As a writer and as a librarian, issues of censorship really push my buttons. As a writer, I want, nay need, to be able to say what I want to say in the manner I wish to say it. As a librarian, I value the need for people to read or experience media of any type and in the manner they wish to do so. For me these needs are fundamental to a civilized society.
That being said, I always hesitate to comment on “political” matters, both in my writing and in my personal life. I love observing debates from a distance while forming my own conclusions and tend not to engage. It’s hard because politics, especially those of a partisan variety, seem to encroach into every aspect of life these days. I fear we’ve gotten to the point that my choice of frozen yogurt over ice cream is indicative of my political leanings. However, in this case, my concerns over censorship and its attendant issues is overriding my usual reticence to engage.
This week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced that she is ending her long-running radio show in order to “regain my first amendment rights“. After a five-minute long rant in which the infamous “N-word” was used over fifteen times, she has apparently taken a great deal of flak from people and organizations that were offended. She further said that:
“I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.”
I’ve never been a fan of Dr. Laura and have only heard sound bites from her radio show on the occasions when her commentary caused a kerfluffle (such as now). However, if a governmental entity such as the FCC or the city from which she broadcasts had shut down her show over her statements, I’d be in her corner. I don’t agree with much she has to say and feel she misses the point on a lot of issues (including the subject of her most recent rant), but she has a right to express her opinion. That’s what the first amendment is all about: we all have the right to be blowhards on our pet subjects.
That’s not what’s happening here. By her own statements, she essentially wants to say what she thinks without being criticized or without people acting on that criticism. This isn’t a matter of censorship; it’s a matter of consequences.
The day following the rant she issued an apology for it, acknowledging that the means by which she tried to deliver her point served no one well. However, she apparently also believes that this apology should end the criticism. It hasn’t. And this shouldn’t be surprising at all. Whether or not the criticisms of her statements are valid or not, they are the consequence of her speech. That’s part of the deal.
The good doctor ended her infamous rant with the following epilogue: “If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry outside of your race.” I would advise Dr. Schlessinger that if you’re that hypersensitive about criticism and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t host a controversial radio show.
Apparently she came to the same conclusion.