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I have good news and bad news.

Good news is that the White House finally responded to OleHippieChick's petition to remove Rush Limbaugh from AFN.

I think you can guess the bad news:

Thank you for your interest in American Forces Network (AFN) programming for our service members overseas. We appreciate your participation in the "We the People" platform on and your concerns about the programming available to our troops.

AFN is charged with providing current information and entertainment programming to our Department of Defense audiences overseas, similar to what they could see and hear via the media in the United States. AFN acquires top-rated radio programs, as measured by audience ratings in the United States, and delivers them via satellite to our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen stationed worldwide in 177 countries. AFN does not advertise on, provide any funding for, offer products for sale, or sponsor any of the programs (including the Rush Limbaugh Show) it relays to its audiences.

AFN does not censor content, and we believe it is important that service members have access to a variety of viewpoints.

See the complete list of political talk shows offered on AFN.

Review all of our radio and television services/schedules.

Again, thank you for your interest in our service members and the programming services AFN extends to them.

Bryan G. Whitman is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

The bad news arrived last night, on a Friday evening, after phone lines at both AFN and the White House were shut down for business. I think a few folks are hoping this is a flash in the pan and that by Monday morning, no one will care anymore.

I had high hopes that someone within the military chain of command would see sense. I had even higher hopes that civilians within the Obama Administration would see that this is not a case of 'fair and balanced' representation of the political point of view. At the time, I hedged my bets and started a less than successful petition to the ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin and John McCain. Still haven't reached 500 signatures yet. Folks just don't believe me when I tell them pressure has to come from all directions at once in order for the military to stick their heads up out of their foxholes.

Honestly, I could care less which talk show hosts they want to place on our airways as long as those hosts are not misogynists, racists, or make common use of hate speech. And that little quibble, my friends, was completely lost in the answer to this petition. Zero Tolerance for sexual harassment in our military? I don't think so. How about Zero Attention instead?

I've spent the last few weeks writing about an award winning film, The Invisible War. The film tells the story of several women and a few men - all who were raped and/or sexually assaulted while serving in the military. I've been on a quest to gain signatures on a White House petition asking that all potential military commanders and all personnel who work training our incoming recruits watch this film. It is truly an eye-opening account of the problems facing our service members, not only from the standpoint of the victims but also for any military person who wants to change the system, who wants to truly support Zero Tolerance.

And now you can see why. Rush Limbaugh is given a free pass to continue on the airways of AFN without even addressing the petitioners core concern, that of demeaning women.

Back in March, other military community members were writing Letters to the Editor to Stars and Stripes about Rush Limbaugh. This one could have been written by many of us:

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?

Steven Murray
Camp Walker, South Korea

Zero Tolerance will never come to pass as long as we offer support in any way, shape, or form to misogynistic behavior.

Secretary Panetta, are you listening? Or are your ears filled with sand?

Originally posted to Military Community Members of Daily Kos on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 06:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Sexism and Patriarchy, and Sluts.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well at least the women's march next month (13+ / 0-)

    has a DC permit.

    I say we take the opportunity to say enough is enough.

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 06:50:01 AM PDT

  •  Could you share the complete list of political (10+ / 0-)

    shows on AFN?  I usually tape Randi Rhodes and send to the platoon I support along with their daily letter.  They tell me they only see and hear the right wing noise machine.  So I am curious as to what all is available.

  •  Seator Al Franken (7+ / 0-)

    I remember when he had a radio show and was able to get it played on AFN. Maybe he can reverse engineer the process and be a help in replacing Rush with a less offensive RWer. I always find it more helpful to contact the local office.
    Saint Paul Office
    60 East Plato Blvd
    Suite 220
    Saint Paul, MN 55107
    (651) 221-1016

    "Mitt Romney seems like the kind of man who immediately rushes off to wash his hands after sex. Really. Don't you think so?" My mother in law!

    by lexalou on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 07:03:05 AM PDT

  •  The problem you have is that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    AFN is an arm of the government.  The government cannot make decisions about speech based on the content of the speech -- no matter how offensive you think it is.  You certainly, certainly can speak out loudly about what you think of Limbaugh, and encourage others not to tune in, because you believe his speech is offensive.  That is a completely different thing from the government making decisions about what people in the armed services can, and cannot, listen to.  Those individuals have the right, just as you and I do, to listen to whatever they choose to, no matter how offensive others think that is.

    I think that, certainly, AFN - the government -- can choose not to make ANY programming available to the military.  But once it makes decisions to make programming available, AFN -- as the government -- has to make decisions as to WHICH programming on a content-neutral basis.  That's the principle behind the First Amendment -- government is not supposed to make decisions about which speech is offensive, and which is not.  We, as individuals, are entitled to do that for ourselves, and we do that not by censoring speech we find offensive so as to deprive others of the right to make their own decisions, but by tuning out ourselves and by speech of our own, convincing others to reject the offensive speech.  The military, I think, is entitled to those same rights.  

