Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the evil harpie of the airwaves, announced on the Larry King Show that she was leaving radio recently. I was surprised to find out that she was still on the air. At this point, hasn’t her audience been reduced to a select clique of Tea Party nutjobs and Right-Wing morons who confuse her abuse with “tough love”? Didn’t her television show fail because mainstream America ask themselves “Holy crap? How did this woman escape the damned asylum?”
Apparently “Dr. Laura” is quitting her radio show because she wants to “regain my First Amendment rights.” Apparently she hasn’t been able to exercise her First Amendment rights during the almost two decades she’s spent on her nationally syndicated radio show.
What happened to spur all this on? Schlessinger recently stepped in it again, proverbially speaking, when she used the N-word 11 times in five minutes during a call August 10 with an African-American caller who was seeking advice on how to deal with racist comments from her white husband’s friends and relatives. The conversation evolved into a discussion on whether it’s appropriate to ever use the word, with Schlessinger arguing it’s used on HBO and by black comedians.
So, with typical empathy, Schlessinger made the point that black people had no right to be offended by the use of the word as long black commedians are using it, and emphasized her point by using the word 11 times in five minutes.
“Black guys use it all the time,” she told the caller. “Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.”
When the caller said she was appalled by Schlessinger’s use of the N-word, the radio host demurred, “Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians. My dear, the point I am trying to make … [is that] we’ve got a black man as president and we’ve got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that’s hilarious.”
Their exchange heated up after that. When the caller said she couldn’t believe Schlessinger was “on the radio spewing out” the N-word, Schlessinger said she “didn’t spew out” the N-word and repeated, “n****r, n****r, n****r is what you hear on HBO.”
She then criticized the caller, saying, “Don’t take things out of context. Don’t NAACP me.”
Their conversation ended there. Schlessinger, with typical grace, offered an epilogue to her audience: “If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry outside of your race.”
The Internet dropped its collective jaw as Schlessinger’s rant went viral. The story spread through tweets and retweets, blog comments and Facebook status updates, igniting a national furor. The following day, Schlessinger offered up a half-assed apology on the air and on her website, saying “I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the N-word all the way out — more than one time. And that was wrong. I’ll say it again — that was wrong.”
But Schlessinger’s apologies didn’t last long. Within a few days she appeared on the Larry King Show, stating that she was leaving her radio show and that she felt her freedom of speech rights “have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don’t want to debate — they want to eliminate.”
“The reason is, I want to regain my First Amendment rights,” she said. “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.”
Schlessinger wants to be free of the people who use the kind of tactics that she and other Radical Right personalities use on a daily basis, calling for boycotts of Wal-Mart and other businesses that tolerate and support gays and lesbians in the workplace. It has to be a sore spot, since it was her controversial views and tactics that caused most of her sponsors to withdraw their support from her television show, leading to its cancellation. Since the incident with the N-word barrage, General Motors and Motel 6 have pulled their sponsorships from her radio program, leading the commentator, no-doubt, to having flashbacks. It wasn’t the first time Schlessinger offended masses of people: In 2000, she issued multiple mea culpas after referring to homosexuality as a “biological error” and criticizing gays for “deviant” behavior.
It’s unlikely a person as addicted to the media spotlight as Dr. Laura will go far. Schlessinger’s reach is sizeable: According to her Web site, “The Dr. Laura Program,” now in its 16th year of syndication, boasts 8.25 million weekly listeners in more than 40 countries on more than 250 radio stations. So is she really going to walk away? I doubt it. In true Right-Wing nutjob fashion, Schlessinger is trying to paint herself as the victim in the mess she created. That will be peddled on Fox News as admirable defiance.
“I decided it was time to move on to other venues where I could say my peace and not have to live in fear anymore,” she said.
“I’m not retiring. I’m not quitting,” she said. “I feel energized actually, stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country.”
Schlessinger, whose doctorate is in physiology (not in a discipline one would traditionally look to for expertise in moral, societal, or spiritual matters (such as divinity, psycholoy, or sociology) – like you might expect from someone who dispenses moral, societal and spiritual advice while calling herself “Dr. Laura”), is, if she is sincere, likely to slink away to the dark corners of the American psyche where she can dispense her rhetoric to like-minded supporters who aren’t going to be offended by her bizarre ramblings.
But I suspect that this is all sleight-of-hand. In a few months the furor will have died down after Americans have moved on to the next shiny object that occupies the collective consciousness. Schlessinger will remain on-air until her contract runs out in January, by which time mainstream America will be looking elsewhere and she can quietly change her mind. Until then she’ll likely make a lot of guest appearances on Fox News and Right-Wing talk shows, displaying her scars from the Culture War that she and others of the Radical Right started, whining about the persecution she had to endure at the hands of that invisible enemy, the Liberal elite controlled mainstream media.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger is like many of her Right-Wing compatriots. She can’t seem to grasp a few basic concepts. If someone disagrees with you, it does not mean that you’re being persecuted. If you call for boycotts of companies, you can’t then complain when your own is boycotted. If you spew hate all over the landscape, you can’t claim to be a victim when people come to hate you. And, lastly, Freedom of Speech does not mean freedom from responsibility.
We live in one of the greatest countries in the world. In the United States you are free to speak your mind without fear of being arrested by the government. That is the very essence of “freedom of speech”. But just because you are free to speak without fear of being arrested, that does not mean you have a right to say the N-word 11 times in five minutes while on-the-air and expect that there won’t be fall-out from that.
In the end, the American system of government worked exactly like it was supposed to. No government agents showed up at Laura Schlessinger’s door to arrest her for offending the often targeted Liberal elites. Instead, the very essence of unrestrained capitalism, that Ayn Rand ideal the Right-Wingers so cherish, is what brought Dr. Laura Schlessinger down. She destroyed the value of her brand name by attaching it to incendiary language. Corporate sponsors chose to remove their support rather than have their own brands tainted by her radioactivity. That’s just business.
Hopefully some day Dr. Laura Schlessinger will realize that the root of her problems is not some imaginary Liberal agenda or political correctness run amok. The root of her problem is her own big mouth. Hopefully one day she’ll be enough of an adult to heed her own often disdainfully offered advice, and accept the responsibilities of her actions.