What Rush Limbuagh Has Reminded Us Of

Ever since Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut and a ‘whore’  most of us have been inundated with outrage. People’s opinion varied from simple ‘what was he thinking’ to outright anger. What puzzles me is nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten what John Stuart Mill expressed when defending the important values that come with a democracy and a free and open society:

“. . . there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it might be considered.”

Without freedom of speech democracy would fall apart, education would be corrupted, leaderships held unaccountable and innovation stifled. While what limits should or should not be put on speech is always under debate but no one denies its critical importance.

So why is no one learning from Limbaugh’s diatribe? While what he said on national radio was an immature, thoughtless, uncouth and outrageous way to make a point (that  the government paying for birth control for women would be too expensive) agree or disagree I for one want to be one of the ones to express support for Limbaugh’s right to say his opinion in whatever way he wants.

* note I don’t agree with him on the issue of women’s birth control. In fact, I am a little sickened women have to fight for it at all.

The remarks resulted in such widespread condemnation that numerous advertisers pulled their support from the show. Well, does anyone remember what happened to Howard Stern? Between sponsors dropping and outrageous fines from the conservatively controlled FCC (Family Guy’s great song about them) he was forced off the air for using his freedom of speech to say outrageous things.

So what is the lesson we learn from Limbaugh?

There exists a real threat to freedom of speech in the United Sates and other democracies, money. Limbaugh could have easily lost his show and to lose it for doing nothing illegal would have been a sad day for liberty indeed. Corporate America not only owns our media, advertisers only need to pull support to control what is on the media because television and radio need to pay their bills.  So, everyone who asked advertisers to boycott Rush Limbaugh’s show is guilty of attacking freedom of speech and shame on the advertisers who listened.

Its a dangerous slippery slope, we can not afford to make people afraid to speak their minds at risk of losing their careers, Howard Stern nearly lost his. The only people ‘shock jocks’ like Rush Limbaugh need to answer to is the law and their employers. Who both have a moral obligation to make responsible policies. What counts as ‘responsible’ is always a matter of debate but Limbaugh’s right to say what he wants is not. I don’t like what he said either but I’m not sure what’s more disgusting what he said or that almost no one seems to care just how easily freedom of speech can be jeopardized simply through the power of money.
Free speech carries with it some freedom to listen.
Warren E. Burger

Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.
Neal Boortz

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3 Responses to What Rush Limbuagh Has Reminded Us Of

  1. archdragon87 says:

    “everyone who asked advertisers to boycott Rush Limbaugh’s show is guilty of attacking freedom of speech”

    No, they most certainly are not. If advertisers don’t support a particular opinion on a TV or radio show they can remove their ad. Although I’m not certain if it comes under ‘freedom of speech’, they are perfectly within their rights to advertise when and where they like.

    I’ve only heard bits and pieces of this story, so forgive me if I misspeak here. I don’t think withdrawing your advertising from a radio station, just because some twit said something you don’t like is the way to go. On the other hand, if the radio station *agreed* with Limbaugh then I’d say good on them, however I doubt Stern or the station feels this way.

    The point I’m trying to make is that Limbaugh is perfectly entitled to go on media and say whatever rubbish he wants. Likewise, advertisers are permitted to withdraw their ads if they don’t like the opinions being expressed on said media. Where they advertise their products is an extension of their freedom of speech (ethically if not legally) and should be just as protected as Limbaugh’s.

    This is one of those ‘laws of the land’ scenarios. Although you can’t legally attack Limbaugh for his stupidity, the mob can ‘attack’ him by choosing to ignore him, or not purcahse his products, or whatever. I just hope the mob remembers its Limbaugh they’re boycotting, not the radio station.

    • bryanbr says:

      Thanks for the replay Archdragon. The trouble is the advertisers didn’t start leaving until enough people started demanding it so I doubt their ethical sincerity. Regardless of their reasons if enough pulled out of the show it could have easily gone off the air for no good reason other than some silly name calling which is an affront to freedom of speech. I am also astonished nearly no one defended his right to say what he wants within the law. No one cared about his freedom of speech and that scares me a little bit.

      • archdragon87 says:

        Ah, well if that’s the case it’s got some ethical issues. That’s essentially attacking the advertisers for advertising on a show where one guest said something stupid. Understandable I guess, but not terribly practicle.

        And I definitely agree that more people should be defending his freedom of speech rights.

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