Use the FCC to boot Limbaugh?

I do love the women who wrote this op/ed, but this strikes me as a very, very bad idea:

If Clear Channel won’t clean up its airways, then surely it’s time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh’s show in fact using their licenses “in the public interest?”

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh’s radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh’s show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn’t carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

This isn’t political. While we disagree with Limbaugh’s politics, what’s at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he’s really “doing humor” or “entertainment.” He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways.

That’s certainly correct, that Limbaugh is entitled to say whatever he wants, but he isn’t entitled to a radio show. But using the FCC to boot him? That opens a door to a lot of bad stuff. A lot of folks in the U.S. don’t think that feminism or liberalism or two dudes kissing is “in the public interest.” And yes, obviously there are major differences between dehumanizing hate speech and a gay character on a television show, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s not feminists and liberals who are making the rules.

I would love — LOVE love love love love — to get Rush Limbaugh off the air. I won’t listen to or support Clear Channel stations until he’s gone (which he won’t be anytime soon). I think he’s a vile shitbag, and I think it says something very sad about American society that he’s a national figure. But strategically, going to the FCC is a bad move, and one that will eventually be used against us.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Celebrity, Entertainment, Feminism, Gender and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to Use the FCC to boot Limbaugh?

  1. Lauren says:

    I totally agree. Rush Limbaugh is a vile misogynist, and we have the right as feminists to call him out on his hate speech and even boycott the sponsors who support him. But urging a government body to boot him off the air is the wrong approach. Limbaugh is guaranteed his right to free speech, no matter how horrendous that speech may be.

  2. Esti says:

    I despise Limbaugh and he’s said a lot of vile things, but I don’t think anything I’ve seen from him would qualify as hate speech in the legal sense. While the intent may be the same, there’s a big difference between saying something racist or sexist (the examples in the article) and directly advocating or promoting genocide (the Canadian standard for hate speech).

  3. I completely agree with you. I’m all for telling his sponsors that I won’t support them if they keep supporting him, but I don’t think the FCC should be involved. He does have the right to spew his vile idiocy. We have the right not to listen and not to support avenues that give him a platform for that idiocy.

  4. Chiara says:

    Well the fact that he’s on a radio means that there’s obviously public interest in hearing him otherwise he wouldn’t have the money to be on a radio. So removing him from a radio would be a violation of public interest anyway.

    Also grow a thicker skin. You think the stuff he is saying is dehumanizing.. really? I have to much worse stuff than that from my family and from the people in power in the town I live in on a daily basis. Maybe if the writers took some steps in some less posh shoes then maybe I could bare to listen to this whiny bs. But as it stands it’s like poor rich girls with MBAs (probably) are totes offended by a radio show that’s totally within their power not to listen to. I mean ‘cu’mon.

    • Jill says:

      Well the fact that he’s on a radio means that there’s obviously public interest in hearing him otherwise he wouldn’t have the money to be on a radio. So removing him from a radio would be a violation of public interest anyway.

      That’s…. not how the “public interest” standard works, but ok.

      Also grow a thicker skin. You think the stuff he is saying is dehumanizing.. really? I have to much worse stuff than that from my family and from the people in power in the town I live in on a daily basis. Maybe if the writers took some steps in some less posh shoes then maybe I could bare to listen to this whiny bs. But as it stands it’s like poor rich girls with MBAs (probably) are totes offended by a radio show that’s totally within their power not to listen to. I mean ‘cu’mon.

      “Something worse happened to me once, and so therefore no one can be offended by anything else.” Chiara, Rush has an ENORMOUS audience in the United States. He is highly influential with voters and with the Republican party. The things he says actually shift the culture, and they shift voting patterns, and they influence law and policy. So no, it’s not a bunch of poor little rich girls with MBAs (huh?) whining about Rush being mean. It’s a very large group of folks who are pointing out that Rush’s poisonous statements have actual influence, and that this time his comments weren’t just disgusting and sexist, but he went after a citizen who was doing her civic duty by attempting to testify to her health care experiences before Congress.

      I know we’ve had this conversation in the comments before, but if you really do not know what the fuck you’re talking about, it’s maybe a good idea to just read and learn instead of typing out whatever comes into your head.

  5. Jenny Saiqua says:

    I agree with Gloria Steinem. Limbaugh should be arrested and tried under that Florida statute that outlaws comments impugning a woman’s want of chastity.

    “Free” speech isn’t free when it hurts other people – the victims bear the costs.

    • Jill says:

      I agree with Gloria Steinem. Limbaugh should be arrested and tried under that Florida statute that outlaws comments impugning a woman’s want of chastity.

      Seriously? That statute should be taken off the books.

    • Jill says:

      And yes, unfortunately free speech is still free even if it hurts other people. If it physically endangers them, then it is no longer “free” and the government can intervene. If it does them quantifiable reputational harm, then the civil system can be a tool to rectify that (i.e., slander, defamation, etc). But I don’t particularly want to live in a society where you’re never allowed to say something bad about someone else — or even something extremely ugly. That will almost surely be used as a tool to hold up the most powerful, rather than a defense of the least.

  6. Katya says:

    But I don’t particularly want to live in a society where you’re never allowed to say something bad about someone else — or even something extremely ugly. That will almost surely be used as a tool to hold up the most powerful, rather than a defense of the least.

