Lessons Learned from Loose Lips

As a kid, I first heard the phrase “loose lips sink ships” in the context of World War II era sensibilities. During World War II people believed that one should keep quiet about someone they loved who was serving on a battleship because they believed in the possibility that the enemy might learn of the whereabouts of that battleship and torpedo it.

Loose lips of an entirely different nature can be found in 2012 in radio programming in the United States. I am referring specifically to nationally syndicated radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh spoke out on the air during one of his talk radio shows using language that disparaged and diminished a particular woman who had advocated for government-funded birth control. Listen here for more details.

Just being real honest here, if any male over the age of 10 chooses to use specific derisive or scornful or mocking words (such as “slut”) to describe a female, he should never be surprised at angry responses from females to what he said.

Limbaugh is not a young person. He is 61. He has had employment in the profession of radio talk show entertainment for many years. He would have by now learned from a long career in radio talk show entertainment that what one says on the radio can produce angry responses.

Limbaugh could have chosen to be tight-lipped about the Congressional testimony that advocated in favor of government-funded birth control. There are plenty of other topics from which Limbaugh could have chosen to discuss on his live radio show. But Limbaugh chose instead to disparage and diminish a woman he didn’t know and never had met. Limbaugh chose to use specific language that any mature male or female would know in advance was so harsh and hurtful that it likely would cause an angry response.

This is not a First Amendment issue. I may have missed it, so please email me to educate me about the specific words contained in the First Amendment that guarantee everybody the right to have and maintain a professional career in commercially-sponsored radio talk show entertainment. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Limbaugh does not deserve to be forgiven by anyone whom he offended with his harsh and hurtful language over the air during his radio talk show. He chose deliberately to say what he said. Scores of commercial sponsors have withdrawn their financial support of this specific radio talk show entertainment. That is perhaps the most significant lesson learned from this. Commercially-sponsored radio talk show entertainment can risk losing revenue from sponsors if the radio talk show entertainment does not align with what the values of the sponsors.

UPDATE: Limbaugh minimizes the impact of the loss of sponsors. He chose a fast food metaphor to describe a minimal loss of advertising revenue: “That’s like losing a couple of french fries in the container when it’s delivered to you at the drive-thru.” I think Limbaugh has high credibility as someone whose body shows obvious evidence that he has eaten quite a few french fries.

Other radio talk show entertainers have brought similar loss of advertising sponsors upon themselves. Laura Schlesinger comes to mind specifically. She transitioned her radio talk show entertainment from terrestrial broadcast radio to satellite radio. Limbaugh should seriously consider the same exact transition so he will be unregulated and can be as unrestrained as he chooses to be.

ANOTHER UPDATE: After I published the original post on March 7, 2012, I saw a post online written by Michelle Malkin. You should read her post here: http://www.gopusa.com/commentary/2012/03/07/malkin-the-war-on-conservative-women/.

Malkin’s point is that her particular partisan side (conservative Republicans) have been so maligned over many years by the opposing partisan side (liberal Democrats) that nobody should get too upset over what Limbaugh said on his talk radio show. Malkin goes into detail about the kinds of disparaging and diminishing names that she, personally, has been called. She also gives examples of hurtful names that have been used to disparage and diminish other prominent conservative Republican women such as Kay Bailey Hutchison and Condoleezza Rice.

Malkin’s post is very persuasive in convincing readers civility in partisan politics officially is dead and gone. She does not seem to mourn the loss of civility at all. But, nothing that Malkin wrote changes my belief that Limbaugh should transition from terrestrial radio broadcasting to satellite radio where Howard Stern and Laura Schlesinger presently work. There Limbaugh would be utterly free to be as uncivil in his partisan political discourse as he pleases while having no annoying regulations to muzzle him.

ONE MORE UPDATE: I need to jump in here with yet another update because this story keeps on going like it just won’t stop. I want to call readers’ attention to an informed and intelligent commentary written by Skip Mahaffey, a broadcaster and media coach. This is a must-read in my opinion.

Mahaffey points out something that I had not considered: Mahaffey believes that Limbaugh has “milked this” story to benefit himself and to attract new listeners and new sponsors. The reality is, as Mahaffey clearly and persuasively expresses, Limbaugh does what he does on talk radio to be controversial and the whole point of being controversial is to generate buzz so that more people will tune in to his talk radio show. Any anger at Limbaugh only serves to feed the controversy, which only serves to attract more attention to Limbaugh. Any commentary (such as mine) only serves to bring more attention to Limbaugh, which is exactly what he wants to happen.

A major lesson learned is that Limbaugh does not have “loose lips.” Limbaugh is quite calculating. Limbaugh’s words are intentional. Limbaugh is an entertainer–a professional performer who gets paid to perform before a very large audience. Limbaugh generates controversy through the use of his spoken words. A famous quote from 1984’s science fiction film The Terminator says it best: That’s what he does! That’s ALL he does! You can’t stop him!

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