…in which I receive (and respond to) hate mail

It’s a little funny to be burned in effigy by the conservative movement before you’ve even woken up in the morning.

So I woke up this morning to discover dozens of hate mails coming my way, calling me a fascist and communist and everything else.  Huh?

Well, I figured it out: turns out that the Daily Caller is going through old Journolist archives, and apparently in one of them there was a discussion of how Fox News was broadcasting patently untrue pro-Republican talking points.  The conversation probably veered to what you do about things like this.  And at some point I mooted the idea of just not renewing their FCC license.  After all, the government has to give the spectrum to somebody: if they want someone to broadcast news, then it shouldn’t be Fox.

But of course as dozens of people have pointed out, Journolist was more like a conversation around a water cooler; it wasn’t a law review article.  I raised a question.  Then someone got a hold of these things, and hoo boy.  Here’s a list of the greatest hits (NSFW):

I just wanted to know if you’re really as stupid as you sounded on the Journalist emails. You do know that Fox News is a CABLE company and that the FCC has no jurisdiction, don’t you? and you graduated from Yale and Harvard? You elitist piece of excrement! Do your students know that you’re a rabid, knee-jerk liberal? I’m glad your emails were made public so that your students see that a retard is teaching them. You disgust me.

Not only have you made our country a better place by becoming a lawyer, you have also generously offered to help eliminate the messy business of politically incorrect points of view being presented.  Your idea worked quite well in Germany years ago.  Stupid and morally bankrupt people like myself are very lucky to have you to let us know what to think.

You, sir, are a danger to this country by your disgustingly uninformed paroxysms regarding anything you disagree with. If my child attended UCLA and was in your class I would urge him to challenge everything you say. Luckily for him he just graduated from KU. I pity a person with such hate consuming his soul.
And the best of all of them:
You commie pig, In November, we win.  In January, we will restore the Republic and commie sluts like you will not like it here.  You may want to move to the socialist country of your choice.  You will be happier.

Take your slut wife with you.

Sigh.  Actually, the first correspondent probably had a good point when he pointed out that if in fact Fox, as a cable station, doesn’t need an FCC license, then it’s all moot.  Note: that’s why I wrote an e-mail, asking a question.

I did get some that, while strongly critical, didn’t hurl insults, and really wanted to know what I was thinking.  Here’s what I wrote back to one of them:

It’s sort of funny to wake up in the morning to a lot of nasty e-mails, so when someone like yourself writes one that ISN’T nasty, I figure I should respond.

I actually don’t remember the exchange very well; as people don’t seem to appreciate, Journolist was more like a conversation than a conspiracy.  Kind of like a conversation in a bar, or around a water cooler.  If I had to write a law review article every time I sent an e-mail, then it would be different!

Anyway, here’s what I think I was thinking.  Remember that the airwaves are public: there’s only a certain amount of spectrum.  The government has to decide who gets a license and who doesn’t.  As I understand it — and I could be wrong about this — it’s not like publishing a newspaper, where if you can afford the materials, you can publish.

So — when someone applies for an FCC license, the government HAS to decide who gets a license and who doesn’t.  If you have limited airwave space, then you have to ration it; again, it’s not like a newspaper.  I think it would be legitimate for the FCC to say, “we’re going to allow news channels, not partisan political channels.  Fox is essentially a wing of the RNC.  Rupert Murdoch has plenty of newspapers, other media vehicles, etc.  But we’d really like to have a news channel as opposed to an RNC channel.”

Now, if the government was doing this, but then also allowing a channel that was essentially a wing of the DNC at the same time, then that WOULD be at least illegal (under the administrative procedure act) and probably unconstitutional, although on a mixture of 1st amendment and equal protection grounds.

Clearly, the government can’t pick and choose which channels it wants on purely ideological grounds — that is as you rightly suggest very dangerous. But I think it can choose ideology-neutral criteria for which stations get a license: it can say, “we want news channels, or sports channels, or arts channels, or Home and Garden TV channels (my wife’s favorite), etc.”

I imagine you didn’t like the fairness doctrine — I actually don’t have much recollection of it.  But because of the special nature of the airwaves, it wasn’t unconstitutional.

Your other option is either first come/first served, or who pays more, neither of which in my view is any more satisfactory.  At least that was my thinking going in.  I’m happy to be convinced otherwise.

Again, I appreciate your e-mail.

How would anyone else answer the question?  There is a whole body of 1st amendment/telecommunications law that tries to answer it.


Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

41 thoughts on “…in which I receive (and respond to) hate mail”

  1. I would say, the spectrum is about as scarce as the amount of newsprint, and is public only in the same sense that newsprint or ink would be public if the government had decided one day to nationalize the supply.

    And in truth, the broadcast spectrum is sufficent, if efficiently utilized, to create a cellular WIFI network that would allow everyone in the US to access a different HD TV channel at the same time, which is to say that it's NOT scarce in any meaningful sense. It's merely utilized in an amazingly inefficient manner, which the government has no small part in perpetuating.

    But mostly I would say that you advocated that the spectrum be regulated not for efficiency, or to prevent interference, but in such a manner as to silence your political opponents. And that's an outrageous position to take, and I think you were deadly serious about it, and only regret that there's precious little chance of it happening.

    And do you really expect people to believe that conversations on Journolist didn't result in actions?

  2. Sir I am happy to see someone like you speak what all progressive americans have been say, that conservatives need to be taught a lesson. I propose we start with all the gold owning, ron paul voting republicans first. As the former command specialist major of the US Army, and an accomplishe A-10 pilot I would be happy to start it up and dispense some lessons in social justice!

  3. Not to answer for JZ, but, seriously dude? NPR features Fox News "journalist" Mara Liasson and Bill O’Reilly's BFF Juan Williams, to name but a couple of their resident Republicans.

    You're thinking of the 1970's, when the country was sane.

  4. The immediately above was a reply to Dave Schutz… sat on my screen too long before I remembered to hit Submit.

  5. In my not so humble opinion, the time will not be right until we can grant an amnesty to all the poor undocumented workers here in the US and do away with DADT. I should be able to serve BECAUSE of my orientation, not in spite of it…..

  6. In addition to fox news, something MUST be done about the teabaggers. Their right to free speech does not extend to offensive language or badmouthing our beloved president. I just know that ron paul is somehow behind this, him and his gold owning supporters. I was talking to my life partner AROCK about this the other day and he agrees.

  7. professor zasloff,

    as your clarification implies, you do have Red Lion on your side. of course as Fred Friendly argued in The Good Guys, the Bad Guys, and the First Amendment (the copy in the law school stacks has call # "KF2805; .F7"), Red Lion was a disgraceful decision the day it was issued as what appeared on the face of it to be a viewpoint-neutral regulation to deal with spectrum scarcity was in practice being used by the DNC as viewpoint-based censorship of political opponents they regarded as extremists (specifically, critics of the nuclear test ban treaty). to be blunt, your message about using the FCC to hit Fox carried the same partisan subtext and the later elaboration of a viewpoint-neutral rationale only serves to show how dangerous facially neutral regulations can be when wielded by partisans. i say that even though i agree with you that if we had to only have a small number of news broadcasters then my personal preference is that these small number of broadcasters be those who make a good faith effort at objectivity like CNN or NPR rather than being more explicitly ideological outfits like Fox or MSNBC.

    however, as Mr. Bellmore articulated in the previous comment, it's pretty clear that the factual premise of technological scarcity doesn't hold now (even if we concede that it did prevail in the 1960s).

    so basically, your response should have been an apology and a concession that regardless of whether Red Lion was correct when it was decided, it is obsolete now and we should apply the logic of Tornillo to broadcast and digital media precisely to avoid the danger that partisans will abuse the facially neutral power blessed by Red Lion. Fortunately the FCC reached this position on its own authority in 1987, but until Red Lion is reversed there's always the danger that "fairness" could be reinstated by a future FCC or Congress.

  8. Fairness needs to be reinstated and fox news needs to become a sad footnote in history. MSNBC is all the people need, anything else is subversive.

  9. Conservatism needs to be treated as the mental disorder it is. I envision a day where there are large reeducation camps to try and cure these poor people. Then we will truly be a just society.

  10. You are a silly goose, you gosh-darn liberal! People like you really get my goat. Why don’t you just go jump in the lake?

  11. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”

    Why did you "really hate to open this can of worms", Mr. Zasloff, if your proposal was as innocuous as you attempt to make it above? Also, here you don't mention any criteria (such as partisan news vs. "real" news: but then I'm sure many wonder why you weren't as concerned about, e.g., MSNBC), you simply suggest that the FCC simply yank their permit. From the admittedly limited amount of text we have, it seems you are first and foremost concerned with getting FOX off the air and then coming up with possible justifications for this action.

    "…Scherer, who had seemed to express support for increased regulation of Fox, suddenly appeared to have qualms: “Do you really want the political parties/white house picking which media operations are news operations and which are a less respectable hybrid of news and political advocacy?”

    “I think that they are doing that anyway; they leak to whom they want to for political purposes,” he wrote. “If this means that some White House reporters don’t get a press pass for the press secretary’s daily briefing and that this means that they actually have to, you know, do some reporting and analysis instead of repeating press releases, then I’ll take that risk.”

    You didn't address Scherer's concern. Do you really think there is a legitimate analogy between the WH selectively leaking information and determining who gets to disseminate information to the public via the airwaves and what information is disseminated? Even if the WH does leak information selectively, this only means that one organization gets it before the others. All of them are eventually able to report on it with their own interpretation and ineluctable spin. What you are suggesting, and what Scherer obviously found disturbing, is that the government limit speech based upon political ideology.

    Also, if we were to apply your reasoning to academia, I suppose you'd find no problem with the proposition that, due to the very limited number of tenured positions, universities should set expiration dates for tenure and be able to "simply yank" tenure from certain individuals, because they are mere arms of the Democratic Party, such as you. (Do you really think the folks in the various "social sciences" are any less biased than FOX? Those departments where everyone regurgitates Gramsci and Adorno as if they speak the infallible truth? Should these people be monitored and FORCED also to teach Leo Strauss and Novick or else risk losing tenure? Or is it up to the student, just as it is up to the news consumer, to actively challenge what's promulgated? You and Cass Sunstein seem to have very authoritarian and paternalistic notions regarding these matters). This would have the same "chilling effect" on academic freedom that it would on journalism. It would not serve as a mere check; it would likely cause individuals to remain silent in fear of having their license revoked for being suspected of having "inappropriate ideas."

    It seems you, in the above response, have backed off the position which you proffered on Journolist- the position which disturbed Scherer- and now admit that ideology-based licensing decisions would be dangerous (But this seems, based on the limited context, to be precisely what you're suggesting on Journolist). Do you really believe this now- or have you moderated your position now that it's out in the public?

    Re: Gabriel, I'd like to know what you mean by "good faith effort" at objectivity. You list CNN and NPR as examples? What's the criterion you used to determine "good faith effort"? Just because CNN and NPR don't have opinion journalists doesn't mean they're not slanted and make a "good faith effort" at objectivity. At least with organizations like FOX and MSNBC you know to be on your toes and not to imbibe uncritically. I can't imagine someone honestly thinking that CNN and NPR make a good faith effort to be objective- that actually seems risible.

  12. ezra,

    i was referring to the practice of objectivity rather than an actual accomplishment of it. there's a pretty large academic literature on this, most notably this article by Tuchman. CNN and NPR for the most part do follow the practice of objectivity laid out in the literature on the issue. whether they actually accomplish it is of course debatable, but my feeling is that the practice of objectivity is coupled (albeit loosely) to the achievement of the same. that is, practices like placing potentially contentious statements within direct quotes from named sources is likely to result in media content that is actually more impartial than blatantly abandoning such practice.

    as for the idea that such a conclusion is "risible," i can only refer you to work by Gentzkow and Shapiro (and also here) that people tend to trust media when it panders to their prejudices and thus partisans tend to distrust centrist media.

    fwiw, i enjoyed your satire of "fairness" as applied to academia

  13. Gabriel,

    Apologies if "risible" seemed harsh, but I tend to chuckle when NPR and CNN are held up as examples of objective journalism. But then I'm not familiar with the lit you mention, so thanks for the links- I'll check them out: I'm open to the idea that my take on these ostensibly centrist outfits is vitiated by my perspective.

  14. Professor Zasloff,

    First, sorry about all the hate mail. The post about Fox news, while ill informed, was in no way justifable reason for such insulting mail. However, in the original post and in this forum, you have some facts that are just plain wrong, and I would like to correct them.

    Fox News Channel is a cable channel, and thus not regulated in any form by the FCC. There is no license to pull, nothing for renewal. The only way Fox stays on the air is advertising revenue, of which Fox has plenty of. It is the #1 rated cable news network, pulling in as much as twice the viewers of CNN and MSNBC.

