The First Amendment and Hypocrisy, They’re What’s For Dinner

I want to say, for the record. I love Rush Limbaugh. Don’t get me wrong, Rush the man and the things he says are disgusting. Limbaugh the object of media attention however is pure gold. Every time he opens his reflexively polemic mouth I know I can get at least one good post out of it. I can write about his words, his fans or his detractors. He’s like the Philosopher’s Stone for bloggers and comedians.

Now before my fellow lefties start building that fire (and what? Pitchforks!? Again!!?) let me point out that I love skewering this guy and I wrote just last week about his latest escapades. Which is why I love him, in a manner of speaking. That post begat others and I got at least three or four (counting this one) out of the deal. The guy is great for business even if I almost always disagree with him.

The one, and only, area we might seem to agree upon is the importance of free speech. The reason I point out that we only seem to agree with each other is Rush only believes in free speech for people that agree with him. I wish I could say this was a problem only on the right, but the left has a problem with it too. For eight years it was perfectly OK to call George W Bush and idiot but put a Democrat in the office and suddenly criticism of the Chief Executive is disrespecting the Office of the President.

I would like to take a moment to qualify that last bit. Much of what has been said about Obama has been factually incorrect (“he’s a socialist,”) racist/gross ( various disgustingly racist jokes) or both (“he hates white people,” or “hes a Kenyan Muslim Athiest!”) These comments are annoying and sick and really need to be called out.

That said, the fools making those statements have every right to do so, so long as they are not harming others. Likewise, you and I have the right to call them fools. Which gets me to my last point about free speech that is mostly lost on the “Right”: my disagreeing with or making fun of your point is not infringing on your right to free speech. Nor is our boycotting (well, others’ boycotting, like I said, I want him to stay on the air for my own, selfish reasons) of Rush Limbaugh. His opponents have every right to motivate their own base to speak with their money, taking it elsewhere and letting his advertisers know how they feel about companies that support his vicious, misogynist, racist, classist, chicken-hawk ass.

It’s been said before, and I don’t believe I have to say it again: the first amendment does not protect inoffensive speech. Inoffensive speech needs no protection. It defends our right to offend, to provoke and to even make asses of ourselves. It does so to facilitate the exchange of ideas so we know where we stand with each other and can keep the wheels of democracy turning. There is a reason it is the first amendment in the Bill of Rights, and we would do well to remember that.

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3 thoughts on “The First Amendment and Hypocrisy, They’re What’s For Dinner

  1. In Canada there’s a law that restricts freedom of speech in the realm of journalism to the truth, or at least to things that journalists honestly believe to be the truth and have seen some evidence for. In other words, reporters and news anchors can’t lie to you. The idea is that a public discourse on something that’s factually incorrect but reported as truth is harmful to democracy, and in extension to every individual within it.

    I agree with their stance, for the most part. And since Rush’s show always has a heavy news component, with stories that are misleading, skewed and often outright false, I’m pretty sure the network would be fined if they ever tried to broadcast his show on a Canadian station. What are your feelings on the matter? Should Canada scrap its law in the interest of free speech? Should the US adopt a similar law?

    • Evan;

      You bring up an excellent point, one that I had no intention of tackling here, and that is the notion of the inviolable nature of our Constitution here in the States.

      I am not quite sure where I stand on it. Rush really isn’t news, he’s just a crappy entertainer. Really, really crappy. So I don’t know how things would come down in regards to such laws. Since his comments about Ms. Fluke definitely come down as opinion I don’t think they should be subject to any legal oversight, even the “prostitute” comment as he has a fairly good case for saying that was hyperbolic.
      However, he has made “factual” claims in the past that were patently false, and while I am still unsure how I feel about that matter, those statements would definitely keep him off the air (and I assume have) in Canada.

      • Oh, I would also like to point out, while I am at it, that Mr. “I’m all for war and I’d go too but I got this cyst” pushed the limits on this one. Do I still think he was within the rights according to the US Constitution? Yes, but just barely. His comments were disgusting regardless.

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