Banning Limbaugh

by Andrew Stuttaford

Like [name your unpleasantness], would-be censors will always be with us. Here are three of them: Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, calling on the FCC to “clear” Rush Limbaugh from the airwaves:

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?”

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.

“This isn’t political,” oh sure. Believe that, and I have a bridge to sell you. As for the accusation that someone is “hiding behind the First Amendment,” that’s been a vintage complaint of authoritarians of left or right since who knows when.

I’ll give Fonda, Steinem, and Morgan one thing: It takes a certain something to attack Limbaugh for using the term “femi-nazi” (like the language he deployed to describe Sandra Fluke, not a usage that does him any credit) and then compare his methods (as they do) with, uh, Goebbels.