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Will You Invite Helen Thomas on The O'Reilly Factor, Bill?

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To: Bill O'Reilly
From: Richard Mathis
Re: Helen Thomas and the FCC Doctrine of Fairness

Dear Mr. O'Reilly:

Veteran journalist Helen Thoma s writes extensively about the fairness doctrine in her forthcoming book "Watchdogs of Democracy? The Waning Washington Press Corps And How It Has Failed The Public." Chapter eight is titled "The FCC - Fair and Balanced?" Do you think Fox News will consider suing her like it did Al Franken for using "Fair and Balanced?" Is it just me or does Fox news seem a bit high strung about critics who seem to challenge its advertising claims?

Anyway, I thought that you might like a preview of what's in Thomas' book, set to be released on June 20 by Scribner. She doesn't mince words and goes straight to the heart of the matter from the get-go. On the second page of the forward she writes that there are unqualified people who are "blurring the profound differences between news professionals and entertainers." In the next paragraph, Thomas writes that "[t]alk show hosts, many of them on the far right politically, are viewed as journalists. Hardly. A journalist is detached, and the story is the thing, not the daily harangue of 'talking heads.'"

Gees, Bill, I wonder whom she might have in mind as examples. Maybe you can ask her when she comes on your show to talk about the popular sentiment expressed by Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism when he wrote that "Americans think journalists are sloppier, less professional, less caring, more biased, less honest about their mistakes, and generally more harmful to democracy than they did in the eighties."

On this Thomas opines that the current government has managed and manipulated the news with the acquiescence of the press. She thinks that the media has failed the country by backing off the search for truth. Even worse, she thinks that certain media moguls and their corporate media outlets have acted as cheerleaders for the government! Moreover, she claims in her book there can be no democracy without a free press to present the facts and all sides of the story.

Imagine if the press did serve only as the guard dogs of the government. Look at what happened to Dorothy Thompson, a reporter for the New York Evening Post, whom Hitler expelled from Germany in 1934 for warning Americans about Nazism. Thompson wrote that her offense had been "blasphemy" and "to think that Hitler was just an ordinary man . . . [which] is a crime in the reigning cult in Germany which says Hitler is a Messiah sent by God to save the German people . . ." A year later Thompson warned that no nation ever recognizes a future dictator as he "always represents himself as the instrument of Incorporated National Will . . . When our [American] dictator turns up, you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American. And nobody will every say 'Heil' to him, nor will they call him 'Fuhrer' or 'Duce.' But they will greet him with one great big, universal, democratic, sheeplike bleat of 'Okay, Chief!'" [emphasis mine] The only thing I can add is the famous quote from the papa of populism, Huey Long, that "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the American flag." Carrying a cross, I might mention, looking for a scapegoat and the easiest way to make a buck and gain power.

To prevent tyranny, Thomas passionately believes that a free and impartial press is absolutely necessary for a democracy. When we don't have such a free and objective press then elections get stolen, important issues get glossed over and we go to war under false pretenses. Thomas also believes that a significant part of the solution is that we need to reinstate the FCC's fairness doctrine that requires that the public have access to differing viewpoints on all key issues. Indeed, how can we possibly have any meaningful dialogue without knowing the facts and without the free, open and rational interchange of ideas and viewpoints? We can't. Democracy diminishes, leaving only demagoguery to mob-rule the day.

Brother Bill, I can't begin to tell you all the wonderful wisdom found in Thomas's new book. (Actually, I will in a more in-depth review.) You need to hear what the dean of Washington journalists has to say herself. So please add Helen Thomas to your guest list, along with Media Matters, and a few other suggested speakers that I'll pass along to you. We surely would love to hear your comments about the press and the current state of affairs.


Richard Mathis

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B. 1952, GA, USA. D. To Be Determined. Beloved husband, father, grandfather, lover, confidant and friend of many from bikers to Zen masters; American writer and speaker, known for his criticism of Mammon's unholy trinity of big business, big (more...)
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