Andrew Sullivan raised a valid concern about efforts to pull sponsors from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.
It’s a free country, but I get queasy with boycotts to target disgusting but free speech.
Writer Peter David is not a fan of boycotts, either. He has often stated that the answer to free speech (even disgusting speech) is more free speech. There is no shortage of outlets for the denunciation of Limbaugh’s idiocy (The Daily Show is but one). Shouldn’t we support an open dialogue and exchange of ideas?
Sure, but Limbaugh has never been about that. He’s not interested in the discussion of actual issues. The Sandra Fluke incident is a clear example. His sole goal is to make a lot of money doing what every 6 year old is trained not to do during kindergarten. He’s a shock jock. Some people compare him to Howard Stern but that’s an insult to Stern. Stern is not a bully. He makes fun of himself as much as he does anyone else. His political statements — when he makes them — are often crass but occasionally insightful.
Of course, that’s all personal taste. I don’t like NBC’s 30 Rock. I think it’s facile and empty with no legitimate laughs (as a friend once said about Family Guy, “A reference is not a joke). I could stage a boycott of 30 Rock but I wouldn’t make much headway on those grounds. Advertisers would not be ashamed to continue an association with the show just because I don’t think it’s very good.
What’s happening with Rush is that advertisers are ashamed. They can’t just dismiss the pressure from outraged groups. It’s hard to support a “personal taste” for referring to women as sluts and prostitutes.
It’s not about free speech. It’s about economics. Limbaugh should find it as profitable to spout his garbage as it is to self-publish your own Twilight fan fiction. If he’s talking about private citizens releasing sex tapes, advertisers should find him as potentially toxic as many advertisers find Stern, who has actual prostitutes on his show discussing their sex tapes.
Limbaugh has a right to be an ass for money. He doesn’t have a right to be a respected voice on any subject. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton criticized the rapper Sister Souljah for perceived racist statements. His words were far stronger than the tepid tap dance Republican presidential candidates had for Limbaugh.
Perhaps once this is all over, Republican politicians will feel free to describe Limbaugh’s more repugnant statements with the same scorn and contempt they usually refer for members of the same sex who want to marry.