    Dead on. It might seem like a good idea to use the government to suppress speech you don’t like, but it’s a dangerous tool that can just as easily be used to suppress speech you do like. Limitations on free speech based on the content of that speech are dangerous. Rush operates a commercial venture, and commercial pressure–against both the stations that carry him and the advertisers who support him–is the best way to fight him and his hateful rhetoric and ideas.

  7. Jenny Saiqua says:

    A law is a law is a law. It’s probably on the books for a good reason.

    What if this “free speech” endangers someone psychologically? Why should that still be free? Until we live in a world that is a safe space for women to speak out, free speech will be used to silence and marginalize us so we won’t get there.

    • Jill says:

      A law is a law is a law. It’s probably on the books for a good reason.

      Actually no, not really. A lot of laws are on the books but are actually bad laws — see laws outlawing abortion, or outlawing interracial marriage, or making it illegal to take an unmarried woman across state lines.

      And a lot of laws on the books aren’t actually enforceable, so they aren’t enforced. For example, a lot of states have laws on the books outlawing abortion, but those laws can’t be enforced because of Roe v. Wade. And this law, outlawing the impugning of the chastity of a female, probably couldn’t be enforced either because of equal protection concerns.

      What if this “free speech” endangers someone psychologically? Why should that still be free? Until we live in a world that is a safe space for women to speak out, free speech will be used to silence and marginalize us so we won’t get there.

      Not to get too Linda Ellerbee on you, but ask yourself, “Who is in charge here?” Who gets to enforce these rules? Hint: It isn’t left-wing feminists. And if we suddenly crack down on saying nasty things about public figures, it is the least powerful people who are going to be in trouble for calling someone like Rush Limbaugh a shitbag, while people like Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and the rest of the GOP can go right on ahead oppressing women, people of color and the poor, as long as they don’t say bad words while they do it.

      Do you see what I’m getting at here? It’s a distraction. A waste of time. It does nothing to actually change existing power structures. Allowing the FCC to remove anyone they deem “not in the public interest” from the airways just gives traditionally powerful groups more power.

      I’m also not sure what “psychologically endangering” someone even means. What’s the test for that? How do you guage it?

  8. EG says:

    A law is a law is a law. It’s probably on the books for a good reason.

    You cannot possibly be serious about this. Try taking a look at the power structure in the US and whom it benefits. Then replace “a good reason” with “a reason that helps prop up the people in power.”

    What if this “free speech” endangers someone psychologically? Why should that still be free? Until we live in a world that is a safe space for women to speak out, free speech will be used to silence and marginalize us so we won’t get there.

    1) Because free speech is a basic human right, and I don’t want to encourage any nation-states in their ongoing campaigns to quash them.
    2) Again, pay attention to the power structure. When we abridge freedom of speech, whom, precisely, do you think the power of the state is going to be brought to bear against?

  9. Seth Eag says:

    Yeah, I have to disagree. With both Steinem and the advertiser boycotts. I just don’t see that there’s a big difference between the FCC’s board of commissioners telling me what I can listen to and Clear Channel’s board of executives doing the same. At least in the former there’s a nominal amount of democratic input (through the confirmation process) whereas CC’s—and the various advertisers—decisions are made purely on profits and risk assessment so, in this case, they seem to be deciding that those who want Limbaugh off the air have more purchasing power than those who do not. But this is a process which as we’ve seen before (i.e. All-American Muslim) is completely morally neutral.

    • Jill says:

      Yeah, I have to disagree. With both Steinem and the advertiser boycotts. I just don’t see that there’s a big difference between the FCC’s board of commissioners telling me what I can listen to and Clear Channel’s board of executives doing the same.

      Government intervention based on their opinion of what’s acceptable vs. companies deciding where to put their money and resources. It is a big difference.

  10. Chiara says:

    Folks like that aren’t shifting culture they’re just saying what people are thinking. All the conservatives and wack folks are already thinking these things in their brains before Limbough says them on a radio anyway.

    Also the main thing that pisses me off about this stuff is that it is I find it a bit alienating because it’s all about like lawsuits and complaints and that kind of bs. Like for example people are always writing into the BBC with complaints (like, writing on paper and sending it through the postal system, not on the Internet) and these people are always posh crap people who are just pissed off whenever the BBC is doing anything slightly liberal. Like whenever there is a gay characters doing kissing, some posh people appear to write their complaints. Whenever there is people making fun of priests on the TV, there is some posh people their to complain. Hell whenever anyone has sex on BBC – even post waterboard – suddenly their is poshies their to complain.

    Complaining to the authorities is the weapon of posh people and fogies, not of top-notch peeps and libs.

    • Jill says:

      Like whenever there is a gay characters doing kissing

      In response to the rest of the comment: TELL IT TO A PLANT.

  11. EG says:

    Complaining to the authorities is the weapon of posh people and fogies, not of top-notch peeps and libs.

    Complaining to authorities is one tactic among a range that has its uses on occasion. Chiara, on more than one occasion you’ve admitted that you’re completely ignorant about gay people, black people, and US politics. Why are you suddenly so convinced that you have any understanding of the role Limbaugh plays here?

    And how many times do people who do know what they’re talking about have to remind you that you don’t before you try to learn something?

    And…”fogies”? Well, gee, if old people do something it must be useless.

