Friday, August 20, 2010

Dr. Laura Jumps the Shark (Again, But This Time She Gets Eaten on Purpose)

Okay, this is puzzling.

So Dr. Laura spends 30 years insulting people on the radio and basically being just a nasty bigoted person. Then one day recently, a black woman calls and complains about some mildly racist things said by her white husband's friends. Dr. Laura responds by ranting about why it's okay for some people to use a certain word while it isn't okay for others to use it. Some people criticize Dr. Laura. (Nothing new here.) Dr. Laura then apologizes. (Definitely something new there.) Then Dr. Laura quits her show.

Wait. What? She quits her show? What the hell for?

It isn't like this is the first time she's pissed people off. She didn't quit then.

Frankly, I don't think that what she said was all that controversial, in the grand scheme of things and in relation to some of the other crap that's come out of her mouth. Certain black comics do use that particular word a lot. And the rules can be confusing. (Tip to Dr. L and everyone else: When in doubt, don't use it.) She was just basically an insensitive ass about it. Which is the norm for her. Even if her viewpoint has some validity, she still wasn't sensitive to other people's views of the word, regardless of how it's used by certain entertainers (and people in my neighborhood). And she particularly wasn't sensitive to her caller, who asked her to refrain before Dr. Laura used the word several more times.

But she did apologize. And her apology was startlingly coherent and (it seemed) sincere. I thought she'd just go back to being this horrible...person (I refrained from using another word that people find offensive here) on the radio with a niche audience and that would be that.

But she quit. Okay, fine. she quit. But here's the problem. Why did she quit, according to her? (Do you want to wait for it? No? Okay.) Her First Amendment rights are being violated.

Oy. Presumably this is what she was talking about. Not sure how it applies, but whatever.

Dr. Laura, this is an honest question for you. Did the government come in and tell you that you couldn't say what you said? Did they shut down your show? Did they threaten to? Because that's how your First Amendment rights get violated. Not by other people exercising those same rights to tell you that you're full of shit and a bunch of sponsors siding with them. You don't have a constitutional right to have a bunch of corporations pay you for being a bigot.

I don't think the First Amendment is the problem here. I think it's you. I think you were sick of doing your show and wanted a way out that could be used to paint other people as the problem. Sorry, no. I actually had a bit of sympathy for you for a few seconds there. You're welcome to go away now.


Mrs. Chili said...

I am astounded by how few people really understand the First Amendment. I teach it to every student I get, every year, and my lesson goes something like this:

*writes First (from memory) on board* Okay, you guys, what's this?


Finally, someone will make some stab at it - usually asking if it's from the Declaration - at which point I give them that it's the FA.

*Okay. What does it DO?

*Well, it says that we have freedom of speech.

*Yeah, but what does that mean?

They thrash around for a bit, not really sure WHAT it means. Finally, I do my English teacher thing;

*Okay; what's the SUBJECT of this sentence?

*Uhhhhh.... Congress?

*YES! Congress is the subject! What's the verb?

It takes them a while, but they finally get around to "make" - I have to give them the "shall" to complete the verb and make a mental note to go over helping verbs sometime soon.

*What's the direct object? What is Congress making?


*YES! The FA says that the GOVERNMENT can't put you in jail for saying something (and here we usually diverge into conversations about making threats and libel and slander, but they get the idea). It DOES NOT say that you can't get fired or kicked out of school or any other number of bad things because you said something stupid, m'kay?

Sorry that this is so long, but it happens in EVERY CLASS in which I teach the FA, and it astounds me that the experience is that consistent.

MAB said...

Yikes. I wish I were surprised.