Magazine | June 25, 2018, Issue

Fair as Feck

Samantha Bee poses at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif, September 9, 2017. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

As you probably know and wish you didn’t, Samantha Bee is the host of a TBS show called “Full Frontal.” As in “Nudity.” Honest! Shocking! The bluenoses will hate it! You could say it was a show for people who live in an intellectual bubble, but bubbles are easily pierced; these days people live in a bathysphere, which is iron-clad and capable of descending to great depths at sea without imploding.

To remind her audience that they were good people and so that they could applaud her bravery, Bee called the president’s daughter a “feckless c***.” Others wondered whether the ’60s project of language debasement had gone so far that someone could say anything without repercussions. I mean, really, was that nice?

What if Ivanka did, indeed, have feck to burn?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the government had a special council that required Full Frontal to run a half-hour rebuttal about Ivanka’s FQ, or Feck Quotient? Of course not. But that seems to be the opinion of Hollywood-type guy Seth McFarland, who jiggled his “sententious Twitter deep-thinker” toggle and wrote the following. “A simple means by which to begin the rehabilitation of a deeply fractured nation would be through the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, which required all TV and radio broadcasters to present opposing viewpoints on all issues. Introduced in 1949, revoked in 1985. Bad move.”

Perhaps he thinks the Fairness Doctrine required instant-response teams who’d barge into a studio when someone said something wrong and grab the mic. Imagine a fellow chatting on the air some Saturday morn:

“Well, friends, it’s pretty simple — you just have to join the male and female, and — ”

(Door bursts open; four members of the Fairness Enforcement Squad, dressed in red, appear; discordant trumpets blare.)

“You said ‘male’ and ‘female’ as a binary choice!” (Hissing from other three squad members.) “Recent scientific studies bolster the idea that gender is indeed a social construct, and the traditional male–female binary forces a stark, artificial bifurcation intended to keep women down!”

“Uh — this is a home-repair show? I was referring to the male/female parts of a hose connector. There aren’t 57 types of hose connectors.”

The Fairness Doctrine, in practice, meant lots of boring shows that took no controversial stances at all. Coming up after the hour, we’ll be talking to a man who bakes bread — in his bathtub! But first, here’s our roving correspondent with a look at the soaring price of vacuum-cleaner bags. There might be a station editorial that ran at 1 a.m. and came out strongly in favor of, say, sidewalks. There might be a counterpoint, if anyone heard or cared.

McFarland’s tweet got lots of attaboys, but the fans were quick to note that not all viewpoints should be subject to counterpoints. Anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, science deniers, traditional-marriage supporters, people who don’t endorse abortion up to the moment of baptism — these were settled issues, and let’s not muddy the pristine waters of free thought by letting the crazies in.

The point of Fairness, after all, is a more just and equal world, and if you’re against the orthodoxies that define Fair, the Fairness Doctrine wouldn’t apply.

It wouldn’t be fair if it did.

What’s fascinating about the tweet is the idea that liberal voices somehow have no way to be heard amid the constant din of Fox. Don’t you guys have, you know, everything else? CNN, MSNBC, WaPo, NYT, Hollywood, everything on TV except Roseanne — oh, right, never mind.  

But to the Left, those aren’t liberal. They’re just reflections of common sense and truth. Everything outside the Left’s bromides and shibboleths that leans to the right is craaaazy talk. Any ideas to the left of their own beliefs — everyone should get a free house and a guaranteed income and a pony! — is an “intriguing idea” that helps “redefine the notions of the possible” or some such warm mouthwash.

What’s really striking about this call for a Fairness Doctrine is the disconnect between intention and result. Imagine this conversation:

So you want the government to monitor all speech and use the power of the state to require the expression of certain viewpoints and mandatory contradiction of ideas with which the government disagrees. Why, exactly?

“To prevent authoritarianism and fascism!”

Uh-huh. Makes sense. Any other reasons?

“To prevent the silencing of voices by corporate entities!”

Uh-huh. And you also support private companies such as Twitter and Facebook setting up content-monitoring groups with Jacobinical names like the “Truth and Safety Council,” which mostly cancel Twitter accounts that say things like “Women don’t have penises” on the grounds that it’s hate speech? Isn’t that corporate silencing?

“That’s different. Hate speech has no protections.”

Uh-huh. And you can’t see a situation in which these tools would be used against you.

“No! If we like our First Amendment, we can keep our First Amendment.”

The Fairness Doctrine’s return wouldn’t be enough, of course; it would have to be applied to YouTube and Twitter and Facebook, so Wrong-Think could be hunted down no matter what hidey-hole it bolted into. C’mon, kids! There’s someone who disagrees about the eventual impact of human-caused global temperatures. Get that feckless dolt!

As long as we’re worried about unfairness and a “deeply fractured nation,” shouldn’t we do a study to see whether feck is equally distributed? If “feckless” means “weak and ineffective,” then we should engineer a government program to re-feck the needy.

Thus enfeckenated, perhaps they can make their points heard without demanding the government take the microphone away from someone else and give it to them. Sound fair?

In This Issue

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Athwart

Fair as Feck

To remind her audience that they were good people and so that they could applaud her bravery, Samantha Bee called the president’s daughter a “feckless c***.”

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