Terrance Heath

Farewell, "Dr. Laura"

Filed By Terrance Heath | August 20, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: conservatism, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, First Amendment, free speech, radio, talk radio

Farewell, "Dr." Laura. Alas, we knew you far too well.

Actually, there is just one thing before you go.

It's this bit about the First Amendment.

On Larry King Live last night, Schlessinger pretended that this was in fact a good thing for her. "I feel energized actually -- stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country," she said. The things that need to be said include, apparently, telling a black woman (who called into the show because she was concerned about her husband's friends' racism) that she had "too much sensitivity," while repeating the N-word 11 times.

"I want to regain my First Amendment rights," Dr. Laura declared. On the subject of freedom of speech, which includes the right to say stupid things, she continued: "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."

Here's the thing. You want to say what's on your mind? When have you not said what's on your mind, in 30 years? You never lost your First Amendment rights. Otherwise, how would you have been on the air for 30 years? And you didn't lose them this last time around either.

This isn't about freedom of speech. It's about what it's always about when a conservative says something that gets an angry response, and maybe sparks a boycott or two. You don't want freedom of speech. You want the freedom to speak without consequences.

The problem is, freedom of speech works both ways. You can say what you want, and if people don't like it, they can use their freedom of speech to respond. Loudly. Now, if you're just sounding off to anyone who happens to be within earshot, that's probably not going to be a big deal. But if you're spouting off on a syndicated, sponsor-supported radio or television show, well, that's a whole different situation.

Now, you have a platform, supported by sponsors whose money comes from people buying the products they pay to advertise on your show. As a consumer, if I hear something on your show that offends me deeply enough, and then right afterward I hear a commercial for a company whose products I regularly purchase, I am likely to call them and ask, "Hey, what's the deal with you advertising on Dr. Laura's show? Do you know what she just said on the air? Do you support that?" I might threaten to stop buying their products if they continue advertising.

I am actually well within my First Amendment rights in doing so. So the thousands of others who might do the same. We're all within our first amendment rights. And if we organized to convince even more people to do the same, we would still be well within our First Amendment rights.

And, guess what. We still will not have infringed on your First Amendment rights.

But the First Amendment doesn't guarantee that speaking your mind will have no economic consequences. Proclaiming that those without thick skins probably shouldn't marry outside their race is always going to be, let us say, commercially risky if you're aiming for a broad audience -- or if your sponsors are. General Motors and Motel 6 both reportedly pulled their sponsorship over the flap, prior to Schlessinger's decision to leave her show. But whether that's the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do, it doesn't implicate the government; it implicates the profit motive.

In fact, the organization of a boycott is itself the exercise of First Amendment rights -- GLAAD, or the American Family Association, or Sarah Palin, or Laura Schlessinger, anyone can publicly advocate for an end to the economic support of someone else's speech. If you want, you can boycott them back -- "Okay, if GLAAD is boycotting Laura Schlessinger, then I'm boycotting anybody who donates to GLAAD." It becomes reductive and unhelpful at some point, and it may or may not be justified, and one side or the other may be substantively right or wrong -- but all of it, from every angle and every political position, is consistent with the idea of free expression.

Because the "free" in that concept means "free from government interference," not "free from consequences."

If what you want is freedom from having to worry about sponsors and boycotts, knock yourself out. You can probably afford to set up your own web presence with minimal reliance on sponsors (and far lower production costs). Get yourself a webcam and a YouTube account and knock yourself out. (I'd say be prepared for comments, but you'll probably turn them off, which -- by the way -- would not violate anyone else's freedom of speech.) Many of us have been doing it for years.

You have the right to freedom of speech, just like the rest of us. You always have. But none of us have the inalienable "right" to a radio or television show, or the right to have someone else provide us a platform for our speech. And none of us have even a reasonable expectation of speaking our minds without a response, or opposition, from someone else.

Oh, and one more thing. If you've decided drop your radio show, fine. But don't blame the rest of us for it. Take some personal responsibility.

Because you did this to yourself.

That is, you and your freedom of speech.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Good old Dr. Larua, fake therapist and media whore. Oh, well, now we have Dr. Phil (fake therapist and media whore) to fill the void.

Good riddance to this intolerant woman.

I do find it a bit ironic that Laura (I can't call her Dr. Laura since she's not what she presents herself to be) is now tying to make the issue one of free speech. In hearing the conversation on the radio about the N-word, she angrily cut her guest off and said, "Are you going to let me speak? Don't interrupt me." None of her callers ever had any freedom to speak; she always talked-over them or interrupted them. There was never a dialog, it was always a Laura rant about something. She has so easily fallen into victim role, one she would never tolerate in her callers.

I am a psychiatrist and I could never listen to her for more than a minute or two, and whenever I did listen, it was always by accident. Although she portrayed herself as a counselor, she had no training for it. I agree that Dr. Phil is the same.

I have never understood why some people call this entertainment. And isn't that the real problem? If there were no audience, there would be no "Doctor" Laura, "Doctor Phil," Glen Beck, Ann Coulter. We apparently love it when they gore a group that we don't consider ourselves a part of but only get upset when it is our group that is attacked.

Good point on how she silenced that caller and often silenced other callers - freedom of speech for me but not for thee. She was a bully and other people bullied/fought back (not everyone's actions were pure). It's a mess of a situation, but, really, she was part of a media decision to shock people into listening (who knows what crazy and mean thing this lady will say next!), and she shocked too much for people's tastes.

Sorry, Terrance Heath, I don't listen to DR LAURA (in caps like spitting)never have and only heard about the woman (shrew)from a segment of "Everybody Loves Raymond". So with that said how about a blog here at Bilerico that would of itself devote time to announcing the advertisers of anyone that we might find offensive to our causes. I would certainly boycott those advertisers if I knew why I needed to boycott them. Just as I continue to boycott the news anchor Tom Allen of KVAL in Eugene, Oregon for announcing on his news segment, as the anchor, which revealed that he had personally contacted Defense of Marriage for their take on the Gay Pride Celebration in our city and for making a rude comment on the Trans Mayor of Silverton, Oregon, laughing with a snicker from the second in command there, on the same show. The boycott started and continues from 15 August 2009. It included a complaint to the Station Manager, three other members of their news team as well as anyone that I knew in our city who missed seeing his show. Take that First Amendment rights to the bank. danfrommherz at hotmail dot com.

...And don't let the door hit you in the ass.

Wait, who arrested Dr. Laura for speaking? Oh no one? Why is she bringing it up? Because her sponsors pulled and now she's left with a power bill? Wow, maybe she needs to sign up for a "poor me radio bailout". Wait, she's not for that? Ok.