  12. Past my expiration date says:

    I just don’t see that there’s a big difference between the FCC’s board of commissioners telling me what I can listen to and Clear Channel’s board of executives doing the same.

    FCC = we the people
    Clear Channel =\= we the people

    I think that’s a big difference.

  13. Chiara says:

    Complaining to authorities is one tactic among a range that has its uses on occasion. Chiara, on more than one occasion you’ve admitted that you’re completely ignorant about gay people, black people, and US politics. Why are you suddenly so convinced that you have any understanding of the role Limbaugh plays here?

    1) I’m not ignorant about gay people, I just don’t know any out gay people. But I have read what some gay people have written on the Internet and I have seen shows written by gay people that have gay characters in them. So I was trying to make some helpful points based on that. Also that’s in the past, let’s leave it behind us.

    2) I’m not ignorant about black people, people just twisted what I was saying on that other thread to make it look like I was ignorant.

    3) Yes, I am ignorant about US politics but I saw a parallel with the politics in my own country (or extended country) and I tried to provide some insight. People like these are just playing on the preconceptions that people already have in order to get money or get played on the radio and stuff. That’s why they’re so popular. If they were actually saying some new stuff and shifting cultural values and whatever then people wouldn’t like it so much.

    Also I was trying to disrespect old people but we use fogies to mean old people who aren’t cool. There are certainly some cool old people around. Although you should be careful about your own biases in this area. For example I once felt that my grandparents were super cool because I rarely saw them and they seemed alright when I did see them. But then I learned they were tories and anti-everything.

  14. S.H. says:

    A law is a law is a law. It’s probably on the books for a good reason.

    Yes because the Florida legislature has been making alot of laws recently for alot of “good reasons”. If a law is a law is a law and we assume they’re all on the books “for a good reason” just because they exist, we might as well give the fuck up on the choice battle now.

    I don’t really see the need for this, over 100 advertisers have bailed now, the national syndicator for Rush’s show has suspended ads for two weeks. So the dude’s on life support as it is.

    I’m still curious to know though, aren’t there legitimate grounds for a defamation suit? Does Fluke have to file herself? I bet she’s busy with other shit (like law school and the inevitable security issues that come with having a target on your back like this, just to name a few) and I hate to put the responsibility on her. But that seems like a better way of handling this than using some dated law that should’ve came off the books long ago.

  15. EG says:

    I’m not ignorant about gay people, I just don’t know any out gay people. But I have read what some gay people have written on the Internet and I have seen shows written by gay people that have gay characters in them. So I was trying to make some helpful points based on that. Also that’s in the past, let’s leave it behind us.

    I don’t even know what to do with this, Chiara. Your “helpful” points were based on TV shows, one of rich was not written by a gay person. And no, I’m not going to leave it “behind us” when it’s part of a larger pattern of you saying random things that have no evidence or support.

    I’m not ignorant about black people, people just twisted what I was saying on that other thread to make it look like I was ignorant.

    I believe that on that thread you said there were no black people where you live. And I read what you said; it didn’t need twisting. It was ignorant.

    Yes, I am ignorant about US politics but I saw a parallel with the politics in my own country (or extended country) and I tried to provide some insight. People like these are just playing on the preconceptions that people already have in order to get money or get played on the radio and stuff. That’s why they’re so popular. If they were actually saying some new stuff and shifting cultural values and whatever then people wouldn’t like it so much.

    What is your country, out of curiosity? Why do you assume that influence works only one way? Do you not understand the idea of an amplified feedback loop, how it reinforces and makes more extreme and validates pre-existing inchoate prejudices? Your assumption that powerful, popular leaders have no effect on public discourse is absurd.

    Also I was trying to disrespect old people but we use fogies to mean old people who aren’t cool. There are certainly some cool old people around. Although you should be careful about your own biases in this area. For example I once felt that my grandparents were super cool because I rarely saw them and they seemed alright when I did see them. But then I learned they were tories and anti-everything.

    Ah, well, old people who aren’t cool. God knows that whether or not young people think old people are cool or not is the ultimate measure of their canniness and worth. And don’t worry about my biases. I’ve known many, many more old people than just my own grandparents. The left has a long history; young people didn’t invent it, and leftists get old at the same rate as everybody else.

  16. gratuitous_violet says:

    Right underneath the chastity law (836.04) in the Florida penal code is a statute (836.06) making it illegal to defame banks. Which I’m sure is there for a good reason too. Of course.

  17. Mike says:

    Just out of curiosity, what is (836.05)?

  18. Nell says:

    It is Gloria Allred, not Steinem, who has suggested that Limbaugh be prosecuted under an obscure Florida statute which makes it a misdemeanor to “falsely and maliciously” impute to any woman, single or married, “a want of chastity.”

    Do we really need to explain to Allred why this would be a terrible idea? Does she think it would serve Ms. Fluke well to have her chastity or “want” thereof open to public scrutiny?

  19. Katya says:

    Do we really need to explain to Allred why this would be a terrible idea? Does she think it would serve Ms. Fluke well to have her chastity or “want” thereof open to public scrutiny?

    I really wondered about that. It is probably a defense to the charge that Fluke was not, in fact, “chaste,” which basically gives the defense license to investigate and publicize her sex life. The whole point, to me, is that Fluke’s sex life or lack thereof is irrelevant to the policy position that she espouses, and that making it about her sexual mores is a way to distract from, demean, and diminish both her argument and her right to be taken seriously as a speaker. No reason to play into that strategy.

