I am most people’s idea –and possibly caricature –of a left-leaning journalist. I vote Democrat with few exceptions. And I certainly have supported the aims and the careers of Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem.
So it is with sadness that I report that they, at least for the moment, have descended into weak-mindedness bordering on imbecility. They should be ashamed of themselves.
This just isn’t how this nation works. You don’t ask the government to shut up somebody whose views you don’t like. Fonda and Steinem should know that. They’ve said things that others found extreme and unpalatable. They’ve been treated roughly for that. But most people understood that they had a right to say their piece.
When I was on WTIC, as its primary liberal alternative to the otherwise right wing programming, my bosses called me in once or twice for conversations that began: “You have to understand that there are people who hate you. They hate you worse than anybody hates anybody else we have on the air.” And then they would remind me that those people would look for any excuse to file an FCC complaint against me and that I should be careful about handing them rope to hang me with (all the while continuing to push the envelope and keep things lively, a contradiction which sums up the never-ending dance of talk radio). Usually these conversations would mean that somebody had filed a complaint or were threatening to. But these complaints would, at least, be pegged to specific things I had said. I don’t think anybody ever suggested going after WTIC’s license based on the continuing and overarching damage done by my presence on the air.
So, Women’s Media Center, I am here to tell you (a) that it’s not mere speculation to suggest that your strategies can be used with equal zeal against people arguing for your causes and (b) even the vicious baboons I used to do battle with never attempted anything quite as arrogant and over-reaching as what you propose.
I object not only to the Constitution-trampling substance of their proposal but to its war-weary tone. The implicit suggestion is that decent people have tried everything to bring Limbaugh into line and that nothing else has worked.
I did an afternoon drive show for more than a decade. Limbaugh’s show was always wrapping up on my station as I was getting ready to go on, and I usually had my ear cocked, so I’d know what had been said in the final minutes before I opened the mic. And I was often astonished by the vitriol, the bullying, the intolerance, the invective and the transgression of what passes for basic decency in speech. And a couple of times, I even asked my bosses if they were planning to make any kind of statement — beyond the daily disclaimer — setting the station apart from what had just been said. And they looked at me, quite rightly, as if I had said something crazy. There just never were those cascades of angry phone calls and emails as far as I could tell. The price of keeping Rush on the air was very low. People who didn’t like him just didn’t listen.
Rush opponents didn’t try everything. In fact, I’d say they barely tried anything until very recently.
You can’t ask the government to step in just because you’re losing in a certain theater of speech. You have to try to win. Liberals will probably never win on talk radio because of its McLuhanesque pre-wiring, but it doesn’t help that the other guys keep sending Jose Cansecos to the plate and you keep sending Ozzies.
Don’t misunderstand. Rush is an oily heap of garbage. He always was. Pre- and post-rehab. Pre- and post-Fluke. It’s important to fight back. But not like this. Please. You’ve embarrassed yourself. And us.