Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rush Has the Right to Speak

I am finding it fascinating to watch how our society deals with the recent outbreak of overt misogyny on the right. We are a people with traditions, most of us descended from immigrants who come from lands with traditions, our way of life developed in an agricultural economy that supported a pretty strict separation of gender roles and then everything changed. There is a revolution going on but we are taking our time with it, learning how to adapt to an economy where women are equal to men in every way. Amazing progress has been made in the last fifty years but we have not yet emerged into the new era.

In this transitional state we saw the amazing reaction when the Susan B. Komen Foundation, all in pink and apparently supporting women's health, decided to de-fund Planned Parenthood as part of a rightwing stealth campaign against abortion services. Their decision was met with outrage from across the country, as it turned out that Americans actually love their Planned Parenthood. As a country we humor our anti-abortion neighbors, we don't argue about it at dinner parties but when you get down to it, most Americans understand that the service needs to be available so women can choose to use it, or not -- most thoughtful people understand that.

Then there is the Rush Limbaugh debacle. Listen, you know he talks like that every day, right? He's been doing it for decades. But when ordinary people were exposed to his foul talk they were sickened. Again, we're polite, we don't discuss politics at dinner, but when you get down to it most people are decent and reject extreme beliefs like Limbaugh's.

Interesting opinion by Scott Blakeman in Huffington Post this morning. One representative paragraph:
The true test of defending freedom of speech is whether you defend speech that is hateful and totally without any redeeming value whatsoever, like what Rush Limbaugh said. Because once you start making exceptions to free speech, you are on a path to losing the right to speak freely altogether. I Hate What Limbaugh Said and Support His Right to Say It

This thinking is dangerously confused, it's like religious nuts who claim their freedom of speech is threatened when people don't want to listen to their hateful statements. You don't have to defend something just because somebody says it. Discrimination is a good thing sometimes.

Rush Limbaugh has every ounce of freedom of speech that the Constitution guarantees him. You can invite him to your house so he can call your daughter a slut and if you enjoy that you can invite him again sometime. He can book himself in an auditorium and call every woman in the place a slut and a prostitute, he can ask everyone on birth control to post movies of themselves having sex on the Internet. He is free to do that.

The irony of course is that it is not the government that is choking off his speech, the Obama administration hasn't censored him -- he is being stopped by the free enterprise system that he claims to believe in.

They say now that he has lost 140 advertisers, and according to MSNBC, "Premiere Networks, the syndicator of Rush Limbaugh’s show, plans to suspend national advertising for two weeks." Without advertising he has no job and no platform for his free speech.

You might have heard the saying, "There is freedom of the press for those who have one." You have the right to publish anything, but that doesn't mean anyone is going to pay the costs to print it and distribute it. Same here, Rush has the right to say anything he wants, but if people don't want to hear it, if there is no market for it, then he will be speaking freely to himself. Oh, maybe fans want to hear him insult people, but the great majority of people oppose what he is saying to the point that, when they go into the store to buy things, they might decide not to choose a product made by a company that advertises on Rush's show.

Let's not confuse these two important concepts, freedom of speech and the necessity of people to regulate themselves. In our little county we have a group of people who take every opportunity to say terrible things about gay and transgender people, and they have the right to do it. The government can't stop them, and I wouldn't want them to. But we have a responsibility as decent citizens to speak out against them, to use facts and reason where they express prejudice and hatred. Democracy and freedom can only work if people participate. Someone may have the right to say something without government interference, but we are not required to stand by and listen politely.


Anonymous Robert said...

I'm somewhat concerned about organized protests aimed at advertisers, designed to pull the rug out from people such as Rush Limbaugh. Without the organized economic intervention, there would certainly be a market and an audience for speech even as loathsome as Limbaugh's. A basic notion behind the intervention of government in civil rights is the concept that everyday people do not have the economic power to combat the privileged few, and targeting such as Limbaugh comes too close for my tastes to shutting down what many of us perceive as unpopular speech. We can simply not listen to him.

March 13, 2012 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon C. said...

I'm afraid I don't understand your "concern," Robert. You can't possibly be suggesting that Rush's freedom of speech is in danger because those who disagree with him are exercising their freedom to speak that disagreement, and their freedom to conduct their business as they see fit.

Rush has the freedom to say whatever he wants about women, gays, liberals, etc.

I have the freedom to say to his advertisers that I will not buy their products if they continue to support Rush's show, and I have the freedom to follow through on that and shop elsewhere.

His advertisers have the freedom to do business with whomever they feel will make them the most money.

