On Choosing Your Targets

The best photo of Rush I could find. Source krmg.com.

I read this article by Kirsten Powers on the Daily Beast. It’s being circulated on the internet by conservatives in response to the uproar over Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut. Powers’ premise is that it’s hypocritical for the left to call for boycotts of Limbaugh for his sexism when she can cite sexist comments by left-leaning pundits like Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Bill Maher, and Matt Taibbi.

Surprisingly, I don’t entirely disagree. I do give Bill Maher something of a pass, because rightly or wrongly, I think of him primarily as a comedian. Howard Stern is way too the right of me and I give him a pass as well because his sexism, racism, and homophobia are at least funny. I also think it’s a stretch when Powers cites Matt Taibbi calling Michelle Bachmann “bat-shit crazy” as proof of sexism. There’s nothing gender-specific about “bat-shit crazy,” so it’s only sexist if all things being equal, he wouldn’t use the same language about a man. Anyone who followed Taibbi’s coverage of the Bush administration or John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign would agree that there’s nothing unique in his treatment of Bachmann.

As far as Powers’ criticism of the Matthews, Olbermann and Schultz, well, I’m the last guy to defend them. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter probably knows how useless I think the non-Rachel Maddow line-up at MSNBC is. Although I will say, there is one glaring omission in Powers’ article. All the examples of sexism that she points to by left-leaning pundits, indefensible as most of it is, is directed at politicians or other pundits: Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Michelle Malkin, etc. Not exactly shrinking violets, these ladies; all of them entered political and public life of their own free will, all must have known that taking slings and arrows came with the job and all have thrown their own jabs at their political opponents. You won’t have to look hard to find equally inflammatory remarks from right wing pundits against Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama or Rachel Maddow. Lou Dobbs once called Maddow a “tea-bagging queen, “whatever that means.

I think the difference in Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke is that she is neither a politician nor a pundit. I don’t think that testifying before congress is the same as entering public life in a professional sense. She attacked no one, she simply told her story and those of her classmates. For this, a young woman whose name none of us had heard before and most would have forgotten thereafter, gets called “slut” and “prostitute” by a nationally syndicated radio host with an audience in the millions. The relevant comparison here is not to left pundits insulting female politicians but to Don Imus’ famous slur against the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

Rush’s sin was not just sexism (most of Rush’s constant sexism is ignored by the left, less we get angry at him on an almost daily basis), but a huge miscalculation. What Rush didn’t learn from Imus’ mistake is to pick on someone his one size (metaphorically speaking). When a media giant picks on a private citizen who is a non-combatant, the game changes. It’s the difference between a boxer hitting someone who willing gets in the ring and just randomly punching an innocent bystander on the street.

Also, Powers accusations of hypocrisy would only hold water if we look at each incident of sexism by pundits as an isolated case. Matthews, Olbermann, and Schultz have all been called out by left for their sexism. They have also been champions for women’s issues. Schultz featured Fluke on his talk show to give the testimony that congressional Republicans apparently did not want to hear. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh has engaged in a decade’s long campaign of sexism, calling feminists “feminazis” and female journalists “info-babes.”

To suggest that the difference between the response to Limbaugh’s (latest) transgression and the response to pundits on the left is hypocritical is to divorce the incident from all historical context.

As a final aside, to my friends on the right who are defending Limbaugh on free speech grounds, I repeat my refrain: Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. Not for Limbaugh, the corporation that broadcasts his show or the corporations that advertise on it. Rush Limbaugh can say whatever he wants, no one is trying to silence him, but the public can decide whether or not to vote with their dollars with regard to those who choose to associate their brand with his. This is the reason that Harper Collins scrapped plans to publish OJ Simpson’s book. I don’t remember folks on the right jumping to defend Simpson’s right to free speech.

An official Libertarian Book Club selection…

Posted in Politics, Women and tagged , , , .

5 Comments

  1. I won't defend his tact, or rhetoric, or personality… Rush Limbaugh is an asshole that whores his asshole-ishness for ratings. Much like Howard Stern.

    But had he done a better job of delivering his message, he did have a point. She did request that she be compensated for the costs of having sex.

    I believe that we should live within our means, i.e. if one does not have the money to cover for the risks of his/her activities, he/she should be responsible for the mitigation of the risks or he/she shouldn't perform those actions. Personal risk mitigation is not the responsibility of any corporation, or that of the government, even though many employers choose to offer some type of health insurance as a BENIFIT.

  2. live within our means. that would imply that the only thing that health insurance should cover are illness and injury (that is if the injury is not the result of personal negligence in any way.) no incident resulting from personal choice would be covered under your definition. therefore, pregnancy and childbirth would not be covered. having children is a choice and if one cannot pay the full cost of medical assistance out of one's own pocket, then one should not expect to have private corporations or employers pay the cost. the same would be true for erectile dysfunction medication. sex is a choice. if one can't pay for one's own medication out of pocket, then one cannot afford to have sex.

    the whole of the insurance industry is risk mitigation. insuring one's life, health, auto, and home are all aspects of risk mitigation. i pay for insurance to mitigate the risk of an accident. without insurance all costs related to driving a car would come out of pocket in the event of an accident. i'm sure you can see the other applications of my argument.

    further, insurance is not a gift. it is either paid for by the individual, or it is part of benefit compensation for work. therefore, in all cases, insurance is paid for by the insured, whether directly through cash payments or by the exchange of labor for the benefit. the taxpayer doesn't not pay for insurance. the employer does not pay for insurance. so, the argument is not what gifts are people asking for – an entitlement – but what is FAIR exchange of service for cash or work.

    birth control medication is not about sex. it is about control of one's health. birth control pills are for the purpose of hormone management. that management could be needed for any number of women's health issues. but even if it is prescribed for the sole purpose of deciding when and if to have children, given that the burden of pregnancy and childbirth fall solely on the shoulders of women, it is unfair to put an undo financial burden on women when it takes two. perhaps men should start to consider the ramifications of women "living within their means" when it comes to birth control. i'm sure that the trojan company is all for banning coverage of birth control. it should increase their stock value exponentially.

