Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

There goes Tokyo, go, go Rush Limbaugh

This whole issue of censoring Rush Limbaugh has gone way overboard. (Grokked from Jay Lake) First off, Limbaugh's speech is actually "commercial speech" (or it used to be before the Supreme Court decided that corporations were people endowed with every right as regular citizens, excepting the right to go to jail for violating the law, but I digress). This would be different if Rush was standing on a soap box at the local park spouting his poison at passersby. Instead, Rush is the head of a corporation, he is paid for his speech, and his speech sells products. That pretty much takes it out of regular "freedom of speech" categories and places it into "commercial speech." Fortunately for Rush, President Reagan helped push through a repeal of "truth in news" laws back in the 80s. If those were still in place, Rush wouldn't have a show (and neither would Fox News, but I digress again).

And even free speech has had it's limits. While everyone (okay, most people) know the infamous, "Can't yell fire in a crowded theater" argument, fewer people know that it's not just about panic but about incitement to riot, encouraging violation of laws (ask any civil rights leader about that one), and a few other categories. And we have plenty of things that we censor. Do you have a copy of the Anarchists Cookbook? Should you be allowed to send death threats or white powder through the mail? What about your right to tell a joke in line (just try to joke about a bomb in a TSA or Customs line - it's a felony)?

I don't think that the FCC should pull Clear Channel's license on the "public interest" argument (and this is frankly the first I've heard of that). However, I do believe it is our right to contact all those sponsors of Rush's show and let them know that because of their support, we won't buy their products or shop at their stores. That isn't censorship, that's the free market, baby. So I strongly disagree with the authors contention that this is morally wrong. Rush isn't being stopped from saying what he wants to say, we're just looking to remove his megaphone. There's a difference. Also, if you're a corporate sponsor, you are supporting that show. If we say, "I don't like these opinions and that reflects badly on you for supporting them," I don't see anything wrong about that. Suck it up, Buttercup.

I also disagree that it's wrong to stand up and refute someone's argument on stage. See, there's all those other people in the room and as we've seen at various conservative political events, those people also have the right to shout down the hecklers. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good (people) to do nothing. And by not responding, if you sit there meekly on your hands, you're giving tacit approval to what is being said.

The radical right has coasted for too long on the left's willingness to be courteous and tolerant, while they have not reciprocated. How many people remember actual discourse before it was a shouting match? I do. The right no longer accepts that, and they shouldn't be given the courtesy. Eventually that "do unto others" gets turned into "as they have done unto you." So it's time to talk over them, as they do to us. It's time to not let them get away with three attacks and we only get to respond to one. It's time for our own GOPAC memo.

"Free speech means tolerating views that you despise." Bullshit. Free speech is I get to call you on being an idiot when you're being an idiot. Like I said, I'm against using the government arm to push Rush out of the public sphere. That is censorship that we shouldn't do. However, I'm not above using other means to remove the man's microphone. And that includes shouting him down, hitting him in his income stream, and exposing his lies. Free speech means knowing that people don't agree with you and have different opinions. I need to protect their ability to express those opinions. But nothing says I have to tolerate them. That is a false argument. In this case, we don't have free speech. Rush's radio show, his microphone, distorts the acceptance and prevalence of his views. The opposition voices start with a disadvantage. Rush's "free speech" drowns out other voices (just listen to how he handles callers who disagree with his opinions). Don't think that's true, just ask any stand-up comedian about hecklers. The person on the stage has the microphone, if you make it a "fair fight" the person with the microphone will always win out.

Conservatives in this argument like to throw out Bill Maher as an example. As someone said, "like a b-rated comedian on a c-rated show is a comparison for Rush Limbaugh's presence in the market place." Jon Stewart would be a closer comparison. But, hey, conservatives, pony up to the bar. You've actually have had Bill Maher thrown off the airwaves before. He keeps coming back, just as I expect Rush will too.

Jim Hines has a good primer on this (although he's specifically talking about his own blog - also this should not be taken as an endorsement by Jim Hines of the position I'm outlining here).

And finally, you want to see what censorship actually looks like? Here it is. (also grokked from Jay Lake) This isn't the first time Doonesbury comics have been taken off the comics pages. So, hear the conservatives shouting about this censorship? Nope, what you hear is them saying, "Ah, it was all well and good 'cause we wouldn't want to trouble anyone on the comics pages with reality and satire."

3 comments:

Eric said...

1) I agree that the FCC doesn't have grounds to pull Rush's program.

2) The troll you linked to is dead wrong: I have an absolute right to exercise my First Amendment rights--and my "voting with my dollar" rights as a consumer--to pressure advertisers to disassociate from Limbaugh and boycott their products if they won't. And it's not "censorship" in any way, shape or form for an advertiser to yank ads from a program. Whenever I hear some yutz say that, my only response is a sputtered "fuck off". I'm sorry, is Rush entitled to be sponsored? Are those sponsors obligated to be held hostage by the man? Am I required to listen to him as if I were Malcolm McDowell strapped to the chair with his eyelids pinned open? Am I forced to spend my dollars on a business whose politics offend me?

That would be tyranny.

3) You know what else absolutely isn't censorship? If a non-public, private individual were to decide to sue a radio announcer for defamation because he injured her reputation by calling her a "slut" and worse for three days straight. Just sayin'. As you pointed out, the First Amendment isn't an unlimited right.

The dude who wrote the CNN piece is a choad. I'd say it to his face.

Jeri said...

"The radical right has coasted for too long on the left's willingness to be courteous..." YES! If I read one more whiny, hypocritical, blubbering rightwing jackass sarcastically asking where the liberal compassion and tolerance is when it comes to their opinions I want to spit in their eyes and inform them that those liberals are as extinct as moderate Republican politicians.

It seems to be okay for their splinter groups to call for boycotting the Girl Scouts or JC Penney or anything else they deem too liberal, but when liberals use the same tactic on conservatives it's somehow an evil plot to destroy freedom of expression. Buncha idjits.

Steve Buchheit said...

Eric, oh yes.

Jeri, it's the thing that drives me crazy. Progressives get the upper hand in arguments and we piddle it away at the national level thinking everybody else sees our advantage.