Friday, August 20, 2010


Another racist leaves the airwaves

It seems that Laura Schlessinger (please don’t call her Dr in this context; it’s misleading) is leaving her radio show, the result of an incident in which she spewed a bad thing to call black people repeatedly at an African-American caller. She’s given us her opinion of homosexuals before (she thinks they’re deviant and that homosexuality is a biological error), and now it’s clear what she thinks of people with enough melanin, as she put it. I’ll certainly not miss her presence, though I have no illusion that she’ll stay gone.

But here are two things we should keep in mind about what she’s saying:

First, this is her justification for her use of the offensive word:

Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s O.K. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate.

Right. I’m to believe that a woman with her education is that naïve? No, that’s too much of a stretch. She knows quite well that it does matter who says it, and in what context. A black man saying it to another black man on the street is one thing. A privileged white woman saying it is another. Someone saying it on a radio talk show is another, too. And a privileged white woman saying it on her radio show, well, that’s quite another. She damned well knows that; she gets it, and it’s disingenuous of her to say, What? What’d I do?

Second, she’s complaining that her first-amendment rights are being violated when people complain and sponsors pull their ads:

I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.

She has her first-amendment rights; she’s never lost them. Witness: she’s out on the street, free. She’s free to call people bad names again, today, tomorrow, next month. No one has arrested her, and no one will. The first amendment protects us from legal trouble. Congress shall make no law, it says, and that’s been extended to state legislatures and other contexts, with some limited restrictions.

The first amendment, though, doesn’t protect us from the social response to what we say, and it was never meant to. If you say hateful things and people hate you for it, that’s on you. The first amendment doesn’t guarantee that people will want to listen to you, that sponsors will want to pay to be associated with you, nor that your employer will want you to represent them such a manner.

You’re free to say what’s on your mind and in your heart. And you have to live with the social consequences of what you say.

Of course, Laura Schlessinger is well aware of that, too.


Brent said...

Do not worry Barry, I am sure she will find a home on Fox Business Channel. They have a track record in this situation.

HRH said...

I get euphoria from news like this, but I often wonder, do officials like the FCC enforce moral boundaries on the airwaves in a judicious manner? Clearly, Don Imus, got away with using pejorative comments for years, until, the financial auspices of the show dropped his program for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team (mainly African Americans) “nappy headed…”, and even then, he was ONLY banished for a minuscule period, before he was back in saddle at WABC!! Where was FCC on this? On the contrary Howard Stern was chastening financially and finally forced out of the terrestrial radio by the FCC for ONLY repeatedly expressing his anger toward GW Bush!! For twenty years that I tuned into his show, not even once, he referred to African Americans as ‘N’ words, but both Schlesinger and Imus did, and unlike these two, his sponsors supported the show to the last minute. Someone needs to look into and reshape FCC.

Barry Leiba said...

But I don't think the FCC should be addressing this sort of thing, because then we do get into first-amendment rights and government suppression of speech. I'd like to see the government out of the censorship business completely, whether we're talking about nudity, sex, violence, or language, and whether the words begin with "n" or with "f".

What should limit what shows up in the media isn't the government, but the public, the market. People who don't want to see and hear certain things can choose not to watch, listen, or read, and can complain to the publishers. Sponsors can choose to spend their money elsewhere. The owners can choose to reject content they don't want to stand behind.

That's how free media should work.

HRH said...

Barry said: I’d like to see the government out of the censorship business completely.

Absolutely, I agree with you completely; but that is not my point. In the last a few years, of my living in the United States (up to Feb-2008), the FCC was ruling the airwaves, and selectively went after shows with so called “egregious content”. I don’t remember when exactly, they took on this task but they were surely doing it during the GWB reign.
Now, if, we’re still having FCC monitoring the content of the airwaves, and take any violation with punitive measures, then it should be fair and judicious. Randomly selecting shows or stations with respect to their political affiliation is just absurd. For instance, in 2006, they fined a local radio station in Ohio, which was affiliated with CBS for $500. According to FCC they used the word “vagina”, while having a Gynecologist on the show,…hmmm…I don’t see anything flagrant about that? Someone needed to count the number of time, Rush limbaugh used the word “hell” or “damn” during the same period and was left alone by the FCC. Yes, ideally we don’t want FCC to be in censorship business but that’s the way I recall.