Why we shouldn’t cancel Colbert or Limbaugh

John Aravosis already posted an excellent rundown of the recent incoherent chaos over one of comedian Stephen Colbert’s recent bits blasting the Washington Redskins for having what he, and many, consider a racist mascot. In turn, Colbert was, of course, wrongly accused of being racist himself.

This kind of behavior is nothing new. It is, however, continuing cause for alarm.

Free speech is threatened privately as well as publicly

According to polls, free speech is overwhelmingly the most popular constitutional liberty. And while Americans tend to be swift to outrage when the government tries to stifle the free expression of ideas, we seem oblivious to the fact that the suppression of private speech, though not covered by the First Amendment, is often just as pernicious.

The Colbert case is an example of the form such efforts often take. A speaker says something perceived as unpopular or “politically incorrect” (though that term is often twisted to mean many thing), outrage and offense follows, and is then appended by calls for boycott, cancellation, or some other form of punitive censorship.

colbert-redskins-featuredThat’s not to say that the outrage and offense aren’t sometimes understandable. Recall Rush Limbaugh’s sexist rant against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, whom the conservative chauvinist branded a “slut” (over 70 times) because she advocated taxpayer-funded birth control. Aside from being barren of logic, Limbaugh’s words were, as is his custom, hateful, mean-spirited and unproductive.

It is troubling that these two impulses–one toward outrage, and one toward censorship–are commonly conjoined in society, and even considered intrinsically linked. I would argue that there is no practical difference whether The Colbert Report, or The Rush Limbaugh Show, are canceled by the public at large, through an advertiser boycott, or via executive fiat by the president himself.  Each method, if successful, results in the loss of a platform for the speaker. And perhaps more ominously, it results in the loss of opportunity for listeners to receive and consider the expression they offer.

Undoubtedly, free speech is as much a privilege for listeners as for speakers. There are a number of timeless quotes on this point, some of the best of which have come from the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy has written that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

More specifically tailored to the issue at hand, the revered Justice Holmes famously wrote that the best test of truth–perhaps, in my view, the only test of truth fallible human beings can endorse–is the triumph of an idea within the “marketplace of ideas,” which thus must by necessity remain free and robust.

Limbaugh had already lost a slew of advertisers for calling Sandra Fluke a "sl*t" for testifying before Congress about the importance of contraceptive coverage in insurance.

Limbaugh had already lost a slew of advertisers for calling Sandra Fluke a “sl*t” for testifying before Congress about the importance of contraceptive coverage in insurance.

Admittedly, there is an element of grandiose naiveté here. After all, Fox News has certainly triumphed in the television marketplace, as it continually boasts higher ratings than its competitors, suggesting that truth does not always win out. Nonetheless, the essence of Holmes’ point is hard to dispute. Rarely if ever does something approximating truth or justice result from vesting in one entity–be it government or a private group–the right to decide what ideas should and should not be submitted for consideration to Holmes’ marketplace of ideas. We tend to do better as a society with more opinions rather than fewer. Suppression, then, is out.

What of the “inarticulate grunt or roar?”

Some might object that what I’ve presented an overly rosy and idealistic view of expression that fails to account for the peculiarities, and realities, of everyday life.

Neither Colbert, nor Limbaugh, nor countless others who have come under siege, were really offering sublime or timeless insights. Colbert’s was a petty, banal joke with arguably mean racial implications, and Limbaugh’s was just flat-out hate speech. There is a difference, the argument goes, between eloquent, “useful” ideas and, as Justice Rehnquist thought of “flag burning,” the category of the “inarticulate grunt or roar that, it seems fair to say, is more likely to be indulged in not to express any particular idea, but to antagonize others.”

For me, there are two responses to this.

First, what speech or expression is and is not valuable, or useful, or articulate in any paritcular case is a subjective personal value judgment. There is no objective way to determine what speech is “worthy.” And it’s all the more reason to protect all forms of expression, I’d argue, and thus the right of listeners to consider every possible perspective and decide for themselves.

