Sandra Fluke Not So Much A Fan Of Free Speech, Apparently

At least one law student needs a refresher course in the First Amendment.

When Rush Limbaugh reacted to her testimony before a group of Democratic Members of Congress regarding the Administration’s contraception coverage policy and the GOP’s reaction to the same by calling Sandra Fluke a slut, I called him out for it and was disturbed that so many on the right not only defended Limbaugh but joined in on the attacks on Fluke. As I noted at the time, Fluke had every right to say what she did and did not deserve to be treated in that manner simply for doing so. Little did I know at the time, though, that Fluke herself apparently doesn’t think that whole freedom of speech thing is such a good idea:

In the New York Sunday Times Magazine, she makes several statements that suggest that, while she disagrees with what Limbaugh says, she certainly won’t defend his right to say it (as Evelyn Beatrice Hall once suggested Voltaire might).

In fact, she says she regards unpopular speech as “problematic” and not worthy of protection by the federal government, at least when the feds take the form of the FCC — the agency that’s charged (officially, at least) with the preservation free speech on the radio

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

Free speech is a complex area legally, but it’s important to recognize that there are distinctions between one’s ability to express an opinion versus one’s ability to use F.C.C.-regulated airwaves to do so, and also one’s ability to engage in speech versus one’s ability to engage in slander.

(…)

I do think there’s a serious problem with the violence we see in some pornography, and it has severe consequences for sexual-assault rates. That said, I don’t think that all erotic material is necessarily problematic. As a friend put it, she would be just fine with feminist porn.

(…)

I think it’s really important that we address homophobic statements regardless of whether it’s couched in humor or in serious political conversations. They’re damaging and hurtful, and they make problematic speech acceptable.

Jim Edwards comments:

  • She volunteered to testify before Congress on the issue of contraception, and in so doing made herself a public figure. True, she didn’t choose to get verbally crucified by Limbaugh, but when you’re trying to change national policy you don’t get to pick and choose your critics. And public figures — like Fluke — enjoy little protection from slander/libel laws because U.S. defamation law encourages robust political debate at the expense of protecting the reputation of activists who engage in politics. So the “distinction” about slander she’s making is slim to none.
  • Pornography has never been more available or more widely viewed, thanks to the internet. Ninety percent of men look at it, and 90 percent of women lie about looking at it. (Hello to all the women reading 50 Shades of Grey on their Kindles!). Yet we live in an era that has historically low levels of violence, toward women or otherwise. (Here’s the test: If you live in a neighborhood where you feel OK listening to your iPod/iPhone when you walk home alone, then “sexual assault rates” aren’t really your biggest problem.)
  • The problem with phrases like “problematic speech” is that the very basis of free speech is society’s willingness to tolerate it, no matter how “problematic” it is. You can’t pick and choose what speech is “acceptable” or not. Limbaugh’s argument was ugly and sexist, but all he did was say it.

To that I would add that Fluke’s apparent position that the FCC should be more involved in regulating content on the airwaves to the extent that someone like Limbaugh should perhaps be banned because people find his words “offensive” goes against a pile of Supreme Court case law, along with the general societal understand of free speech that we have evolved to have in this country. Don’t like what Limbaugh says, Ms. Fluke? Fine, neither do I. But then I haven’t listened to him years and I really don’t give any thought to what he might think about a particular subject because he’s irrelevant to me. I also find it offensive that a man who once fomented race riots and helped face a rape has a show a major cable network, but I’m not demanding he be banned from the air, because I have no right to make that demand, and neither do you.

When many on the left responded to Limbaugh’s disgusting comments by trying to organize campaigns to get him off the air, or even to have him charged with a crime as one activist suggested, I said this:

Don’t like the show? Don’t listen to it. There, you’ve solved your problem. Using the heavy hand of the state to ban someone from the airwaves is not only offensive to the First Amendment, it strikes me as being entirely un-American. The arguments about limited spectrum are absurd given the world that we live in, and there is a generations worth of Supreme Court opinions that make clear that what this Op-Ed suggests is entirely unconstitutional. The argument that “[t]his isn’t political” is absurd and silly. These activists are targeting Limbaugh precisely because of his political opinions, and it’s those opinions that are the reason they want the state to shut him up. Agree with him or disagree with him, that’s just wrong.

Rush Limbaugh is loud, offensive, and abrasive. I don’t like him. However, to borrow a phrase, I will defend to the death his right to say what he says. And so should anyone else who believes in free speech.

