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.
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.