To #CancelColbert because some people took issue with, and likely misunderstood, one of his jokes is to ignore the countless other people who found it funny and insightful; and, it is to potentially deprive all people of the right to Stephen Colbert’s comedic genius in perpetuity.

It is also sets the precedent that any joke or satire by any comedian that some people think “goes too far” is justifiable grounds to potentially end that comedian’s career. And is there any doubt that what “goes too far” will, for some, be truly innocuous, and actually insightful material?

Second, and on a related note, when you let the ravenous beast of censorship loose, there really is no telling what it will consume. Progressives ready to boycott Limbaugh’s advertisers to get him taken off the air can rest assured that the same fate awaits their own icons, when conservatives redeploy that strategy.

John noted in his post that Michelle Malkin is one of the folks leading the charge against Colbert in this. Malkin is Asian-American, yes; but who really believes that is why she has targeted Colbert for destruction? Colbert is a progressive, pure and simple. Is there any doubt that if Limbaugh had uttered Colbert’s joke, Malkin’s reaction would have been considerably more tame?

The beast let loose on liberals

There are a number of other examples, not just of senseless private censorship, but of the use of that tactic against progressives. To state just one: Bill Maher was chased off of network television for transgressing the post-9/11 requirement of abiding, unflinching patriotism.


Bill Maher.

All Maher did was express the idea that, in his view, the word “coward” does not accurately describe suicide bombers who are willing to risk their lives for an albeit wrongheaded cause, and that the word is better suited for first-world powers that lob weapons of great destruction from a safe distance.

In times of national emergency and clamor, when indelible consensus tends to form quickly, it is  important that individuals remain free to criticize the state, especially when war is contemplated. (In retrospect, who doesn’t believe that we could have used a bit more public criticism of George Bush, early and often in his administration?) Nonetheless, private pressure resulted in the cancellation of Maher’s network show, ironically titled Politically Incorrect, and his forced exile to HBO.

What’s the point of it all?

There is no good reason to suppose that censorship does any good. People who find racist jokes funny are not going to go away, or have sudden epiphanies of tolerance, simply because Stephen Colbert is erroneously punished.

Neither are conservative sexists going to suddenly respect women because their icon, Rush Limbaugh, gets boycotted off the air.

Why not simply counter them with more speech? True progress comes from the slow and gradual erosion of stupidity by the infiltration of reason– not from immediate blunt-force trauma.

David Delmar is a third-year student at Harvard Law School, with experience in both civil and criminal public interest law. His interests include law, politics, culture and society, philosophy, religion, and great fiction. David particularly likes to write about issues affecting human rights and civil liberties.

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56 Responses to “Why we shouldn’t cancel Colbert or Limbaugh”

  1. AutAut says:

    Couldn’t agree more – Colbert is the ‘Zen Master’ of comedic satire and whoever out there doesn’t get it – well.. “F” THEM!

  2. Texon says:

    I’d put up with Rush as long as Stephen had equal time.

  3. kokoretsi says:

    Excellent and important post.

  4. NMRon says:

    Let’s see, Lumpbaug’s a fascist propagandist for the 1% and their anti-American tools and Colbert is a comedian. Lumpbaug’s job is spreading lies, confusion and hate, and Colbert’s job is making people laugh. Oh and may I just comment on the idea of “economic terrorism of free speech . . .” BWAAAAAhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha *gasp* hahahahahahahahahahahahahaaha.

  5. Houndentenor says:

    So it’s fine to chuck one’s personal convictions so long as there’s money to be made? That’s revolting. It’s common, but that doesn’t make it any less disgusting. You admit that your brother’s company is well aware of the damage that Limbaugh does but they’re happy to support him financially in doing so rather than look for another way to reach potential customers. You don’t see a problem with that? Limbaugh makes money not from listeners but from advertisers. No advertisers; no show. It’s that simple. Every person who advertises on his program is aiding and abetting whatever he says. It would be one thing if the Sandra Fluke incident were an aberration but that’s run of the mill for Rush and everyone knows it. So long as people who know he’s a “hateful ignoramus” (actually I think he’s a very clever huckster who laughs all the way to the bank. He’s obviously not stupid. He’s gotten very rich by knowing exactly how to pander to his sexist, racist and otherwise bigoted audience.) Continued support of the program is aiding and abetting. I would, therefore, choose a different company than your brothers because I do not want part of my money winding up in Limbaugh’s pocket which is exactly what would happen.