    It appears that AFN makes decisions about what content to include based at least in part on ratings, so that the shows most listened to in the U.S. are available to the armed forces.  That's a content-neutral determination by the government -- whatever most people in the U.S. are listening to, regardless of content, is available to the armed forces.  

    Therefore, if you want to change what is on AFN, it would be helpful if you could suggest and alternative, content-neutral way for AFN to determine which programming it makes available to people and which it does not.

    I don't see you getting anywhere by asking the AFN to determine that Limbaugh is offensive and therefore should be removed from its programming based on the content of that speech.  I think that's what the response was telling you.  

    •  Do you understand what Zero Tolerance is? (6+ / 0-)

      Do you see a connection between the type of speech Rush Limbaugh uses and sexual harassment in the work place? Imagine being a female soldier and having to listen to this hate speech - from the radio and possibly repeated by the people who work by your side. This isn't about free speech. This is about sexual harassment. Period.

      •  This absolutely IS about the First Amendment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Under no stretch of the imagination is Limbaugh "sexually harassing" people who CHOOSE TO TUNE IN AND LISTEN.  That would read the "harassment" part of of sexual harassment.  It's not harassment of you IF YOU YOURSELF INITIATE THE CONTACT.  Saying really awful things on a radio show -- where offended people can turn it off -- is not sexual harassment.  It's saying really awful things on a radio show. I'm a lawyer, and there's no way that, either under the civil law or the criminal law, saying awful things on a radio show is sexual harassment.  It may be offensive speech that you think encourages OTHERS to engage in sexual harassment.  But that is beyond the reach of the government.  The government cannot -- absolutely cannot -- decide which content is offensive and which content is not offensive.  Saying (to give a really horrible example) "I think women are second class citizens, are dirt, and exist just to serve men, and men, you should make sure you remember that when you deal with women" would be really, really, really horrible First Amendment protected speech.

        I am a woman, so I can understand a woman not wanting to listen to the speech.  But what should happen is the woman should have that choice herself.  Under the First Amendment, the government is absolutely prohibited from making that choice for her or for any other person, based on the content of the speech.  That's the most fundamental, basic principle of the First Amendment.

        I completely understand that you do not think the military should be listening to Limbaugh.  But that's not a decision that you get to make for those in the military.  More importantly, that's not a decision that THE GOVERNMENT gets to make for people in the military.  

        IF the government decides to make commercial radio programming available to the members of the military, it has to make decisions about what programming on a content-neutral basis.  It would be a clear violation of the First Amendment for the government to make decisions about which speech is offensive and should not be heard by people, and which speech is ok for people to hear.  That's so fundamental under the First Amendment that I can't believe you don't recognize it.    

        •  If AFN had enough air time to air every show in (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          stevej, Mr SeeMore, glorificus, llbear, nolagrl

          the US, I would agree with you. They don't. They make content choices all the time. They want you to believe that they make choices strictly by the numbers but that isn't true either. There are no numbers that make that decision an easy decision. They make decisions all the time about this crap.

          If an organization is going to make decisions about content, then they should be very honest about how they do it. Up front about it in fact. I've been trying to find out when Limbaugh's contract is up and how they will make that decision and can't figure it out at all. It is anything but a transparent process.

          •  I would support your outrage if you could support (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            your statement about them making decisions based on content of speech.  Please provide support for your assertion that their decision about which programming to make available is based on content of speech.  

            Let me make clear, they can decide on different type of programming -- like so many hours of country music, so many hours of talk, so many hours of Spanish language, so many hours of oldies, etc.  That's like making a decision that they want (if there was an analogous video feed) so many hours of sitcom, so many hours of football, so many hours of movies, so many hours of news, etc.  But that's not the content of the speech.    The First Amendment prohibits decisions based on the content of the speech.  And -- obviously -- that plays most heavily in "talk" programming, which is all about speech.  Content of speech cannot figure into that decision.  They can decide they don't want ANY talk radio at all.  But if they offer talk radio, they cannot -- absolutely cannot, under the First Amendment -- based the decision of WHICH talk radio on the content of the speech.

            I completely agree that it is hard to find a system that goes "strictly by the numbers," but the government must do the best reasonably possible to do just that.  It does not have to be a perfect system that it uses, just one that stays as far as reasonably possible from making decisions based on content of speech. If you have evidence that content figures prominently in their decision making -- for example, if they reject higher-rated talk radio programming in favor of lower rated talk radio programming because they don't like the speech on the higher rated program -- please provide that.  That WOULD  be a legitimate complaint.