As a law student, Fluke should know better than this.

H/T: Vodkapundit

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Sandra, you ignorant slut…

    (Someone had to make the allusion…)

  2. al-Ameda says:

    This is what happens when you go to a Catholic university.

  3. Chad S says:

    Free speech means that Rush is free to yell it from his house or stand on the street and yell it at passing pedestrians. There’s no constitutional right to be broadcast. The FCC regularly restricts free speech on broadcast airwaves for a variety of reasons(indecency is usually why). Nothing Fluke says suggests she’s against Rush saying it, just saying it on the air. Which isn’t an attack on free speech.

  4. Davebo says:

    Rush has tons of money and since we seem to have decided collectively that money = free speech I don’t see how you can mute him now.

    To me Rush is about two rungs short of Westboro Baptist but we let those nuts say what they want.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    As a law student, Fluke should know better than this.

    In fairness to her, Fluke may never have taken a law course on the First Amendment. A quick check of the Georgetown’s website indicates its an elective.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    @Chad S: The FCC just got its [indecent remark] handed to them in a unaminous Supreme Court ruling. Its days are about over.

  7. Idiot says:

    I appreciate her candor.

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Censors always have rationalizations why their censorship isn’t really censorship.

    Tyrants always have rationalizations why their tyranny is actually for everyone’s good.

  9. @Chad S:

    Now see, if I was one of the site admins, I’d delete the content of Chad S’s comment and replace it with a note that while he is perfectly free to comment on this site, he’s not free to have those comments broadcast over the public airwaves (specifically the Wi-fi part of the spectrum) and thus it’s necessary for me to make sure they’re properly regulated. But this isn’t an attack on his freedom to comment.

  10. SKI says:

    Hmmm…

    Free speech is a complex area legally, but it’s important to recognize that there are distinctions between one’s ability to express an opinion versus one’s ability to use F.C.C.-regulated airwaves to do so, and also one’s ability to engage in speech versus one’s ability to engage in slander.

    Is this really suggesting opposition to content based free speech? Or more to slander over regulated airwaves?

  11. DRS says:

    Way to miss the point, Stormy.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @DRS: Seems to me like Stormy hit the nail on the head.

  13. Chad S says:

    @PD Shaw: Technically, you’re allowed to use even “fuck” on TV if its in a certain form. I don’t think that the recent ruling was about that(which was when Bono said “fucking brilliant” on some awards show), but I wouldn’t bet on the FCC disappearing anytime soon.

    @Stormy Dragon: And I wouldn’t complain about my “free speech rights” being violated if Doug or James did that. I don’t have a right to comment on this blog and they’re free to block me or delete my comments anytime they want to. There’s blogs that regularly block/delete comments that they don’t like(not just political ones). Its their blog, they can do with it what they want. I’m equally free to point out when they do this in a medium that they can’t block/delete, like twitter or facebook.

  14. Scott says:

    I have a couple of problems with of this conversation:

    1) Volunteering to testify before Congress makes you a public figure? Really? This seems to be extreme definition of public figure. She was a private citizen testifying not a public figure testifying. This is a good way to discourage participation in our public discourse.

    2) Once again, Limbaugh didn’t just call her names, he called her a slut as a statement of fact. And said she engage in activities that were false. Does that mean I can write up total lies about Limbaugh with no consequences just because he’s a public figure? I don’t understand why people don’t understand (or don’t want do understand) that distinction.

  15. Dave Schuler says:

    Sentence first, trial later.

    I don’t give a darn about Rush Limbaugh. Never listened to him. Never will.

    Is there a federal defamation law? I don’t think so. Presumably, a charge of defamation against Limbaugh would be based in NY law. Under NY law a defamation suit must have four components:

    1. a false statement;
    2. published to a third party without privilege or authorization;
    3. with fault amounting to at least negligence;
    4. that caused special harm or defamation per se.

    Are these elements satisifed in this particular case? If not, there’s no defamation. Under New York law a public figure “has taken an affirmative step to attract public attention” which would appear to be the case for Ms. Fluke.

  16. Tlaloc says:

    Doug, the supposedly damning quotes of Flukes lack anything, you know, damning. She says that Limbaugh has no right to use public airwaves to broadcast his voice and she’s you know objectively right. She expresses personal issues with porn and homophobia. Oooh!

