On Freedom and Morality…

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.

4 thoughts on “On Freedom and Morality…

  1. Beautifully said. Was anyone really surprised to learn that Rush Limbaugh is an arrogant, insulting ass? Yes, he’s a jerk, but he has a right to be a jerk. And I have a right to never listen to him and to avoid any company that sponsors his hate-mongering, uninformed, rude, and ignorant rhetoric.

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  2. Rev. W. B. Telkal

    I find it interesting that you protect his right to free speech. Did you do the same for Don Imus when he made fun of the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball Team’s hair? Don et al were discussing the Rutger’s team winning the national championship when his co-producer stated, “They is some tough ho’s.” Don responded with, “They are nappy-headed ho’s.” This remark got him fired, sued, and his FCC license revoked for one year.

    Since then, we have heard Ann Coulture tell Conservatives that it is their duty to kill Liberals (one listener even went to a UU Church’s children’s service to kill all the kids so they didn’t grow up to be Liberals). Sarah Palin told her followers, “Gabby Giffords…someone needs to take her out of office”. Someone tried. Glen Beck told his listeners, “I want to wrap my hands around Michael Moore’s throat and look him in the eye as he choaks to death, is that wrong?” And even Rush Limbaugh told his sheeple to “go out and kill Liberals and Democrats, leaving only two left to put on a college display”. Let’s not get started about Rev. Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.

    Where are their repercussions? Why is so important to burn a Liberal at the stake for their freedom of speech, when others say things far worse and more regularly? Why do we have to think that hate speech is okay, as long as you’re a Conservative, where it’s more prevalent?

    As you stated, the purpose of Freedom of Speech is to speak up when you feel you are being wronged by the State or the Church. Hate speech is not the same. It shouldn’t have the same rights.
    Thoughts to think out loud about.

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    1. Rev. Telkal – I can only say that I agree the examples you provided were all equally henious to Limbaugh’s recent gaff. Imus was fired (deservedly so) because his employer chose to fire him – not because some public petition forced his removeal from the airwaves.

      I still wrestle with this issue frankly. Thinking about your examples, it would be easy to say “all of those people should be silenced”. The problem then becomes, who makes that call? Who decides what is decent and what is not?

      It is a slippery slope, and a difficult moral issue. Thanks for your comments.

      — JB

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  3. Rev. W. B. Telkal

    Weird, the site took out an important part of this letter. Sarah Palin made a coughing sound between “out” and “office”. I put that in there. When it’s removed, it changes that context of the whole sentance.

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