As the artfully affected and wholly artificial controversy over "contraception" continues to claim political and ideological victims, Democrats and their fellow travelers in the media have been gleefully reporting the sponsorship woes of Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh, accused of everything from hate speech to misogyny to (probably) kicking puppies, has even tried to offer an apology. Such appeasement rarely mollifies the angry left, and Limbaugh's apology has not, at this writing, stemmed the exodus of cowardly advertisers from his show.
Never mind that Sandra Fluke – who appeared at a press conference crafted by Democrats to resemble a congressional hearing – is a left-wing activist whose whining about the inordinate sum she pays for birth control has made her name a prurient punch line. Never mind that Fluke was originally misrepresented as a doe-eyed 20-something coed, when in fact the law student is a 30-year-old woman who ought to be able to buy her (presumably) many lovers' cases of condoms. Never mind that libtalkers like Ed Schultz and Bill Maher have called prominent conservative women like Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin names like "slut" (and worse). No, when Rush Limbaugh called this apparent slut a slut, his crime was immediately judged so heinous that sponsors started jumping ship without regard to the damage they might be doing themselves.
At the outset, it should be obvious that the attempts by Democrats and President Obama to force religious organizations and insurance companies to cover, free of copay, both contraception and chemical abortion are not, and never have been, issues of First Amendment freedom. The true issue, and the only one winnable by conservatives, is that the libs have no right to demand other citizens pay for their rubbers and their RU486. Arguing the religious freedom issue is a path to political defeat, for anyone could claim for any supposed religious reason any exemption from any law they chose to dispute.
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The problem with forcing private companies to pay for citizens' medical procedures is forcing private companies to pay for citizens' medical procedures. This type of government fiat, this naked power grab by Glorious Leader Obama (who sees himself as our beneficent master and commander at the best of times), must be opposed because there is no constitutional grounds for it. Religion need never enter the debate.
Likewise, the furor over Limbaugh is not, as has been asserted by some conservatives, an issue of First Amendment protections. When the reprehensible Bill Maher praised the September 11th terrorists as brave and the American military as cowardly, sponsors of his then-show, "Politically Incorrect," dropped him like a hot iron. The subsequent cancellation of Maher's show was directly attributable to the loss of these advertisers. Glenn Beck arguably left Fox News pre-emptively because his unpopular doomsday stance was negatively affecting his ratings. Laura Schlessinger and Michael Savage lost their television shows because they made comments considered "insensitive" to homosexuals.
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In all these cases, and in many others like them, it's not that advertisers got wind of controversial statements made by people whose vocations are public controversy. Advertisers respond to pressure from activist groups who organize campaigns of propaganda and political harassment. These corporate entities sponsor controversial programs because those programs get monster ratings – and then pull their advertisements from such programming because corporations are run by spineless weaklings who swoon at the first hint of negative press.
None of this, however, is free speech. It's free market, the way capitalism is supposed to operate. No government entity censured Rush Limbaugh – though surely it must be a daunting thing to have the president of the United States speak your name with derision. No law was passed booting Maher or Savage or Limbaugh temporarily from the airwaves. Savage still has his radio show; Schlessinger moved to satellite radio; Bill Maher vomits liberal hate on cable; Glenn Beck has created an entire Internet television network. The advertisers were free to do as they chose, to stand behind their sponsorships or pull them. The employers of these talking heads were likewise free to support their talent or abandon them. Only the perceived threat to the bottom line motivated these companies' actions.
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The beautiful irony in all this is that an advertiser that abandons a popular conservative show does more damage to itself than if it keeps advertising with a Beck or a Limbaugh. Computer backup-service Carbonite pulled its ads from Limbaugh's show and experienced a precipitous drop in its stock price. The very thing the company feared – being perceived as politically incorrect and losing money as a result – has happened because it offended its customer base, which comprises (at least largely) conservatives who learned of the product through Limbaugh's program.
You are free to speak your mind. If you say unpopular things, you will be unpopular. If you say hateful things, you will be hated. If you say controversial things, you will be controversial. Regardless of whether what you say is true, and irrespective of your right to say it, you must be prepared to live with the consequences of your actions. It is all well and good to speak truth to power or to tell it like it is ... but there will be those who don't want to hear what you have to say. You will incur casualties as you walk that road.
These are choices made in a free market. To support these choices, with your advertising dollars or as an employer of such news-talk figures, is likewise a choice freely made. Liberals certainly suffer no shortage of energy when it comes to agitating for silencing of conservative voices, drumming up phony controversies and making pleas to liberal fascism in condemning any word or deed that offends someone. Are we, as conservatives, simply lazy? Do we lack courage? Or will we agitate in support of our icons?
Let us not whine about double standards and free speech. Let us instead inform advertisers and employers alike that dropping support for our champions comes not without its own consequences.