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Rush-ing to Punishment Without Thinking

March 3, 2012

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…
United States Bill of Rights, ratified Dec. 15, 1791

To paraphrase Evelyn Beatrice Hall, the biographer of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what Rush Limbaugh says, but I will defend to the death his right to say it.”

or as Ted Rall puts it on his blog:

Don’t like Limbaugh? Ignore him. Or declaim him as the fucked-up sexist shithead blowhard that he is. Calling for his sponsors to drop him is just a lazy substitute for a powerful counterargument.

Censorship is a double-edged sword, and if your favorite spokesperson loses sponsors or even their position for speaking out against the policies of President Romney or Santorum (no way Obama is keeping his job in this shitty economy), remember how quick you were to pull the rug out from under your enemies’ spokesperson.

There’s a distinction between being hateful and “hate speech,” which many of my friends appear to be unable to perceive.

Did Limbaugh defame (in the legal sense of the word) Sandra Fluke? Limbaugh’s assertions are clearly satirical or comedic, and satire has been protected–time and again–by the First Amendment. Does anyone really believe that Limbaugh was serious when he asked his radio audience:

So Miss Fluke, if we are going to … pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.

Or when, as ABC News reported,

Limbaugh made a “kissing noise with his lips,” and said of Obama, “What a great guy. … What is she 30 years old?”

are you really that gullible to believe that Limbaugh was not making a joke, but reporting something as if it were the truth?

If Sandra Fluke loses a job because her employer thinks that Limbaugh’s allegations of her loose sexual behavior are true, then she theoretically might be able to prove damages, a necessary component in proving slander. If anything, though, Limbaugh’s verbal assault has given Fluke national prominence, and she will perversely find it easier to be hired by employers who hate Rush Limbaugh.

Demanding that networks fire a personality who offended someone is the first step on that slippery slope to politically correct censorship that the visionary author Ray Bradbury foresaw in Fahrenheit 451.

Don’t step on the toes of the dog-lovers, the cat-lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic books survive. And the three-dimensional sex magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitations, and minority pressure carried the trick, Thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals.

SPECIAL BONUS CHARACTER ASSASSINATION: As a reward to every Rush-hater who took the time to follow my arguments to get to the bottom of this post, I offer you a First-Amendment-protected insult by the great Bill Hicks, which you must agree is far worse than anything Limbaugh has said about Sandra Fluke. In addition to offending Dittoheads and Republicans, it’s also highly offensive to homosexuals or people of any sexual orientation who find it highly arousing to incorporate urine and feces into their sexual activities. Free speech–ain’t it wonderful?

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One Comment
  1. mattmarks permalink

    I dig where you’re coming from, but I think boycotts are one of the best ways we have in a capitalist society for the people to show their power. Boycotts do often smack of mob mentality, and they are a double-edged sword, but these sponsors are making the decision to support a shitty program like Rush’s and the people should be encouraged to use their buying power to punish them (and likewise reward companies for sponsoring shows they like). It’s pure capitalism.

    And I love that Bill Hicks bit.

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