  6. David Delmar says:

    There’s a lot to unpack in your comment, butI feel by now I’m repeating myself so I will try to make this a brief reply.

    It is certainly any person’s “right” to choose the companies they patronize just as it is a “right” to choose what to read and listen to and what not. But I do think there is a big difference between making a personal choice not to listen to someone like Limbaugh and organizing a group of people to try and get him taken off the air because he said something disagreeable.

    Advertisers are indeed “sponsoring the show and paying the salary of the people who write and perform on it.” In the same way, however, publishers are integral to scholars who wish to disseminate their views in book form. I think it is clear that, in the analogical case of a book with a controversial viewpoint, there is a big difference between refusing to purchase and read said book and trying to intimidate the publisher into backing away from and not publishing it in the first place. The former is an understandable form of personal expression (I am not going to waste my money reading what I consider to be hateful nonsense). The latter, to my mind, is not; it stands for the principle that what I don’t like no one else should be able to read. In my opinion that is a completely indefensible, babyish position that is not consistent with respect for free speech.

    The Chic-Fil-A situation is, as my note at the end of the piece suggests, somewhat different. At issue in Chic-Fil-A was not pure speech but overt attempts at paying lobbyists to effect anti-gay policy. Where ideas and expression become something more actionable, I think it is perfectly acceptable to try and starve Chic-Fil-A, through boycott or whatever, of the money it is using to try and get anti-gay laws passed. But if the issue was only that Chic-Fil-A’s owner said in an interview that he thinks homosexuality a sin? A boycott in that situation is, I think, punishment for having an opinion and making it known and is therefore intolerable to me.

    It is worth remembering that advertisers who plug their products during Limbaugh’s show are not logically or empirically supportive of him by default. My brother works for a company that sells alarm systems that advertises heavily during Limbaugh’s show. Almost every executive and employee at the company thinks Rush is a hateful ignoramus. But the advertise with him nonetheless because his listeners are the kind of people who buy alarm systems for their homes. They don’t support his hateful language directed at Sandra Fluke. But they will go broke if they don’t target the right demographic and Rush’s audience is that.

  7. Houndentenor says:

    In the capitalist system the only value is profit. If it makes money it is good; if not it is bad. That’s it. The only way to get big corporations to change is to make their bad choices unprofitable. That’s it. I worked on executive floors. Any social conscience at that level would die a sad and lonely death.

  8. Houndentenor says:

    Well then I disagree. If I see that clearly a company’s values are in my opinion heinous, I will stop patronizing that company. I’m not sure that’s officially a boycott but I certainly won’t eat at Chick-Fil-A or shop at Hobby Lobby. I know that others do the same with different companies for different reasons. Some companies actively avoid advertising on controversial programs for just that reason. Advertisers are sponsoring the show and paying the salary of the people who write and perform on it. People angry about the content have every right to tell the advertisers how they feel. That’s a free speech right as well.

  9. LanceThruster says:

    We’ve already seen the dismal failures of Reich Wing comedy (anyone remember “The Half Hour Comedy Hour?”). Dennis Miller is a special category of spewing to the converted. No wonder they hate/fear Colbert.

  10. Ferdiad says:

    Excellent post and I enjoyed reading it. Boycotting someone’s livelihood because they say something you don’t like is economic terrorism of free speech. It then also puts more power into the elite that control the media and the message. The people at the top of that group are no democrats nor are they republicans. They belong to a special class that effortlessly moves between the two major parties. We need free speech and different voices now more than ever.

