Readers Write: A tale of two Adolfs and the FCC

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There is an old joke about a guy who asks a beautiful woman if she would have sex with him if he paid her $1 million. She thought for a moment and said “yes!” The guy then says, “How about if I gave you $20 bucks?” She says, “What do you think I am?” He replies, “I know what you are and now we simply must negotiate a price.”

But prostitution in politics? Do politicians sell themselves for a price? To be successful we know that politicians can’t do it by themselves. They need a pimp. Welcome to the world of Fox and Murdoch. The latest example: The insurrection on Jan 6 wasn’t what it seemed to be. In fact, it was patriotism at its best. Injuring 140 police officers is a small price to pay for freedom. They just happened to be in the way of a peaceful protest. All the representatives in the Capitol Building at the time were watching and cheering them on. That’s really what your eyes were seeing.

This extreme stretching of the truth is a bit much. I can see how “YOU THE PEOPLE” can fall for it since, if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes believable. And why do they believe it?  Mark Twain had the answer. He said, “It’s easier to fool the people than to convince them they have been fooled.” But the Republican politicians? Do they believe it? How could they? Because it’s advantageous for them to do so. It’s a matter of power and their desire to maintain that power.

From the beginning, they have supported that lie and so many others, praising the tunes of their leader, Adolf. Previously there were two Adolfs and both had solutions in mind. One, Adolf Eichmann, was one of the major organizers of the Holocaust and the other, his leader, Adolf Hitler, was one of the most reviled figures in history, the leader of the Nazi party who rose to become dictator of Germany. Hitler, a cruel person, demanded that that people obey him completely and had extreme and unreasonable beliefs about race. He believed in fascism, or state control of social and economic life with extreme pride in country, race and, most important, no political disagreement was allowed. And so many of his followers supported and killed for him. That Adolf was responsible for the death of nearly 20 million people, including hundreds of thousands of Americans during World War II. 

This type of leadership is one that Donald Trump apparently admires and, based upon his actions, he was and is following a similar path. Trump might get what he wants, especially when his lies and propaganda are supported and spread by Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News organization. Could this be this another  case of two Adolfs? Can something be done to stop these vicious lies and propaganda?

There is the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Colombia and U.S. territories. “The FCC prohibits broadcasting false information about a crime or catastrophe if the broadcaster knows the information is false and will cause substantial “public harm” if aired. FCC rules specifically say that “the public harm must begin immediately and cause direct and actual damage to property or safety of the general public; or divert law enforcement or public health and safety authorities from their duties.”

“The FCC is prohibited by law from engaging in censorship or infringing on First Amendment rights of the press. It is, however, illegal for broadcasters to intentionally distort the news, and the FCC may act on complaints if there is documented evidence of such behavior from persons with direct personal knowledge.”

The Federal Communication Commission’s enforcement powers include fines and broadcast license revocation. “The Federal Communication Commission has jurisdiction over the issuing of licenses. A station being party to a hoax or news distortion can cause loss of license. “The broadcast by a station of false information concerning a crime or catastrophe violates the FCC rules if:

The station licensee knew that the information was false;

Broadcasting the false information directly causes substantial public harm; and

It was foreseeable that broadcasting the false information would cause such harm.

In this context, a “crime” is an act or omission that makes the offender subject to criminal punishment by law and a “catastrophe” is a disaster or an imminent disaster involving violent or sudden events affecting the public.”

“The Supreme Court has ruled that the government can curtail speech if it is both: (1) intended to incite or produce “imminent lawless action;” and (2) likely to “incite or produce such action.” Even when this legal test is met, any review that might lead to curtailment of speech is generally performed by the appropriate criminal law enforcement authorities, not by the FCC.”

I am not even close to being an expert in this area, but perhaps by following the FCC’s regulations and powers, there might be a way to stop Fox News from spreading misinformation and thus stop Trump from his attempt to destroy the American way. Let’s hear from the great legal minds in America.

Alvin Goldberg

Great Neck

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