Does using the FCC help us with the fight against misogyny on the airwaves?

Like Jill, I am an ardent supporter of the minds, actions and words of the prominent feminists that penned this op-ed urging the FCC to push Limbaugh off the airwaves. In a perfect world, this strategy would make sense because that world would be fair and just and “public good” would mean supporting the rights of the marginalized irrelevant of race, class, gender or ability. But that is not this world. In this world there is a growing echo chamber led by white men that claim PC enforcers have a feminist socialist conspiracy to take away their freedom of speech. Tactically, asking the FCC to strong arm Limbaugh plays right into the overstated and inaccurate fear of conservative censorship by our post-isms PC nation. These people will fight for their right to be assholes in public.

Lindsey agrees and adds that the FCC probably won’t do much.

The attempt to involve the FCC is also tactically shortsighted. Rush and his whiney fans live to feel victimized. Nothing will reinvigorate them faster than a high-profile feminist enemy evoking the threat of government censorship. We laugh at conservatives when they complain to the FCC about “indecency” on Oprah orGlee. Feminists who complain about Rush are going to end up looking equally silly to people who don’t already agree with us.

Also, the FCC is unlikely to do anything to Rush. So, this campaign is simultaneously squandering political capital and the moral high ground.

The FCC campaign is also distraction from the phenomenally successful campaign to get sponsors to pull their ads from the Limbaugh show after his three-day hatefest for Sandra Fluke. Think Progress reports that 140 national companies have requested that their ads not be played on Rush’s show.

A campaign to get sponsors to drop Rush is not censorship. Advertisers pay to be associated with media figures whose image reflects well on their brands. In fact, these firms have a duty to their investors to advertise in ways that enhance their corporate image.

As does Amanda who suggests that shunning him is much more effective than shaming him. Losing all your advertisers and having to apologize to us big mean super powerful feminists on the national stage is totally embarrassing for someone like Limbaugh (even if he didn’t really apologize) and something we should feel really good about watching. Watching Limbaugh and his ilk (slowly) fade into obscurity and irrelevance is a much more effective tactic in the long-term because first it happens for all to see and second, it becomes ever more clear that he did it to himself. And this will ultimately push the GOP to distance themselves from him.

Join the Conversation

  • Brüno

    Where are they fading into obscurity? It looks more like a battle won in a war going badly. What people oversee is that Rush felt the political and societal climate allowed him to test new highs in therms of questionable rhetoric. What backfired on Rush wasnt Rush being Rush, but Rush being more Rush than usual. He obviously felt that he could test the boundaries. While he overshot this time because he moved so fast, in the future such a Rhetoric might become more commonplace.

  • rose0red

    As much as I respect Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, the answer is no- they’re not helping the fight with this strategy. They’re harming it.

    For once, feminist voices actually seem to be winning in the court of mainstream public opinion in the US. That trend will turn on a dime if we appear to advocate or demand government censorship. The conversation will cease to be about hate speech and civil discourse and turn into a referendum on free speech. It will play into Limbaugh’s hateful “feminazi” rhetoric and turn him and others like him into martyrs.

    Let the free market damn Rush Limbaugh, not the government. It will take longer and he may remain on the air, but it’s the only winning strategy for the long term.

  • Robert

    Rush may be a major asshole but he’s not stupid. I agree with the article saying that feminists shouldn’t try to get him off the air through the FCC because Rush loves to say there is a feminist-socialist agenda in getting rid of him. As much as he pisses people off I’m not so sure that feminism doesn’t equally piss off as many people out there, especially men which include men of color. This is why there are still tons of men that won’t jump on the feminist bandwagon even though they share similar beliefs when it comes to equality. Rush is a master at playing the media and convincing millions that he is right. I say just let him be, he can’t play the victim card when no one is attacking him and if enough sponsors drop it will truly be the people’s choice not some so called feminist agenda through the FCC.

  • Sandy Rapp

    Women always stand to lose more than we gain from censorship, i.e. official government sanction. It is not we who will judge what is printable and sayable but rather the Bush US Supreme Court. In the eyes of many justices birth control information and mentions of GLBT people are “obscene.” Do not involve the FCC. This is extremely short sighted. Especially when the free market is doing such a nice job. &

  • Jei

    Though it might be a tactical mistake, calling upon the FCC to wield the ban-hammer isn’t without Constitutional considerations. Limbaugh has decided that he no longer wants to just inflame listeners with *controversial* speech, but that he wants to espouse anti-female rhetoric. It is time to call it what it is: hate speech. Meaning, his yammering is unprotected by his First Amendment rights, which guarantee him the right to associate without fear of government (FCC) reprisal. Spouting subjective viewpoints on touchy, but *protected*, topics (anything that doesn’t incite violence, promote hate, or is deemed obscene) doesn’t mean that there are no repercussions for being just that kind of a gasbag, or that consumer blowback won’t hold him accountable. It just means that the government can’t shut him down for his content. But unprotected speech, i.e., hate speech, leaves people open to both private and public content-driven censorship, even Limbaugh.

    My point is that if the FCC steps in, and people think it make feminist movements look badly, then we need to work harder to show the distinction between the kind of right-wing censorship that has gone on in recent years and the constraint of Constitutionally unprotected speech that gravely harms women and seeks to undermine their equal access to health and liberties.