Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It is political.

Mr. Torvik asks what I think of the efforts by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem to have the FCC pull licenses of broadcast radio stations that air Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. My first thought was “who is Robin Morgan?".  According to Wikipedia, Robin Morgan is “a former child actor turned American radical feminist activist, writer, poet, and editor of Sisterhood is Powerful and Ms. Magazine.” It is nice to learn something I new first thing in the morning.

I agree with Mr. Torvik’s quote that, despite the fact that temperatures are in the 70s today, “this isn’t Cuba.” One way I know this is not Cuba is that a group of people apparently plan on petitioning the government to take action (or at least are suggesting that others do so). It is my understanding that such activity does not happen in Cuba. So, in a sense I guess I think that Ms. Fonda and company are acting in the finest traditions of American history by exercising their rights under the first Amendment to seek redress from the Government. I doubt they will get the redress they seek,  I suppose that is beside the point.

Of course, the fact that these people are asking the government to take action makes their comment that “this isn’t political” kind of silly. I suppose if one defines political as relating to a candidate for political office, then it isn't political. However if one defines political as people supporting one political party attempting to influence whether someone supporting a different political party gets to be on the radio, then it is political. I doubt that very many people use the first definition. It sure seems political to me.

I suppose Ms. Fonda, Ms. Morgan, and Ms. Steinem  are trying to say it is not political so that they can avoid the obvious First Amendment problem of the government taking away a broadcaster’s license because of Mr. Limbaugh’s political statements. Of course, this assumes that Mr. Limbaugh’s statements that Sandra Fluke is prostitute and that he ought to get to watch people whose insurance provides birth control have sex are political messages. That may not be the safest assumption.

If the statements aren’t political, then this starts to run up against the power of the FCC to regulate indecent speech on the radio. The Supreme Court is currently considering a case about this topic, Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations (10-1293). As with all things Supreme Court related, SCOTUSblog has a wealth of coverage on the case here.

I have found the easiest way not to be offended by what Rush Limbaugh says to is to not listen to his show. I am not entirely sure but the last time I clearly rember hearing Rush Limbaugh's radio show was in 1992 while I was getting a haircut at Sal's Barber Shop on State Street in Milwaukee.  Normally this practice works fine and I have no idea what transpires on Mr. Limbaugh’s show. Granted, his loony comments about Ms. Fluke and anyone who thinks insurance should cover contraception made it far enough into the larger media that this practice didn't work this time. Nevertheless, I think my practice is the most effective way of dealing with Mr. Limbaugh or any other broadcast program one doesn't like.

I doubt the tactic suggested by Ms. Fonda, Ms. Morgan, and Ms. Steinem will work as far as silencing Mr. Limbaugh. After all, if he can’t find support on broadcast radio, Mr. Limbaugh can simply follow Howard Stern’s lead and move to satellite radio. Or blogging, as everyone knows there is a lot of money in blogging.

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