Sunday, March 4, 2012

It's Not Censorship (Technically-Speaking), But It Still Stinks

This will be a rambling post.

In a sense, I can identify with the companies that have pulled their sponsorship from Rush Limbaugh's radio program. These companies support such values as civility and respect for people, and they do not feel that Rush practices those values. Consequently, they choose not to support Rush. I understand and I respect that.

But I myself have no intention of trying to get Rush kicked off the air. In fact, I'm getting sick of conservatives getting kicked off of programs, period. I think of Pat Buchanan being fired from MSNBC due to pressure from a left-wing group. In my opinion, we lose out when voices are silenced. And, while we may think that society would be better off if certain voices were simply not heard, I believe that those voices should be addressed and countered through debate, not silencing them. (I'm refraining from using the word "censorship" here because the government did not remove Pat Buchanan from MSNBC, and I define censorship as the government repressing freedom of speech.)

"But you're a right-winger, James." Well, I'm more middle-of-the-road nowadays, maybe even center-left. But let me say this: I'm not going to join right-wingers to get things kicked off the air, either! The conservative American Family Association has long liked to target sponsors to get certain programs kicked off. I have not joined them, for I happen to like the shows that the religious right dislikes (i.e., Desperate Housewives, Picket Fences, Brothers and Sisters, etc.). L. Brent Bozell (nephew of William F. Buckley, Jr.) has for years sought to remove Family Guy from television. I happen to like Family Guy. I think it's funny. It goes too far at times, but I'm not going to support getting it kicked off the air.

Another pet-peeve I have: When someone expresses an opinion, people act surprised and outraged that he has expressed that opinion. I have in mind Kirk Cameron's recent comments on homosexuality, which GLAAD has criticized. Look, criticize away, for this country is all about debate! But should we really be surprised that Kirk Cameron made those comments? He's a conservative Christian! Of course he feels that way! There are many people in the United States who still believe that way! I hope Kirk Cameron is not pressured to contrive some phony apology. People are still entitled to their opinion, even if that opinion is wrong and (in the eyes of some, such as GLAAD) outdated.

I tend to admire people----on both the Left and also the Right----who acknowledge and respect that there are people with different points-of-view, whether or not they agree with those viewpoints. Let's go a step further. I admire those who also try to understand why other points-of-view exist.


  1. At what point does it turn from free expression to outright bullying? Would you also respect the rights of schoolyard bullies to taunt their prey? After all, telling them to stop it is squelching their legitimate point of view, right? Should we just debate bullies until our superior intelligence causes them to slink away?

    Some people only understand "shut up or face the consequences", whatever the consequences may be. (in this case it's just loss of sponsors). And if that prevents harm, well, in certain cases anyway (this being one of them) I'm hard pressed to stand in peoples' way.

    I guess the only real point of contention in my view anyway, is what is the definition of harm? Some think it's offending people (I don't think the line is drawn there). Some people think it's inciting bodily harm or destruction of property (definitely over the line). I think that intentionally slandering someone to make a point is right on that line, and I think in this case Rush crossed it.

  2. Hi Russell. I'm against slander, also. As far as I know, that's against the law. And I think that it's good that slander is against the law.

    I don't think what Rush did is entirely the same as bullies in the schoolyard. A person can turn Rush off. Or, in Sandra Fluke's case, a lot of people rallied to her cause and criticized Rush. But I'd have a hard time avoiding bullies.

    In a lot of my posts, I explore different views, or I at least try to do so. But I got to the point where I was tired of seeing boycotts to get people kicked off of the air, so I tended to stick with that point-of-view in this post.

    Does that mean I'm totally happy with how things are? No. I think Rush's divisiveness polarizes the political process and sets people more against each other. I'm concerned that many of Rush's fans just listen to Rush and do not try to understand other points-of-view----even though he did not convey what Sandra Fluke was saying with complete accuracy. I would like for there to be consequences for rudeness, and I respect the right of sponsors to pull their support from Rush, in accordance with their beliefs. But kicking him off the air? I have issues with that. What consequences I'd recommend instead, I don't know.