            •  I disagree. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              llbear, nolagrl
              one that stays as far as reasonably possible from making decisions based on content of speech.
              There is NO obligation to provide content that blatantly contradicts their "zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment".

              Have you forgotten the 'slut' and 'make a porn video for me' incident?

              This is, of course, the difference between republicans and human beings. - Captain Frogbert

              by glorificus on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 10:16:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Why do we have to PAY Rush for his screed. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I find it offensive that my money is going to Rush via AFN.

            coffeetalk probably would defend Rush calling woman Fema-nazi Bitches on the air as that may be some first amendment right in her opinion. That is hogwash I say.

            Look at who she follows on her profile page. Mostly jerks and assholes excluding Adam B. johnny wurster and burrow owl are the same person. He acknowledged his dropping the former name for his new persona johnny wurster. Johnny is a jerk as is Vclib. Always going around defending the indefensible republican positions. We do have trolls with low UID numbers. I have seen them. They stay just on the periphery of being HR'd into oblivion.

            "We are a Plutocracy, we ought to face it. We need, desperately, to find new ways to hear independent voices & points of view" Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General.

            by Mr SeeMore on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 09:28:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Congress demands Rush be aired. (0+ / 0-)

          So, this is a political decision, not a 'fairness issue.'

    •  As to your last comment... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, glorificus, llbear

      about content... I have to agree that the petition could have more directly tackled the issue of hate speech. It was on of the reason's I wrote my own petition to the Senators. However, the administration is certainly intelligent enough to make these connections themselves without us having to connect all the dots.

      •  No petition that asks the government to make (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        decisions about which speech to make available to people based on the content of the speech is going to go anywhere.  

        You have to suggest a content-neutral basis for the AFN to determine which programming it makes available.  

        •  Are you just running interference? (5+ / 0-)

          How on earth is this possible:

          You have to suggest a content-neutral basis for the AFN to determine which programming it makes available.  
          How are they going to choose programming without looking at content ?

          As for the first amendment thing you are wrong. The presenters can say whatever they like (within certain bounds - fire crowded theater etc.) with impunity but AFN has a choice whether to give them a microphone.

          •  You are wrong about the 1st Amendment. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            First, AFN makes content-neutral decisions by making decisions based on ratings.  if they are going to offer talk radio, they have to make decisions about WHICH talk radio based on something other than content -- and the method they say they use is ratings -- the shows that the most people listen to in the U.S. are the ones that they offer.  It's like the whole principle of "time, place, and manner."  The Government can set parameters of when, where, and how it allows speech, as long as those parameters are (1) reasonable, allowing alternative venues for speech; and (2) are content-neutral -- apply to everyone equally regardless of what they say.

            Second, this is just wrong.

            AFN has a choice whether to give them a microphone.
            AFN can either make the microphone equally available to everyone based on criteria OTHER THAN content, or it can decide not to make the microphone available at all.  Government cannot say, I will make the microphone available if I approve of what you want to say. Government cannot say, I have a microphone, I will give it to John but not to James because I don't like what James wants to say.  There would be no clearer violation of the First Amendment than that.

            Let me give you an analogy.  There are many ways government can "make the microphone available."  Suppose, for example, it had a government-owned and run park set up so as to have a podium-type area,, a microphone, and seating so that people can stand up and talk and there are places for people to listen.   That's fine. That's providing a microphone.  Government can say, you can only talk between 9 a.m., and 6 p.m., and no one person can talk more than 5 minutes.  That's content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions.  But, once it does that, it absolutely cannot make decisions about what speech goes on.  It absolutely, positively cannot say, we'll let the SPCA talk about saving animals, but we won't allow the KKK to talk about white supremacy.  That is patently, blatantly, unconstitutional.  Once government decides to provide a microphone, it cannot prohibit speech it finds offensive on the basis of the CONTENT of that speech.  

            You might want to do some reading on the First Amendment.  See for example here.

            •  And if there's no enough "microphone" for all (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              the decision as to who gets to talk has to be based on something other than content.  

              In my park example, government can say, the first people to line up get to talk, or there will be a lottery every day to see who gets to talk or whoever brings the most listeners with him/her gets to talk.  Government CANNOT have, as its policy, asking what you want to talk about and using THAT to decide who gets access to the limited resource of its microphone.  

            •  This is where you are wrong: (0+ / 0-)

              "neutral" decisions. For years, the line-up didn't have a liberal on it. It was only through pressure that it began to change. I'm  not sure where you are getting your info from, but the folks at AFN are as likely to be 'partial' while trying not to be as anyone else. They can get stuck in their ruts as well and can be so sure they are right that they can't see what's going on around them.

