Via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, I’d like to call everyone’s attention to this most delightful and satisfying piece of satire from Gene Weingarten related to the Rush Limbaugh affair.
The whole thing is awesome so give it a read, but I especially call your attention to this bit, which has gotten completely lost in all of the haranguing that followed:
All of this bile followed from his assertion that she testified about her own extremely active sex life.
Here’s the thing: She didn’t. She said nothing whatsoever about her own sex life. She did not mention her own contraceptive needs at all: She spoke passionately and eloquently, and respectfully, about several friends of hers, Georgetown students who she said were diagnosed with medical conditions requiring the birth control pill, but who could not get it because they could not afford it. That was it. Here is the transcript of her testimony.
In short — though Limbaugh doesn’t address this in his mealy-mouthed, backhanded “apology” — Limbaugh just made it all up, then went hog-wild, oinker-frenzy-wild, elaborating on it so he could call her names. Calling people names is bad, but calling people names based on your own invented calumny is the textbook definition of slander. The First Amendment does not protect you from that, nor should it. Even on an issue of public debate, and even if the victim is a public figure, as Ms. Fluke was here, “fair comment” is not a defense if you made up the central fact, and the central fact is wrong and is damaging and if your intent was to injure. I’m no lawyer, but as I see it: Check, check, check, check. I hope Ms. Fluke knows a good lawyer; if she doesn’t, one will find her, I suspect: The pockets here are really deep, though constricted and attenuated a bit: A LOT of flibbity-flabbity belly fat there, Rush. You really should do something about that, in your well-merited retirement.
Rush, in internet-speak, you are about to be pwned. By a woman.
Indeed. Rush lied about what Sandra Fluke said, then badgered and berated her for three days based on the lie he created! I fail to see how that’s any different from what Andrew Breitbart did to Shirley Sherrod: selectively editing a videotape to completely twist her words and meaning, then hold it up to the world to say “look at this horrible thing this person said.” Sherrod’s lawsuit has cleared its first hurdles and it’s speculated that Breitbart’s death will not affect its progress. It seems to me that Sandra Fluke has an equally valid slander case against Rush. I really hope she does sue, because a lawsuit is the only thing that will keep these blowhards from using lies and character assassination as political weapons.
And let me point out: this case also illustrates the huge difference between conservatives and liberal figures like Bill Maher. Rush Limbaugh is a right-wing talking point factory. His deceitful take on an issue ricochets around the right-wing echo factory — sometimes even percolating up to the mainstream media. Limbaugh said Fluke’s testimony was about demanding taxpayers pay for birth control, a lie that was repeated by Fox News yakkers like Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelley, columnist and talk show host Ed Morissey, even conservative cartoonists like Gary McCoy. The entire conservative media picked up and repeated Rush’s completely erroneous take on Fluke’s testimony, and they’ve been doing it for over a week solid.
Maybe they hope if the lie is repeated often enough it will become truth, or maybe they’re really just taking their information from Rush but the truth is, in no way is this issue about taxpayers paying for women’s birth control — Sandra Fluke’s or anyone else’s. It’s about private insurance companies offering contraception as part of the prescription benefit in your employer-based insurance plan. You know, the one that is part of your benefits package at work.
(As I write this I think I’ve realized why this issue has become so confusing for some conservatives: lots of really big words! “Contraception coverage” and “prescription benefit” and “insurance” — oh my!)
Now, Bill Maher may say something that crosses the line but I’ve yet to see any comment of his get repeated across the “liberal media.” Nor have I ever seen Maher misconstrue an issue, and then watch as his erroneous framing is repeated by Democratic politicians, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, the New York Times and the like. There simply is no equivalency here. None.
And here’s another thing. To paraphrase Adlai Stevenson, if conservatives stop telling lies about liberals, maybe we’ll stop telling the truth about them. But they won’t stop telling those lies until they start being held accountable for them. That’s just reality.
I don’t know why we’re supposed to just be polite and sit back and take it all the time. If someone tells a lie about you for political reasons, and that lie is turned into a hammer and you’re beaten over the head with it for days, and then that hammer is turned into a mallet and you’re beaten over the head with it some more, all because you spoke out on an issue? Fuck yeah, you should sue.
So in honor of International Women’s Day I hope women around America rise up and fight back against these lies and attacks on us. I don’t know Sandra Fluke but I sure hope she sues. Not just for her own justice, but to prevent future intimidation campaigns the next time a woman tries to speak out on an issue. We should not be subjected to character assassination by the right wing smear machine just because we testified before some members of Congress on healthcare.
I want women to speak out to their employers and their legislators about this, and International Women’s Day is as good a day as any. Hell, talk to your priests and pastors. Tell them it’s not okay that women using birth control are characterized as sluts and whores. Tell them it’s not okay for any state government to force women who are fully aware of what’s up in there to submit to vaginal probes before receiving an abortion. It’s insulting! And demeaning!
Tell them it’s not okay to tell us to press an aspirin between our knees instead of enjoying healthy sex lives. It’s not okay to tell women serving in our armed forces that they should expect to be raped.
This stuff is not okay.