July 24, 2004

Libs Don't Understand Free Speech

The First Amendment prohibits government censorship of speech. That is pretty clear to anyone that can read. Apparently that category does not include liberals, who seem to believe that speech may never carry a personal cost, and that refusal to subsidize speech with which one disagrees is censorship. I could point to Whoopi, Ronstadt, or the Dixie Chicks as examples of this phenomenon. Government did not act against them. The offended merely snapped shut their wallets and refused to use their dollars to support folks whose message they opposed.

Which leads us to Silver City, New Mexico. Matt Runnels of KNFT radio decided to run a one hour program called "Radio Free Silver". Runnels saw it as balance for the conservative shows he broadcast, shows featuring Limbaugh, Savage, and O'Reilly. For what it is worth, I think it might have even been a good idea.

Station listener Jason Dobrinski didn't like the show. When he learned that the station placed ads in any show, regardless of the political objections of the advertiser, he spoke out. Even though there was no organized boycott, 20 to 25 advertisers threatened to pull their advertising from the station if the show remained on the station. They objected to the fact that their ads might run in a show that did not reflect their views and might offend potential customers. Faced with the loss of $10,000 in advertising dollars each month and unable to find new advertisers, Runnels fired host Kyle Johnson and cancelled the show.

The reaction of those involved is interesting. Runnels says:

"It wasn't like [the show] was preaching anarchy," Runnels said. "If you don't like what you hear, push the button. There's a lot of programming out there."

Johnson, the fired host and communications director for the Interhemispheric Resource Center, is even more incensed:

Johnson said the opponents' point was "not to debate, not to dispute, not to assert their point of view," but rather to silence those who didn't agree. "That indicates the intolerance and their lack of any ability to understand another viewpoint or to respect anyone else's right."

Dobrinski, on the other hand, paints it as the triumph of individual freedom:

"What has really occurred is that many people, acting independently, have exercised their rights to free speech in voicing their dislike of the program," he wrote.

I'll side with Dobrinski on this one. What Runnels and Johnson both miss is that it is legitimate to oppose a point of view that one disagrees with. It is proper to withhold one's support from an entity with which one disagrees. Therefore none of these businesses is required to advertise on KNFT, especially given their policy of placing ads of unsuspecting advertisers in the offensive show. The station owner has to make the best economic decision at that point. Does he limp along hemorrhaging money, or does he get rid of the cause of that injury? If he wants to stay in business, he had better dump the problem and give the people what they want to hear. ANd if he is as bothered by Rush Limbaugh as he claims to be, he is more than free to replace him in that slot -- much to his economic peril.

Given the whining of Runnels and Johnson, I hope that the advertisers still drop KNFT. The attack on these Americans for choosing not to be associated with speech they object to is a much bigger offense against free speech than their threat to withhold their business from the station.

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