You would think that in a discussion about racial insensitivity and the use of the n-word by a prominent conservative media figure, you might want to avoid a loaded word like “shackled” or “shackles.” And yet, Sarah Palin goes there in her latest Facebook missive:
I can understand how she could feel “shackled” by those who would parse a single word out of decades of on-air commentary. I understand what she meant when she declared that she was “taking back my First Amendment rights” by turning to a new venue that will not allow others the ability to silence her by going after her stations, sponsors, and supporters.
Lets begin with the idea that anybody has shackled Palin or Schlessinger. They are both well-off media figures in the 21st century. Unlike slaves who were actually shackled and in shackles, neither Palin or Schlessinger are anyone's property, and they both have the freedom to speak, marry, vote, and engage in all the other privileges of being a citizen of the United States. In other words, they aren't shackled at all. Here is Palin in her home, free to go as she pleases, and here is the very un-shackled Dr. Laura in what looks like a nice home. By comparison, here is a drawing of a person that was in shackles. Just so we're clear.
As to the substance, such as it is, of Palin's complaint -- nobody is parsing “a single word” out of Schlessinger's rant. What is at issue here is her repetition of the n-word eleven times in the middle of an argument that because African-American comics on HBO use the word, she should be able to use it with abandon. In addition, Schlessinger argued that her African-American caller “had a chip on [her] shoulder” because she supposedly had “hypersensitivity” about racial language which has been “bred by black activists.” Schlessinger also argued that “We've got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever,” and that if you are “that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race.”
In the eyes of Palin, this is all apparently “one word.”
Despite her and Schlessinger's complaint about purported denial of First Amendment rights, there is no constitutional right to a radio program. The first amendment clearly discusses the freedom of speech and religion and assembly, but it does not prohibit criticism and commentary of a radio broadcast which is what Media Matters and others have done here. Palin and Schlessinger are free to say what they wish, without fear of government-sanctioned censorship, but at the same time their commentary isn't immune from speech and actions which may run in a contrary direction.