    In this forum, you refer to the "public airwaves" and "spectrum". Fox News Channel does not fall into this either, as Fox transmission is not over the "public airwaves" but via private party cable networks, and privately owned satellite companies. There is no 'spectrum" Fox falls under that is regulated under FCC control.

    Most cable networks carry Fox and MSNBC, which to many is the "DNC Channel". So there is parity as far as cable space goes…you don't have to watch Fox, you can watch MSNBC or CNN or comedy Central (which out rates both CNN and MSNBC).

    Television is regulated… by the viewing public….by a method called "ratings". The fact is, Fox has more viewers than any other cable news network, and that's because those viewers vote every evening with their channel select. Free will….something that is supposed to be allowed. To suggest the government step in and "yank Fox's license"….is the same as saying mandate by law what people watch. As a law professor, I would think that you'd know better, or at least know that the law prohibits….much to the DNC's changrin…censorship.

    And that is what you promoted in your post. Personally, I think "Dancing with the Stars" is awful, yet ABC has a right to air it, and although "Jersey Shore" is about as bad as tv gets, I don't think having someone in Washington make my decision to watch or not watch something is a good idea. After all….suppose things change and Sarah Palin becomes President Palin….and then gets to make those decisions. Not liking that idea now….and it was your idea.

    The poster above seems to think MSNBC is all people need….except 2.4 million people thought differently on July 19th. Fox ratings-2,465,000 viewers…MSNBC 760,000 viewers in prime time. CNN had less than half a million.

    You cannot have it both ways…either it's free speech for all, or none. Again-one day your party may not be in control….would you be so quick to offer governmental control over all of tv then?

    Again, I hope the nasty emails stop, and that any discussions are done with dignity, respect and honesty.

    And good luck on teaching your wife about the Triangle…just show her videos of the Jordan era Bulls. That'll explain it.

  15. Hi Richard (and everyone) —

    As you can imagine, it's been sort of a crazy day. Couple of things: I actually don't claim any particular expertise about FCC and First Amendment issues, which is why I framed the question AS A QUESTION — could this be done? As Gabriel mentions, Red Lion at least makes a plausible although hardly slam dunk argument that it could. Maybe Red Lion was right; maybe it was wrong. But I don't think that a unanimous Supreme Court was full of Nazis and fascists and what have you.

    Recall the famous/infamous fairness doctrine, which was at issue in Red Lion: it may have been good or bad, but it doesn't raise the specter of jackboots.

    Richard Campbell — are you sure you're right about the FCC and cable? After all, the famous case of Turner Broadcasting v. FCC was about cable regulation. I'm not sure myself, but it's not quite as clear as that, I don't think. I'd be interested to hear your views.

    Brett — you may be right about the spectrum issue. I don't know. Again, that's why I raised a question. And it's not a Fox News question, e.g. "is Obama a socialist/Nazi?" It was a question NOT raised in public for precisely the reason that I didn't know. And still don't.

  16. re: npr and objectivity

    "reality has a well-known liberal bias."

    stephen colbert

    there's really nothing else to say.

  17. Also, Young Research Library has Friendly's book also, same call #, KF2805 .F915g. See ya'll on campus. Small world.

  18. if you actually subscribe to that, navarro, and are not merely being sarcastic, then I would contend there's much more that needs to be said.

  19. Because of the cable-versus-broadcast issue, maybe it wasn't a brilliant email for Zasloff to send. But it was a question, posed on a private listserv. And, as people can read about in Ezra Klein's post on this latest Nontroversy, Zasloff's email didn't exactly set a conspiracy in motion; to the extent people responded, they weren't receptive to the notion. So long as Zasloff wasn't proposing any criminal action, and so long as there's no evidence of a conspiracy (and here there wasn't even evidence of agreement, let alone a resulting conspiracy), how is it anyone's business what he said in his emails to a private listserv?