  20. Kyle says:

    I want the reason Rush gets taken off the air to be that no one wants to hear his hateful views not because the government has the power to take him off. I hope his career ends but ultimately we have to stand for any American’s right to speak their mind, ignorant as it may be. We should continue to press the money behind his show to “fire” him.

  21. Jenny Saiqua says:

    I’m also not sure what “psychologically endangering” someone even means. What’s the test for that? How do you guage it?

    See Tyler Clemente. When you bully people by exposing them to public ridicule, whether by video exposing their private lives or by words which do the same thing, you can drive them to do harm to themselves no different than if you pushed them off a bridge yourself.

    • Jill says:

      See Tyler Clemente. When you bully people by exposing them to public ridicule, whether by video exposing their private lives or by words which do the same thing, you can drive them to do harm to themselves no different than if you pushed them off a bridge yourself.

      Right, but then there’s been an actual harm. And that case is totally different in a number of important ways, not least of which being that Clemente was videotaped by his room mate and there’s no way that the federal government could possibly have stepped in before his suicide, and so the government’s response instead is to criminally prosecute the individuals who broke the law by taping Clemente. The individuals are not actually being prosecuted for bullying, or for psychologically harming Clemente. As far as I know, Sandra Fluke has not jumped off a bridge because of Rush Limbaugh. And Sandra Fluke could file a defamation case against Rush if she wanted to (not sure if she’d win, but she could try). What you’re suggesting, though, is for the government to interfere before any actual harm is shown, just because someone on the radio said something horrible. My question is, how do we gauge “psychological endangerment” simply based on someone’s comments, without any action, response or comment form the victim of that alleged endangerment? And if the government is going to step in, how does pulling the person off the airwaves negate that endangerment?

      The point is, we have mechanisms in place to deal with libel and defamation. And that’s good, we should. But should the government be able to step in and block speech it disagrees with, because that speech hurts someone’s feelings? Or is really vile? Lots and lots of people think that two men kissing is vile and offensive; lots of people think homosexuality and abortion are vile and offensive. Should the FCC be able to block all mentions of homosexuality and abortion, and all imagery of same-sex relationships, because it offends people?

  22. cdear says:

    As someone who deals in the regulation of media across the pond, I agree wholeheartedly with Jill – be careful what you wish for.

    Those who oppose your commentary will use it to take down your commentary from the airwaves, on the basis that it does not fulfil their own definition of ‘in the public interest’. Once these public law precedents are set, they’re hard to change, too.

    The difference between the FCC telling you what you can/can’t listen to and what ClearChannel say you can/can’t listen to is that the latter is a commercial decision that sets no precedent; Clear Channel are not obliged to listen to any argument from anyone that because they cancelled X they should also cancel Y, or that they should commission A series because they commissioned B series.

    Chiara: you’re painting a terrible picture of the checks and balances on UK media. The BBC complaints process – the example you highlight – is accessible to and used by everyone, and via all channels, their website included.

    Limbaugh is a terrible human being (thanks, Jon Stewart!) but banning him from the airwaves is a bad idea and a dangerous precedent.

  23. Emolee says:

    @Chiara- I’m curious, what do you mean by having sex “post waterboard”?

    Hell whenever anyone has sex on BBC – even post waterboard – suddenly their is poshies their to complain.

  24. cdear says:

    @Emolee – she means ‘post-watershed’. The watershed concept is what media regulators in the UK use to help broadcasters and audiences understand when is an acceptable time for more adult content. In TV, it’s considered to be 9pm – i.e. after this time, you are more free to include adult content (which they consider to be sex, offensive language etc).

  25. ken goodwin says:

    Limbaugh and clear channel are gambling that this will all die down in the 2 weeks they suspend national advertising for Limbaugh’s show. I hope we don’t loose interest, I hope we don’t forget, I hope we don’t move on to other interests until we rid this guy from our national airwaves. I hope everyone who reads these comments will file complaints with the FCC at FCC.gov and sign the 2 petitions on the petition white house website. Mahers and others repugnant remarks were made in stand up acts or on cable or satellite networks. Limbaugh’s were heard nation wide by adults and children alike because he is broadcast all day on our national airwaves

  26. Emolee says:

    @ cdear- ah, I get it, thanks. I thought she was talking about ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’… and I didn’t want to get the sexual connection.

  27. Chiara says:

    What is your country, out of curiosity? Why do you assume that influence works only one way? Do you not understand the idea of an amplified feedback loop, how it reinforces and makes more extreme and validates pre-existing inchoate prejudices? Your assumption that powerful, popular leaders have no effect on public discourse is absurd.

    My country is Wales but generally I refer to the political situation in the UK.

    And yes this is possible, but it’s wrong to stop them from doing this. They should have the right to feedback loop each other and reinforce their views and such, because they need freedom to express their views and such to their cohorts.

    But also, do you really think if there was no Limbow, then those conservative people would be like ‘yo, let’s get down with this feminism and stuff’. They’d be like, ‘we need some bs person on the radio to say our views’. And you’d just get Limbough again.

    Chiara: you’re painting a terrible picture of the checks and balances on UK media. The BBC complaints process – the example you highlight – is accessible to and used by everyone, and via all channels, their website included.