  11. Ben says:

    Right, but the fact that control of their content is more strict is exactly the point. Colbert’s show is a satire where he does outlandish conservative things to poke fun. People know what they’re getting into when they watch. Same with Rush.

  12. balabanov11 says:

    anyone who would call for the cancelling Colbert is a fucking idiot.

  13. mirror says:

    I think you are right here though. Most people see Colbert for who he is, a basically sweet well-meaning guy. These days, it takes a lot of money to shore up somebody like Limbaugh.

  14. mirror says:

    That is exactly what you just said again. Don’t organize.

    Blue pill, red pill, man? Safety, or risk and possible inspired discovery in yourself? As a brilliant soon to be graduate of a top law school, you may have even made the choice already.

  15. Jane Spaulding says:

    Don’t buy the product. Do you run out and buy something just because you think its suppose to be great. half of what is said on TV can be taken anyway you want to. Don’t shut down a Comic. We need all the light hearted satire we can hear. Laughter is the best medicine in life.

  16. Jane Spaulding says:

    Shut it off. Nobody said you have to watch everything on TV. Watch Westerns, or comics or the Soaps and just know that it isn’t going to matter in 5 years what any of them said.

  17. Jane Spaulding says:

    Your right, she doesn’t have a clue.

  18. Jane Spaulding says:

    I think there is so little humor in this Country anymore, you know, why don’t you just stop taking yourself and everybody else so seriously. Look at it this way what happens that laughed at today, will be forgotten in a few years. Grow up America and stop acting like your ego is getting tromped on. Frankly those that can’t take a joke need to go back to bed, get up on the other side and look yourself in the mirror and say hey we are all in life together, make it a funny great day. Laugh at yourself. When you get your act together there will be laughter. I can’t believe that any body ever took Stephen Colbert that seriously. Sorry you guys need to grow up and lighten up, or the stress of trying to fix yourself and others will in the end give you the Big Sanford One.

  19. David Delmar says:

    No, that is not what I am saying. Publicize it all you want. I’m all for people knowing what others are saying (that’s kind of my point…) But don’t ask others to boycott the advertisers to make their “choice” for them. And don’t organize others for that purpose. At least not if you want to pretend to value free expression.

  20. mirror says:

    Actually, upon rereading this in the light of day, I find that it is not only a tepid concern troll piece, but also very condescending. Hmmm. Maybe that is part of the definition of a concern troll piece.

  21. mirror says:

    That is what Mr. Delmar is saying here though, “you” shouldn’t have help by publicizing it.

  22. Badgerite says:

    Colbert did not say anything offensive. It is a comedy show. And anyone who thinks he should be cancelled for making a satirical comment in jest needs to understand that that is what his show is and has been all about.
    I might support cancel the show if he had said or done anything offensive. But he did not. His show involves political satire. He was engaging in satire when he made the comment or whatever on twitter that is the alleged reason for this ‘campaign’. You can try to lead a cancellation campaign. That is your right.
    But anyone with half a brain and any sense of humor or grasp of reality at all and the tiniest familiarity with Colbert or his show will not follow you.

  23. Badgerite says:

    Colbert should have that angry person on his show. If she thinks he was serious she really does not have a clue.

  24. Ben says:

    Cancelling the show because of something that was said *is* silencing. If people stop watching, and as a result the show loses advertisers and the show eventually fails on its own, that’s fine. That’s capitalism. Boycotting advertisers and calling for their action to remove said shows from the air is fascistic behavior. There’s nothing democratic about it.

  25. olandp says:

    There is no freedom from the fear of persecution, but in fact a freedom from the fear of prosecution. They kind of sound alike, but they are very different things. Canceling a radio or television show is not silencing. Imprisoning, though, would be.

  26. Naja pallida says:

    It is a violation of federal law to air profanity or obscenities over the airwaves, not simply a choice by television networks, but those laws have never applied to cable providers, like HBO, since their control of content is much more strict.

