Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Freedom of speech is one of the great founding principals of the United States. In fact, the First Amendment specifically prohibits limitations on speech by the Government, with very few exceptions. Rush Limbaugh is not one of those exceptions and he is forgetting the rule.
Freedom of speech is a right of everyone, the Constitution guarantees that, but there could still be anger from the private citizen insulted or organizations who support that citizen. Sometimes, people are confused about the right of speech and believe its a license for insults and hate based rhetoric. The First Amendment, in relevant part, states:
Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…
Once again, similarly to the religion clause of the same amendment, this particular one is often intepreted by the public at large incorrectly.
Rush Limbaugh excercised his freedom of speech to insult Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, who testified at a hearing about contraception and the importance of women’s access to it.
Mr. Limbaugh, apparently incensed at Ms. Fluke’s audacity to speak before a congressional committee on such matters, took to the airwaves. He called her a “slut” and a “prostitute,” claiming that she was having so much sex that everyone else had to pay for her contraceptives.
As disturbing as that may be, Limbaugh didn’t stop there. He continued his rant, stating that if everyone else had to pay for her contraceptives, they should at least get something out of it.
His suggestion? Ms. Fluke should videotape her numerous sexual escapades and post them online. If the public has to pay for her contraception, they could at least get their rocks off by doing so.
As egregious as his statements were regarding Ms. Fluke, he was quite free to say it. Just as membership has its privleges, though, freely speaking without thought has its consequences.
Within the last week since the statements were made, Limbaugh’s radio show has lost more than 30 sponsors, nationally and locally, including “bundled” ad buys, where companies like Allstate, Geico and Matrix Direct buy from an ad company that picks shows to drop their ads on. Even those companies are rushing from Rush as the totalitarian Titanic takes on water.
The outcry from the Right, well this time, is that the Left is somehow hypocritically infringing on Limbaughs freedom of speech. Their pit bull who has tried so hard to destroy media independence, L. Brent Bozell III (See: Dissecting Right Wing Political Extremism) said that he was launching a pro-Rush website late in the week. 
I beg to differ.
One of the most important take aways from the First Amendment is that one is free from suppression of speech…by the Government.
If the Government shut limbaugh down, then the conversation would be quite different, however that isn’t what happened.
The free market, which the Right loves to talk about so much, censored Rush’s rants.
Consumers, unhappy with Limbaugh‘s actions, decided to boycott sponsors of his show. They decided they didn’t want to spend their money in an establishment or for a service that supported the misogynist mania of Mr. Limbaugh.
The sponsors decided they didn’t want to lose those customers. Put in the position to choose between business and their support of decades of his extremist rhetoric, which has included openly racist and homophobic tirades, they dropped Limbaugh.
Voila! The free market at work.
I’m under no obligation to shop at Sears, or have my insurance provided through Allstate. If they make me angry enough, it is my decsion to never patronize those companies.
There is no infringement of Mr. Limbaugh’s freedom of speech here. In fact, it is quite the opposite. He’s been allowed the bully pulpit for years with no consequence whatsoever. Even when Republicans call him out, or try to distance themselves from his extremist rhetoric, they have to apologize to him for their remarks, or suffer the consequences with the Grover Norquist machine, backed by the DBC, that operates the Republican Party today.
When Ed Shultz of the Ed Show called Laura Ingram a “right wing slut” on his radio program last year, he gave a heartfelt apology that same day and was suspended from the air for a week. Don Imus made racially insensitive remarks about a women’s basketball team on the air and was fired by NBC.
Limbaugh hasn’t recieved so much as a slap on the wrist from Clear Channel, his largest syndicator of his program.
Hypocrisy from the Left? I think not.
The Right is trying to counter-spin liberal commentator Bill Maher.
First, Maher, a veteran stand-up comic, knows where the line is. Even though he can say some outrageous things, he doesn’t cross it. Second, Maher is a cable television host on HBO, which is not something that is available to the public unless you subscribe to HBO. Limbaugh’s show uses the public airwaves. Clear Channel takes a license from the federal government because you and I own the rights to that air space. The comparison is not even close to being the same.
Limbaugh can do what Howard Stern did: He could take his show to satellite radio and talk about whomever he pleases and his audience can pay for the pleasure of listening to him. Maher remains on the air at HBO because they don’t have a Republican exodus of subscribers. People can complain to Sirius/XM, and then they can decide if he adds to their bottom line enough to warrant lost subscriptions or not.
I sincerely hope Ms. Fluke sues him for defamation of character, a civil action, not one brought by the Government, not one that is criminal. I hope that more of his sponsors jump ship. It is no less than he deserves for believing that he can insult anyone or say what he wants, about anyone he wants, without retribution.
Speech is free, but it has its consequences.