Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem, two icons of the liberal feminist establishment, are taking aim at Rush Limbaugh in a bid to end the career of America’s most popular conservative talk show host.
In an op-ed written for CNN
on their website, the two, joined by Robin Morgan, liken Limbaugh to Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels because, they say, he labels all of his enemies as “sub-human.”
“Limbaugh doesn't just call people names,” they write. “He promotes language that deliberately dehumanizes his targets. Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, he creates rhetorical frames -- and the bigger the lie the more effective -- inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans. His longtime favorite term for women, "femi-nazi," doesn't even raise eyebrows anymore, an example of how rhetoric spreads when unchallenged by coarsened cultural norms.”
It was just one of several developments in the Limbaugh controversy over the weekend. And while many radio and media experts don’t think Limbaugh will be silenced, or even financially hurt, by the controversy, others suggest the anti-Rush campaign is could do real damage to conservative talkers:
- A leaked memo from Rush’s syndicator, Premiere Networks, instructs its stations that a growing number of advertisers want to avoid not only Rush, but other conservative talkers like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. While Premiere also distributes shows by liberals like Jesse Jackson and Randi Rhodes, the memo only mentions right-wing hosts.
- Celebrity lawyer and liberal activist Gloria Allred sent a letter to the Palm Beach County, Florida, state attorney requesting an investigation into whether the popular radio host should be prosecuted for the law student a “slut” and “prostitute” last week. Limbaugh lives in the county and broadcasts the show from his headquarters there. Under Florida law it is a misdemeanor to challenge a woman's "chastity" in public.
- Finally, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly revealed that the woman, Sandra Fluke, is not exactly an ordinary law student. She is a long-time activist on feminist causes who is represented by Anita Dunn, a former adviser to President Barack Obama and White House Communications Director in 2009. She is also dating the son of “Democratic stalwart” William Mutterperl, who has made numerous donations to the Democratic Party and liberal candidates in recent years.
What do Fonda, Steinem and others in their camp want? First, they are calling on advertisers and listeners to bring pressure on Limbaugh’s syndicator, Clear Channel Communications, to fire him. They’re interested in having Limbaugh banned from the airwaves by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after branding his show, easily the most popular and lucrative talk show on radio, as hate speech.
The effort isn't new. In fact, liberals have been pushing such an effort at several points during the Obama administration.
In 2010, the Rev. Al Sharpton, now an MSNBC host,
and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, raised the notion of having right-wing broadcasters taken off the air because they do not broadcast in the "public interest."
"You've got to remember that those stations that Rush Limbaugh is on and others are regulated by FCC, granted by FCC; they go back to them to get waivers," Sharpton said on his own radio show in November, 2010.
"They go back to them to get consolidation," Sharpton continued. "They have the right to set standards. That does not impair your right to speak what you believe, but it does say that you are not going to do that to offend groups of Americans based on their race, their gender, their sexual status - none of that."
Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat went after both right-leaning Fox News and left-leaning MSNBC.
Said Rockefeller during a Senate hearing: "There's a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, 'Out. Off. End. Goodbye.' It would be a big favor to political discourse; to our ability to do our work here in Congress; and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and, more importantly, in their future."
Rockefeller, Sharpton and others have long blamed the Reagan administration for de-regulating the FCC and giving rise to talk radio and contentious cable news shows that they believe cripple honest public discourse. Their plan is to reinvigorate the FCC with “guidelines” that will allow bureaucrats to pick and choose the shows that somehow elevate the public discourse.
Such talk shocks free speech advocates.
"This is scary stuff," lamented an editorial in Investors Business Daily after Rockefeller’s speech. "Strong speech has always been quintessentially American.
But Fonda and Steinem clearly believe that a grassroots effort could bring about such regulation and silence Limbaugh and others like him for good.
“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.
But the three conclude by insisting “this isn’t political.” Rather, they say, Limbaugh is supposedly so toxic that the actual fate of American society is at state.
"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," they write.
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