    Let's not forget that Zasloff's hardly wrong to execrate "Fox News". "Fox News" is a transparently partisan propaganda organization, in a manner that's completely unapproached by any other similarly large organization in the US. Can Dave Schutz sincerely think that NPR is remotely as biased as Fox News? That the news coverage of the New York Times or the Washington Post is particularly slanted? Heck, even the op-ed pages of the New York Times are hardly dominated by liberal firebrands, while there's hardly a liberal in the country who doesn't hate the neocon- and villager-dominated Washington Post op-ed pages. Even MSNBC, the only major media organization in the US to actively cater to liberal bias (excluding Pacifica for sake of argument), does so only in its prime-time commentary shows, and has its morning show dominated by a Republican. Meanwhile, the management of Fox News literally sends out memos to all departments indicating what issues are to be pushed and how they are to be framed, and we see obscure issues and personalities covered wall-to-wall on Fox News on spurious grounds for political advantage (see for example, the nonsense about the New Black Panther Party, which at least according to what I read spent a week as the obsession of Fox News despite the furore being entirely unfounded). It's 6 years old, of course, but <a>Robert Greenwald's documentary Outfoxed is free online, and if Fox News (now with Glenn Beck!) has gotten any more "fair and balanced" in those six years it'd be news to me.

    By the way, I'm not completely sure Fox News is a cable-only network: Fox's local stations run "Fox News Sunday" opposite "Meet The Press" and "This Week". And I'm not sure whether the local affilates' news shows use nationally syndicated news content provided by the Fox News cable channel. There is a public-service requirement for the broadcast licenses, and despite what Brett says they are quite limited and quite hot commodities, especially so long as analog broadcasting persisted. This public-service requirement has in the past been interpreted to permit a requirement for childrens' educational programming and political balance; both of these requirements have disappeared in law or in practice, but I don't think either was ruled unconstitutional.

  20. First, I disagree with the idea that cable access is universal or public. It's actually rather expensive. And the more we all segregate ourselves by news outlet, the less we can talk to each other. This is bad for a democracy. (No, I am not saying we outlaw cable. Just that we try to focus on *free* media. I do not care that it is supported by ads for burgers and cars.)

    I appreciate Zasloff's intent, which was simply to ask whether we ought to stop publicly subsidizing people who lie, with *our* spectrum. (Note: I never watch Fox, don't know if they lie or not.)(Yes, I know that means I'm not getting enough conservative views. Find me one who isn't insanely annoying — Max Boot, Jonah What'sisname at LAT, …- and I promise to watch/read. Haven't found anyone since Herbert Stein who didn't make me want to hurl, but, I admit I don't look that hard.) If it's a cable channel, then it's a moot point in the particular instance. Plus, maybe fines for particular lies is a better way to go. They can avoid with a retraction. What would be so horrible about that? It would only get rid of the provably false stuff anyhow. The gasbags would be safe.

    BUT, the issue of lying liars — of any stripe — is worth considering. Do you all really think that our media functions effectively in smoking them out? Do you seriously think our media environment is healthy? (Are you high at this very moment???) And if not, I assume then that you have no problem with this idea that all political ads will have to name their sponsors? What could you possibly be afraid of?

  21. i'm not being sarcastic. the last 20-30 years have managed to shift the political spectrum in this country so far to the right that ideas that were once considered middle-of-the-road conservative values have become dangerously leftist and truly liberal points of view have become unspeakable but the underlying reality of the world has not changed, thus the liberal bias of reality.

    personally i find the right-wing bias of cnn to be offensive because they pretend to objectivity. npr isn't much better but at least they're less likely to flog lohanesque stories than cnn. i much prefer "democracy now" with amy goodman as a source of news when i'm looking for an actual left-wing slant just as i watch "fox news" when i'm looking for a right-wing slant on events.

  22. ah, je vois, okydokey, navarro- i figured anyone quoting colbert must be doing so facetiously: erravi.

  23. For the record. This site and all of the contributors has been a welcome retreat and constant source of informative and challenging new ideas from the first day I was lucky enough to find it and them. You are stuck with it, you have made positive changes and you are part of the solution! So there!

  24. I honestly don't understand what the shitfest was about. It's a bloody discussion thread, not a policy proposal!

    Seriously, have none of them ever thrown out an extreme and/or controversial idea to be discussed, even if you didn't wholly agree with it? I have, under different names on different boards.

  25. "re: npr and objectivity

    “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

    stephen colbert

    there’s really nothing else to say."

    I'll defend this. Of course, we have to define liberal and conservative better. The modern liberal is concerned with undoing structural inequalities, and applying reason and empiricism to moral questions. He believes in a mixed economy. The modern conservative either believes that such structural inequalities don't exist or that government can or should not seek to remedy them. He tends to believe that there are divine moral truths that no amount of reason can penetrate, and in fact the process of inquiry itself is a form of blasphemy.

