In all the chaos of SXSW, I very nearly missed the embarrassing overreach by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, who are pushing for the FCC to pull Limbaugh from the airwaves. These women do good work in the world, but this is a classic case of feminist narrow-mindedness, where devotion to feminism without considering intersectionality can make us look stupid. Government censorship is something feminists really need to shun, on moral grounds and because, as the crackdowns on Occupy show, because it rarely works out for our side anyway. Going after his advertisers, and using shunning to show that he doesn’t speak for “real America” is working great. Why rush it?
Jill and Lindsay have more to say on this issue. I just want to say that this is a more complex issue than I think many people really see. There’s a tendency on the left to just get upset and want to shut it down when bigoted fucks like Limbaugh say the things they do. I definitely get that; it’s true that Limbaugh’s hate-spewing legitimately recruits new bigots and gives aid and comfort to others. But that’s not all that’s going on. Limbaugh is also giving voice to opinions that people already hold, and that they share in more private forums like social networking, email, and old-fashioned person-to-person communication. That stuff is powerful, but it’s hidden from view. It makes it easier for conservatives to pretend to be interested in, oh, “religious liberty”, when they just hate women. When Limbaugh gets on air and says what he and those he speaks for really mean, that is clarifying. In this case, it basically killed off the faux concerns about religious liberty and even David Brooks is now playing the “contraception is a serious problem because women abuse it” card. In a sense, they did us a favor. Now we can have an honest conversation about what’s really going on, and in honest conversations, I do think liberals have a leg up.
Thus, I’m a bit torn on the Limbaugh thing, and think that the best strategy is to keep shaming anyone who advertises with him. If he’s on air, giving voice to what conservatives are really thinking, but being shunned for it? That strikes me as the best of both possible worlds.