    But if you think about it it’s not really the case. For example the good people can’t write in to ‘complain’ that there’s so many conservative assholes complaining about stuff that’s actually good, can they? And the good people can’t write in to say that they think the stuff that’s being shown is really good and should continue. So all they really see is the people who’re complaining.

  28. Seth Eag says:

    FCC = we the people
    Clear Channel =\= we the people

    I think that’s a big difference.

    But, again, doesn’t that make the FCC at least slightly accountable to “the people”? Listen, like I said, I’m not in favor of either FCC action or sponsor boycotts, but if I had to choose who was going to make the decision of what was “acceptable” I think I’d much rather have those who were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate (and so could technically be removed) than a corporate board which is only answerable to profits and therefore the current tastes of the wealthy. No?

  29. Pingback: Does using the FCC help us with the fight against misogyny on the airwaves?

  30. librarygoose says:

    And the good people can’t write in to say that they think the stuff that’s being shown is really good and should continue.

    Sure they can? I remember when a certain tea-boy got unfairly killed off, more than a few people wrote in to say he should stay (which I guess is just complaining) Or when John Barrowman showed that radio host his junk, people wrote in with support, not just complaints.

    Yes, all of my examples are connected to John Barrowman.

  31. Past my expiration date says:

    But, again, doesn’t that make the FCC at least slightly accountable to “the people”?

    Yes. (In principle, anyway.)

    However, it does not follow, therefore, that it’s better for the FCC to ban Limbaugh’s show on grounds that he is — and has been for many years — a terrible person than for Clear Channel to get rid of Limbaugh’s show on grounds that they’re not making money on it anymore.

  32. suspect class says:

    I don’t even know what to do with this, Chiara. Your “helpful” points were based on TV shows, one of rich was not written by a gay person. And no, I’m not going to leave it “behind us” when it’s part of a larger pattern of you saying random things that have no evidence or support.

    I don’t know if this counts as “helpful”, but my husband and I now regularly refer to one another as “the fashion guy” (me) and “the truck driver guy” (him). And we have no intention of leaving it “behind us”, because it is comedy gold.

  33. cdear says:

    @Seth Eag – stretch that argument just slightly further and we’re in the territory of state-controlled media… no thanks!

    This reminds me very much of the time at Uni one of my more radically left-wing friends suggested that the Union bad the activity of all extreme right-wing parties on campus. I pointed out that in the interests of the equality he held very dear, he and his political allies might also be banned from campus. It wasn’t pursued…

    There’s been a move to allow broadcasters in the UK to be partial – currently, they have to provide political balance across a programme or a whole station. If a partial media creates people like Limbaugh, I’m not in favour.

  34. fanshawe says:

    I think I’d much rather have those who were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate (and so could technically be removed) than a corporate board which is only answerable to profits and therefore the current tastes of the wealthy. No?

    I’d say no. We have too small a range of media gatekeepers as it is, I don’t want to condense it down to one committee of political appointees who think it’s a fun job to tell other exactly when to be offended. Beyond that, I’m not sure I even buy your premises. First, you have to go through many convoluted steps to explain why Rush Limbaugh calling some ordinary woman a slut is “the current taste of the wealthy.” Also, the idea that these special new FCC committee would be removed from the political process is kind of hard to accept. The FEC, NLRB, and the existing FCC don’t function outside and above of political concerns. Why would you expect the new FCC Super Naughty Words Commission do so?

  35. Seth Eag says:

    @cdear

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear, but…I’m not arguing for FCC censorship, I’m just saying that I think going after advertisers to pull out of a show for reasons other than low listenership is a back door type of censorship as well. I don’t think either is correct, but I don’t think they’re that different either.

  36. cdear says:

    @Seth Eag – thanks. I respectfully disagree, though I’m coming at this from a UK point of view – commercial supporters pulling out is an incredibly effective way of telling the decision-makers at Clear Channel that a particular piece of programming is bad news for the organisation. Sponsors only pull sponsorship when they believe their reputation will be harmed by the association with that show/presenter; that only happens when there’s significant public outcry over said show, or where said show provides too much of a clash with their brand values. That’s not censorship – that’s an open market, and advertisers who care about people buying their products.

    Clear Channel et al aren’t going to keep on a presenter who doesn’t bring in the money, for whatever reason; Limbaugh is simply reaping the rewards of upsetting a sufficient number of Americans.

  37. astonished says:

    Wow, I keep calling this blog and especially most of the comments one of my hate reads but jeez Jill, this is like my 3rd straight epic thumbs up to every thing you said in this thread!

    /clap

  38. Jacob says:

    I think that advocating for a return to the fairness doctrine would be wise and important.

    More on the history of the Fairness Doctrine:
    http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=fairnessdoct

    He’s using a scarce public resource (the radio spectrum) to spew his hate. But this is a way to use the state the promote more speech as an answer to his nonsense.

  39. ginmar says:

    Bring back the fairness doctrine. It’s like Hamon’s planned slaughter of the Jews in Babylon. Although the king couldn’t change the decree, he could amend it, and he added the right of self defense to it. Right now, the repubs are Hamon, and while that incredible inequity exists, what Limbaugh’s doing is hate speech. Come on, if he picked on any other group as viciously as he does women, he’d be booted off as fast as…..Oh, yeah, as fast as he was off ESPN.

    Picking on women is totally okay in this culture. But it’s also a self-perpetuating loop.

