Dr. Laura's Interesting Interpretation of the First Amendment

According to Dr. Laura, the First Amendment to the United States constitution reads, in part:

"Any individual may be able to say whatever's on her mind and in her heart and what she personally adjudges to be useful and helpful without fear of another individual getting angry, or some group of individuals deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack associated groups or commercial interests affiliated with such individuals. Further, said individual, having had these rights violated, may redress said violations by declaring: 'I'm sort of done with that.'"

OK, so she didn't say that exactly. Here's what she did say to Larry King last night, about her decision to end her radio program, once her contract expires at the end of the year:

"I want to regain my First Amendment rights," she said. "I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that."

Poor Dr. Laura. What an aggrieved soul. All she was trying to do was point out what a horrible injustice it was that Black people get to say the n-word and white people don't (those Black people are such lucky duckies, aren't they?).

Right-wing self-pity has become a depressing staple of our political discourse. As open hatred - whether directed toward blacks, Muslims, gays, immigrants, you name it - becomes more and more mainstream, the peddlers of that hatred shriek ever more loudly with outrage about being called on it.

Though he was more forthright than Dr. Laura in the aftermath of his program's racially-suffused comments about Rutgers women's basketball in 2007, Don Imus and his supporters similarly misunderstood and/or mis-stated what his "rights" were. For the record, a decision by business not to sponsor a program is not a violation of anyone's rights. In a market-based system of the sort that the right-wing professes overwhelmingly to endorse without qualification, businesses are free to spend their money on sponsorships and advertising as they see fit. If they believe, for whatever reason, that doing so no longer constitutes a good investment, then they are free to cease making that investment. That's pretty much the essence of exercising one's economic freedom.

Since Dr. Laura does appear so confused about our constitution's First Amendment, let's remind her what it actually says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I am sure that will clear things up for her, and that we'll no longer hear her whining about the outrageous abrogation of her rights that caused her to pull a Palin and quit her show.

Jonathan Weiler's most recent book, Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, co-authored with Marc Hetherington, was published last year by Cambridge University Press.