By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Nat Hentoff ["Who'll Be Blacklisted Next?"August 8; "Boomeranging Dr. Laura Off the Air," August 1] warns those attempting to pressure the sponsors of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio and upcoming TV shows about the danger of setting a precedent and creating a backlash. He recounts attempts by right- and left-wing individuals and groups to boycott and destroy the careers of well-known personalities, including himself.
However, all the examples cited by Mr. Hentoff seem to involve politically motivated attempts to censor. None involved the type of attack on personal characteristics that Dr. Laura has delivered on her show. The use of language that implies that gays are genetically inferior inflames homophobic feelings and increases the risk of violence against gays. It is also grotesquely insulting to the families and friends of gay people who have suffered from and died of AIDS.
Dr. Laura's hateful diatribes against gays would not be tolerated on the air if they were directed against other groups, such as the Irish, Jews, Italians, or blacks. I have no qualms about proudly supporting the boycott efforts.
Contrary to Nat Hentoff, Dr. Laura's problems do not represent a free-speech conflict. Her show is commercial speech, designed mainly to sell consumer goods to the mean-spiritedand Hentoff's fear that such bigoted voices will be endangered by the opposition of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is answered by the popularity of Schlessinger's ilk on AM radio. America has no shortage of ignorance, misunderstanding, and bigotry. The economic pressure Dr. Laura is feeling cannot compare to the status quo blockade against non-European and gay media voices.
This woman represents glossy hate speech, and such hatred is not protected by the letter, or spirit, of First Amendment law. Procter & Gamble backed out of sponsoring hershow, recognizing that some bad odors don'twash away.
Nat Hentoff got it wrong in his columns about the gay boycott of Dr. Laura's upcoming TV show. This is not about silencing Dr. Laura; this is about gays being heard.
The people involved in this boycott also believe in free speech and the protection of it. Laura Schlessinger is not in jeopardy of losing her freedom of speech. She is, however, in jeopardy of losing the additional revenue she would receive for spewing hatred and intolerance against gays and lesbians on television (talk radio will continue to service the hatemongers).
Simply put, we have had it with this kind of speech, and the best way to be heard is to talk with our wallets.
James R. Harris
Nat Hentoff replies: Joe McCarthy and his legions attacked personal characteristics as well as alleged political beliefs. His targets were variously described as liars; drunks or worse; homosexuals, as well as "subversives." These attacks included families and friends of the accused. And free speech includes attacks on Irish, Jews, Italians, blacks, and columnists. The Supreme Court has ruled that commercial speech is also largely protected. Yet Dr. Laura has lost nearly 10 percent of her radio sponsors already. In access, gay voices on this issue have greatly predominated over those who want her on the air. As Supreme Court justices Brandeis, Brennan, and Douglas, among others, have emphasized, hatred as speech, glossy or otherwise, is protected by the First Amendment. As my columns indicated, the campaign clearly involves many who want to silence Dr. Laura.
Cynthia Cotts's Press Clips column titled "A Study in Synergy: Nike Money Buys a WNYC Talk Show" [July 25] was the stupidest conspiracy piece I've read in your paper in a long time. Public Radio International has never received money from Nike, but we know an interesting radio concept when we hear it.
We decided to invest in the Satellite Sisters program because it promises to be good radio that brings women's voices to the air (including those of thoughtful listeners) that are all too rarely heard. That Laura Walker [president of the WNYC Foundation] and [marketing consultant] Liz Dolan met each other as part of the roles they played in prior jobs is nothing but good news for public radio listeners. To suggest something sleazy here is very wide of the mark.
Stephen L. Salyer
Public Radio International
Kudos to Lenora Todaro for her nuanced portrait of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader ["Do You Want to Ralph?" August 1]. She captured Nader's humanity and raison d'être without the suspicious cynicism that permeates most articles written about him.
I very much enjoyed Michael Musto's take on Diana Ross and the Supremes at the Garden [La Dolce Musto,July 25]. He was right about the interaction between Miss Ross and the girls. I have been a fan since I met the Supremes when I was 14 years old. I am 45 now and still a fan, and she has always been the star. That's just who that diva is.
Drag performer Princess Diandra, who caused such a ruckus during the show, should be slapped into reality. She can't upstage the Queen Mother! Thank you, Michael, for the kind things you said about Miss Ross. She always gets a bad wrap.