When free speech is too free

The other day a Democratic congressman accused President Bush of being amused by the death of U.S. troops. One right-wing talk-show host suggested women should never have been allowed to vote. Another condemned as phony soldiers Iraq war veterans who are critical of it. Exposure to the vitriol of American politics these days is like too much radiation. It takes a while but the cumulative buildup ultimately gets you.

I was struck by this recently when I inadvertently tuned in one of those ubiquitous radio ranters, most of whom would turn the nation’s clock back to at least the mid-19th century. Only America affords a commercial platform for the most preposterous propositions propounded by someone obviously loving the sound of his own voice. The inanity of it was mesmerizing.

What made it even more amazing was that the station to which I was listening was owned and operated by one of America’s great liberal publications and that it was giving voice to ideas that it would no more think of supporting on its editorial pages than endorsing a Republican for president. In the interest of not being the object of one of this nationally syndicated “commentator’s” diatribes should he perchance read this, my inclination is to withhold his name. But I’m not going to do that, particularly because there may be a dozen or more like him on radio and I don’t want to indict them in this instance.

The person to whom I refer is one Neal Boortz, whose monologues and conversations with callers range from sublimely ridiculous to just plain silly.

As a demonstration of the disconnect between his brain and his mouth, Boortz spent the 20 minutes I listened to him trying to legitimize as economic science a study that links the growth of government and spiraling expenditures in this country, and the world over, to female voters. Beneath his “this is just plain science” statements, of course, was the not-too-subtle suggestion that women’s suffrage was a bad idea and beneath that was his implication that to vote for a woman for president would be to invite disaster, particularly if she is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Boortz, in his 60s and presumably born of a woman, is old enough to understand the implications of allowing one’s alligator mouth to overload his circuits. If he had made the issue women of color and not just women generally, he would be off the air, probably permanently. He is at least smart enough not to do that.

Then there is Rush Limbaugh, whose rich baritone pervades the midday airwaves from coast to coast. Limbaugh’s latest attempt to satisfy his addiction to irrational knee-jerking and to the cadre of those who hang on his every word and smother him with fatuous compliments has libeled a great chunk of America’s Iraq veterans by contending they are really not soldiers if they now question the war in Iraq. This has produced an angry letter from Senate Democrats who believe the bellicose Limbaugh has finally crossed the line.

But it is necessary to remind the Democrats that this is America and that only those foolish enough to broach the subject of race or yell fire in a crowded theater are likely to pay for their temerity. So Limbaugh and Boortz and the like are here to stay and most of us would defend to the death their right to say what they please no matter how in bad taste or hypocritical. The only cure for their poison is not to listen.

As for the Democrats, they should also remember that their boots are as muddy as everyone else’s.

Rep. Pete Stark, a San Francisco Democrat and unreconstructed big mouth, just slandered the president of the United States in the most horrific maliciously unwarranted manner without general condemnation from his own party. He said Republicans were too busy diverting money from causes like child health care to the war in Iraq so that American soldiers could get their heads blown off for the amusement of Bush. His disturbing remarks make Stark — whose reputation as a provocateur is exceeded only by his penchant for nastiness — a candidate for the Congressional Incivility Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, all the intemperate language and false pronouncements offered as intelligent discourse have dropped the political debate to its lowest level in modern history. One yearns for the days when arguments could be passionate without the slanderous vilification of those who might disagree.


  1. bryan mcclellan

    Bush never finished nor was successful at anything he’s ever attempted.Failure at the cost of others is his only legacy.There has always been a way out for this clown whether it be through manipulation of the law,the media, or his daddies buddies.He knows he won’t be held accountable, and therefore, knowing his maniacal nature we can be assured he is laughing his ass off at all of us.He raised not a finger to stop the RNC,fake news,rush,,the swiftboat liars,etc.etc, from slandering every foe he has ever encountered on this rise to his dictatorship.Mr.Stark ladled up a goodly portion of smirks own shit for the world to see, and I for one would like to see him forced to eat it!

  2. barak

    I do agree with Bryan’s comment, but rather than take this opportunity to join a slander Bush campaign (which I readily endorse), I think the most criminal of Bush’s acts is the destruction of our right to privacy and to freedom of speech without fear of retribution. In this action I must state that I feel all of our Senators and Representatives as well as the 9 justices on the Supreme Court are equally guilty. No president, even such a maniacal despot like GW Bush, can destroy the Constitution without the aid and abetting of Congress and the illustrious Supreme Court.
    We should all be marching in the streets by now like the people of Myanmar did. Let’s see what they do with 100,000 protesters in cities across the nation. They can’t arrest us all, and WE can impeach them all.
    Let’s stand up for our rights now, before we don’t have even the right to stand up.

  3. fritzer

    In your article you stated, “The only cure for their poison is not to listen.”

    I believe there is also another cure…and that is to NEVER again buy a product you hear advertised on Limbaugh’s program. This is what I do.

    No sponsor – no show.

  4. SEAL

    Any statement that is accurate and the truth is not slander. Mr. Stark’s comment was not slander. In fact, it was a perfect description.

    I wish I had said it.

  5. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    That’s very disapointing that Stark apologised.

    Remember when Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy to “Go f*ck yourself”.

    As far as I know Cheney never apologised ever to Leahy, I in fact remember Cheney gloated about it in interviews
    in the following week.

    No Neo-Con scum would ever apologise.

    Just when I thought I could have one honest, open, un-abridged infusion of no punches pulled criticism of Chimp then Mr. Stark lost his nerve.

    Yep Kent, the Democrappers have whole walk-in closets of double Pantie Waisted Garments to throw on to themselves at the merest hint of Neo-Con anger.

  6. Gerald Sutliff

    Dear Dan,
    You wrote “Rep. Pete Stark, a San Francisco Democrat and unreconstructed big mouth, just slandered the president of the United States in the most horrific maliciously unwarranted manner without general condemnation from his own party.”Please be advised that Rep. Stark is not a San Francisco Democrat but a Northern California Democrat. (Admittedly not a major distinction.)

    But I can’t help wondering why GWB sent our soldiers into harm’s way (at least in Iraq). Certainly there was no rational reason; therefore “his own amusement…” is as good a reason as any. Does that make Stark’s comment slander? Not in my dictionary.

    “Getting their heads blown off…” was a little graphic but honest.

    By saying what he did he gave the war supporters something to carp about. That’s their favorite tactic.

  7. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    One thing for certain is when George W. Chimp was governor of Texas he bragged about being the most killingest governor in America. Bush even laughed when he heard a converted Christian woman on Death Row was executed. This woman had sent Chimp personal letters to Bush to give her clemency, and yet he, as a christian himself (or so he claims), guffawed upon learning of her death.

    Bush may not be laughing at the deaths of our soldiers in Iraq but he certainly doesn’t give a Rats Ass about them as his contact with Cindy Sheehan demonstrated.

    I remember quite some time ago when a small group of mothers who lost sons in Iraq had met with Bush, including Sheehan; Chimp did not know the name of Sheehan’s son, Casey, even after Sheehan told Shrub the name of her son, Shrub continually did not acknowledge his name, and didn’t bother to find out Cindy’s name, continually calling her ‘mom’.

    It’s too bad that Stark apologised but he has been so good in opposing the war I won’t hold this against him, but I am disapointed regardless that he did apologise.

  8. JudyB

    I disagree that Bush is amused by the deaths occuring amoung our troops..I don’t think he pays anywhere near that much attention to their deaths and injuries!