Maybe it’s a good-luck day for you. Our plumbing repairs have held, so . . . hooray!
*I forgot to say that what prompted me to DO this entry was seeing A FACE IN THE CROWD on TCM. The film stars Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal (and a young Walter Matthau–who knew HE was ever YOUNG?!) and tells a story that is exactly like the Imus story in a way, or that can be read as the rise and fall of any pundit/politician. If you haven’t seen it, seek it out. It’s worth your time, even if you think that some of the stuff that got Andy Griffith’s character into the limelight (the Cracker Barrel, the country-boy stuff, etc.) is corny (of course it is–but the masses have always gone for bread and circuses.)*
Several people have correctly pointed out that the right to free speech doesn’t include the right to say what you want on someone else’s television station or in someone else’s print forum such as a newspaper or the comments thread to a weblog.
I agree that it’s fine for a network to say, “We will not have the following words or insults said on our dime, and we’ll bleep it and/or remove you from the air.” (Of course, they didn’t care a whit until someone made a stink, but let’s forget that for a moment.) I agree that I can and should control what goes out on my forum; we used to talk about that often on FidoNet and CompuServe, where people would say that we had to let them post about this or that on such and such a forum because of free speech, and we’d point out that it was our domain and we were limiting the topic. This is not the problem.
I agree that it’s fine for NBC and CBS to decide that ANY of their entertainers/hosts is no longer an asset and fire him/her. No objection here–that’s the way the cookie crumbles. (And I see you trying to sneak those crumbs under the rug!)
I agree that it’s fine for activists or special interest groups or church members to tell advertisers that they will not buy the advertisers’ products while they sponsor X, and if the sponsors soon withdraw their ads from X, that’s fair play also. That’s not the problem.
My problem is still with “who can say what” and with applying the same standards to everybody. First, I don’t think that we should set any precedent for “officially” limiting freedom of speech, as the next thing that’ll happen will be a further limitation–and so on through all the mirrors. (It’s turtles all the way down.) We may not mind at first, because it’ll be stuff like this, getting rid of annoying shock jocks and total jack*sses who just spout off. But eventually the waveform will get to us and say that we can’t speak out when we think the government is making a mistake, and then we’re lost. If people can point at precedents for what they’re doing, they can justify going another step.
And as for applying the same standards across the board, if they’re going to do it, then they’ve got a problem. They now need to go get all the other bad talk off the air, including putdowns of fat people and the Irish or whatever. Comedy does not have to sink to insult to be funny. That’s low humor at best. Get it off the airwaves, and I won’t object at all. But don’t make it ILLEGAL and don’t cave in so easily at the first sign of someone getting upset, as you can’t very well even talk without offending SOMEbody now. Oh, and I hope you don’t like Borat, because he’ll have to be taken off the air. He says politically incorrect stuff all the time, and he humiliates and embarrasses the people who are trying to be nice to him, so that’s got to be stopped.
You can see where this is going. Or where it could go. It would take a while to start infringing on all political speech, but perhaps not as long as we think. The next step is “you can’t say that on the street corner” or “you can’t say that in public,” and that is the dangerous step. So that’s why I warn that we need to stay aware of what we’re doing when we say, “You can’t SAY that . . . anywhere!”
And while I still can: dingleberries! Poop! Mud!
Talkin’ dirty here. While we still can.