Can’t Believe I’m Saying This, But…

..

Rush Limbaugh is an asshole. A prick. A villain. An all around rotten to the core ogre

When he was on in the morning on one of our more offensive radio stations, whenever I felt sluggish I’d listen to him for a matter of mere minutes till his outrageous statements would wake me up. “I can’t believe he said that!!”

Of  course he latest outrage was no fluke, just a bit more vile than usual. Everyone is up in arms and for good reason.

But the effort to get him kicked off the air is horribly misguided. He didn’t advocate the overthrow of the government, didn’t call for the assassination of Obama or other hight government officials. All he did was make a vile comment about a woman who spoke publicly about a matter of political concern.

If we all start trying to silence speakers for what we consider comments beyond a certain line,  surely we must grant the same right to those on the opposite side of the political divide. After all, Bill Maher, may no god bless him, does say some outrageous things on Friday nights on HBO. Doubtless countless folks on the right are genuinely outraged by his profane, snide – if  hilarious – commentary.

Political and cultural debate in mass media is already stunted. Some poor TV pundit gets axed monthly, it seems, for making “inappropriate comments”. Juan Williams was dumped by NPR for revealing his fear of Muslims on airliners (a wrongheaded attitude no doubt shared by a big chunk of the flying public).  Lou Dobbs  got eased out by CNN for making inflammatory comments about undocumented aliens.

Strictly speaking, secondary boycotts of those who sponsor some pundit we abhor do not raise First Amendment concerns (the amendment only applies to efforts by government to censor comment). But we are better served by public debate having a wide range of voices. Yesterday’s censored speech may be tomorrow’s conventional wisdom. We must consider all ideas, hear all voices, to advance in the constant process of reforging America.  If we start silencing those whose voices we find anathema, we will end up with a mere exchange of unthinking platitudes and talking points by pundits too frightened of losing their place in the lucrative talking head biz. If each side declares a fatwa on those it considers too obnoxious, if both sides engage in jihad, we will soon be left  with a very narrow range of political discourse on public media. Tweedledum will be vigorously opposed only by Tweedledee.

The remedy for bad speech (I know you’ve this before) is more speech. Feel the outrage – speak your outrage – encourage others to do likewise – but don’t try to muzzle your opponent. He may end up muzzling you instead….

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Now here’s a really lunkheaded idea: some sober group or other wants TV and radio stations to refuse to run political ads that aren’t “true”. Imagine the debate and battles that would engender! In politicas truth is in the eye of the beholder…

And here’s an  unbelievably bad idea!

Photo by Brett Tatman, subject to this creative commons license

One of Brett’s sets

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