Irradiated by LabRat
So recently there was a kerfuffle in which “Doctor Laura” Laura Schlessinger, radio advice show host, bitch-slapped a black caller as being “hypersensitive” to her neighbor’s race-based taunting and elected to illustrate her point by tossing “nigger” around eleven times in the course of the call. As one does when one is attempting to demonstrate one’s philosophical superiority* and authority as the mature advice-giving party. In any case, the predictable shitstorm occurred and Schlessinger apologized and said she had said “the wrong thing”. I didn’t feel it worth comment at the time, since Schlessinger has been verbally abusing callers from a very socially conservative position for years and it would be a bit like waking up and making the horrifying discovery that Keith Olbermann had said something misogynistic about a conservative woman. You don’t excuse it, but you’re not SURPRISED by it, and at this point nobody who calls in can really expect to be shocked when she tears them a new one, fairly or no.
But it seems Schlessinger has felt so wounded after this experience (which is hardly a new one for her, as she’s suffered major media shitstorms before over other “direct” things she’s said) that she’s leaving radio. Why? Because, she says, she wants to regain her first amendment rights. No shit.
During an interview on “Larry King Live” on CNN, Schlessinger said, “My contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year, and I’ve made the decision not to do radio anymore.”
She added: “The reason is, I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special-interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.” ……
Although she said her sponsors and affiliates have backed her, Schlessinger, 63 — who holds a PhD in physiology from Columbia University — told King that she lived in “constant fear” that critics would attack them for her remarks.
“I never called anybody a bad word. I was trying to bring — and obviously it has become a national discussion now — I was trying to make a philosophical point,” she said. “And I made it wrong, but I wasn’t dissing anybody. I was trying to make a point, and for that to say that I should be silenced is the reason why I’m saying to you that I’m obviously losing First Amendment rights.”
It’s more or less obligatory to note at this point that Schlessinger has no fucking idea what the First Amendment actually means; she’s made a long and very renumerative career out of broadcasting and publishing whatever she thinks. At no point has anybody of relevance ever, ever, actually suggested that she can or should be legally prevented from expressing her opinions. She can say whatever she likes without legal restriction so long as it is not libelous. This right is fully protected by the First Amendment whether you’re an internet crackpot, a street-corner preacher, or a radio show hostess, and it has never been restricted for her.
What she seems to THINK she has a right to is to be able to say whatever the hell she thinks and for her and her sponsors to experience no consequences for it. The First Amendment does NOT guarantee a funded soapbox, and it does not immunize anybody from criticism. It’s every bit as much the right of people, scary “special interest groups” or no, to engage in speech expressing their displeasure with her speech, and to withdraw monetary support for her speech. If she is so very worried about her tender little sponsors, who are making a monetary bet that more people will enjoy listening to her than not, she can think about what she fucking says before she says it. Her entire career is built on an audience, and nothing in the Constitution guarantees her that audience, and her sponsors’ monetary contribution is made because they are betting on that audience. Audiences have every bit as much right to react to what she says as she has to say it, even if she may regard those members of her audience who are minorities of varying sorts to be icky people that shouldn’t be able to influence her life.
This confusion about “freedom of speech” equating to “freedom from criticism that actually affects the speaker in any way” is a common one, and ordinarily I wouldn’t regard yet another instance of it as worth much comment. What pops the vein in my temple is that Laura Schlessinger has built her entire fucking career on outspoken criticism of others. What she evidently feels she deserves is complete freedom to say whatever she thinks of them without having to experience any negative backlash involving what others think of her. If you make a business out of acidic criticism, a lot of people will think less of you for it and if enough do they may make you feel it financially; if you want to be in that business, you roll with the punches. I don’t see Rush Limbaugh tearfully taking his ball and going home when people say nasty things about him and try to boycott him, and his media profile has always been far above hers.
Schlessinger should take one of her own book titles to heart and stop whining. And for that matter, if she wants to go out as a martyr and get anyone to take her seriously at all, maybe she shouldn’t have chosen such an unfuckingbelievably stupid hill to die on.
*Her point was that black comedians say it all the time, therefore it must not actually be a bad word. Which, no; there are some words that members of a group can say and out-group members can’t without the context and felt intent changing drastically. Culture and context aren’t run on a playground definition of “fair”. However, this is not the point of this post.