Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dr. Laura and the First Amendment

My friend Joelle has been writing some good commentary over at her blog about the recent outcry over Dr. Laura's use of the "N" word on her program recently.  She went on a rant, but then later apologized.  She also read a letter from a fan about how she's not a racist, but was trying to make a point. 


Today, she quit her show.  She says she quit her show because "she wants her first amendment rights back."  You know, the right to say anything she wants (she still has that right) AND not be criticized for it. 

In other words, she wants first amendment rights, but she wants to make sure the people who disagree with her don't have them.

I've never been able to figure out some people's pouting when they are criticized for something they have said, that "they don't have first amendment rights."  The first amendment gives you the right to say what you want, no matter how stupid or thoughtless it might be.  It doesn't mean that other people don't have the right to disagree with you publicly (a nice way of saying "criticize".) 

In fact, I might venture a guess that part of the point of the first amendment is not just for individuals to have the right to free speech.  The point of the first amendment might also be a robust conversation about competing ideas, a "marketplace of ideas" where people talk, or write, and other people get to decide:  was that a compelling argument?  Or just stupid? 

If you censor yourself because you don't want to have to respond to people who disagree with you (and might even have good arguments),  you are censoring yourself.  Of course, you have the right to do that.  But don't say that your first amendment rights are taken away.  Just admit that you really can't defend yourself, except in the community of the like-minded. 

Freedom of speech:  if it's a good idea for you, then it's a good idea for other people, too.


Pastor Joelle said...

Good take on this whole brew ha ha.

Mompriest said...

Coming from our recent conversation on Words Matter, where the "n" word was used in a story and brought up many "ouch's" this entire subject is fresh in my awareness. Because of the horrible, abusive, cruel, CRUEL way this word has been used by white people toward black people - those who are white can refer to the "n" word but we cannot, and should not, out of respect and regard for the cruelity of how that word has been used, actually ever use it. So what if we have a first ammendment right to use it, we also have a call to compassion and integrity and to respect the dignity of others. Dr. Laura seems to have set aside her compassion and respect for the dignity of others in place of her own right to say what ever she pleases. One more reason why I have never listened to her....

altar ego said...

These days I am weighing the wisdom of engaging a couple of people in my congregation on the subject of Islam. One is rabid in his certainty that all Muslims are terrorists, and he has shouted at me with vitriol that I am wrong if I attempt to step in to offer a different point of view. What The Pastor Says isn't exactly what your post is about, but it touches on this issue for me, which sits on the surface of my days.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I think that her use of the N word was bad, but even worse, was her disregard for the feelings of the caller and the caller's legitimate question. I don't listen to Dr. Laura's show, but I've read the transcript of this encounter. It is hard to understand how someone who is supposed to be schooled in helping people could be so disrespectful and uncaring. Or maybe that is her schtick. Like the insensitive talkers that tend toward the right wing.???

Which brings me to another point: My son would listen to some of the black rappers on TV. They often had words, facial expressions, and hand gestures that were disrespectful of the viewers, including using the N word. I asked my son, "why do you want to listen to something so disrespectful?" But that is where he learned the N word, it is wasn't used in humor.

Lauralew said...

People forget that First Amendment rights are meant to keep you from being arrested by the Government if you criticize it. It is not meant to shield you from any consequences arising from what you say.

I've never been a Dr. Laura fan. She's always been pretty mean.