Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

FURTHER NOTES ON THE
FIRST AMENDMENT

I carry around these notes that have sustained me over
the years—especially during those moments when I wonder
why the hell my colleagues in the broadcasting profession
always seem to let others speak for us on these
fundamental issues.

Actually, Jack Valenti, the diminutive, brilliant advisor to
President Lyndon Johnson, who for many years led the
Motion Picture Association of America, had the loveliest
paean to the First Amendment: “It’s the greatest document
ever struck off by the hand of man.”

Of all the justices of the Supreme Court, the most persistent and stellar defenders of freedom of speech have been those three towering jurists Louis Brandeis, William Brennan, and William O. Douglas.

In 1973 Justice Douglass thundered, “The Fairness Doctrine has no place in our First Amendment regime. It puts the head of the camel inside the tent and enables administration after administration to toy with TV or radio in order to serve its sordid or its benevolent ends.”

President Ronald Reagan, with urging from the great Midwestern broadcast legend Ward Quaal, vetoed a bill to restore the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 because, said the president, it was “antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

The brilliant writer Nat Hentoff in 2005 told a conference of media scholars at Hillsdale College, “The term ‘Fairness Doctrine’ exemplifies what George Orwell called ‘Newspeak’: it used language to mask the deleterious effects of its purported meaning.”

James Madison did not have bifurcation of free speech in mind when he submitted his draft of the First Amendment.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote in 1929 (United States of America v. Schwimmer): “If there is any principle of the Constitution that

-31-

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