  40. Miriam says:

    I agree with this post. I wish I were still surprised to see fellow feminists blatantly disregarding the First Amendment, but I’m not.

    I’ve written plenty on my own blog about how vile Limbaugh is, but I think a certain quote from Voltaire is appropriate here.

  41. Caperton says:

    I think going after advertisers to pull out of a show for reasons other than low listenership is a back door type of censorship as well.

    I disagree. I think that sometimes, advertiser boycotts are the only way the “little people” have of getting their voices respected. I can’t afford a lobbyist of my own, I don’t have enough vacation time to march on Washington, and I’m not rich enough for anyone in a position of power to care about. But I can tell Home Depot that I’m not going to shop there as long as my money is being funneled through to Limbaugh’s show, and I can have all my friends do the same, and all their friends. At that point, Home Depot is completely free to continue supporting Limbaugh or not; I’ve just apprised them of the potential consequences of their decision.

    And one thing to remember is that ad prices are based on listenership figures. Air time costs more for a show like Limbaugh’s and less for the Philip Glass Enrichment Hour from midnight to 1:00 a.m. because there are more people tuning in, and as listenership goes down, so do ad revenues. Boycotting his show because he’s a schmuck and boycotting his advertisers because he’s a schmuck have basically the same effect; boycotting the advertisers is just quicker.

  42. Donna L says:

    my husband and I now regularly refer to one another as “the fashion guy” (me) and “the truck driver guy” (him). And we have no intention of leaving it “behind us”, because it is comedy gold.

    Wonderful! That was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen here.

  43. gratuitous_violet says:

    I wish I were still surprised to see fellow feminists blatantly disregarding the First Amendment, but I’m not.

    Seconded, so hard. I run into this frequently with some people I’ve organized with, like the guy who believed people at white supremacist rallies should just be arrested on sight and didn’t appreciate the obvious historical parallel gently pointed out to him. It floors me every time, because my politics usually lean more statist than theirs, and I just want to yell out “If the government has already been bought and paid for, then they’re the last institution you should give the right to regulate speech and ideas to!” It’s surreal. Keeping the state out of our ideas through vigourous defense of the First Amendment should be an obvious strategy for anybody who fears (rightly) the ever-increasing overlap between appointed officials and the boardroom hacks alluded to above.

    Although in this particular case, I wouldn’t have expected any better from some of the best examples of the most problematic aspects of mainstream feminism.

  44. quentin says:

    I respectfully disagree. If Limbaugh doesn’t want to be constrained by the public interest, he’s welcome to follow Howard Stern to XM or Bill Maher to HBO. The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee our access to the airwaves, and that it is granted in exchange for serving the public good is long established precedent. The Christian Right isn’t going to refrain from flipping out over a nip slip or two men kissing because we are reluctant to marginalize the expression of misogyny and racism out of a misplaced commitment to free expression. Isn’t insisting that sexism violates our community standards how we take part in making the rules?

  45. Anon21 says:

    quentin:

    I respectfully disagree. If Limbaugh doesn’t want to be constrained by the public interest, he’s welcome to follow Howard Stern to XM or Bill Maher to HBO. The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee our access to the airwaves, and that it is granted in exchange for serving the public good is long established precedent. The Christian Right isn’t going to refrain from flipping out over a nip slip or two men kissing because we are reluctant to marginalize the expression of misogyny and racism out of a misplaced commitment to free expression. Isn’t insisting that sexism violates our community standards how we take part in making the rules?

    The correct response to Christian Right whining is to level standards down, not up. The FCC should have basically no power to censor broadcast media. None of the original justifications (unique pervasiveness, meaningful scarcity and value of the broadcast spectrum) for special FCC censorship powers still hold at this point. Nip slips, same-sex kisses, and yes, repugnant racism and misogyny–all of these ideas and images should be equally immune from government censorship.

    And this goes for the “Fairness Doctrine” too, which is just another way of saying government should decide what ideas, in what proportions, are fit for public consumption. That’s not the state’s role in a country that prizes free expression.

  46. ginmar says:

    Mirium, the First Amendment is not absolute. It does include injunctions against inflammatory language and yelling fire in a crowded threatre. I’m sure you’re ever so horrified at that as well.

  47. roro80 says:

    I disagree with the women who wrote this article, but I think advertiser boycotts are totally fair game. Listeners don’t pay for RL to be on the radio, the advertisers do. Those advertisers also have a choice as far as who to give their money to, and their customers have a choice of going to their competitor if they continue to support such an asshole. RL is owed free speech via the 1st amendment, through no government intervention, but the Constitution does not give him the right to a platform. Let RL stand out on a corner with his hate signs like the rest of the jerks who aren’t paid to be on the radio with their BS opinions. Let him start his own blog. There are plenty of ways for RL to maintain his first amendment rights without paying him to say stupid sexist things.

  48. Glass says:

    First, I damn near worship the First Amendment so the suggestion that we should use a government agency to shut Rush Asshole down is extremely troublesome for me. I dislike him and what he spews but I dislike the idea of using government to (further) suppress speech and ideas, no matter how wrong they may be, even more.

    Second, Rush losing sponsorships from a public outcry and backlash sends a better message that people as a whole don’t agree with him and he’s no longer relevant. This says “Our societal values are improving” rather than we’ll use government to oppress poor little Rush.

