Why Do Liberals Censor?

As I go through the Spring cleaning process of removing cobwebs from my mind I find from time to time the need to question my own tribe, the political liberal. One phenomenon I have noticed is the liberal’s need to censor speech he finds offensive. I got a dose of this first hand about a year ago when I visited a liberal blog, expressed a sentiment slightly off the “talking points” and found myself ridiculed and worse, discovered some of my comments edited.  But let’s not make this about me. Let’s look at a famous recent case.

Rush Limbaugh referred to Sandra Fluke, a congressional committee witness, as a slut. He was making an absurd point about her birth control testimony. It was crude and offensive. He eventually offered an apology of sorts. But what ensued after his original statement seems typical of the left. Petitions went out immediately to urge sponsors to drop his show. The goal no doubt was to either shut him up or put him off the air. Now I personally have no use for Rush Limbaugh but the far more effective strategy in my book is to argue with him. Go head to head with him. Write about his foolishness so it gets the disinfectant of media attention. But why the need to fire him? Why the need to silence him? Groups like change.org and Daily Kos spend a good amount of time trying to financially punish people with whom they disagree. Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against boycotts to encourage proper corporate behavior but to curtail free speech? To me that’s a bit much.

Contrast this with the conservative reaction to conservative commentator S.E. Cupp’s being defamed in Hustler magazine. Cupp was photo-shopped to appear as though she were fellating a disembodied penis. Accompanying the fake picture was Hustler’s political “justification” for creating it. I have not read a single article about conservatives calling for the firing of Larry Flynt or the termination of his magazine. Despite the incredibly vulgar attack against Cupp, the most I have seen conservatives do is yell loud and clear about the liberal (and feminist) double standard that keeps them from repudiating this kind of attack when a conservative is the victim.

Another example, actually the one that moved me to write this piece, occurred in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In an April article, writer Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote about the topics of Black Studies theses at certain universities. Her piece was titled “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.” She found a bunch of dissertations that she considered liberal “claptrap”. She has a right to her opinion. After being attacked for the piece, she wrote a follow-up, not apologizing but defending her original article. At that point, she was summarily fired and the Chronicle issued this apology:

When we published Naomi Schaefer Riley’s blog posting on Brainstorm last week (“The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations”), several thousand of you spoke out in outrage and disappointment that The Chronicle had published an article that did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us.

We’ve heard you, and we have taken to heart what you said.

We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.

So, all it takes is several thousand whining liberals to break this magazine’s backbone and throw their employee under the bus? The Chronicle knew what they were getting when they hired Riley. What the heck does “fairness in opinion articles” mean? When is opinion ever  “fair”? Opinion is by definition biased. But Riley violated the critical liberal law of “don’t criticize black people”. And so she was canned. As an aside, Riley is married to a black man.

If conservatives, on the other hand tried to silence vitriolic rhetoric from the left, Keith Olbermann’s career would have been ended by conservatives and not by …. Keith Olbermann. Ed Schulz who called Laura Ingraham a slut would have been fired long ago. (He was admonished and he did apologize but I doubt it was from any boycott campaign by conservatives.)

Bottom line, to me conservatives tend to fight fire with fire while liberals fight fire with “get him fired.”


Art by Ian Marsden from Montpellier (Rush Limbaugh by Ian Marsden) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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