Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Out on a Limbaugh--should the Armed Forces Network carry him?

Some considerations:

1. Just as servicemen surrender a portion of their free choice as a condition of their vocation, citizens surrender control over the disposition of their tax dollars as a condition of their participation in our representative, constitutional democracy. We have a say over where our tax dollars go via petition, voting, citizens’ initiatives (at the state level), and, ultimately, lawsuits.

2. What servicemen want to listen to should absolutely be a consideration. Actually, I’ve heard that the troops would actually prefer to listen to rap and hip-hop, and that Rush Limbaugh’s show is mainly promulgated at the behest of the older white men in the top brass, in hopes of indoctrinating the troops. I haven’t found research proving this but it sounds plausible to me.

3. But though what servicemen want to listen to should be a consideration—especially since they go in harm’s way for us—it’s not dispositive in and of itself. From a military POV, the AFN should give soldiers the subset of what they’d like to hear that also contributes to their military mission—especially as it contributes to unit cohesion.

Thus the military non-political argument for banning Limbaugh is that he harms servicemens’ respect for the chain of command by expressing scathing contempt for our military’s Commander In Chief in nearly every sentence he speaks during his daily 3 hour stints. I fail to understand how that assists servicemen in carrying out the CIC’s orders—which is the heart of their job.

He also expresses scorn for the 17% of the armed forces who are women. Nearly all military women use contraceptives. Last week Limbaugh spent three days, three hours each of those days, branding all such women “sluts” and any of them who expect their health insurance to cover contraception “prostitutes” and demanding that such women provide taxpayers with videos of them copulating, for Mr. Limbaugh’s viewing pleasure.

The military has a serious problem with rape and sexual harassment of servicewomen. It it worse than most civilians realize. Mr. Limbaugh’s ongoing misogyny contributes to this problem—the most recent example is just one of innumerable ones over his decades in broadcast.

Mr. Limbaugh also expresses hostility towards blacks, Hispanics, nonreligious people, Muslims, and foreigners in general, usually with dogwhistle speech. All these groups are minorities in the armed forces as well as in civilian America—but it hardly encourages unit cohesion to encourage antagonism by the white majority of servicemen toward people in one’s unit who belong to any/all of these minorities.

An additional issue is that nearly everything Limbaugh says is verifiably factually false, and much of that falsehood is slander as well. This is a separate issue from his political orientation. There are many conservative commentators who lie less often and almost never engage in misogyny or statements undermining the chain of command. We could poll servicemen on which of those commentators they would like to hear.

One other point about servicemen’s own preferences—what if 51% of them wanted to hear torture porn fantasies? Should we allow that? What if 49% objected? How do we balance the wishes of majority vs. minority, commanders vs. enlisted personnel, taxpayers vs. the military?

These aren’t simple issues. However, I believe Limbaugh has made it simple in his case.

Also, the percentage of military personnel who are in his camp has been dropping steadily. Today Republicans only number less than 41% of members of the military. It used to be nearly 2/3, but the GOP’s morphing from a political party into a tribe—and its saying increasingly nonsensical things about military matters—may be contributing to this.

“Conservative” once equated with “Republican.” No more.

So yes, Limbaugh should go--not because he's a right winger, but because his program is bad for our military's tactical and strategic objectives. 

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