Rush is free to find advertisers who are willing to support the things he says.

If nobody is willing to pay Rush to say those things to a national audience, that doesn't abridge his freedom of speech, only his convenience of disseminating that speech. He could start a blog, or publish a newsletter, or post flyers, or stand on a streetcorner. He could call into someone else's radio show. He could write newspaper op-eds.

Neither you nor I nor Rush Limbaugh nor anyone has the inalienable right to an advertising contract. The Constitution does not guarantee freedom from criticism. An "organized economic intervention" is perfectly within the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment, and the "concept that everyday people" can "combat the privileged few" is the fundamental basis of the United States of America, for God's sake.

I suggest you reconsider your position on this matter. And for future conversations, you might want to look up the term "concern troll" and think about how to avoid sounding like one.

March 13, 2012 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Liberals are the most intolerant.
there you go..

I've seen this myself. It is quite true.

March 13, 2012 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As a country we humor our anti-abortion neighbors, we don't argue about it at dinner parties but when you get down to it, most Americans understand that the service needs to be available so women can choose to use it, or not -- most thoughtful people understand that"

Actually the polls show that most people are against abortion.

March 14, 2012 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the update jim on the folks that are participating in the suppression of free speech against rush.

I just cancelled my sams membership (we spent probably 15K there last year) ...

and informed home depot that I would no longer be shopping there.

backlash works both ways.

I was renovating a rental property, and spent probably over 20 K at Home Depot last year...

I will never set foot in that place or any other place that campaigned against Rush again.

boycotts work both ways, sweetheart..

and as you always point out, conservatives have more income than libs...

we are not on the govt dole. very risky position for any corporation taking your side. continuing to cancel memberships based on your list of "pulled out rush advertisers.... " thanks for hte heads up.,

March 14, 2012 2:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are the Top 10 Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Attacks on Women’s Rights just in the last 6 months!

1. The Blunt Amendment. Reasonable religious exemptions weren’t enough for Roy Blunt. This amendment would have allowed your employer – not your doctor - to decide what kind of health care you could get based on his or her own personal moral or religious convictions.

2. The All-Male Birth Control Panel, or the Man Panel. Congressman Darrell Issa convened a panel to discuss the coverage of birth control – but refused to include any women.

3. Susan G. Komen Foundation defunds Planned Parenthood. Komen opted to cut off funding to the largest provider of reproductive health services in the US because of their new VP’s objection (and member of the GOP) to a mere 3% of their activities.

4. Rush Limbaugh Calls Sandra Fluke a Prostitute and a Slut. After Sandra Fluke stood up for women everywhere, Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves and called her a prostitute and a slut for speaking out in favor of birth control coverage. He also said she should have to put videos of her having sex online to compensate the taxpayers who “are going to pay for your contraceptives." Classy.

5. Forced Trans-Vaginal Ultrasounds. Republican legislators in Virginia invited the commonwealth into the exam room when they proposed a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo an invasive, medically-unnecessary vaginal probe before their procedure.

March 14, 2012 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6. Texas defunds Planned Parenthood. Under Governor Rick Perry, the state of Texas banned funding to Planned Parenthood because it provides abortion services. In the end, though, this fight has only served to hurt low-income women looking for breast cancer screenings, birth control and pap smears.

7. Women in the Military Should “Expect” to be Raped. Responding to a 64% increase in the reports of rape and violent sexual assaults in the military, Fox News pundit Liz Trotta responds, “What did they expect?” She goes on to say that there is a bureaucracy of people to support these women who are being “raped too much.”

8. Foster Friess Suggests Women Put Aspirin Between Their Knees. Rick Santorum supporter, Foster Friess, reminisced about back in his day when ladies put aspirin between their knees for birth control. Back in his day, people also died of polio.

9. Santorum wants to deny birth control coverage because he thinks it’s available and affordable. Despite the fact that most forms of birth control still require a prescription and 1 in 3 women have reported struggling to afford birth control. Santorum feels there is no barrier to access, so it shouldn’t be covered by insurance.

10. Mitt Romney doesn’t understand a woman’s reproductive system. Romney has publicly supported “personhood amendments,” which would ban abortion by declaring life begins at conception. When asked about how this affects birth control, Romney seemed to be completely unaware that hormonal forms of birth control stop implantation, not conception and would be banned under any personhood amendment.

March 14, 2012 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Do I have the right to continue to be employed by my district if I am not closeted, or do I only have the right to be open if I don't mind not receiving a paycheck. Economic power is the power to silence people.