              You can keep crying First Amendment and I will keep telling you this has nothing to do with First Amendment. No one is silencing Rush Limbaugh. We just don't want him on the air supported by tax payer dollars. No one said the tax payer should support sexually harassing content.

      •  One would hope. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        This is, of course, the difference between republicans and human beings. - Captain Frogbert

        by glorificus on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 10:17:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Did you write a comment? (4+ / 0-)

       I received the same WH response and did take the time to answer their poll.  According to their statement, it is based on ratings.
         I responded in the poll comment section referencing the fact that the "radio ratings" could be gamed.

  •   Condi Rice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster

    Was not a serious prospect for the Republican VP spot ,she was no more than token by Republican too feel how the Republican base would respond to her ,even as of today ,she has not renounce her Pro -Choice views

  •  rec, tip, & repub to (5+ / 0-)

    Sexism and Patriarchy

    And my heart goes out to all the women in the Armed Forces, who are threatened with sexual assault on a daily basis, and they must listen to this hateful pig on the overhead loud speakers.

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

    by JayRaye on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 07:54:47 AM PDT

  •  Same problem, different solution (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glorificus, llbear

    If you see Rush Limbaugh's right-wing propaganda as detrimental to the common good, I recommend joining the thousands of citizens and activists who have taken upon themselves the mission of informing Rush Limbaugh's advertisers about his bigotry, his misogyny, his jingoism, and now, his phony persona. The Stop Rush folks have a database of Rush advertisers (updated around the clock), here.

    If you're on Facebook, go here.

    Follow me on Twitter: @denverunionguy

    by Richard Myers on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 09:26:30 AM PDT

  •  The folks in the Obama White House treat these (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    words as a confession of mortal sin:

                                                       I am a liberal
    I entertain no hope of any change during the next 4 years. The greatest way to recruit real Democrats for 2016 is to stake out a left-of-center position and pray to God that you won't be jailed for it.

    Bring those still in Afghanistan home NOW . . . It's long past time.

    by llbear on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 10:22:09 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the update, angelajean. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llbear, angelajean

    Do you ever think in historical terms? This is how the suffragettes felt trying to get women the vote. This is how the feminists in the 1960s and 1970s felt.

    All had eventual victory, but it was hard. And the Rs are today trying to repeal both.

    Please know I support you and this cause.

    This is, of course, the difference between republicans and human beings. - Captain Frogbert

    by glorificus on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 10:22:16 AM PDT

  •  Limbaugh abetted war crimes when he defended (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the torture at Abu Ghraib (as I heard him do in the spring of 2004 in the first hour of his show, the hour that is broadcast to our troops overseas over Armed Forces Radio).  How is that protected speech?

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 12:19:22 PM PDT

  •  Plan B, selectively jamming limpbaugh's airways (0+ / 0-)

    would not be prudent.  I'm old, reporting for duty.

  •  Major Feminazi (0+ / 0-)

    Nothing like knowing your fellow officers are cheering on a guy who's calling you a nazi whore.

    Time for my meds.......

  •  A group of GOP senators pressured AFN (0+ / 0-)

    into picking up the Rush Limbaugh show back in the 90s. I think we can safely assume GOP senators will bring similar pressure to bear if AFN even so much as thinks about dropping Rush.

    Say what it will, however, AFN answers to military leaders.  A strong Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, one who is willing to stand up to politicians, could simply order AFN to drop the show on the grounds that Rush foments disrespect and disobedience toward the Commander in Chief.  Of course this notional CJCS would have to be contemplating retirement ... which shouldn't be a problem, since retirement is the next step for any CJCS ... they are all literally at the peak of their careers.  My conclusion is that there is no CJCS willing to stand up to politicians.

    Three years ago I wrote my senators, John McCain and John Kyl, asking them to petition the JCS and AFN to drop Rush's show.  Neither one responded ... not even a form letter.  I also wrote directly to the CJCS, and of course he didn't respond either.

    A few months later I wrote to my congressperson, Gabby Giffords, and she turned my letter into what the military calls a "congressional."  The military doesn't like congressional inquiries, because they have to answer them promptly.  She sent my letter to USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norman Schwartz. That's the good part.

    The bad part: Gen. Schwartz forwarded the letter to the Department of Defense Public Relations office, which in turn forwarded it to AFN, which sent Rep. Giffords and me the same bullshit boilerplate answer they just gave OleHippieChick's petition (which I also signed, BTW).

    Until we get a strong CJCS, or a President willing to lean hard on the CJCS, Rush will continue to undermine the Commander in Chief on AFN.

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