  49. Seth Eag says:

    I disagree. I think that sometimes, advertiser boycotts are the only way the “little people” have of getting their voices respected. I can’t afford a lobbyist of my own, I don’t have enough vacation time to march on Washington, and I’m not rich enough for anyone in a position of power to care about.

    This is a good point. I guess I would just add that if you’re a Rush Limbaugh listener—and, I believe, he still has the largest audience in talk radio (which underlines the OP’s sentiment about it being ‘very sad about American society that he’s a national figure’)—you’d claim that right now you’re the “little people” who can’t hope to compete with the groundswell of people, like me, who don’t actually listen, but wish for him to be off the air anyway. I guess, cry me a river, but I do think, again, the differences between government power and corporate power are not so clear-cut.

  50. Tom Foolery says:

    I don’t think either is correct, but I don’t think they’re that different either.

    Then you aren’t thinking about it that hard. If Clear Channel ignores a consumer group’s demands for them to take Rush off the air, the very worst that would happen to them is that they go out of business, and that itself is very unlikely. If they ignore the FCC’s demands, they get fined. If they ignore those fines, company officers go to prison. If they resist going to prison, they get beaten and/or murdered. The level of coercion people can legally bring to bear is absolutely trivial compared to the level of coercion the government can legally bring to bear.

  51. Chiara says:

    Can you really say that someone gets murdered if they resist going to prison and get killed by the cops though? In such a situation if they have made it impossible for the cops to take them to prison by force (i.e. by killing loads of cops and setting up in a fort or whatever with food and booby traps) then it is not really murder to kill such people, but self defense surely?

  52. Squid says:

    It is exactly because I am a feminist that I question the doctrinaire application of the First Amendment to all speech.

    It is illegal for Rush Limbaugh to slap Sarah Fluke, that would be assault/battery, but it’s legal for him to make vicious sexist attacks against her, that probably caused her considerably more anxiety and pain? Does that actually make sense?

    Or is it a product of a legal system created and designed by white men, which therefore only recognizes harms that white men are likely to experience, and dismisses the idea that racial or sexual insults are legitimate harm?

    And if Rush Limbaugh is causing legitimate harm, why is there no role for law or sanction of that?

  53. EG says:

    But also, do you really think if there was no Limbow, then those conservative people would be like ‘yo, let’s get down with this feminism and stuff’. They’d be like, ‘we need some bs person on the radio to say our views’. And you’d just get Limbough again.

    I do think that if assholes like this were countered regularly through boycott actions such as these, their listeners would not receive the validation and legitimation they get that makes them think that their assholery is acceptable. I do think that if Limbaugh had suddenly dropped dead of oxycontin overdose ten years ago, right-wing discourse would be noticeably different. He has a following, he has a history, he has legitimacy. Without him, all those things have to be rebuilt, and that takes time and effort.

  54. Cliff T. Montgomery says:

    The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee our access to the airwaves, and that it is granted in exchange for serving the public good is long established precedent.

    The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee access to public airwaves, but it does prohibit censoring a speaker due to the content of his speech, particularly where the subject of the speech is a matter of political import.

  55. Angie unduplicated says:

    Didn’t I just read that Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital owns Clear Channel? When in doubt, I favor more free speech, not less. Honest but erroneous people will learn, and goofballs like Rush eventually will embarrass their bosses and sponsors. I would love to see Mittens held accountable for more of the raging ratbags of wingnut radio.

  56. Falcon says:

    @46

    Come on, if he picked on any other group as viciously as he does women, he’d be booted off as fast as…..Oh, yeah, as fast as he was off ESPN.

    I can’t tell if you are serious. He often does pick on many other groups just as viciously. It isn’t getting him kicked off the air. Being hateful doesn’t appear to be a problem for his show or a great number of others on the radio and of Fox news.

  57. PrettyAmiable says:

    but it does prohibit censoring a speaker due to the content of his speech, particularly where the subject of the speech is a matter of political import.

    Massive deficit. Ending our occupations. Sandra Fluke’s fucking habits. Matters of political import!

  58. PrettyAmiable says:

    I think I’m the only MBA who regularly posts here. Am I supposed to be offended by Chiara? …Y’all can see why I’m not, right?

  59. Anon21 says:

    Squid:

    It is illegal for Rush Limbaugh to slap Sarah Fluke, that would be assault/battery, but it’s legal for him to make vicious sexist attacks against her, that probably caused her considerably more anxiety and pain? Does that actually make sense?

    Yeah, that actually does make sense. Words may hurt me, but they’ll never break my bones; society has a much greater interest in intervening to ensure my bones stay unbroken than in intervening to ensure I’m protected from offense or insult.

    Plus, this analogy immediately introduces the double standard/who decides problem that’s been mentioned up thread. We proscribe violence because we don’t think anyone should be able to use it. Gloria Allred can’t hit Rush Limbaugh with a baseball bat, even though he is a terrible, misogynistic person. By contrast, everyone thinks that people who agree with them should be able to speak. But people tend to be very good at coming up with so-called “neutral” and “non-political” criteria by which we can know that their opponents’ speech can be punished without fear of entrenching the principle that government can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics. Generally, these criteria are either too subjective to be fairly applied (e.g., “no misogynistic speech”) or made subject to numerous exceptions when they end up sweeping in speech that the regulator approves of (e.g., “no extremely insulting speech . . . but it’s okay to call Glenn Beck a useless piece of shit”).