I'm not saying I support Rush, or that you need to purchase products made by people who support him. I just am itchy about economic efforts aimed at silencing individuals. Whatever else Rush Limbaugh is, he's an individual.

Do you see what I'm saying, or am I expressing myself poorly.

March 14, 2012 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the polls show that most people are against abortion.

What polls are those?

Not Gallup

Not Rasmussen


Which poll are you talking about?

March 14, 2012 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, in the study you linked to, liberals were significantly more likely to use the Internet, and to use social networking sites. So liberals were the majority of users, and the majority of those who had cut somebody off -- it doesn't mean anything. Pew says, "The cohort is so small that it is not possible to do a statistically reliable analysis of trends. But as a rule, there were no ideological differences among those who had dropped someone from their SNS [social network service] world because of politics." They do not use the word "intolerant," of course.

"Actually the polls show that most people are against abortion."

Nobody has said anything about being "for" or "against" abortion. The discussion was about the right to be able to decide for yourself, and Americans understand that women need to have that right, rather than having the government tell them what they can and can't do in that most personal of situations. Probably most people are opposed to abortion in general, but wait until it's your daughter, sister, or wife who needs one -- I'm sure it will be a special case, and not like all the others. You cannot know the particular circumstances that led someone to choose that option, and you cannot hand the decision-making over to the government.

By the way, fascinating post this week at Media Matters, about Rush Limbaugh's concept of the "feminazi" and how it has evolved over the years. Here is how Rush describes the feminazi in 1992: "A feminazi is a woman to whom the most important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed. Their unspoken reasoning is quite simple. Abortion is the single greatest avenue for militant women to exercise their quest for power and advance their belief that men aren't necessary. They don't need men in order to be happy. They certainly don't want males to be able to exercise any control over them. Abortion is the ultimate symbol of women's emancipation from the power and influence of men. With men being precluded from the ultimate decision-making process regarding the future of life in the womb, they are reduced to their proper, inferior role." The whole anti-abortion movement is about reducing women to their "proper, inferior role." The lines are drawn. (Of course, he fails to address the question of how women would get pregnant in the first place in a world without men.)

And finally, I am sure there is a gigantic, devastating boycott against Home Depot and Sam's Club because they withdrew their support from Rush. They'll be boarding up the windows any day now. It might be as gigantically crippling as the boycott of Girl Scout cookies this year by rightwing nuts, which has just about put the Girl Scouts out of business, hasn't it?

March 14, 2012 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert, your point is clear enough. But nobody is "silencing" Rush Limbaugh. He can still speak, just like you and I can, we all have that same right. There is no Constitutional right to have vast media networks broadcast your voice to millions of people, and that is what the loss of advertisers is going to take away from him.

March 14, 2012 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

47 Newspapers Are Censoring This Week’s Doonesbury

If you’ve been reading the comics page of your paper this week, you may be reading re-runs of Doonesbury. 47 newspapers have decided that this week’s strips are too “controversial” to run at all. Even more papers have relegated the strips to the op-ed page, and some are only making them available online.

Why? Because this week, cartoonist Garry Trudeau has decided to tackle Texas governor Rick Perry’s controversial policy requiring women seeking abortions to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound prior to the procedure. In the comic, a young woman signing in at the front desk of an abortion clinic is directed to wait in the “shaming room,” where a middle-aged lawmaker confronts her, asking, “Do your parents know you’re a slut? Surely they must suspect.” The rest of the week follows the heroine’s experience undergoing the sonogram procedure.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Trudeau explains his decision to write the controversial storyline:

I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.

…Texas‘s HB-15 (bill) isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand.

The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.

On her show yesterday, Rachel Maddow weighed in on the issue, saying:

If all the newspapers in all the states with super extreme anti-abortion measures pending in their legislatures had decided not to run the transvaginal ultrasound abortion ‘Doonsbury’ stip to avoid confusion with their own state’s real anti-abortion bills, this strip would have been seen by practically no one.

As it is, this strip is being run all over the place. Censorship seems to have that affect in America. It gets you more attention than you would have ever had if you had published it in the first place, like you weren’t cowardly.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trudeau didn’t sound too worried about the controversy, although he admits the number of papers opting to run old comics did surprise him: “I don’t want to sound disingenuous here — controversy is obviously good for business, especially if your business is satire. And it does amplify the discussion — in my view, a good thing.”

If your local paper has made the decision not to run this week’s strips, you can read the first three on the official Doonesbury website. The rest will continue running through this Saturday.