  3. Hi James,

    What do you reckon of the ins and outs of this incident, from 2007-8?

    A woman (who would seem to be Anna Ardin, who is one of the women who Julian Assange is supposed to have harrassed) employed by Uppsala university to lecture staff on gender harrassment issues, was giving a lecture to the geosciences department, and while giving it, a man was intermittently reading a manuscript. After the lecture, the man talked with a friend about the lecturer's clothing. This got back to the lecturer, according to whom this is an example of sexual harassment in order to ridicule and objectify. She contacted the complaint's department to report harrassment by the man, but she wasn't making the complaint official. The man got to know, and rang her up to explain what he'd been doing, but got nowhere with her. The university decided to take the matter to an official investigation. The lecturer submitted that the man had applied Master Suppression Techniques to denigrate her. When he had been reading in her lecture, she said that was a technique called 'invisibility', where the victim is made out to be of no importance. When he rang her up, that was the technique of 'guilt and shame', where the victim is made out to have brought things on herself. The man was found by the university to have indeed harrassed the woman on grounds of gender. That is how the incident is reported on many blogs on Internet, people making out that it was gross to discipline the man for allegedly using alleged Master Suppression Techniques, usually setting it in the context of how Sweden has gone crazy over political correctness, and how the charges against Assange are trumped up.

    The judgement itself goes as: The man had a witness who said that in the seminar the man had attended and had taken part in discussions, even if at times he had browsed in the manuscript, which the man said he was reading because he had to shortly give his opinion on it. And the comments on clothing afterwards - the lecturer having actually been showing her midriff - submitted by the man, concerned wondering if X's attire was a way to provoke the audience, also submitting he felt there was a paradox of the attire being contradictory to messages in the lectures. When he rang her up he wanted to explain that. (Someone, probably not the lecturer - names are blanked out in my copy of the university's official judgement, submitted that it was said in relation to her credibility as a lecturer. Someone else submitted they had noted the lecturer's clothing but did not feel it differed from the unspoken dress code of the institution. One Internet blog says the man thought she was inappropriately dressed for the occasion, wearing a lacy top showing her midriff, and it was hypocritical.). It looks like he was disciplined not for using Master Suppression Techniques, but because of the comments on dress. The rules for the university were quoted in the judgement:

    Uppsala University's "Action against violation on the basis of sex - sexual harassment" UFV 2004/1516 gives the following as an example of violations based on gender:

    unwelcome comments about appearance

    The lecturer was said in the judgement to have behaved appropriately at all times.

    Maybe nobody comes out innocent from this, but perhaps the real culprit is the excesses caused by the battle over expression and suppression of opinion.

  4. Hi Davey! I'm not sure what to say about that. I'm against making people feel uncomfortable. But I also think that, if sexual harassment policies punish a man for complimenting a woman's appearance or for asking her out on a date, then they're going too far. There should be policies, but they should be reasonable.

  5. In California:

    To prevail in a sexual harassment claim, the plaintiff must prove that the sexual harassment was severe or pervasive enough to alter working conditions and to create an abusive environment. A plaintiff must show that a reasonable person would have considered the conduct severe or pervasive.

    In Australia:

    In May 2011 the Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Act 2011 was passed expanding the protections against sexual harassment.
    The amendments:
    redefined sexual harassment to cover that a reasonable person would anticipate the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct.

    Meaning of sexual harassment
    (1) For the purposes of this Division, a person sexually harasses another person (the person harassed) if:
    (a) the person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed; or
    (b) engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed;
    in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
    (1A) For the purposes of subsection (1), the circumstances to be taken into account include, but are not limited to, the following:
    (a) the sex, age, marital status, sexual preference, religious belief, race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, of the person harassed;
    (b) the relationship between the person harassed and the person who made the advance or request or who engaged in the conduct;
    (c) any disability of the person harassed;
    (d) any other relevant circumstance.

    Surely, California is more like, and Australia is on a rocky road! What, it's enough "to anticipate the possibility that someone would be offended"! What if this were extended to all areas of speech and behaviour?


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