  3. I will comment on your points in no particular order:

    "live within our means. that would imply that the only thing that health insurance should cover are illness and injury (that is if the injury is not the result of personal negligence in any way.) no incident resulting from personal choice would be covered under your definition."

    That implication was unintended… I fear I didn't explain my position well enough… I wouldn't dictate limitations on insurance companies such as forcing them to not provide sexual (a.k.a. reproductive) health coverage, but neither would I force them TO provide sexual health coverage. (one is just as wrong as the other with the insurance company and premium payer being the victim of tyranny.) Rather, what I meant was that if you choose to have sex, you should mitigate the risks. That includes being prepared to pay for birth control, condoms, pregnancies, kids, and/or insurance premiums to cover those costs. That means that if your employer does not offer sexual health insurance as a benefit you should consider (in my suggested order of importance):

    A) purchasing additional/different insurance coverage that includes sexual health coverage,
    B) requesting of your employer to offer the coverage a.k.a. a raise,
    C) paying for sexual health care out of pocket,
    D) changing employers,
    E) Refraining from sexual activities,
    F) Accepting/ignoring the risks connected with sexual activity.

    So I hope you can see that my intent was not that insurance companies should not offer sexual health coverage, but instead that insurance companies should not be forced to include the coverage in all of their plans.

    "insurance is paid for by the insured, whether directly through cash payments or by the exchange of labor for the benefit. the taxpayer doesn't not pay for insurance. the employer does not pay for insurance. So, the argument is not what gifts are people asking for – an entitlement – but what is FAIR exchange of service for cash or work."

    You are mostly correct. But you are missing a few small p of this puzzle: the insurance offered as a benefit from the employer must first be purchased by the employer as part of the group policy. Only then can the employer offer it as a benefit to the employee. Also the company does not make its money in a vacuum; they must have customers and customers are finicky. Some customers purchase goods based on the principles of the company, especially religion based companies. So although the insurance is paid for by the labor of the employee, the employee's labor is paid for by the customer & the employer makes the insurance purchase. Therefore there are 4 stakeholders when dealing with any insurance offered as an employee benefit. So why is the employee the only important party when dealing with an exchange of service? Do the employer, insurance company, and customer not matter? Actually I will knock one down for you: The customer only matters as a condition to employment and is the concern of the employer i.e., no customers no employment. Who determines what a fair exchange consists of? Shouldn't that be determined by those directly involved? Opposed to somebody in Washington?

  4. "birth control pills are for the purpose of hormone management. that management could be needed for any number of women's health issues."

    But it is typically used to ensure that fertilized eggs do not mature. I readily admit that B.C. can be used to treat 'other conditions'… I understand that more than most. Neither of my children would be here if my wife had not been on birth control. She was diagnosed as infertile so the doctor put her on BC to regulate hormones so that we could have kids. We did in fact have insurance to cover the cost which was by design and very useful. The usefulness of a product does not justify forcing its use. Actually, the insurance that we used was an individual/family plan not provided by an employer. I find that having direct control over my insurance to be very useful for many reasons including total cost (I can pick and choose coverage). You would demand (forgive the assumption) that employers be forced to offer insurance. Should I demand the banning of employers offering health insurance as a benefit? I would not. I would rather the market decide freely.

    "i'm sure that the trojan company is all for banning coverage of birth control. it should increase their stock value exponentially."

    You imply that they are wrong for hoping that, yet you would be willing to hurt their stock value by making BC mandatorily covered. I would choose to neither ban nor mandate any product… As either one hurts one corner of the market and aides another. Allow the people to choose what they want/need individually. I am suggesting freedom of choice. So long as there are both individual plans that cover BC and those that do not cover BC we are free to choose to pay for BC coverage or not. Remove one of those options, and you have effectively removed the individual's freedom of choice. With freedom of choice I can decide how I would cover my family best… perhaps I am older and decide I don't need or can't afford sexual health coverage. As such I have chosen a cheaper policy without it. Now you would demand that i pay for a product that I do not need/want to pay for… The insurance company is happy; they profit from the mandate, and I hurt financially because of it. Whenever the government meddles in the market, someone is harmed while another benefits. That is the nature of economics.

  5. "…even if it is prescribed for the sole purpose of deciding when and if to have children, given that the burden of pregnancy and childbirth fall solely on the shoulders of women, it is unfair to put an undo financial burden on women when it takes two. perhaps men should start to consider the ramifications of women "living within their means" when it comes to birth control."

    I miss your point. Of course men should be willing to share in the associated costs… and they will (presumably) should their activities result in a child in the form of child support (there is a-whole-nother discussion on this topic). That is not to say that men are not also responsible for mitigating the above mentioned risks… as a matter of fact I purposely used "he/she" to indicate that I was referring to members of both sexes.

    "birth control medication is not about sex."

    You attempt to reframe the issue. With this, I am steadfast in my disagreement. Everything about birth control relates to sex… it affects the sexual organs, the hormones associated with sexual activity, the risks associated with sexual activities & with that many attitudes toward sex. Even if B.C. is prescribed entirely for health reasons (which is much rarer that you and others imply), it is still affecting the patient's sexual organs and hormones. Birth control is entirely about sex… right or wrong, that is why it is such a controversial subject.

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