  27. Ben says:

    “…so that word can’t be publicly broadcast on television or radio except under certain circumstances.” This is incorrect. It cannot be broadcast on television that is owned by (for the most part) entities whose viewership would not approve of such language. HBO is a great example to counter this point. They have a massive viewership, and their shows constantly use language that people use in the real world, profanity included. I suppose this could apply to your “certain circumstances,” but once you’ve opened that door, the rest of your point kind of falls apart.

    I do agree that rights are responsibilities, but I also think it’s absurd to take that idea to the point where every person needs to carefully consider every single thing they say before they say it, fearing they may upset someone else. Especially when it’s done in the way Colbert did, to make a point, and in a joking manner. You also have the right to control your emotions and remain level-headed. People often forget that they are in complete control of the responses they allow themselves to have when presented with things they don’t like.

  28. Ben says:

    “…third rate child ignorant of the ways of the economic world.” I didn’t realize free speech and economics were necessarily related. I suppose it’s also not in the best interest of advertisers, then, to advertise with companies and shows who have audiences of a significant size? Rather, for their companies, whose primary goal is to make profit, they should endorse *solely* people who they agree with 100%.

    You’re right. You have a MUCH better understanding of economics, capitalism, and free speech than Mr. Delmar does. So much better!

  29. Ben says:

    So when you donate money to someone or something, then, are you endorsing every action that they take, and every word they say ad aeternum? You’re not funding the person’s speech; you’re funding the show because it benefits you to do so. These are private advertising *companies* we’re talking about here. If every single person stopped watching the show, advertisers would have no incentive to use these “offensive” mediums as means for profit. HOWEVER, people don’t stop watching. They bitch and moan until they get their way. And therein lies the issue. It has nothing to do with people not needing to “fund” the speech. That’s not even what’s happening, and if that’s what you think is going on, then you need to reconsider the way that a capitalistic society works, and take a deeper look at advertising in general.

  30. Ben says:

    No, but it guarantees you to the right to express your views without fear of persecution, in theory. At least that’s what you would extrapolate if you truly believed in “free” speech. Silencing people you don’t agree with is fascistic. Additionally, since the United States’ economy is capitalistic, it would follow that the best interest of investors and advertising groups should be in providing money to people with large audiences, not people with whom they absolutely and necessarily agree with. Providing financial support for someone’s show doesn’t equate to you supporting every single thing they say. It’s childish and absurd to shut people down completely, and ruin them just because they say something that you don’t agree with.

  31. Naja pallida says:

    It always comes around to the money. People are free to say hateful things, but nobody has to fund it.

  32. Naja pallida says:

    So it is only meaningful freedom when we’re all free to publish lies about others with reckless disregard for the truth, while wrapped tightly in the guise of free speech, like Mr. Limbaugh so often does? Feelings have nothing to do with it. When someone goes on the air to abuse free speech by misrepresenting reality and defaming, we should all be upset. Rights are also responsibilities.

    As long as there has been the ability to broadcast one’s self, there have been restrictions on the content therein. For instance, I’m not offended by the word ‘fuck’ but someone decided long ago that someone might be, so that word can’t be publicly broadcast on television or radio except under certain circumstances. On top of that, corporations routinely make arbitrary decisions as to what they will broadcast. Is it still free speech when ClearChannel has a list of ‘do not play’ songs for its networks?

    We can bring it back to the analogy so often used in arguments of free speech. Is it okay to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, as long as some of the people in the theater know I’m lying?

  33. Houndentenor says:

    “We” didnt’ shut down Dr Laura. Advertisers didn’t want to be associated with her show after her racist tirade. “We” may have helped by publicizing it, but “we” weren’t the only ones. She did herself in. It was inevitable anyway. she said mean and hateful things every day on her show.

  34. olandp says:

    The First Amendment does not guarantee anyone the right to a television or radio show.

  35. I quote my favorite justice, WIlliam J Brennan (1906-97): “The cure for free speech is more free speech.”

  36. mirror says:

    John is tenacious as a honey badger. And as curious as a honey badger. That’s why we respect him so much.