    Wait so what? Where are the calls for censorship of those things she doesn’t personally like? Maybe she did say such a thing except the quoted article offers no evidence.

    This seems much more like a hatchet job by IBD against Fluke based on essentially nothing.

  17. Tlaloc says:

    a couple clues should have been the taunting title (“HEY LIBERALS: The Woman Rush Limbaugh Called A Slut Is No Friend Of Free Speech) and the pulling of quotes with no attempt at context (heavy use of ellipses).

    Really you should be a smarter consumer of news at this point, Doug.

  18. Tlaloc says:

    Now see, if I was one of the site admins, I’d delete the content of Chad S’s comment and replace it with a note that while he is perfectly free to comment on this site, he’s not free to have those comments broadcast over the public airwaves (specifically the Wi-fi part of the spectrum) and thus it’s necessary for me to make sure they’re properly regulated. But this isn’t an attack on his freedom to comment.

    What freedom to comment is that?

    Oh yeah, there isn’t one, you just made it up, because it completely undermines your argument to recognize that no one has a right to comment in this space…

    Bonus question: why is it always the constitution deifying conservatives that suck so bad at actually understanding rights?

  19. @DRS:

    The point is that you restrict the manner in which a right can be expressed sufficiently, you’re restricting the right. If George Bush had, for example, banned Jon Stewart from telling jokes about him on the air, would that be okay as long as he’s free to stand on the street corner telling them to passerbys?

  20. mantis says:

    To that I would add that Fluke’s apparent position that the FCC should be more involved in regulating content on the airwaves

    Apparent to whom? She does not say that.

    to the extent that someone like Limbaugh should perhaps be banned because people find his words “offensive”

    She doesn’t say anything about banning Limbaugh or anyone like Limbaugh.

    Why do you feel compelled to so often create strawmen to argue against? Put another way, why are you so full of shit, Doug?

  21. Tlaloc says:

    The key word in your first sentence is “sufficiently.” I suggest you do a lot more work to establish that not allowing someone to broadcast their voice on the public airwaves, particularly in this day of satellite radio and the internet, constitutes “sufficiently” because otherwise it simply looks like the kind of emotional tantrum devoid of fact that the reality based community has come to expect from their neighbors…

  22. mantis says:

    @Tlaloc:

    Really you should be a smarter consumer of news at this point, Doug.

    Oh, he’s plenty smart. He’s doing it on purpose.

  23. MBunge says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “The point is that you restrict the manner in which a right can be expressed sufficiently, you’re restricting the right.”

    And when you tell a convicted felon he can’t hang around with other felons, you’re restricting his freedom of association. So what? Everyone’s rights, including freedom of speech, are restricted in all sorts of ways all the damn time.

    And for pete’s sake, if you can’t make even a vaguely appropriate analogy, that should be your first clue that you’re on shaky ground intellectually. Sandra Fluke expressing some generalized concern over someone using the public airwaves to slander is NOT the same as George Bush stopping someone from telling jokes about him. Jon Stewart telling jokes on cable TV is NOT the same as Rush Limbaugh defaming someone over the public airwaves.

    Mike

  24. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Quit acting dumb and pretending you don’t know the difference between the government of the United States of America and a blog owner.

    If George Bush had, for example, banned Jon Stewart from telling jokes about him on the air, would that be okay as long as he’s free to stand on the street corner telling them to passerbys?

    No one is saying that it’s “okay” for the government to “ban” TV commentators. Fluke and commenters here did point out that there is a difference between free speech and control of public airwaves. If you have a coherent argument otherwise, present it, and stop hitting that strawman.

  25. Rob in CT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    That works, so long as Sandra Fluke is actually saying she wants the government (via the FCC or whatever) to shut Limbaugh down. That’s not clear. What would be needed to really know is to get her to unpack this:

    Free speech is a complex area legally, but it’s important to recognize that there are distinctions between one’s ability to express an opinion versus one’s ability to use F.C.C.-regulated airwaves to do so, and also one’s ability to engage in speech versus one’s ability to engage in slander.

  26. John Burgess says:

    @Chad S: Not exactly: Rosenbloom v. Metromedia. Radio stations have the right to broadcast what they believe to be true and enjoy a wide protection against libel charges.

  27. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    @MBunge:

    And for pete’s sake, if you can’t make even a vaguely appropriate analogy, that should be your first clue that you’re on shaky ground intellectually.

    The second clue: Jenos agrees with it.

