A Double Standard at Chapel Hill
by A. W. R. Hawkins
In late February of this year, radio talk-show icon Rush Limbaugh used language even he deemed inappropriate in describing a Georgetown University student turned self-proclaimed poster-child for President Obama’s abortion pill/contraception HHS mandate. On March 3 Limbaugh apologized for the words he’d used to describe the student, admitting he wished he had not lowered himself to the level he did in making his point.
But the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill knows hate speech when it hears it. Thus, apology or not, university officials barred local radio station WRDU from even mentioning Limbaugh’s show during its broadcasts of Tar Heel basketball and football games, and they also prohibited the channel from referencing UNC or the Tar Heel Sports Network during its broadcasts of Limbaugh’s daily talk show.
On the other hand, this same school recently paid homosexual activist Dan Savage $18,500 in speaker’s fees,1 without even wincing at the duplicity.
It was Savage who once wished death on all Republicans, who mocked the pope as “the dope in Rome,” and who, when sick, admitted getting as close to Gary Bauer as he could, and to licking Bauer’s office doorknobs, staplers, phones, and such in the hope of getting Bauer sick, too.
This is the same Savage who says fidelity in marriage is overrated and who was so outraged over Republican Rick Santorum’s defense of life and family that he vulgarized Santorum’s last name, making it a by-word for a substance associated with anal sex.
And Savage went even further during an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher last summer. After comedian Marc Maron talked of how he thinks about “angrily” having sexual relations with Michele Bachmann, Savage chimed in to say he has the same thoughts about “angrily” having such relations with Santorum.
Think about it—Limbaugh was virtually banned from ever being mentioned in the same breath as the university from now till eternity because of his perceived “rude, inappropriate and offensive statements” about the Georgetown student. Savage, on the other hand, can run his mouth as recklessly as he wishes, slinging profanity and sacrilege wherever he wants—including mocking the defenders of marriage and family—yet he receives $18,500 from UNC–Chapel Hill in return.
No one is defending Limbaugh’s choice of words (including Limbaugh himself). But many people expect UNC–Chapel Hill to be consistent in the way it labels speech: if Limbaugh’s remarks were hate speech deserving of censure, then surely Savage’s were even more so. He certainly should never have been given a pass for speech that the majority of Americans would consider “rude, inappropriate and offensive.”
But the way things look from here, UNC–Chapel Hill’s method for determining what does and does not constitute hate speech seems to be no more sophisticated than determining what speech it agrees with and what speech it doesn’t.
That is obviously not a trustworthy standard. •
1. Americans for Truth press release (Mar. 27, 2012): http://tinyurl.com/7nf4h6z.
A.W.R. Hawkins is a senior opinion editor and writer for the Alliance Defense Fund (www.telladf.org). He has a Ph.D. in military history from Texas Tech University.