will likely be the new version of the so-called 'Fairness Doctrine.'

And here are the stakes as Rev. Sheldon sees them.

How important is this issue?
Ask yourself these questions:
What's the first thing that happened when the Nazis or Communists took power?
What's the first thing that happens when any dictatorship takes power?
They silence all dissenting voices.
They silence the opposition.
Because people can't act if they don't have information.

I thought the first thing dictators did was take our guns away, but I guess it depends on who you talk to.

Sheldon wants you to believe that the Fairness Doctrine, if reimposed, would drive Republican and "Christian" talkers off the air. This is based on the assumption that liberal talk shows are money losers from an advertising standpoint. If stations are required to air liberal talk shows, Sheldon suspects that they'll cancel their conservative cash cows rather than take the loss in revenue from taking on liberals.This doesn't really make sense, since it presumes that a station manager will sacrifice his regular revenue due to the mere risk of losses. But the theory doesn't have to make sense from a business standpoint, because it's Sheldon's belief that the real motive behind the (still only alleged) movement to revive the Doctrine is to drive Rush Limbaugh and his ilk from the airwaves. His theory depends on station managers being cowards who would dump Rush "rather than have to deal all the time with Liberal bureaucrats at the Federal Communications Commission." Christian radio would also be endangered because Christian talkers "would no longer bring up political or policy issues related to keeping families strong" lest that lead to demands for equal time.

"The intent behind the 'Silence Christian and Conservative Broadcasters Law' is clear," Sheldon insists, "to remove Christian and conservative voices from the political and public policy debate completely -- and to lock-in Liberal power permanently."

Sheldon hopes that an avalanche of petitions he'll send to the White House will convince the President not to attempt such a coup against dissent. So how can I help? First, I can fill out the attached survey, one of 1,000,000 destined for Obama's desk. But you know there's got to be more to it than that. I've gotten too many surveys in the mail from organizations left and right to know that the other shoe has yet to drop.


"My hope is that you will also include a contribution when you mail me your survey," Sheldon pleads, "As you can imagine, it's costly for TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION to conduct a survey like this of 1,000,000 registered voters."

What makes this begging letter particularly charming, or brazen, is that Sheldon tells you exactly how much his organization expects to profit from this little crusade. He tells you straight up that "it costs us about 50 cents to mail one of these surveys to one voter. So that means it will cost TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION $500,000 to mail ONE MILLION of these surveys to registered voters."

Postage and printing costs will add $375,000 to Sheldon's tab -- most of it from postage since "a great Christian printer" will help him out with printing. My share of that tab is another 37.5 cents. Were I in a giving mood, I'd suppose that I owe Sheldon 88 cents. But the lowest amount he suggests for a donation is $15 -- and he'd rather have $25, and for that matter "If you can send $100 or $50, that would be wonderful. Better still, "If you are blessed to be able to send $1,000 -- what a boost that would be to our effort to stop the 'Silence Christian and Conservative Broadcasters Law.'"

"Please, I am counting on a 100% reply to this plea for your help," Sheldon adds. That rules out that he's accounting for some people failing to reply when he suggests $15 as the bare minimum donation. He expects to receive at least $15,000,000 in return for his estimated outlay of $875,000. In case you were wondering about this, he does mention that "In addition to this survey, we are undertaking a major advertising, letter writing, Internet, and media campaign designed to educate Christian and conservative voters about the dire threat to free speech contained in the 'Silence Christian and Conservative Broadcasters Law.'" You know, the law that hasn't actually been introduced in Congress, and has been disavowed by the government, the one that most conservatives gave up worrying about months ago. Sheldon needs at least $15,000,000 to fight that imminent threat, so he needs to make gullible people feel threatened. Unfortunately, my hunch is that American Conservative readers are the smarter conservatives, hence the ones least likely to fall for this con. Sheldon ought to have pitched this to the outright yokels of the Christian fringes, who I suspect are his normal constituency, and he ought to have promised them God-bestowed prosperity in return for their donations, just to be sure of results. He might have had a chance then.

I'm not done with Sheldon yet, however. Tomorrow I intend to go through the survey itself, with suggestions on how to answer should you happen to find one of these things. But I leave you for now with Rev. Sheldon's own advice on that subject: "Please don't spend too much time thinking about each answer. Your answers are more valuable if you give your first instinctive response to each question."


hobbyfan said...

The Fairness Doctrine is an outdated concept that doesn't need to be brought back, at least the way it's been described. If there's supposed to be equal time for all candidates during an election season, then it should be equal time for liberals & conservatives. Everyone deserves a forum.

Anonymous said...

How can anything that drives these pseudo-christian jackoffs from the airwaves be a bad thing? And limiting the spin and intellectual-damage from talking heads such as Rush or Sean, et. al. could only be a good thing in the long run. Not that I'd want them replaced by liberals like Dr. Alan Chartock - that would just put audiences to sleep. But may replace these shows with more of a round table format could keep things interested while offering a more balanced view.

Samuel Wilson said...

In any event, none of this is going to happen. The Obama administration isn't interested, and Rev. Sheldon is only trying to stir fear and suspicion so he can make money from gullible believers.