Hate Speech

Published: August 19, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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“The summer of 2009 has not been our finest hour.”

So wrote Newsweek editor Jon Meacham (Aug. 24) in response to those individuals who have brought Hitler and Nazism into the debate on health care.

There’s political commentary and there’s hate speech and I’m sick and tired of hate speech passing for commentary.

Earlier this month, conservative radio talk host Rush Limbaugh told listeners nationwide, “Adolph Hitler, like Barack Obama, ruled by dictate”; followed by, “[the] Obama health care logo is damn close to the Nazi swastika logo.”

On July 28, Fox News conservative commentator Glenn Beck told a nationwide television audience, “This president is a guy who has exposed himself over and over again who has deep-seated hatred for white people… This guy is, I believe, a racist.”

If I were the head of Fox, I would have immediately suspended Beck from the airwaves, allowing him to come back only if he offered specific, verifiable proof of his accusation or made a sincere public apology to President Obama and TV viewers and gave assurances that he would not engage in such talk in the future.  Sadly, that was not the response from Fox.  Instead, they released a statement saying that Mr. Beck “expressed a personal opinion, which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel.”

Apparently, executives at Fox do not know the difference between opinion and hate speech.

Does anyone at Fox remember the racist and sexist remarks made by Don Imus toward the Rutgers women’s basketball team in 2007?  Imus was suspended.  He later apologized to the team in person.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an apology from either Limbaugh or Beck.   Why?  No one seems willing to hold them accountable.

However, according to the New York Times (Aug. 14) “About a dozen companies have withdrawn their commercials from ‘Glenn Beck,’” Among them ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble, and the insurance company Progressive.  Pharmaceutical companies Roche and Sanofi-Aventis, and electronics retailer Radio Shack have pledged to remove ads from “Glenn Beck.”

ConAgra issued a statement saying that “We are firmly committed to diversity, and we would like to prevent the potential perception that advertising during this program was an endorsement of the viewpoints shared.”

“We have TV today that’s very polarizing and controversial,” said Donny Deutsch, a former advertising executive and frequent contributor to both CNBC and MSNBC.  In an interview, Deutsch told viewers that any individual offended by Mr. Beck’s remarks should write the CEOs of the companies that advertise. Deutsch considers this the “ultimate check and balance.”

Good start, but not enough.

Anyone who participates in hate speech should be fined and banned from all public airwaves, PERIOD.

This is not about free speech.  It’s about responsibility and how a responsible citizen should behave.  And any citizen or media company granted a license and opportunity to speak over radio and television has an even greater responsibility for what they say and do.

Don’t like the policies of the Obama administration?  Great, offer your rebuttal from the mountaintop in all its detailed glory.  But to compare the President of the United States to Hitler; to call him a racist without a shred of evidence to back it up is bigotry that should be condemned as reckless and wrong.

This is not about politics.  This is about intolerance, and the signs don’t get any clearer than those demonstrated by Beck and Limbaugh.

And the choice we have is just as clear:  speak up and denounce it or stay silent and allow it to grow.


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    I am Canadian, but I am outraged by what I’ve witnessed on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

    Don Imus was fired for a racial slur. Why is no one sueing for libel and slander? How can Fox News continue to pretend to be a news channel, but in fact is just a huge Republican propoganda machine?

    Why is Bill O’Reilly able to call a doctor, by name, a “baby killer” on national television? How is he not guilty by association when that doctor is killed? Why can you call a person a baby killer, but you can’t say ‘fuck’ on TV.

    And what the hell is anyone doing about it?

    Because I want to participate in lobbying against lies and hate. When someone encourages the disruption of democracy or wanting their president to fail they should be charged with treason. There is going to be bloodshed very soon. This is not a movie, this is real.

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