Wednesday: The Satire is Strong in this one

I’m talking about Charles Pierce. His piece on the Women’s Media Center’s recommendation that the FCC take a more proactive role in monitoring the public airwaves is priceless. But before we get to that, the Women’s Media Center* has a good point:

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.

I happen to agree with this for the most part. As much as I would like to exile Rush to blogtalkradio, it’s not necessary to drive him completely off the airwaves. The problem is not that Rush gets away with murder unchecked. The problem is that he takes up so much space on the airwaves and he has spawned an industry of like minded blowhards like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Right wing friendly media corporations like Clear Channel own much of the spectrum so anti-female bloviating saturates the airwaves. It is not in the public interest for them to be so dominant.

Before anyone accuses the WMC of advocating censorship, let’s just nip that in the bud. There are plenty of ways for Rush’s voice to be heard. His free speech rights are not curtailed if he is left with nothing but a few radio outlets and blogtalkradio. He could even start his own internet network, like Leo LaPorte has done with TWiT.tv. Leo’s doing pretty good business and the internet presents a relatively low barrier for entry. But the public radio spectrum is not an infinite universe. And when one political party owns or dominates an overwhelming majority of it, it has an obligation to not spew toxic crap all over the place to the detriment of others, especially women who, after all, must continue to live as female. There’s not a lot we can do to change our gender, or that we even want to. It’s not a disease or a disability. So, why does 53% of the American population have to put up with this constant, discriminatory and hateful crap 24/7?

In the past, I have told critics of this blog that we do not practice censorship here when we bump trolls into moderation or the spam filter. The internet is vastly, amazingly big in the Douglas Adams sense of the word. You can start a blog in numerous places and pollute it to your heart’s content. Your free speech rights are not infringed if I moderate you. However, if this was the only blog on earth I would feel morally obligated to let you say whatever you wanted here. The same goes with radio and TV spectrum. If we had unlimited stations and everyone could own one at a low cost, Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t be a problem. But radio frequency and signal strength is rationed. There aren’t an unlimited number of stations so there is a moral obligation on the part of the FCC to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. This is not political. Those licenses belong to the public and the public should have a right to revoke them when a particular point of view is so prevalent and toxic that it drowns out all other points of view and is harmful to particular segments of society.

Pierce says the WMC’s suggestion will lead to President Romney appointing the next FCC commissioners and says it will be a huge election year distraction. But that is not his target:

The first inkling that the FCC might take this suggestion seriously would set off a howling from the flying monkeys of the Right that would be audible on Saturn. It would quickly become The Only Issue in the campaign. You would have thousands of hosts in smaller markets pumping out hour after hour of very effective paranoia. (There is, after all, a genuine First Amendment issue in play here.) This paranoia would start turning into votes very, very quickly. It would cement the image of the porcine junkie sex-tourist as a victim just as the country — and its rich people who own companies and buy advertising—- seems to be turning on him all on its own. Good god, this is the same crowd who thinks the Affordable Care Act is the thin edge of the socialist-fascist blade. Can you imagine the ensuing ruckus if the FCC actually moved on this misbegotten plan? The president has enough trouble with these people. He doesn’t need to give them another excuse to draw little mustaches on his picture.

It’s a pattern with Obama. He didn’t stick up for homeowners, the unemployed, Shirley Sherrod or women whenever their reproductive health concerns got in the way of passing legislation. Don’t expect him to make a forceful first amendment argument against extremists either. I too suspect that he really is more worried about defacement of his campaign posters.

* Before you sign any online petition, ask yourself if the organization that will shortly flood your email inbox with bulletins and sell your information to third parties is being sufficiently demanding of Obama and the Democrats. Women’s organizations sold themselves to the Obama campaign in 2008 and it is partially their fault for the toxic crap that Rush is spewing today. If women’s rights advocacy organizations had held Obama, the media and the DNC to a higher standard and accountable for the misogyny of the 2008 election season, politicians wouldn’t be able to pass the anti-woman legislation without penalty and “entertainers” who really serve as propaganda mouths of Sauron for the Republican party wouldn’t have felt safe to call women feminazis and sluts for so long.

***********************

Have you been following Doonesbury this week? Oh, that’s right, your local paper may have been so distraught by Gary Trudeau’s satire of the slut shaming, anti-woman legislation that it has pulled his cartoon to protect you from what looks like an alternative view. Rush, Fox and the Washington Post can say whatever toxic or mindless drivel they want. But have a cartoon character get directed to the “Shaming Room” before her compulsory transvaginal ultrasound, well, THAT just crosses the line of decency and civility.

