Call off the attacks

Instead of trying to muzzle others, try acting more civil

Under other circumstances, Gloria Allred would probably find it patronizing and condescending toward women – the fact that an antiquated Florida law makes it a crime to question a woman’s chastity.

But in this case, the celebrity lawyer wants to use the hopelessly out-of-date and unconstitutional statute as a bludgeon to punish and perhaps silence conservative talker Rush Limbaugh.

Allred knows, or should know, that the state law is highly questionable constitutionally. She also knows, or should know, that Limbaugh’s ill-considered opinion that a Georgetown University contraception activist was a slut or prostitute – since apologized for – was commentary protected by the First Amendment.

She also knows, or should know, that what Limbaugh said, however shameful, pales in comparison to what liberal commentator Bill Maher and comedian Louis C.K. have said about Sarah Palin.

Since folks such as Allred and fellow liberals Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem – the latter two of which want Limbaugh silenced – have now made this a First Amendment issue, you should know what Louis C.K. said about Palin’s reproductive anatomy – that it is a “(bleeping) retard-making ----,” using a profanity for “woman” that is so vile we won’t even feed you the first letter.

So how does Limbaugh’s speech rate so much more dire consequences? Because it comes from a certain political perspective that the cool kids in the mainstream media don’t agree with.

So they want it silenced.

They want advertisers to do it, or radio networks or the Federal Communications Commission or the Palm Beach, Fla., prosecutor’s office. They’re trying it all.

Any educated citizen, much less an attorney, should know that can’t be allowed to happen under the First Amendment.

“I despise Rush Limbaugh,” First Amendment lawyer Marc J. Randazza writes at CNN.com, in an article headlined, “It’s un-American to silence Limbaugh.”

“I despise almost everything I have ever heard him say. I wish that he were no longer on the air. That is why I write today to defend him against those who call for him to be silenced.

“Far too frequently, Americans find offense in another’s art, music or other expression, and then they call for censorship. This is intolerable.”

Good for him.

How dangerous for the republic to have people such as Allred, Fonda and Steinem seeking to silence speech they find offensive.

Here’s a thought: Instead of trying to silence each other, why don’t we first stop attacking each other?

Limbaugh and others conservatives ought to lead the way and set a more civil standard.

It’s a quaint notion these days, certainly. But it’s also true: One need not demonize a political or cultural opponent in order to disagree with him or her.

Limbaugh was guilty of doing that. So are people on the other end of the political spectrum.

We needn’t try to silence each other. Rather, let’s just have it out in the marketplace of ideas and let viewers and listeners and readers decide for themselves who is right.

Limbaugh’s incivility was punished, swiftly and surely. He lost advertisers, and likely a few listeners, and felt obliged to apologize. What if other cases of rank incivility were met with similar repercussions – regardless of one’s political persuasion?

Instead, in some cases the incivility gets rewarded. Louis C.K., until the Limbaugh incident brought attention to his obscene hatred, was scheduled to be the headliner at the Radio & TV Correspondents’ Association dinner. He withdrew after a call by Fox talker Greta Van Susteren to boycott the dinner.

This free speech thing is hard. It’s a whole lot harder when we act like children.

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