Rush Limbaugh, the Armed Forces Network and Women in the Military

I know. You say, not another story about Limbaugh and his faux pas; not another example of selective outrage; not another piling on Rush.

Perhaps, perhaps not.

Because Limbaugh is — I believe — quite popular with our military; because his show is broadcast to our troops overseas via the Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio and, last but not least, because his unfortunate remarks were directed against a woman and — as you will read below –“Women now represent 17 percent of the force …” I decided to do a very unscientific survey of the reactions of some of our military, retired military, veterans, DoD personnel and dependents.

What better source than the “Letters to the Editor” section of the venerable Stars and Stripes published for our troops and DoD personnel serving abroad.

So, without further ado, the following is a cross-section of the letters on the Limbaugh subject published in the last ten days in the Stripes. Actually, unless I missed one or two, these are all the letters on this subject.

First, from a Chief Warrant Officer stationed in Germany who is “Sick of selective outrage”:

As the outrage on the left continues over what Rush Limbaugh said, where is the outrage over the real point? A 30-year-old woman going to Georgetown (a Jesuit university) wants taxpayers to pay for her birth control. She knew full well that the school’s health plan did not cover birth control but decided to go anyway in the hopes she could change their policy. She spoke at a trumped-up press conference held by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., because she was not allowed to speak at the Senate hearing trying to determine if it was legal for the president to order Catholic schools/hospitals/businesses to cover contraception and morning-after pills in their insurance plans when it is against their beliefs. Sandra Fluke has no expertise in this area and that was why she was not allowed to testify before the Senate panel.

As to the name-calling that Limbaugh did toward Fluke, I agree 100 percent that it was not called for. But where is the outrage over the double standard on civility? Bill Maher called Sarah Palin names that were a lot worse than “slut” and “prostitute” and then donated a million dollars to the super PAC that supports President Barack Obama. Where was the outrage?

Wanda Sykes performed at a White House Correspondents Association dinner with the president there and said she hoped that Limbaugh’s kidneys failed and also that he needed to be waterboarded. Where is the outrage?

When conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart died, Rolling Stone posted the following headline: “Andrew Breitbart: Death of a Douche.” Where is the outrage?

As long as it is the left/liberals/Democrats saying the hate speech it is OK, but when anyone else says anything it needs to be immediately condemned and repudiated?

A woman in Wiesbaden, Germany, claims that this is “Not a war against Limbaugh” and makes the following points:

1) Sticks and stones: We need to admit that words injure, especially in our digital age when the vast majority of communication revolves around the digital pen. When Limbaugh uses the portmanteau word “feminazi” or the less creative slur “slut,” it triggers deep emotional responses. Those who use hate speech, like Limbaugh, deserve our scorn — as this type of mentality encompasses everything that is wrong with civilized society. Discriminatory words echo dark phases and phrases in human history that we must not repeat.

2) If it bleeds, it leads: As any veteran (I’m one) knows, the only thing that looks like a war zone is a war zone. Often we read headlines that revolve around wars. While it is true that tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods leave behind a path of destruction, such damage is generally characteristic of natural elements alone. Nature’s chaos does not generally stop with human intervention, and comparisons between storm destruction and a war zone reduce the impact of human conflict.

Other word inflictions have to do with word pairings. Class warfare is one such word combination that proves problematic because it plays off the visualization of live ammunition and a real battlefield. Additionally, words, parodies or symbols juxtaposed or branded with Nazism, anti-Semitic sentiment and racist attitudes severely diminish the horrors and genocide of an entire people.

3) Fool me once, shame on you: If we take into consideration the multitude of times Limbaugh either [implies] or uses sexist, racist and misogynistic language, it only proves one thing — his rants do not hold up against a claim of ignorance. In fact, Limbaugh’s apology is a lie. Apologies are a good start, especially in the case of ignorance, but sometimes not enough. To ignore Limbaugh’s hate-filled messages is to support a cycle of abuse against women and civilized people. If we take the microphone away from Limbaugh, it removes but one hateful liar from the broadcast airwaves. Nevertheless, one at a time we can make a personal choice not to listen to individuals who speak about women in cruel ways.