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Heard on the DailyShow last night:

What’s the difference between a fertilized egg, a corporation and a woman in Oklahoma?

One of them is not considered a person.

(hint, it’s the woman)

Bring on the smelling salts.

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10 Responses

  1. As long as someone isn’t inciting violence, then it’s up to the owners. If people want him off the air, complain to the radio stations not the FCC. It still feels like censorship to me. As long as this is a free (?) country, he is free to say what he likes, the owners are free to fire him, and I am free to tune him out. Offensive – yes, but then so are many things.

    • I completely disagree. Ask yourself this, why don’t you listen to talk radio? It’s because there is already censorship going on. Except for NPR stations, you can’t get any other perspective than right wing nonsense or religious programming in the radio spectrum. Go ahead and try. I’ll wait.
      You’ve already been censored. Ask Air America.
      And whenever they can, the right wing will pour money into any location where there is a station up for sale. They go out of their way to purchase public broadcasting stations just to shut those views down and replace them with religious programming or even more Rush.
      If you were upset about the Citizens United ruling, this should make you just as mad. It’s the same principle. Money buys speech. If you are willing to curtail the ability of corporations to buy as much political advertising as possible because it is a violation of the free speech rights of others who do not possess oodles of money, then you should be just as willing to tell companies like Clear Channel that they have to sell some of their stations or pull assholes like Rush off of them.
      Bear in mind that I am not advocating that Rush is pulled off of all stations. But it is perfectly reasonable to require Clear Channel to break up its virtual monopoly.
      When I was a kid in the 60s and 70s, it was routine. Then the Republicans started getting elected and there went any sense of fairness.

      • As long as it’s not blasting in my ear all day long in a mandatory propagand like way, I don’t care. I reserve the right to not listen, not watch, not purchase, etc. I understand the monopoly issue and with certain industries that would definitely apply.

        Personally, I don’t watch any of the “news” or cable commenters, I don’t listen to talk radio – I believe radio is for music, I can’t stand all the yammering.

        Do I believe Rush is a vile shock jock? Yup. Is Howard Stern the same? Yup.

        Right now I think our system of government suffers from overrgulation. People simply need to tune out, as many of his sponsors have. Put the pressure where it belongs. Would it make me happy to know he’s off the air? DDefinitely. I’d also love to get rid of rap, but that would surely make my son very sad.

        • We do not suffer from over regulation but I can see why you feel that way. After 30 years of nonstop right wing yammering on regulation on the radio, this incorrect belief is rather widespread.
          In case you have already forgotten, it was deregulation of the finance industry that has cost so many of us our careers and savings. It is ongoing deregulation of the food safety industry that will lead to so many of us getting sick. It is under regulation of insurance companies that keep our rates to high.
          I think you actually prove my point. One party has a lock on the airwaves.

          • Well, we could debate industry regulations until the sun sets I’m sure. But if you feel I helped make your point, wonderful…even though I don’t agree. But hey, why waste anymore of my precious time discussing Rush. He’s been on the airwaves at least since 1992, which is when I first heard him while travelling through Florida on my honeymoon. I thought everything he said ridiculous, but it was his delivery that was most annoying. I listened long enough to find out who the heck that was and then told my husband “what a blowhard”. We may get our wish and he disappear one day…and then again, I may win the lottery. Obviously, the ratings to keep him in business are there even if you and I don’t contribute.

  2. The Hole Foods Nation backed Obama, they can deal with the consequences, stiffy pills galore for men and nothing for the wimmin. That’s regardless of who ends up in the White House.

    Back when Obama toyed with reinstating the fairness doctrine the lunatic fringe was screaming First Amendment, I used to make heads explode by pointing out how the FCC denied Howard Stearn his right to free speech.

    One of the foremost AM Hate Radio hosts who advocates this so-called free speech is quick to sue anybody who dares quote him claiming copy right violations.

  3. A nice bookend to today’s NYT editorial by the leaver of Goldman Sucks.

    Why I am leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader

  4. This is good.

  5. Here’s a great video Wish I could remember how to embed.

  6. One way to make the problem of “limited amounts of spectrum” more tangible to ordinary people might be to refer to it as “speechfront property”. There is very little “speechfront property” and the right wingists should not be allowed to keep everyone else off the beach.

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