Magazine article Tikkun

Letters to the Editor

Magazine article Tikkun

Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

To The Editor:

Danny Goldberg, in his column "The People v. Dr. Laura" (May/June 2000), seems to agree that the Stop Dr. Laura campaign is not about the First Amendment, yet proceeds to argue that we need to protect Dr. Laura's freedom of speech. He also believes that pressuring Paramount not to carry the Dr. Laura television show would restrict the "free marketplace of ideas." Goldberg misses the point.

The Stop Dr. Laura campaign has got nothing to do with the First Amendment or free speech. It is a reaction to the absence of any sort of "free marketplace of ideas." In sug- gesting that such a marketplace exists, Goldberg ignores decades of scholarship which have found that 1) the political and economic interests of the corporate conglomerates which own most mainstream media outlets filter out most progressive analyses, 2) the product which does reach the airwaves is supply driven, not demand driven, and 3 ) since a meaningful democracy depends on a critical national discourse, the absence of such a discourse has disastrous effects on our ability to uphold democratic values.

What would happen if Michael Lerner and Cornel West went to Paramount with the idea of making a television show articulating the values of a progressive politics of meaning? How would Paramount sell advertising space to AT&T and Chevy for a program that might give people the idea that corporate V profit shouldn't be the most important societal goal? They wouldn't, they don't, and yet they have little trouble with Dr. Laura. This is a form of censorship, no doubt. But even a libertarian would find it difficult to argue that Lerner's and West's free speech is being compromised.

A popular movement which pressures the corporate media to responsibly present a more balanced view across the political spectrum-or even better, which demands that, for the sake of democracy, media shouldn't be privately owned in the first place-is at the cutting edge of progressive politics. The Stop Dr. Laura campaign is part of that larger movement.


Danny Goldberg responds:

First, let me reiterate that I detest Dr Laura's attitude toward gays and lesbians. My argument is that campaigns such as Stop Dr Laura do more harm than good.

Frankly, if I could get rid of media that offends me with no adverse consequences, I might do it. But the real world doesn't work that way.

Corporations usually withdraw from things that are "controversial" without too much regard for the reasons behind the controversy. Getting corporations in the habit of eliminating controversy creates a climate that also will repress all sorts of speech that gay activists, feminists, and other progressives want out there. It's that same climate of diversity that creates the Dr. Lauras of the world. 1 don't think you can have one without the other.

Even though the organizers of these efforts refrain from calling for censorship (instead, they demand "corporate responsibility"), they clearly want the same result as censorship: the removal from mass media of material offensive to their particular beliefs. Either boycotts to stamp out offensive media are Legitimate or they're not. The more they are used, the more empowered become the shrillest voices in the society. Even when, on occasion, one of those choruses speaks for one's own sensibilities, the result will be no better than that of a short-term high followed by a long, unpleasant hangover.


To the Editor:

Regarding Budd Schulberg's comment that "Navasky still calls John Howard Lawson a progressive.... I consider Navasky a neo-Stalinist because he should know better" (May/June 2000)what I wrote more than twenty-five years ago was not that John Howard Lawson was a progressive, although he certainly considered himself one. Rather, I reported in the New York Times Magazine: "Whatever he once was, John Howard Lawson today [1973 is arthritic in tone, humble in claim, but crystal clear in recollection of what he was and wasn't in the old days. …

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