  37. mirror says:

    Sparky! Sparky pony!

  38. Dan in Houston says:

    Should we have shut down Dr Laura? Careful, that is how John cut his teeth so to speak.

  39. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    That said, I very much liked your Hobby Lobby piece. I think you could have said what you had to say here in this one in about two paragraphs.

    You say this, and yet you deliver yourself of such a straggling mess of a sentence as this…

    Mr. Delmar, you have a bit of the flavor of Jon Green’s writing here, like you guys have worked really hard to get yourself in the right schools to be on the edge of getting yourselves an entre into the good parties, so you hold back in a safe place in your writing, sensing the limits beyond which you will get a permanent outsider label.

    There are other marks of punctuation than the comma, sparky.

  40. mirror says:

    Mr. Delmar, you have a bit of the flavor of Jon Green’s writing here, like you guys have worked really hard to get yourself in the right schools to be on the edge of getting yourselves an entre into the good parties, so you hold back in a safe place in your writing, sensing the limits beyond which you will get a permanent outsider label. I know. I know. You still have to apply for jobs upon graduation, but still…

    Also, is John explicitly asking you guys to write policy pieces that read like college papers?

    That said, I very much liked your Hobby Lobby piece. I think you could have said what you had to say here in this one in about two paragraphs.

  41. Awww, if they can’t take a joke, we need to chop Suey (and Malkin and all other
    conservatives). I only say that In Defense of Internment.

    Bullying is a vital part of every ecosystem, it teaches kids
    resilience. The world is a rough place; bullying is like getting
    inoculated. It’s a vaccine! And you little $hits, you got to learn to
    stay away from people like my son. That’s what you learn when you get
    punched in the face by a bully!

    How you think Steve Jobs turned out so great? Bullies. And I guarantee you, junior here will be
    getting the hottest chicks when he’s 30, because he got bullied today.
    What, you want to hit the peak now? My kid will be picking roadside
    garbage up in an orange jump suit in 10 years, and your kid in med
    school, curing cancer, and getting laid. You’re welcome!

    CARL: What if I want to cure cancer?

    FRANK: You’ll be lucky if you don’t get Gonorrhea from your cellmate. Spoken with love, son.

  42. David Delmar says:

    Comedy often takes the form of the explicit intent to offend and deceive. Even if it wasn’t, why shouldn’t I have the right to purposefully offend you if I want to? Is this the line for free expression? Where your hurt feelings begin my free speech ends? That is a vertiginous line, to say the least. And not one that provides meaningful freedom.

    If Rush “goes on the air specifically to offend people who don’t like him” (also, I don’t claim to be a mind reader, so I wonder how we know what Rush’s inner purpose is) why is that not his right?

    If you don’t like what he is saying–and remember, LOTS of people love it–it takes a flick of the wrist to turn off the radio. Is that too much trouble?

  43. David Delmar says:


  44. David Delmar says:

    “but to reflexively say that all censorship is wrong, is naive.”

    Well then, I suppose it is grand that I did not say, nor could a fair reading of what I wrote interpret what I said to mean, that “all censorship is wrong.” (I definitely didn’t say it “reflexively.” This post is 1500 words!)

    In fact, unless I am hallucinating, at the very end of the piece there is explicit reference made to Chic-Fil-A, and how a boycott of that organization was justified under the circumstances. Thus, my piece includes a direct endorsement of censorship in one case.

    I have to say I’m not sure on what planet child pornography is speech, or expression, but it isn’t the one I live on.

    As for “websites advocating for terrorist attacks,” would private speech censorship ever be an issue with respect to these? I can’t imagine these are profit-machines, after all, with a broad audience. There is a doctrine in place called the “clear and present danger test” which allows the government, in the interest of public safety, to intervene when speech takes on a form that might put lives at risk. I fully support that doctrine, even if I think it should be carefully applied. Nothing I wrote here suggests otherwise because there is no speech or expression at issue in this piece that seriously threatens anything other than hurt feelings.