March 15, 2012 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I'm not discussing the constitution or rights; I'm discussing what is proper.

I'm uncomfortable with the idea of an organized movement to silence speech through economic power.


March 16, 2012 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Robert, besides your discomfort over the rudeness of shushing someone, do you believe that everybody's opinion is equally valid and should receive equal attention in the public discourse? Or do you think that those who can win financial backing deserve more attention than those who cannot?

The latter seems to be your view. In that case, it is investors who decide who to buy a megaphone for, that is, they decide on the content of entertainment in the media, and the market determines what the investors will choose. Sometimes the market avoids a show because it is not entertaining, and sometimes because it is repulsive. In the first case, the audience might barely be aware that a show is on at all, in the second case they consciously decide to undermine it with boycotts etc.

I don't see a big difference. It's dog eat dog out there, and Rush is just another dog.

March 16, 2012 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JAKE TAPPER: Bill, thanks for doing this. I just wanted to make sure that as I cover this debate about appropriate language and such, I’m not excluding any points you think should be made.

BILL MAHER: I don’t really know all the “points,” but as I said on my show last Friday, I’m a pottymouth, not a misogynist.

TAPPER: So with all the criticism of Rush Limbaugh for his comments about the Georgetown Law student, conservatives claim that there’s a double standard, with President Obama, Democrats and the media far more tolerant of offensive language when wielded by liberal or progressive media figures against conservative women. Is that a fair comparison? You have certainly used offensive words to describe some politicians you don’t like.

MAHER: I’m a comedian – not just a guy who says he is, like Rush, but someone who – well, you saw me do stand-up last year in D.C. There’s a big difference between just saying you’re a comedian and going out and getting thousands of people to laugh hard for 90 minutes. And the one I’m compared to most is Carlin, who also had these kind of problems. Edgy is my brand – everyone wants that, but they say, “but never go over the line.” It’s like telling Tom Brady, ‘Throw into coverage 40 times a game every game but never throw an interception.’”

TAPPER: How do you know when you’ve gone too far?

MAHER:  I let the audience be the guide. The bit I did about Palin using the word c—, one of the biggest laughs in my act, I did it all over the country, not one person ever registered disapproval, and believe me, audiences are not afraid to let you know.  Because it was a routine where that word came in at just the right moment. Context is very important, and it’s also important to remember that stand-up comedy is the final frontier of free speech. Still, I stopped doing that routine, but I would like someone to replace that word if it’s so awful with another one that has the same meaning for a person – not just women, it’s a word you can and lots do (all the British, for example) use for both sexes. It has a very specific meaning.

TAPPER: And that’s not comparable to what Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke?

MAHER:  To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people “terrorist” and “unAmerican.” Sarah Barracuda. The First Amendment was specifically designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written
to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting called whores by Oxycontin addicts.

TAPPER: What about all the clips of you saying rather “edgy” things - offensive to many people, no doubt – from your show on HBO, “Real Time”?

MAHER: Of course if you take out of context over 10 years snippets inside comedy bits you can make anyone look bad – and sometimes, I have been! Not perfect, but not misogyny. In general, this is an obvious right wing attempt to dredge up some old sh*t about me to deflect from their self-inflicted problems. They are the kings of false equivalencies. And through it all, I have defended Rush’s right to stay on the air! Not what he said, that was disgusting – but the right to not disappear because people who don’t even listen to you don’t like what  you said. That really bothers me. I never hear Rush Limbaugh unless a guy in the next truck at a stop light has it on; it would be arrogant for me to say “he has to disappear” and deprive the people who do listen to him of what they like. We all have different tastes and different opinions, that’s America.

March 16, 2012 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Robbert said...

The American Family Association and the Family Research Council perpetually attempt to use economic blackmail to keep companies from supporting LGBT people. It doesn't work, because my community cares more and spends more money than they. It's not right to organize attempts to silence speech. It's un-American.

My friend, it's not so much the economics of the issue, as the organization that bothers me. Petitions to take people off the air are just as wrong.

Speech should be encouraged.

My objection to Rush, of course, was that he was trying to rile up his audience and his bully pulpit to silence a private citizen who testified before Congress. Just as wrong.

That he did it to someone else doesn't make doing it to him any more proper.

March 16, 2012 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I will never set foot in that place or any other place that campaigned against Rush again."

Here's a partial list of other businesses you'll have to avoid that also pulled their ads from Limbaugh's show.

March 20, 2012 1:05 PM  

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