EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 2, 2014

Column: There's more to fear than fear itself

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933

Though it’s often repeated in numerous contexts, that phrase doesn’t make sense. There are LOTS of things to fear besides fear itself.

I just looked it up. President Roosevelt didn’t say it at the beginning of WWII, as I had thought, when everyone knew there was good reason to fear Nazis and Japanese imperialists. He said it in the context of a run on the banks during the Depression, and his definition of fear in that context was “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.

Well, OK then. My fear for America hasn’t begun to paralyze my advocacy for “needed efforts to convert retreat” from the Bill of Rights and American exceptionalism. But rational fear is a proper response to danger.

What really scared me was the recent news item about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assault on the “freedom of the press” section of the First Amendment.

This became news, albeit barely covered by the mainstream media, when an FCC Commissioner, Mr. Ajit Pai, had an op-ed column published in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 10), in which he argued that “The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.”

No kidding. But according to Commissioner Pai: “Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its ‘Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,’ or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run …

“The purpose of the CIN … is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about ‘the process by which stories are selected’ … along with ‘perceived station bias’ and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”

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