    It’s also worthwhile to point out that enthusiastic support for public censorship (again, there needn’t be a boycott of some crazed website on the internet advocating terror attacks, because it is highly doubtful such a place is sustaining high profit due to traffic and, if it was, are you really doing anything about the nutjobs that would visit such a site by shutting it down?) of “websites advocating terror attacks,” if not carefully circumscribed, would almost inevitably result in too liberal application. Is it hard to imagine harsh critics of US foreign policy being branded as “supporters of terror attacks?” Not if you have any grasp on history it isn’t.

    “Also, you suggest that we “counter them with more (of the same type of)
    speech.” That presupposed that our opponents are engaging in a logical
    argument, and one in which logic will prevail.”

    It actually doesn’t presuppose that at all. Note that I am advocating the preservation of free speech through private commitment to it. That means that even when it is arguable inconvenient–i.e, you might not “win”–you still refrain from thug tactics. Call me naive if you wish, but I think true commitment to anything requires that you be willing to stand up for it even when others don’t, and even when doing so might be a disadvantage for you.

    I don’t have any illusions about humanity. The fact is that reason often does not prevail; nor is it even entertained much of the time. But I hold out for a better society than one in which democratic discourse is nothing more than warring boycott tit-for-tats, back and forth. I hope that the citizens of my country are more grown up than that. And I claim the right to make the case that they should be.

    “Limbaugh, while he may be unintentionally funny to a few of those
    liberals who can stomach him for more than 15 second sound bites, is
    clearly NOT intended to be humorous. He whips up hate and fear in his
    audience by any of a number of means: lies, misinformation,
    exaggeration, manipulation and others. Those seem to be the same
    tactics that Fox, Breitbart and other conservative sites use. Virtually
    identical with the christianist sites.”

    This is your opinion about Rush Limbaugh. Granted, it is one that I share. But there are a great many people who disagree. Many think he has interesting things to say. And you feel empowered to say to them: “too bad, you don’t get to listen to him anymore?” That’s a level of audacity that I cannot conjure. It doesn’t bother me that people like Rush Limbaugh are allowed to speak, especially when there are people who think he’s speaking the truth. I respect his right to speak and their right to listen because I desire the same right in kind. If one dies the other dies with it. So I prefer that they both live.

    I would support, as many intellectuals have in the past, the right of holocaust deniers to publish scholarship for example, despite that their efforts often meet heavy resistance. Surely, holocaust denial is a form of stupidity and a form of “hate.” But, as I wrote here, the moment I tolerate censorship of this kind of scholarship, of those ideas, however wrongheaded they may be, what is in store for the truth?

  45. David Delmar says:

    Well, what can I say to that? You’ve got a hell of a grip on something, I’m just not sure its something you want to be holding.

  46. 4th Turning says:

    Whew! Hard following R.C.’s comment. (Ricky, considering C.de Vaca is a common enough last
    name in the old country-almost as common as Smith-I think I can appreciate why you dropped the
    last part.)

    David. my friend, you missed an impt, point unless I overlooked it. Books. Recently the villagers
    here locally drug out their torches and pitchforks over objections to a modern literary classic being
    taught in a very small classroom setting for ag students. Of course, it generated predictable and
    overblown controversy as has always been the case for these periodic book-burning rallies.
    Upshod also hugely predictable: every kid in the entire school even backbench readers, plus their
    parents and a goodly number of ordinary citizens wound up reading this excellent novel.

  47. pricknick says:

    Oh hell no!
    Limpballs goes down. Figuratively and I’m told with little boys.

  48. Riccardo Cabeza says:

    David Delmar is a third rate child ignorant of the ways of the economic world. Junkie Lush Rimbaugh is a welfare grifting hate monger supported by corporate interests. The Invisible hand of the free market should of choked the life out of that ugly tub of shit decades ago.

