I have been thinking a lot lately about the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans, and the morality of how those freedoms are applied. Take our Freedom of Speech for instance. That most essential component of the First Amendment to the Constitution. We all know that the First Amendment gives Americans the right to well, pretty much say anything we want to about whatever is on our minds. It was granted us by the Founders to ensure that our citizens would always be allowed to speak out against the Government or the Church or whoever they damn well please. It is because of this very right in fact that I can say pretty much anything I want to here on my blog and there is not too much anyone can do about it.
At the same time however, reasonable minds – in the form of the Supreme Court – have determined that this Freedom does not extend (for instance) to mean that I could stand in a crowded theater and yell “fire!”. Or slander somebody by telling vicious lies about them. Basically, if you are following the rules of normal decent society, than say what you will.
Then I (like everyone else in America not living in a cave) heard about the unfortunate comments made by conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke. In case you do live in a cave, (and have wandered into town to visit your local internet café and catch up on my blog), what he said was that she was a “slut” and a “prostitute”. This was in response to her testimony to Congress regarding health insurance coverage of the birth control pill. Mr. Limbaugh went on to suggest that if Ms. Fluke wanted her birth control pills paid for, that she should have to video herself having sex and post it online “for us all to see”. What a prick. (I can say that see, cause it isn’t slander – it’s true).
Obviously Rush Limbaugh is an obtuse, vulgar, un-couth, woman-hating dick-wad. He should not have said what he said, and Sandra Fluke certainly did not deserve his abuse. I was gratified (and not surprised) at the back-lash as a result of his statements. Sponsors of his show promptly left the building faster than Elvis after a concert. Condemnation was fairly universal – although much more notably quiet from the Conservative Right, compared to the hysterical convulsions experienced by the Liberal Left. What also occurred however – again, fueled by the liberal left – was a call for actual censorship of Rush Limbaugh and his show. I saw more than one Internet petition and mass email calling for his outright removal from the radio for his sins.
This is what I began to wrestle with. If I am such a big fan of Free Speech (as we all should be) than how can it be ok for anyone – even a fat, obnoxious bully like Rush Limbaugh – to have their right to free speech infringed? How can I claim to support and defend a freedom that I would deny another? This to me seems the height of hypocrisy. It is also another example of how both sides of the aisle in Washington seem incapable of doing anything but pouncing on the other.
This time it happened that a known Voice for the Conservative Right stepped over – WAY over – the line of basic human decency. In his attempt to shock his listeners and sensationalize a conservative topic, he made an ass of himself. The fact that he only offered a weak apology AFTER his sponsors began dropping like flies proves that he meant those words, and cared not one whit about what harm his words caused to Sandra Fluke. Of that I am sure.
But dammit, he had a right to say them. If we as Americans were offended by what Rush Limbaugh said, then we have recourse. Send emails to every one of his sponsors threatening to boycott their products if they sponsor his show. Then when he gets a new batch of sponsors, send all of them emails too. We might just bankrupt his show and he would have to leave the airwaves. That’s the American way to handle situations like this.
Suggesting however that he simply be banned from the radio because of his comments flies in the face of everything that Freedom of Speech (and Freedom of the Press too, come to think of it) is supposed to stand for. It is in fact one of the most un-American suggestions I have heard in a long time. Come on Liberal Left. You can do better than that. Like the old saying goes, “give them enough rope, and they’ll hang themselves”. If Rush Limbaugh is going to continue to spout that kind of volatile disgusting rhetoric, his sponsorship – and his audience – will continue to dwindle. Decent Americans frankly don’t want to hear that crap anyway.
I for one however will oppose any suggestion that we simply ban Rush Limbaugh from the airwaves for his comments. What he said was morally offensive and quite frankly stupid and wrong. But like the man said, you can’t legislate stupid. If we as Americans are going to stand-up and support the principles and ideals put forth in our Constitution, than we have to be willing to accept the bad with the good. It isn’t perfect, but for Freedom to be Freedom, it has to apply to everyone. Even Rush Limbaugh.
If you would like to refresh your memory, you can click here to go to a nice, easy to read presentation of the U.S. Constitution in its entirety.