Too often we allow people to go the extra mile before we try to put a stop to them. That’s exactly what happened in the case of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh apparently assumed that his First Amendment rights gave him the privilege to say anything he wanted to over the airwaves and no one had the right to stop him.
The problem, I think, is that no one specifies exactly what the amendment covers. If what the amendment covers was written down and posted in newspapers and in public places, people would be more informed.
But since the Internet has developed at such a rapid pace and there are so many ways to communicate, most individuals are not clear as to what they are permitted to say and what is illegal. There used to be rules governing what could be said on the radio and television. Frankly, I don’t know what those rules are anymore.
Personally, I liked it better in the old days. People knew they were not free to insult people, and they were not allowed to use certain phrases over the airwaves. Those rules were not frequently broken and it seems to me that civil discourse was the order of the day.
These days people seem to go out of their way to be rude. A lot of folks pride themselves on being disrespectful. Some people cannot complete a sentence without using a curse word. Some parents and children curse each other on a regular basis. Teachers curse, students curse and sometimes its hard to realize that these conversations are taking place in a public school.
If we chose to return to civil discourse I’m not sure how we could do it. Probably, we would have to post notices every place much like they do with non-smoking signs. Actually, I’m not certain people want to behave civilly anymore. It would seem the fewer rules and regulations we have for everything, the better people seem to like it.
It would seem like in cases such as Limbaugh’s the only rule that applies is that you can say anything you want about anyone as long as someone is willing to pay money for you to say it. I haven’t heard anyone saying anything about the government stepping in to address the issue of the use of offensive language over the air waves. I guess that means the government doesn’t care any longer about what kind of language is used in public.
As far as I’m concerned the courts seem to be very selective in the way in which they enforce these First Amendment rights. It would certainly help if they could define these rights in such a way that the average person could understand his or her limits. Some behavior, such as Limbaugh’s, is way over the line. The fact that people can go on the air and tell such outrageous and provable lies about others is just as egregious.
In fact, we need a whole new Bill of Rights about kinds of behavior that should be allowed on the electronic media. Once clear-cut rules are made it would be easily determined when they are broken.
There are always people who will take things as far as they will go. And those that have money or political influence will use it to break the rules. And as long as people like Rush Limbaugh have an audience he will constantly go wherever he needs to keep their attention.
It takes a lot to satisfy audiences around the clock. Some talented people manage to do it by simply following a format created to showcase their particular talent. Others just make stuff up as they go along and call it a program.
Such things can be dangerous when they are allowed to get out of control.
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