  28. John Burgess says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Your analogy is a tad inapt.

    More to the point would be that the blog owner/radio station owner accepted the comment, whether or not he actually agreed with it, but a third party — perhaps the government — decided that it should not be permitted on the publicly-owned WiFi spectrum.

    That is indeed what Fluke seems to be calling for.

  29. PD Shaw says:

    @Scott:

    1. She doesn’t need to be a general public figure, she can be a limited purpose public figure. These are individuals who “have thrust themselves to the forefront of particular controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved.” Basically when she testified about her personal experiences with contraception and anecdotes about classmates, she made herself fair game in matters related to her testimony (or “unfair game” if you prefer).

    2. I don’t believe what Limbaugh said could reasonably be construed as a “fact” that she is slut. I don’t think anybody believes Limbaugh has special knowledge that Fluke is a loose woman; he made a derrogatory conclusion about what she said about herself. He described how he derived this conclusion through odd “logic.” I don’t disagree that “slut” could in the proper context be factual claim (like when someone describes a co-worker as a “slut” to a third party).

  30. Septimius says:

    There is a huge distinction that is, unsuprisingly, lost on most of the commenters around here. The FCC doesn’t regulate speech, nor should it ever. The FCC regulates language. You do have the freedom to express your opinions over the public airwaves as long as you refrain from using certain words that are generally accepted as indecent or obscene, or as long as your words do not incite violence.

  31. PD Shaw says:

    @Septimius: I think part of the confusion is that by my reading Fluke is arguing that FCC should regulate defamation, which I don’t believe its allowed to do.

    Defamation is a lawsuit that exists independently of the medium of expression.
    The FCC (for now) has authority to regulate broadcast airways for the protection of children, but has to weigh heavily towards free expression or get overruled.

  32. @Scott:
    Fluke did not testify before Congress. She spoke to a non-committee of Democrats only, arranged by Nancy Pelosi. Fluke knew this to be the case. I would agree with your point if Fluke had actually been subpoenaed by an actual committee; presumably her appearance then could be considered non-voluntary and hence, not thrust her into public figurehood.

    But she did not “testify” at all, she accepted an invitation to make a partisan speech to a single-party group of Members for purely partisan purposes. So yes, she thrust herself into public figurehood.

    I do not defend Rush’s langauge toward her by any means.

  33. mantis says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I think part of the confusion is that by my reading Fluke is arguing that FCC should regulate defamation

    She doesn’t say that at all. She points out two distinct issues with the limits of the 1st Amendment:

    – there are distinctions between one’s ability to express an opinion versus one’s ability to use F.C.C.-regulated airwaves to do so

    – and also one’s ability to engage in speech versus one’s ability to engage in slander.

    The first one does not address defamation, but rather “express(ing) an opinion.” The second is not limited to broadcast communications.

    I should also note that she does not claim to be slandered by Limbaugh, nor does she indicate she has any intention to file suit.

  34. Doug, is there anything about getting a law school diploma that roots out someone’s desire to limit other people’s freedoms? There sure isn’t at a theology school.

    The Left always wants to limit the speech of others. “Problematic” speech means, “speech I do not like.” Yes, the Right has these folks, too, but you have a much more difficult time finding them, and their views are not held as normative by the Republicans.

    Democrats do hold Fluke’s views as normative.

  35. @Donald Sensing:

    non-voluntary and hence, not thrust her into public figurehood.

    You can be a “involutary public figure” too. For example, the Duke Lacrosse Team would be public figures as a result of their involvement in a high profile criminal investigation.

  36. Septimius says:

    @PD Shaw: When she starts talking about addressing “problematic” homophobic statements, she is in a different realm altogether. Now, she’s implying that speech that she finds offensive should be regulated (i.e. banned) regardless of whether it’s indecent, obscene, or even defamatory. That is a direct affront to the first amendement.

  37. mantis says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Point out where Fluke advocates limiting anyone’s freedoms, dipshit.

  38. PD Shaw says:

    @mantis: What are the limits of “express[ing] an opinion on FCC-regulated airwaves?”

  39. mantis says:

    @Septimius:

    That is a direct affront to the first amendement.

    Only because you imagined the part where there is any affront to the 1st Amendment. She was quite clearly speaking about personally confronting a homophobic comment Monica Crowley made on Twitter, and not in any way suggesting the government should do something about it.

    Can you wingnuts ever not lie? It doesn’t seem so.

