It’s always been in my mind that this blog should not be restricted to tarot or writing. I know that blogs are often a particular profile but there is also the idea of it being someone’s interests and experiences. But still–I’ve tended to steer away from politics, just because, well, it’s politics. The one time I posted a comment on Facebook I had to deal with someone ranting at me, and then angrily withdrawing because I asked him to stop.
So why now? Well, it’s because I’ve been thinking about the uproar around Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke, and even more, the absurd attempts to claim that Bill Maher did the same thing by saying something nasty about Sarah Palin. And then a New York Times columnist, Stanley Fish, who apparently is a philosopher, did a column about double standards. In it he said,
“Some left-wing commentators have argued that there is a principled way of slamming Limbaugh while letting the other two off the hook, because he went after a private citizen while they were defaming public figures. Won’t wash.”
This dismissal–from someone making a pretense of reasoned argument– annoyed me so much that I wrote a comment for the Times. And since I had already written it, I decided to share it here (mainly, I suppose, because no one will ever read it on the Times site! There were already over 200 comments posted).
Here is what I wrote (slightly longer than the Times comment, which had to be edited to fit a length restriction):
You comment that the distinction between slamming a public figure and a private citizen “won’t wash.” Sorry, that’s not an argument, it’s a proclamation.
There are two points here. One is that Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin, etc. are people who make their living by being in the public eye, by being larger than life. Like politicians, they need to be ready to take nasty comments as part of the job. Rush Limbaugh may believe that taking his sponsors away is going too far, but he’s not likely to object to people calling him a foul-mouthed bigot, because he knows that just means he’s doing his job. He expects, even hopes for, such reactions. Sandra Fluke, by contrast, is a private citizen who dared to stick her head up and make a statement to Congress (or at least the group in Congress who were willing to allow her to testify). Private citizens should not be treated to such abuse just because they enter the public sphere. There should indeed be a double standard between people who live their lives and make outsize salaries in the public eye, and private citizens who simply wish to be heard.
The second point is perhaps more salient. When Ed Shultz called Ms. Ingraham a slut he was using the term metaphorically, for her willingness to say whatever Roger Ailes might want her to. Nobody thought that he was describing her sexual practices, or the frequency of her partners. But that is exactly what Mr. Limbaugh was doing to Ms. Fluke, at great length (over several days, apparently), and with relish. When he used the terms “slut,” and “prostitute,” he did so literally. That is, he was describing her actual sex life and personal conduct. As such, it was a direct attack on her person, not simply an over the top metaphor.
It is only the media’s obsession with false “fairness,” and the attempts to find equivalency every time a right-winger goes too far, that would lead anyone to muddy the difference between the comments of Mr. Limbaugh and those of Bill Maher and Ed Shultz.