We drive a Mercedes Benz and are politically liberal, loath to be stereotypical, but I believe it’s safe to say, there aren’t many Mercedes Benz owners who are liberal. It’s a specific purchase and an expensive car. I’ll go out on a limb and say most owners are conservative. More than once I’ve had to walk away from the service waiting area because of political discussions leaning conservative. A few times, feeling a little feisty, I’ve joined the conversations and changed minds of some strong-minded conservatives because even conservative Benz owners can use their phone to check Google and confirm facts, which I prefer in conversation. (BTW, I choose to own a Benz because in twenty years, I’ll have a well-kept Mercedes and not a twenty-year-old Ford or GM product, a long-term financial decision.)
At my last service visit, I rolled up (in my wheelchair) on three people – a tall guy and two ladies. I came into a rather loud discussion about everything you’d expect from a group of supporters of the current United States administration. President Trump had just visited our state the day before and they were excitedly hitting all the talking points: the “perceived” Socialism of Bernie Sanders, they made a joke about Mayor Pete’s face, the loudness of Senator Warren and something about 300 Michael Bloomberg employees who’d walked out (I’m not sure I heard that correctly). There came a point when I heard the word “uprising” and couldn’t take anymore, I looked right at the tall guy and shot him a smirk to let him know, not everyone was enjoying their tête-à-tête, I knew he saw it. Eventually, they said their goodbyes and I was surprised to hear they’d just met; they acted like best friends (birds of a feather). They walked away and blended into the people milling around the dealership.
Time passed and while I was checking the latest analytics about my new book published the day before, The Death of Fairness, there was a tap on my shoulder. When I looked up, I was aghast to see the tall guy who’d drawn my smirk, sans the ladies.
“How you getting along today?” That was unexpected. “I’m doing well sir, just sitting here like you, waiting for my car.” He asked where I was from, told him I lived locally and then somehow got into a quick synopsis of his life. He was from a town about 35 miles away and had moved there from Wyoming when he was 16. He said his dad-maintained slot machines back then and after they were outlawed in 1951, he’d manufactured electronic poker machines. His father also dabbled in the oil and gas industry and dad got his son into the business when he was younger. The tall guy had spent his whole life involved in the financial end of the business and when gasoline hit 108 dollars a barrel a few years ago, he cashed out. He spoke how lucky he felt after giving his life to the industry and having it pay off as well as it did.
He asked what kind of business I was in and got my generic story; in radio for 33 years, Miami, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, San Antonio and he said, “oh, major markets.” Oops, I instantly knew he had some knowledge of the broadcasting biz. He asked what format of radio, and I told him, “Top 40, you know, current hit music.” He said, “That’s the same radio Rush Limbaugh did when he started, correct?” At that point, I had a choice to make. Back off and give him a simple “yes” or get into it with the guy about the very topic I’d just personally published a book about the day before.
“Yes, he did music radio until after the 1986 rescinding of the Fairness Doctrine when he moved into talk radio,” I said.
He replied, “I’ve heard of the Fairness Doctrine” and I went right for the meat of my book and told him, “President Reagan rescinded the Doctrine because he said it was ‘antagonistic to the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment,’ In reality, it was rescinded because it takes time and costs money to ‘grant equal time for contrasting points of view’ by knowledgeable citizens. The Doctrine was affecting broadcast owners' bottom line profits and they complained to Reagan. I ended with, “without the Doctrine, you allow anyone to lie unabashedly.” The tall guy says, “They all lie,” assuming he meant politicians. I said, “That’s why we need the Doctrine.” He responded, “that would be good for everybody.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I was about to explode. “Sir, you’ll never believe this, yesterday I published a book on this very topic.” He said, “Then, you probably know what you’re talking about.” I told him there was a copy of my book sitting on the passenger seat of my car and I wanted him to have it. He offered to go retrieve it and then asked, “It’s on Amazon, right?”
“Yes, it is,” I told him and he asked for my business card. At that point, I reached out to shake his hand and told him my name, his name is Arlo. We exchanged gratitude at our “fair and balanced” conversation and he went to find his wife.
In writing, The Death of Fairness, I hope to remind people of a time in America when lies and conspiracies were blocked by a simple rule of equal time and “contrasting points of view.” My book tells the tales of River City, a town with just one radio station and how life was forever changed by the rescinding of the Fairness Doctrine.
My new friend Arlo is right, the Fairness Doctrine would be good for everyone, and that’s coming from a conservative, Republican Mercedes Benz owner.
Until next week,