    These are largely empirical questions. The evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of at least moderate liberalism. To the extent that we are reasonable people, we are all liberals now, to a degree. Journalism and academia are generally liberal enterprises. Classical conservatism is now merely a flavor of liberalism, while modern conservatism is less concerned with reality than sloganeering and political sophistry.

  26. "Seriously, have none of them ever thrown out an extreme and/or controversial idea to be discussed, even if you didn’t wholly agree with it? I have, under different names on different boards."

    Well, yeah, every day at the water cooler, I suggest that Al Franken should be thrown through a plate glass window, (Preferably non-safety, and an upper floor.) and remark that I'd laugh maniacally if I ever got the chance to watch Obama dying of a heart attack, instead of calling 911 and then doing CPR.[/sarcasm]

    Look, Journolist was an ideologically exclusive discussion list for left wing journalists. And it shows, boy does it ever show. This is the kind of crap you DON'T typically talk about unless you know you're among people who essentially agree with you about just about everything. It's the sort of stuff that leftists think is edgy and funny, and maybe wistfully think, "If only we could.". Which is to say that for people who are even centrists, it's way, way over the line. And it betrays how you really think. (As if we hadn't already figured that out.) It says so much about Journolist that the participants felt comfortable saying these sorts of things, even if they didn't entirely mean them.

    If you had a listserver for the Klan, you might find remarks about setting up death camps, and repealing the 14th and 15th amendments, and people would still be outraged at them if they leaked, and not be particularly impressed by complaints that leaking the conversation was a betrayal of faith.

    And I've got a little warning about this sort of thing. You're all familiar with the "Overton window", about how bringing up really outrageous things in public can shift the range of ideas that are acceptable to talk about. Well, guess what: Your heart, your soul, has an "Overton Window", too. When you joke about murder, and censorship, (And particularly if you don't get immediately slapped down.) you shift that window.

    Journolist was a mechanism for shifting a lot of journalists' windows in a nasty direction. A mechanism for amplifying already considerable biases, and turning partisans into partisan hacks. It was not a good thing, even, or especially, for the participants.

  27. @Brett: "You’re all familiar with the “Overton window”, about how bringing up really outrageous things in public can shift the range of ideas that are acceptable to talk about. Well, guess what: Your heart, your soul, has an “Overton Window”, too. When you joke about murder, and censorship, (And particularly if you don’t get immediately slapped down.) you shift that window."


  28. If the FCC has no control over the content of cable broadcasts, who does? It would appear to be the municipalities and coalitions thereof who sign franchise agreements allowing cable providers to use city streets and city-owned poles and ducting for their wires and fibers.

    So the vast leftwing conspiracy merely needs to change the focus of its efforts.

  29. I'm just thinking out loud here, but would it be possible for a law school to strip tenure from one of its professors for asking stupid questions on a listserv, especially when those questions demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of the facts and legal framework in place? Maybe the law school should adopt a "how could anyone sound so stupid?" standard for such decisions, or a "I'd be really annoyed if one of our first years said this, and now I find out that one of my colleagues has said it? Yikes." standard.

    Understand, I'm not actually saying it'd be a good idea to remove tenure for this kind of political commentary. Oh, no, please don't think that. I'm just asking questions.

  30. So being caught out for the little authoritarian fascist you are, you deploy the "just asking questions" defense.

    Over at the James Randi Educational Foundation forum, they have a name for this: "JAQing off". It's the attempt by someone to absolve themselves of responsibility for some nutty/offensive/absurd idea by pretending they are not advocating said idea (though everyone knows they are), just "asking questions" or "floating the idea". 9-11 conspiracy loons deploy this tactic all the time.

    And as other have pointed out, you can put your fascist fever-dream fantasy to rest. Fox News cannot have it's broadcast license revoked because it doesn't have one.

  31. It is surprisingly difficult to get rid of tenured law professors, even if they advocate really far-out stuff like torture (as in Yoo).

    And that's how it should be! Short of plagiarism, or trading sex for grades, any whack job can be a professor. It's part of what makes this a great country.

    So, exactly what is the difference between censorship, and libel law, for all you conservative smarty-pantses out there?

  32. "And as other have pointed out, you can put your fascist fever-dream fantasy to rest. Fox News cannot have it’s broadcast license revoked because it doesn’t have one."

    I'd say that, at present, that's only one Supreme court appointment away from no longer mattering.

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