4) The pen is mightier than the sword: While words do not literally shoot bullets, they do puncture. This is not a “war” against Limbaugh. We do not want to “kill” Limbaugh. Likewise, if we repeal support for Limbaugh, it is not a bullet fired directly into the heart of the First Amendment. It is sensational to call a stand against Limbaugh a “war” on freedom of speech. Action against hate speech is simply action against old mentalities. We need action if we ever hope to change our world and strive toward a future where equality is the goal.

The following letter, from a retired woman Navy Commander, is built around the premise that:

The 21st century in America is not the America of the 1960s when I joined the Navy and the force was only 2 percent women, with major restrictions on women’s service. The roles and influence of military women mirror those across the nation today. Women now represent 17 percent of the force and opportunities for, as well as attitudes about, military women have dramatically changed, including combat roles.

And that in the absence of appropriate legislation to pull Limbaugh’s radio show, “Pentagon leaders must step up to the plate and make this decision for the following reasons”:

Limbaugh has been able to get away with his misogynistic remarks for decades, but not now. Women have come too far to allow such slanderous remarks as he used against Fluke. His recent comments are the culmination of years of his negative rants about “those feminazis” and thorough disrespect of the female gender.

Americans are for the First Amendment and free speech, but Limbaugh’s remarks are exponentially more serious than just a pundit making a fool of himself. He influences many people who listen to his show, including young military men and women.

Five times a week AFN, funded by taxpayers, airs Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, a show popular among the troops; juxtapose this fact with another: For many years military-politico leaders have been deeply concerned about high rates of sexual assault on and rape of women in the services by their male counterparts.

A policy decision by the Department of Defense tacitly to endorse Rush’s form of talk by broadcasting his show on a closed network, paid for by taxpayers and with minimal competing viewpoints, demands immediate reconsideration. To permit someone on AFN who consistently calls women feminazis, who uses disparaging language that [some believe] encourages discrimination and violence against women is both wrong and unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the military, its standards and ethical values, and unacceptable to the nation and its vision for equality and opportunity for women. Needless to say, to correct this problem should inherently be a nonpartisan decision.

High statistics regarding sexual assault against our military women constitute sufficient cause alone for DOD to remove Rush Limbaugh’s show without delay. Any justification for the U.S. military not to take a strong stand opposing this type of broadcasting is purely political.

Finally, a man at Camp Walker, South Korea also addresses the AFN issue saying “Limbaugh [is]unfit for AFN

After summarizing Limbaugh’s offensive comments, he says:

The Department of Defense has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. How can it keep Rush Limbaugh on American Forces Network radio after such unacceptable statements? If he was in uniform, he would be facing a Uniform Code of Military Justice hearing.

What does it say about all of the work that military sexual assault response coordinators do if AFN will not remove Limbaugh’s show from its programming?

I am sure our readers will find other reactions from our troops in other publications. Please give us a sense of the overall direction.

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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4 Comments

  1. DDW, Not piling on, this story still has legs, albeit wobbly ones, and will get jolts to its bolts, by the Dems. Not that it isn’t deserved, Rush was so high, that taking more air out of his balloon is warranted. Too bad it is so political, however.

  2. Wow. Those are very well reasoned, calm arguments. How refreshing. It’s also good to see some criticism of Ms. Fluke that can’t easily be dismissed as hatred.

    I work in the DoD world where Limbaugh is well loved. I fear the letters we’d hear from my colleagues would sound more like Rushbo than the letters above.

  3. I second that, great letters, both pro and con.
    I still think we have to live with the stench of the Limbaughs and Mahers, it is important not to slip into censorship.

  4. Nice post. But the Chief Warrant Officer made it clear that, like many of Rush’s defenders, he/she doesn’t really understand the issue. This has nothing to do with taxpayers; ir’s about private insurance. Limbaugh erroneously & disingenuously made it about taxpayer dollars, knowing he’d provoke an outraged response.

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