  40. mantis says:

    @PD Shaw:

    What are the limits of “express[ing] an opinion on FCC-regulated airwaves?”

    Sigh. Now you’re playing dumb, PD? Fine.

    There is no right to do so guaranteed in the Constitution. So basically the limits are you must find a way to get a license to broadcast on a certain frequency or access to someone else’s.

  41. @mantis:

    Quit acting dumb and pretending you don’t know the difference between the government of the United States of America and a blog owner.

    There’s a difference in that you don’t have a legally enforceable right to comment on a blog, but that doesn’t change the fact that blocking a particular commenter still infringes their freedom to do so.

  42. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    There’s a difference in that you don’t have a legally enforceable right to comment on a blog, but that doesn’t change the fact that blocking a particular commenter still infringes their freedom to do so.

    You described it like this:

    The point is that you restrict the manner in which a right can be expressed sufficiently, you’re restricting the right.

    You don’t have a right to comment on this blog. You may have freedom to do so that the blog’s owners can take from you, but you don’t have a right to do so.

    I’ll let you get back to your word games since you obviously are more interested in them than in actually talking about freedom of speech in the United States of America.

  43. PD Shaw says:

    @mantis: You’ve divided her single sentence into three pieces, implying that they have no relationship to each other. I don’t see how she is not saying that one’s ability to engage in free speech is limited when opinions that are expressed on FCC-regulated airways are slanderous:

    Free speech is a complex area legally, but it’s important to recognize that there are distinctions between one’s ability to express an opinion versus one’s ability to use F.C.C.-regulated airwaves to do so, and also one’s ability to engage in speech versus one’s ability to engage in slander.

  44. @mantis:

    You’re mixing sentences from two different comments, one discussing comments on this blog and one discussing government regulation of broadcast media. That doesn’t add up to “you have a right to comment on this blog”.

  45. Chad S says:

    @John Burgess: Libel is written, slander is audio. From the FCC website:

    Obscene Broadcasts Are Prohibited at All Times

    Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be broadcast at any time. The Supreme Court has established that, to be obscene, material must meet a three-pronged test:

    An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
    The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
    The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

    Slander is something completely different then the issue at hand. For example: you can’t give out someone’s phone number without their permission on the radio(still) even if you know its true.

  46. mantis says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I don’t see how she is not saying that one’s ability to engage in free speech is limited when opinions that are expressed on FCC-regulated airways are slanderous:

    What do you mean? Slander over the public airwaves is still slander. Are you saying that suing someone for slander is not limiting their speech? Are you saying that only suing someone for slander outside of the public airwaves is limiting their speech?

  47. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    You’re mixing sentences from two different comments, one discussing comments on this blog and one discussing government regulation of broadcast media. That doesn’t add up to “you have a right to comment on this blog”.

    I’m glad you’re having fun with your word games. Kudos.

  48. MBunge says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “that doesn’t change the fact that blocking a particular commenter still infringes their freedom to do so.”

    Are you engaged in some sort of contest to see who can debase the meaning of the word “freedom” the most? Locking your house also infringes on my freedom to take your stuff. That girl who turned me down last night infringed on my freedom to get into her pants. It’s really hot outside and that infringes on my freedom to wear a parka while jogging.

    Good grief.

    Mike

  49. @mantis:

    Slander over the public airwaves is still slander

    I’m glad you’re having fun with your word games.

    Anagrams are not slander, retard.

  50. Tlaloc says:

    There’s a difference in that you don’t have a legally enforceable right to comment on a blog, but that doesn’t change the fact that blocking a particular commenter still infringes their freedom to do so.

    It would if they had such a freedom, but of course they don’t and never did, you made it up out of whole cloth. They may in fact have the privilege to do so, but that’s a different thing, granted at the whim of the blog owner.

    My question still stands, why do those who scream the loudest about rights know the least about actual rights? Aren’t you embarrassed of being so ignorant of something you claim is so important?

  51. @MBunge:

    No, but if I lock you out of my house, it would be a lie for me to say you’re free to enter it. That’s the distinction I’m making I’m making you don’t seem to get because you’re too busy defending your team to actually read what I’m saying: there are cases were things are restricted and if you want to advocate for those restrictions, then fine. But those restrictions don’t become freedom just because they’re restrictions you like.

