With mid term elections looming, Americans need to step back to see what our "election media" landscape has become. Following the Citizens United ruling, the more money you have, the more "free speech" you can buy, slashing America's founding ideals to ribbons as "We The People" are out-spent by billionaires with laughable ease.
But are we openly violating laws regulating political pitches over public airwaves? It depends on whether the pitch is made during a paid advertisement or not, because commercial radio broadcasts like The Sean Hannity Show have turned public "show" content, into full-time platforms for partisan campaign "barkers", devoid of fact-checking and evenhandedness. Hannity is no honest broker of news, current events and civic information, faking reality by walling off callers who can easily expose his deceit.
Tokyo Sean's Daily Messaging
Campaign talking points, personal attacks, tested slogans, donor pitches and all other "electioneering communications" should be subject to limits and public vetting such as fund sourcing and correction of errors. This goes for everybody - our founding fathers wanted an informed, educated public - the reason radio licenses were granted was to benefit the public by providing useful news and information. But tune in today and you'll hear Sean Hannity not only weaving a patchwork of half-truths, but blaming everybody else for the state of fiscal despair we are in after eight years of hard-right conservative policies increased debt, decreased job growth and badly depleted military resources.
Though liberals may try, they do not appreciably influence elections like Sean Hannity, the top-rated talk show in national syndication following his lead-in, Rush Limbaugh. The lefties do provide Hannity supporters with a false equivalency cop-out, claiming "the left does it too!" as if ignoring America's electioneering statutes becomes excusable if Conservatives aren't the only ones doing it. But we see unequaled opacity from Hannity, who bubbles listeners off from discussion of his false and disproven claims that have cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
Hannity's History For All To See
No one denies the collapse of the US economy took place prior to the election of President Obama, but Hannity has had to work overtime to turn the page and paint liberals, Democrats or socialism as the cause. As Rachel Maddow recently noted, this is Conservative "teflonics" where those responsible blame others for the destruction of the middle class we all witnessed ourselves between 2001-2009.
Consider first what George Bush said about "Personal Responsibility" while courting your vote, telling us we are entering a "Responsibility Era, which says we are responsible for the decisions we make in life". But at the end of his tenure, instead of taking responsibility for the decision to borrow hundreds of billions for military action in Iraq he said:
CHARLIE GIBSON: You always said there's no do-overs as President, but if you had one?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't know, the biggest regret of all the Presidency had to be the intelligence failure in Iraq - a lot of people put their reputations on the line - it's not a do-over but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."
You guess? The Commander In Chief passes the buck down to the intelligence community? Admitting the Iraq war was bungled is itself worthy of Congressional hearings. In the UK, hearings have already incriminated Bush's Iraq Team. But it's shocking that Bush would worsen the matter by sliming the CIA, State Department and Pentagon when many subordinate intel agents had it right all along, advising Bush and Cheney against invading Iraq because of a lack of credible evidence of any clear and present threat to the US.
Hannity also wants us to escalate into a third war, even as we struggle to conceive how we could ever pay for the first two. Hannity supports air strikes against Iran today, based on ginned-up, disputed intel, mistranslations and unsupported speculation about Iran's intentions. But even if we agree Iran is a threat to US security today, no one can deny Hannity's previous track record of abject, unmitigated failure in hyping up security threats using unreliable intel.
Looking at his history, none of us should forget who shepharded America through the flawed analysis of falsified Iraq war evidence, repeating every day during our commutes how fearful we need to be of the enemy and how bogus evidence was as good as gold. This was Sean Hannity, playing American listeners like a pied piper as we waged a long, costly war based on "mistakes" we know now were red flagged from the start.
Hannity insults voters when he tries to gloss over the hundreds of billions in war appropriations drained out of our future prosperity. He refuses to apologize to the families of thousands of slain soldiers for his part in pushing the spin and distortions of Bush's Iraq Team, all proven false, and in violation of our hard-fought treaties, international conventions and our own Congressional authorization for war.
Let us not be fearful of Hannity's sky-is-falling narratives any longer and recall how wrong he was - for years - yammering away that Iraq meant to attack us with WMD until top-level Bush administration whistleblowers like Scott McClellan, George Tenet and Lt. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson revealed
the White House's push for war was an orchestrated "hoax" and that Karl Rove used taxpayer dollars to run the Office of Strategic Initiatives' "massive propaganda" operation which supplied talking points to "friendly talk radio personalities".
If Hannity was airing these strategic talking points without disclosure, he broke domestic propaganda laws. Even Hannity's collaborator Andrew Breitbart has admitted on his blog
that the Government Accounting Office reported "findings of fault with the Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush Administrations use of propaganda to promote war efforts and 'specific programs favored by the White House.'"
Trying Trickle-Down Again After Total Implosion
In upcoming elections, Hannity is again trying to persuade, convince and cajole voters to return to the same economic theory that blew up in our face recently - we need to hand tax breaks to the rich in the hope they might then create jobs.