    The political right is a fertile source of supposedly acceptable criteria for censoring social and political discussion, including indecency, immorality, and subversiveness. Rather than leave these decisions in the hands of successive partisan-controlled bodies (do you really want President Santorum’s FCC chair deciding whether NPR can host gay activists on a talk show?), it’s better to consistently support the principle that government has almost no role to play in judging what ideas are fit for public consumption. There are definitely costs, and it isn’t fair that the Sandra Flukes of the world should have to bear them, but the alternatives are worse.

  60. EG says:

    Or is it a product of a legal system created and designed by white men, which therefore only recognizes harms that white men are likely to experience, and dismisses the idea that racial or sexual insults are legitimate harm?

    I would also note that white men are not immune to being hurt by insults of various kinds. Psychological harm is not limited to those disempowered by group membership.

  61. Caperton says:

    I guess I would just add that if you’re a Rush Limbaugh listener—and, I believe, he still has the largest audience in talk radio (which underlines the OP’s sentiment about it being ‘very sad about American society that he’s a national figure’)—you’d claim that right now you’re the “little people” who can’t hope to compete with the groundswell of people, like me, who don’t actually listen, but wish for him to be off the air anyway.

    And those people may well be “little people” if, like me, they don’t have the resources to have their voices heard any other way. They have the same right to their opinion as I do, even if I disagree with them. They have that same freedom to call Home Depot (and have their friends call Home Depot, and…) and say, “If you drop your sponsorship of Rush Limbaugh, I won’t shop at Home Depot anymore.” It’s an option that’s open to everyone. And once again, Home Depot is free to make that own decision, whether they want to keep my business and pull their advertising or keep the other side’s business and keep advertising.

  62. Dominique says:

    I can tell you that Rush Limbaugh would not exist in Canada (not even the closest approximation, Don Cherry, comes close enough); but then again, I can also tell you that no one who thinks feminism or “two dudes kissing in public” is against the public interest would ever get taken as seriously as they do south of the border. So, yeah, there’s that…

  63. Gwen says:

    I agree that advocating for censorship could end up silencing good, well-intentioned conversations. He’s hateful and he’s toxic, but he deserves to express what he believes.

    However, he also deserves to have to answer for what comes out of his mouth. And that’s where we come in — and that’s where I wish this article had gone. Instead of advocating for the FCC to silence him, we need to realize that money talks. If he has no viewers, he loses advertisers, as we saw. When he’s no longer a moneymaker for the company, they’ll boot him. Plain and simple.

  64. Cliff T. Montgomery says:

    I can tell you that Rush Limbaugh would not exist in Canada (not even the closest approximation, Don Cherry, comes close enough); but then again, I can also tell you that no one who thinks feminism or “two dudes kissing in public” is against the public interest would ever get taken as seriously as they do south of the border. So, yeah, there’s that…

    Oh wow. Your country barely allows a guy who likes “Old Time Hockey” and is inordinately proud to be Canadian. Enjoy your extremely polite totalitarian regime. I’ll live in a country that allows distasteful thoughts, thank you.

  65. debbie says:

    Oh wow. Your country barely allows a guy who likes “Old Time Hockey” and is inordinately proud to be Canadian. Enjoy your extremely polite totalitarian regime. I’ll live in a country that allows distasteful thoughts, thank you.

    Yes, we are clearly a totalitarian regime with our political repression, state controlled mass media (damn you CBC!), mass surveillance (oh wait, thought that was the US), government control over the economy, and widespread use of political terror. All because we don’t have assholes like Rush Limbaugh polluting our airwaves. Also, they don’t let us have all the guns.

  66. Andie says:

    but then again, I can also tell you that no one who thinks feminism or “two dudes kissing in public” is against the public interest would ever get taken as seriously as they do south of the border. So, yeah, there’s that…

    You’ve clearly never been subject to the writings of one Michael Coren who gets plenty of column space in the Sun and tv time as well. We arê Definitely NOT immune to the ramblings of sexist, anti-gay, anti-trans bigots.

  67. Raja says:

    http://www.jonathanrauch.com/jrauch_articles/in_defense_of_prejudice/
    Jonathon Rauch pretty much covers it. Its always fun to imagine we could outlaw speech that we don’t like but most don’t think that we could be the ones whose speech could be limited.

  68. Raja says:

    “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist”. Salman Rushdie quotes (Indian born British Writer, b.1947)

  69. jpe says:

    hate speech in the legal sense.

    There’s no such thing as hate speech in a legal sense because speech isn’t criminalized in this country.

  70. maggiemay says:

    i agree that the best way 2 combat toxic blowhards like limburger(misspelling intentional) is 2 counter w/ speech of our own—personally, i think the best way 2 deal w/ him is ridicule the shit out of him—that being said, if he said the same stuff about black ppl that he sez about women, he woulda been shut down long ago—

  71. DonnaL says:

    if he said the same stuff about black ppl that he sez about women, he woulda been shut down long ago—

    I guess you haven’t been paying much attention. He’s been saying awful stuff about black people forever.

  72. EG says:

    Oooh, ooh, can I do it?

    Wake up, Maggie. I think I’ve got something to say to you:

    Limbaugh is every bit as disgustingly racist as he is misogynist.

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