My husband was doing the innately male “surfing” thing with the remote control when we happened upon one of the current crop of interchangeable, pompous pundits. He was barking questions at a panel that included a representative of the Human Rights Campaign fund and Michael Medved.
My husband was doing the innately male “surfing” thing with the remote control when we happened upon one of the current crop of interchangeable, pompous pundits. He was barking questions at a panel that included a representative of the Human Rights Campaign fund and Michael Medved. Medved—for those of you fortunate enough to have missed him—is one of those celebrity moralizers who make piles of money telling everyone who will listen that Sodom and Gomorrah were but pale harbingers of our wicked contemporary culture, which places too much emphasis on sex and money.
The topic was the gay community’s campaign to deny “Doctor” Laura an added platform for her particular brand of vitriol—a television program on the Paramount network.
The question directed to Medved, however, was right on: Why, asked the pundit, is it any different for gays to threaten a boycott of “Doctor” Laura than it is for conservative Christians to threaten boycotts of NYPD Blues or similar shows? Why is it illegitimate for the gay community to avail itself of its First Amendment rights, but not for conservative Christians to do so?
(This is a very good question. I recently addressed it in a Star column that drew howls of protest from fans of “Doctor” Laura.)
Why, said Medved, it is entirely different. Conservative Christians are protesting obscenity; the gay community is trying to suppress ideas.
At that point, I lapsed into a regrettable habit I have of screaming at the television set. (This does no good whatever, I know, but it generally makes me feel better.) “So!” I yelled. “When conservative Christians picketed ‘The Last Temptation of Christ,’ it was because it was obscene
? When they surround abortion clinics and try to prevent women from entering, that is part of a campaign against pornography
? When the Baptists called for their boycott of Disney World, this was part of their attempt to censor sexually explicit materials? Give me a break!”
Excuse me for finding the protestations of these sudden believers in free speech less than convincing. “Why,” they say, “Gays are trying to censor Dr. Laura.” Of course, that is rubbish. Boycotts, protests, letter-writing campaigns and the like are precisely the sorts of activities that are supposed to contend in the American marketplace of ideas. They are constitutionally protected substitutes for the heavy hand of government. Just as anti-choice protesters have a constitutional right to picket abortion clinics and boycott manufacturers of abortion-inducing drugs; just as anti-pornography crusaders have a constitutional right to picket television studios and bookstores; just as Baptists who don’t want Mickey Mouse to see any gay people are entitled to boycott Disney World; those who disagree with “Doctor” Laura’s posturings have a right to try to persuade others to avoid her.
Would the critics of this effort prefer having government suppress hate speech? After government defines it?
There are two very separate issues involved in the Dr. Laura dispute: the propriety of the campaign to get Paramount to change its mind; and the content of Dr. Laura’s various fulminations. Whatever one may think of Dr. Laura (personally, I try not to), she has every right to hate gays, demean people who disagree with her version of the “Judeo-Christian tradition” and to peddle her message to anyone who wants to buy it. Those who believe that she is toxic and ill-informed have every right to protest her comments, threaten to boycott her sponsors, point out that her “doctorate” is in physiology, not psychology, and generally express their belief that she is a mean-spirited crone.
I suspect that what the “God squad” really finds annoying is the fact that this boycott appears to be working. Dr. Laura’s show has lost a couple of major sponsors, and Paramount is obviously concerned. Compare these results to the big dud that was the Disney boycott—Disney profits actually increased following the boycott announcement.
It all just confirms the wisdom of the founders: if all ideas are allowed to contend in the marketplace of ideas, the better ideas will prevail.