    David has an excellent future as tax attorney at ClearChannel. This isn’t a free speech debate, it’s a showcase of corporate tax abuse that hastens the demise of America while promoting the hatred of the poor, minorities and women. Stupid, stupid fkucing child playing false equivalency. He must pretend to be a glibertarian to get laid, but he speak the language of a devout racist republican. Never, never point out that republicans are bigots, because that makes you the real racist.

  49. pappyvet says:

    Because it’s better to know where they are and what they’re up to

  50. NMRon says:

    Well fuck then, buy out Mordoch and run a 24/7 progressive network in all media venues. It’s awful hard to hear reason against the unending waterfall of fascist propaganda that is the US media.

  51. perljammer says:

    Well written, thoughtful piece, John. I agree with most of what you said here, but I doubt you’ll get much support from most of the regulars here. It’s easy to support the rights of those you find sympathetic, and people can always rationalize taking the easier route.

  52. phillip deem says:

    right on dude, yes, right on

  53. PeteWa says:

    Why not simply counter them with more speech?
    perhaps because even when that “more speech” is successful and popular it is more likely than not forced off the air, over and over again. in market after market. the “other side” does not play even remotely fair, to pretend that they do is to do yourself a massive disservice.

  54. Thom Allen says:

    “First, what speech or expression is and is not valuable, or useful, or
    articulate in any paritcular (sic) case is a subjective personal value
    judgment.” No, not necessarily a personal judgment. It may be a judgment made by the society or culture. The majority of us, as a society, agree that child pornographers should be punished. The websites selling child pornography are illegal and will be closed, owners tried. Even sites discussing child pornography from a prurient standpoint are illegal. That is the opinion of the majority of citizens, formalized legally. Of course, that feeds into the censorship question. This IS censorship. But is censorship in this case harmful? OR is it beneficial? So is there a necessary role for censorship? To move away from child pornography, wouldn’t we, as a society, want websites that advocate for terrorist attacks, and provide information on weapons design, banned? Isn’t that a good thing? Admittedly, censorship can be taken too far, but to reflexively say that all censorship is wrong, is naive.

    Also, you suggest that we “counter them with more (of the same type of) speech.” That presupposed that our opponents are engaging in a logical argument, and one in which logic will prevail. That’s hardly true for the majority of those who are of the conservative bent, at least the ones I’ve encountered in real life or on the web. They are not at all interested in objectively examining an argument. They are interested in being overwhelmingly loud, attacking both in an ad hominem fashion and by other means. Hardly using logic or any form of analysis. They don’t attempt to refute with facts. If they do offer “evidence” it is of the “Conservapedia” variety. So, your argument then becomes who can shout the loudest or who can get the most voices involved.

    Colbert is biting humor and presented as such. After all, the show is on Comedy Central. Limbaugh, while he may be unintentionally funny to a few of those liberals who can stomach him for more than 15 second sound bites, is clearly NOT intended to be humorous. He whips up hate and fear in his audience by any of a number of means: lies, misinformation, exaggeration, manipulation and others. Those seem to be the same tactics that Fox, Breitbart and other conservative sites use. Virtually identical with the christianist sites.

  55. Naja pallida says:

    I have trouble equating comedy, which has the intent of being humorous and absurd with people who go on the air with the explicit intend to offend and deceive. There is no equivalence between Stephen Colbert and Rush Limbaugh. You may not like the humor, or not get the humor, but Colbert’s segment wasn’t intended to be offensive except in the way satire often adds a touch of intentional bile. Limbaugh goes on the air specifically to offend people who don’t like him, and to rile up those people who do.

  56. Swami_Binkinanda says:

    Stupid is a product, though, with a huge marketing budget. Generating false equivalencies and using fallacious reasoning is a business on the American right because their larger political and economic program is harmful to the majority of people. You can’t execute that kind of massive swindle without some huge marketing push. Cigarettes? Doctors smoke ’em, can’t prove they cause cancer and copd, don’t let sissies and prudes push you around Camel male model/Marlboro man! Global Warming? Try global vacationing! Guns don’t kill people ever! Maybe only bad people!

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