All speech must be free

The Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus’s plan to demonstrate against a local business that advertises on Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s “The Dr. Laura Show” is misguided. Attempting to force her removal from the airwaves by making it unpleasant for advertisers to back her is dangerously close to censorship. However wrong Dr. Laura may be, such tactics are far worse than anything that could come out of her mouth.
The ALGPC is planning a possible demonstration against an undisclosed warehouse district business that advertises on The Dr. Laura Show. Their goal is not only to convince this particular business to stop advertising on the show, but to send the message to other present and perspective advertisers that being connected with Dr. Laura can be hazardous for their bottom lines.
The ALGPC is rightly concerned over some of the overtly inflammatory statements Dr. Laura has made. She has called homosexual practices deviant and said, “if you are gay or a lesbian, it’s a biological error.” She has also claimed, “a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys.”
The Dr. Laura Show is a nationally syndicated talk show, which means her message of fear and intolerance can be heard whenever someone turns on the radio. And that is the way it should be. As wrongheaded and wrong-hearted as Dr. Laura is, she has a right to express her opinion, and those who care to tune in should be able to do so.
There has been a national campaign to get Dr. Laura removed from the air, which has only intensified with Paramount’s announcement it will give her a television show. Pressure has been applied and many corporations, such as Procter & Gamble, Xerox and Toys ‘R’ Us, have pulled their ads from the radio show. While it’s quite likely some have withdrawn their support for the show in an attempt to distance themselves from her rhetoric, the majority were most likely more concerned about avoiding a confrontation with activists.
Although many more conscientious corporations take care to ensure their advertising dollars do not support unsavory characters, most are far more concerned with protecting their image and reaching their desired demographic. The reason Dr. Laura’s show receives a large number of advertising dollars is because people listen to her. It’s the same with that other infamous shock jock, the illustrious Howard Stern. The money goes to the shows that people listen to.
It’s one thing to inform companies of what exactly their money is supporting and what they are being associated with. It’s an entirely different story when you attempt to force them to remove their financial backing. A large portion of the population listens to Dr. Laura and they have a right to do so. Dr. Laura is in favor of keeping homosexuals and children separated. The ALGPC is apparently in favor of keeping Dr. Laura and her listening public separated. Dr. Laura has said, “The First Amendment is not the Eleventh Commandment. Its protection does not extend to all speech.” Apparently the ALGPC agrees with her.
Such tactics set a dangerous precedent. Censorship is always wrong. That alone is reason enough to reconsider the demonstration. Furthermore, harassing Dr. Laura’s advertisers will only add fuel to the claims of many conservatives that there is a liberal media conspiracy to keep them from speaking their minds. Worse is the fact that taking such action will be seen as a sign of weakness. If you cannot beat your opponent, your only option is to remove him or her from the playing field.
Laura is a powerful orator, but surely there are many who can humble her. Attack her words, not her right to use them.

Karl Olson’s column originally appeared in the University of Texas-Austin’s Daily Texan on July 21.