Dr. Laura: criticism of me infringes my first amendment rights


Dr. Laura Schlessinger is leaving radio to regain her "first amendment" rights on the internet. Welcome to the blogosphere, Dr. Laura! This follows her on-air use of the N-word to suggest that it shouldn't always be taken as a slur.

It's not clear exactly who Schlessinger claims took her free speech away, though she suggests special interest groups are silencing her by pressuring sponsors. Without the ability to earn a living, she said, "I don't have the right to say what I need to say. My first amendment rights have been usurped."

Schlessinger's announcement — and her invocation of a constitutional right to earn a living from her speech — was made on Larry King Live. In it, King and Schlessinger both indulged the idea that the issue is about whether its OK for black people to use the N-word but not OK for whites.

"I thought I was trying to be helpful," she told King. "I thought I was making a philosophical point."

Laura believes her use of the term illustrates an important point about semantics: that its offensiveness is rooted in context and history, and that we'll be happier if we look beyond our reactive sensitivitities to better understand our interlocutors' motives.

But that "philosphical" point was never really the problem. Context does matter, and the context here was a caller suffering from daily encounters with racial discrimination in her family life. Schlessinger denied the reality of her caller's problem so she could veer off into a rant about political correctness and language.

Laura's not quitting because her constitutional rights are under threat, but because she said the N-Word eleven times in an act of childish transgressive spite and can't take the heat. People get the criticism of our racial double-standards, but also get that she used that as a specious excuse to turn a caller's personal problems into an inane tirade about something else entirely.

In watching the Larry King Live segment [Gawker TV], however, the most striking thing is how eager Schlessinger is to play the hapless, helpless victim herself. For someone in the business of giving life advice, bathos is clearly the new black.