USCCB Partners an Effort to Investigate Rush Limbaugh’s “Hate Speech”

Deal W. Hudson
October 26, 2009

In an important article for the American Spectator, Jeffrey Lord describes the effort of “So We Might See” – “a national inter-faith coalition for media justice,” according to its Web site – to force a Federal Communications Commission investigation of conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.

The organization’s petition to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and the assistant secretary for communications and information, Larry E. Strickling, specifically accuses Limbaugh of causing the June 2006 beating of two Mexican men by four teenagers in Rocky Point, New York. “This incident occurred after radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Mexican immigrants, regardless of legal status, ‘a renegade, potential crime element that is unwilling to work.'”

So We Might See regards Limbaugh’s words as an example of “hate speech” that led to violence. But Limbaugh is not the only talk radio host considered dangerous. In his article, Lord notes that Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and Lou Dobbs are also singled out in an e-mail from So We Might See staffer Rev. Ben Guess, a United Church of Christ minister.

Several religious groups are listed as “principal partners” in the interfaith coalition of So We Might See, including the National Council of Churches, Islamic Society of North America, Presbyterian News Service, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – and the Office of Communications for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

That the USCCB is supporting an FCC investigation of Limbaugh and presumably the other talk radio hosts mentioned by Reverend Guess caught me by surprise. As I reported last week, the bishops took no position on the hate crimes legislation recently passed by Congress. That legislation – concerned specifically with violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons – could have a “chilling effect on religious speech,” according to Catholic League president Bill Donohue and other religious leaders.

One can only conclude that the USCCB is more concerned about the purported hate speech of people like Limbaugh and Beck than the hate-crime bill’s threat to religious liberty, which led 146 House members to vote against it.

Catholic blogger Diogenes, who broke the story, expressed his disappointment in USCCB support for the FCC investigation this way: “Lenin said that when the time comes to hang the reactionaries, the capitalists themselves will sell the rope. He never said the same sort of thing about the Catholic Church. He was born too soon.”

The investigation called for by So We Might See would take the form of an updating of the 1993 report on “The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes,” issued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The NTIA, an agency in the Commerce Department, advises the president on telecommunications policy.

The NTIA is headed by Lawrence E. Strickling, a Chicago attorney who, prior to his confirmation, was chairman of the FCC’s Enforcement Task Force and policy coordinator of Obama for America (now called Organizing for America).

Strickland will be asked to consider the “categories” of hate speech listed by So We Might See, which include “false facts,” “flawed argumentation,” and “dehumanizing metaphors.” But it was the category of “divisive language” that caught my attention.

According to So, We Might See, “Divisive Language creates and/or encourages an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Hard times often incite blaming ‘others’ as the source of trouble. Catholics, Jews, and African Americans have been routine targets as scapegoats for those wishing to further their own agendas.”

This kind of nebulous criteria makes any sort of earnest criticism of a politician, a party, a public policy, or legislation subject to being tagged as hate speech. For example, was it hate speech when Keith Olbermann of MSNBC insisted on calling George W. Bush a “fascist”? Or when Rachel Maddow, also from MSNBC, called Limbaugh a “racist” for comments he never made? President Obama doesn’t seem to think so since he invited both Olbermann and Maddow to a private, off-the-record briefing at the White House last Monday.

Hate speech that demonstrably leads directly to violence is repugnant and should be called to task by people of faith. But the efforts of So We Might See are so transparently partisan and political that the USCCB should have nothing to do with it. It’s an obvious attempt to undermine the influence of conservative talk radio, pure and simple.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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