  52. Tlaloc says:

    I don’t see how she is not saying that one’s ability to engage in free speech is limited when opinions that are expressed on FCC-regulated airways are slanderous:

    Seriously, PD? You don’t see how she’s not saying something just because she, you know, never said it? I rather thought the act of not saying something made it easy to see how you aren’t saying it.

    Why exactly does Fluke provoke such a pavlovian response in you guys?

  53. Tlaloc says:

    No, but if I lock you out of my house, it would be a lie for me to say you’re free to enter it.

    Okay, so let’s treat this seriously for half a second. Mbunge locks you out of his house and you claim that means you’re precluded from having a home, even though there are millions of other homes out there which you could in theory buy.

    But you still insist that not being allowed in Mbunge’s house infringes your freedoms, or something. Wow, that took almost no time to completely dismantle your thesis. Almost as if you;d thought about it an instant longer you would have known better than post it….

  54. @Tlaloc:

    It would if they had such a freedom, but of course they don’t and never did

    Until something stopped them from doing so, they did have such a freedom. Again, you’re confusing the freedom to X and the right to X. Right now I do have the freedom to comment on this blog as evidence by the fact I do comment here. I do not have a right to comment here though. James came take away my freedom to comment whenever he feels like. But if James did decide to block me, it would be perverse of him to say “Stormy Dragon, your comments are all blocked, however, you’re still free to comment here”, which is essentially what Chad S was originally saying. That the FCC can deny you the ability to broadcast a message and still claim you’re free to do so.

  55. bk says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    Doug, is there anything about getting a law school diploma that roots out someone’s desire to limit other people’s freedoms?

    Congratulations – you win the “Stupidest Comment Of The Day” award.

  56. Andy says:

    @Chad S:

    “Free speech is a complex area legally”

    As compared to what? Free speech is pretty simple actually and the Feds have no right to censor anything said on the public airwaves except for a few words used in certain contexts. Chad S is technicalky correct that “there is no constitutional right to be broadcast” but there sure is a prohibition against pulling licenses or using the licensing process as a tool to regulate speech. So the implication the FCC can somehow restrict Rush Limbaugh is incorrect.

    The FCC regularly restricts free speech on broadcast airwaves for a variety of reasons(indecency is usually why). Nothing Fluke says suggests she’s against Rush saying it, just saying it on the air. Which isn’t an attack on free speech.

    The “variety of reasons” are two things: Indecency and obscenity. That’s it. Libel and slander or anything except indecency and obscenity cannot be used as justifications to restrict anyone from saying anything “on the air.”

    Direct from the FCC:

    The FCC is barred by law from trying to prevent the broadcast of any point of view. The Communications Act prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcast material, in most cases, and from making any regulation that would interfere with freedom of speech. Expressions of views that do not involve a “clear and present danger of serious substantive evil” come under the protection of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The FCC cannot suppress such expressions. According to an FCC opinion on this subject, “the public interest is best served by permitting free expression of views.” This principle ensures that the most diverse and opposing opinions will be expressed, even though some may be highly offensive. The FCC, however, does have enforcement responsibilities in certain limited instances.

    For example, the Courts have said that indecent material is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be banned entirely. It may be restricted, however, in order to avoid its broadcast when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.

    Between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M. – when there is the greatest likelihood that children may be watching –airing indecent material is prohibited by FCC rules. Broadcasters are required to schedule their programming accordingly or face enforcement action. Similarly, the Commission has stated that profane material is prohibited between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M.

    Finally, the courts have ruled that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be broadcast at any time. For more information about these rules visit the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau website or see our consumer guide.

    So when Ms. Fluke says:

    but it’s important to recognize that there are distinctions between one’s ability to express an opinion versus one’s ability to use F.C.C.-regulated airwaves to do so

    Please explain exactly what the distinctions are and why they matter because the FCC doesn’t appear to recognize any outside of indecency and obscenity.

  57. superdestroyer says:

    Sandra Fluke is a small town girl who will do just about anything to seek status with the elites in the U.S. She sees herself as a future order giver in the U.S. because she sees herself as smarter than the 99%.

  58. bk says:

    @superdestroyer: I spoke too soon, regarding the stupidest comment of the day.

  59. Just nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Not quite the same. The site has a submissions policy that controls the content that it will post. So does the FCC. Ms. Fluke is arguing that the policy is lax to some degree.

  60. ptfe says:

    I find it interesting that a cursory answer to a question can provoke such intense discussion, particularly when the answer was provided in relatively low-substance format.