If you believe tax cuts for the rich created jobs under Reagan, you would be right, until you factored in $2 trillion in debt passed on to the next generation. Hannity shuffles this under the rug - deficits matter only under Democrats. Meanwhile, Hannity and other multimillionaires benefit personally by Reagan's fuzzy math which put hundreds of thousands back into affluent US pockets each year whether or not they create jobs.
Hannity also omits how many more jobs were created under Clinton's modest tax increases - 26% more than Reagan's two terms. Hannity's deceit is particularly heinous because it's unborn middle class children who will be repaying the Bush era debt to China, Japan and the Sharia-loving Saudis. If federal debt is bad, why not Bush and Hannity's $5 trillion?
Yet Hannity calls for candidates even today to pledge to extend the Bush Tax Cuts! Decide for yourself if they worked or failed taxpayers when enacted again in 2001 and 2003 resulting in $700 billion increases in federal debt and record lows in job growth for any modern presidency.
Hannity tells us daily the Bush Tax cuts and more deregulation are what we need right now, expecting us to forget what this caused by November of 2008 when enacted before. What would be different this time, Mr. Hannity?
Hannity's America: Ignore, Censor, Repeat
Hannity was called on many of his economic claims by fact check
groups but he chooses not respond to them. Calls to Hannity's listener line about this issue are censored by screeners who demand personal information such as phone numbers from "liberal" callers in order to get on the air, unlike any other radio call-in show.
About two months after Obama's inauguration a caller did get through and asked how Hannity can be so hypocritical in faulting Obama for "disastrous" spending without mentioning that three quarters of the federal debt came under the Bushes and Sean's personal hero, President Reagan. Hannity got noticeably agitated, saying "you can spin the stats any way you want to" as he cut the caller off and spun the stats himself, reading off a narrow list of W's short-lived accomplishments, misleading listeners with "better arguments through censorship".
How can Hannity be so eel-like as to avoid defending his most basic claims from open public commentary? He stacks the deck, booking only "friendly" or toothless guests, restricting any debate with articulate callers who can easily expose his major lies of omission.
Hannity is not held accountable for his unprofessionalism by broadcasting trade groups, parents, clergy or educators. Instead we excuse him as an "entertainer" or "an opinion show" - but there is little difference today between his on-air electioneering and the info in paid commercial campaign spots which are subject to oversight by the Federal Elections Commission. So why does this valuable, extended air time with clearly staged softball interviews not count?
Technicalities and Lax Enforcement
America still has not caught up with Hannity, a man radically pushing the envelope of what partisan political talk shows are. Before Hannity, it was assumed that radio hosts made "every reasonable attempt" to present relevant perspectives equitably in discussing politics over public airwaves, either through the pre-1987 Fairness Doctrine or the so-called Equal Time provision from the 1959 Communications Act.
But there were also provisions codified into law governing Issue Advertising, News Distortion, Reasonable Access, News Staging, Editing and more. Most stations are excused from these FCC regulations if they are a bona fide "news" or "news interview" program, but technically, the FCC could determine that a station abused it's exemption status due to undue bias, if "licensee news coverage as a whole manifests any substantial indication of having given favoritism to a particular candidacy."
I agree with Hannity that it's dangerous to have the government be the arbiter of what is appropriate speech in media, but it's just as dangerous when government creates
. As the media surrogate for Reaganist neoconservatism, Hannity should be shamed by We The People to stop censoring relevant dissent and denying reasonable access to real middle class callers who can help set the record straight.
Propaganda is Now Legal
The truth is that Hannity is wildly successful and extremely persuasive, but his irresponsible claims pervade millions of American minds, young and old. He knows counter arguments do exist but instead of bravely squaring off to show better research and logic, Hannity pretends they don't exist.
Hannity show producers know how to Google, so why don't they present simple journalistic balance when they present their arguments? Like Bush, Hannity refuses to be accountable - he will not debate in the open and therefore is America's afternoon propagandist, leading us all into an Orwellian bubble, abandoning the American tradition of personal responsibility and self-policing in broadcasting for truth and accuracy.
Even worse than siphoning wealth from the middle class, Hannity was directly complicit in selling us on the Iraq War, a debt-spending fiasco that constitutes George W. Bush's biggest personal regret.
Free speech is a historic and honorable American tradition, but fake speech is not. Hannity's deception of Americans is intentional, or else he doesn't know how to do a web search on himself.
With the loudest microphone, Hannity feels no compunction to offer truth or balance on his show. But I picture the day his own children come home from their first day in a basic journalism course and ask their dad why he is too cowardly to engage public critics on the air in full detail and specificity.
With Hannity serving as the key media mouthpiece for the Bush administration during the tanking of the US economy and the Iraq War debacle, it's possible kids everywhere will one day learn how Hannity promoted Bush's policies, but someone today should ask Hannity on the air why in the world we would want to return to the same policies that have already failed.