Rush Limbaugh doesn’t call them “feminazis” for nothing.
“For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he’s really ‘doing humor’ or ‘entertainment,’” Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan gripe at CNN.com. “He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways.”
In other words, he can speak—just somewhere his sixteen million weekly listeners can’t hear him. Limbaugh’s ungentlemanly on-air treatment of a law student’s unladylike quest for free birth control prompted the un-American response.
The angry trio of seventysomethings who compare Limbaugh to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels ironically encourage their readers to petition the government to censor Limbaugh from “the people’s airwaves,” a phrase that sounds a lot like the “people’s receiver”—the Volksempfänger—modified radios that Goebbels foisted upon the German people that blocked non-Nazi broadcasts. Control freaks can’t tolerate information beyond their control.
They continue, “If Clear Channel won’t clean up its airways, then surely it’s time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh’s show in fact using their licenses ‘in the public interest?’” The article then links to a site where the FCC fields complaints. Fonda, Steinem, and Morgan insist, “This isn’t political.”
Sure it isn’t. It’s personal, which, as any good feminist knows, is political.
One of the great ironies of American politics is that the extremists who rely on First Amendment protections the most are the first to deprive them from voices they oppose.
“I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them,” Robin Morgan declared in the 1970s. Long before she called for Limbaugh’s censorship, Morgan helped found the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH) and agitated for the release of a feminist psychopath who nearly murdered Andy Warhol. “My white skin disgusts me,” she reflected of her ’60s-era attitudes in a 2001 book. “My passport disgusts me.” She may hate her U.S. citizenship, but the First Amendment has come in handy for her, no?
Jane Fonda’s vocal support of the Viet Cong struck Americans losing their sons to Vietnamese Communists as treason. But one veteran’s treason was another actress’s freedom of speech. “I would think that if you understood what communism was you would hope, you would pray on your knees, that we would someday become communists,” Fonda told students at Michigan State at the very time Communists were killing young Americans the same age as her audience.
Gloria Steinem derided Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison as “a female impersonator” and conservative politicians Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann as “women only a man could love.” She knows something about bashing women. She also knows something about the First Amendment as a necessary guardian not of milquetoast rhetoric (which needs no protection) but of statements that outrage. When Steinem advocated sex before marriage as liberating, God as fiction, and the family as a training ground for authoritarianism, this outraged Americans but not their Constitution. She has a legal right to be wrong.
Nat Hentoff wrote a book about this phenomenon years ago with a title worth the price of admission: Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee. Everybody supports toleration for rhetoric they agree with. This is such a wanting test for civil libertarianism that even Vladimir Putin, who last week jailed members of a feminist punk-rock collective called Pussy Riot, would pass it. It’s toleration for speech we disagree with that affirms one’s civil libertarianism.
Nobody should be surprised that statists cheering on their government’s heavy-handed decree that church groups violate their beliefs by paying for abortifacients and contraceptives would also petition that same government to force the nation’s most popular radio host from the airwaves for mocking them. Authoritarians riding roughshod over the free exercise clause tend not to care much for the other parts of the First Amendment, either. Violating conscience and censorship are two sides of the same coin.
Advocates of “women’s rights” who reject the most basic rights to speak and worship freely while inventing rights to birth-control pills and not to be called foul names are a threat to everybody’s rights. There are no women’s rights, no men’s rights—only human rights, of which the Founding Fathers deemed liberty of conscience and speech so paramount that they codified them in the First Amendment. Freedom from insult somehow escaped codification in that and the twenty-six amendments that followed.