    Also, I find it uniquely disturbing that the discussion hinges on an article with the headline “HEY LIBERALS: The Woman Rush Limbaugh Called A Slut Is No Friend Of Free Speech” and a URL that calls her Sandra “Slut” Fluke (hey-liberals-turns-out-sandra-slut-fluke-isnt-a-friend-of-free-speech).

    I think Doug did everyone a disservice by posting this with such minimal personal interaction with the original article. While her initial comment about the FCC could be construed as some sort of call for restrictions, it takes some serious contortions to get that out of her two sentences — particularly in light of the question she was asked. It takes even more contortions to come up with an anti-speech sentiment in her comment about jokes about homosexuals. Doug’s butchery of an analysis — based almost solely on the BI article in question — is just the kind of contortionism that the writer of that article wanted people to go through.

  61. superdestroyer says:

    @bk:

    Sandra Fluke is from a small town in Penn. and started out at Cornell wanting to go into business. However, she quickly changed her major to feminist studies. After college Sandra Fluke moved to Manhattan and starting working for NGOs. While there she became romanticaly involved with the son of a multimillionaire who wanted to be a comedian and entertainer. That is how Sandra Fluke ended up living in West Hollywood.

    What is amazing is how many liberals and progressives say they want to help the poor and downtrodden but always manage to end up living in Manhattan, San Franciso, LA, Boston, or DC. I guess that idea of living in Detroit, St Louis, El Paso to help cities and areas with a high percentage of poor people never crosses their minds.

    The reason that socialism and totalitarianism appeals to the elite is that the elite always see themselves as the order givers instead of the order takers. The reason the middle class is not very interested in authoritarian governments in that the middle class realizes that they will end up as the order takers and that the order givers will be status seeking elites like Sandra Fluke.

  62. bk says:

    @superdestroyer:

    What is amazing is how many liberals and progressives say they want to help the poor and downtrodden but always manage to end up living in Manhattan, San Franciso, LA, Boston, or DC.

    What is amazing is how many conservatives are “States’ rights! Tenth Amendment!” except when it comes to corporate fee-fees (bye bye, Montana’s campaign finance law). What is amazing is how many conservatives are for limited federal government (“Keep the government out of my Medicare!” except when it comes to, say, their Medicare-funded hoverounds. Isn’t it amazing how many conservatives want to cut SS benefits except when it comes to, well, them.

    See how easy it is to play this game? Except it’s easier for me, because I cited actual examples, instead of yours, which apparently come from the musings of Prof. Otto Yurass.

  63. Ken says:

    “When Rush Limbaugh reacted to her testimony before a group of Democratic Members of Congress regarding the Administration’s contraception coverage policy and the GOP’s reaction to the same by calling Sandra Fluke a slut, I called him out for it and was disturbed that so many on the right not only defended Limbaugh but joined in on the attacks on Fluke. As I noted at the time, Fluke had every right to say what she did and did not deserve to be treated in that manner simply for doing so. “

    Indeed. And at the time, I was pleasantly surprised that you managed (mostly) to avoid your usual stupid “BOTH SIDES R BAD” schtick.

    Now? not so much.

  64. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:
    What is amazing is how many liberals and progressives say they want to help the poor and downtrodden but always manage to end up living in Manhattan, San Franciso, LA, Boston, or DC. I guess that idea of living in Detroit, St Louis, El Paso to help cities and areas with a high percentage of poor people never crosses their minds.

    What’s more amazing to me is that many of the most vocal critics of liberals live in places they deride as a “people’s republic” liberal cesspool – for example, David Horowitz lives in Santa Monica, and Michael Savage lives in Tiburon in Marin County.

  65. G.A. says:

    As a friend put it, she would be just fine with feminist porn.

    lol…..does that mean me and Rush don’t get to watch?

  66. superdestroyer says:

    @bk:

    One person says “Keep the government out of my medicare” and liberals want it to apply to everyone. Yet, the Congressional Black Caucus wants separate and unequal laws in the U.S. to the point of having separate and unequal admission to schools, hiring practices, and government contracting while at the same time that liberals say that they support equal rights for all.

    Of course, what some fiscal conservatives were really calling for was the ability to opt out of social security. Of course, liberals refuse to support any policy that would lessen people’s dependence on the government.

    What liberals seem to want is for the middle class to shut up and let people like Sandra Fluke tell them what to do.