In the beginning, Sandra Fluke testified in a public forum about an issue that was meaningful to her. Rush Limbaugh, upon hearing this testimony, called Ms. Fluke a slut, a prostitute, and suggested she post sex videos of herself on the internet. Many people were furious over this. Sponsors withdrew, condemnations occurred, boycotts were proposed, and it was demanded--not for the first time--that Rush's head (metaphorically) be detached from his body. Rush apologized. When asked about the incident in another public forum, President Obama demurred, preferring to take 'the high ground': he would not deign to know from what kind of well the roots of Rush's heart were fed, nor would he talk about the politics or business aspects of the affair. He would only comment on the fatherly instincts the incident stirred in him, and say that words such as Rush used had 'no place in the public discourse'.
In defense of Rush, many of his representatives claimed a double standard: The comedian Bill Maher--who has said bad things about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann--has given 1 million dollars to the President's Super PAC. If the president thinks what Rush said had 'no place in the public discourse', why is he accepting money from someone who makes similar statements? Rush's antagonists cried 'false analogy! Rush is the leader of a movement, Maher is just a comedian. Sandra Fluke is a private citizen, and Sarah Palin is a public figure'.
So it goes.
My position on the issue is that I'm in favor of all of it. Every part of this issue is fine with me. I applaud Sandra Fluke for speaking in a public forum about an issue that is meaningful to her, and for her handling of everything that has ensued. I am grateful to Rush for being so open about his misogyny. Some men spend their whole lives denying they have any issues at all with women. Rush relishes it. He rolls around in it. An enemy who declares themselves is a great gift. I'm typically not one to support boycotts or firings for people who make unpopular comments. I agree with Sean Hannity that such methods are ways to suppress speech. But I am okay with people calling for Rush's firing and for boycotts and sponsor withdrawals, because it's their right. I support the attempts of Rush's friends and fans to draw an analogy between Bill Maher & Rush, even though I agree that the analogy is false. I support the attempts because they are clever.
Finally, I support President Obama's public stance on the whole thing, although I disagree with him on principle that such statements as Rush made 'have no place in the public discourse'. It's the most personally offensive and generally unpopular positions that need to be most protected in a democracy. Words that don't get said tend to fester, and Rush--and people who get catharsis from Rush--don't need anything else to fester in them. Better to let it all out. Put it all on the table for everyone to see. Speech is messy and ugly, but it's less messy and ugly than the alternative. I like the chaos of democracy. I like the dirt of freedom.
Maybe Jarvis Cocker summarizes my overall position the best: