Now I've said before that I don't care much for some of Fox's lineup - Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity are both very difficult to watch without yelling at the tv set - and I don't care at all for MSNBC's lineup, except for Morning Joe which I like once they've satisfied their daily need to express their contempt for Sarah Palin. But the programming on these networks is precisely the sort of speech that the first amendment was designed to protect. These shows, whatever one thinks of the hosts, are often very informative. Viewers learn things that they often don't read in their newspapers or hear on the evening news. Consequently, largely due to talk tv (plus talk radio and the internet), I think it fair to say that we probably have today the best informed public in the history of the nation.
It was telling that Senator Rockefeller said that if Fox and MSNBC were off the air Congress could get its work done. I'll bet they could. That's exactly why we need alternative media like cable news. They shine a light on the politicians, a light that many of them resent. Today's politicians are often just like the pompous politicos of Socrates' day who hated Socrates because he walked around Athens revealing to the public what buffoons they were. They resented being exposed so much that they eventually contrived a way to shut him up.
It's what those in power often do to those who shine a light on their stupidity and venality. What Senator Rockefeller might have said is that it's much easier for politicians to fool the people into thinking that they're an intellectually elite class - it's much easier for them to enrich themselves at the public trough - when no one can see what they're doing.
But here's the irony in suggestions like those of Senator Rockefeller that he'll turn out the lights on cable news (which he hasn't the authority to do anyway). General television programming has degenerated to the point that it's now a cultural cesspool, but this is not what has our politicians' attention. No, they're not concerned about the sleaze children are seeing and hearing on television. Their concern is that cable news is exposing their machinations in Washington, informing the public, and making it difficult for them to ram legislation through that they, in their wisdom, intend to ram down the throats of an unwilling populace - a populace they think should just shut up and remember their place.
Too bad, Senator. I say turn up the lights. If they're too bright, you're too corrupt.