Thursday, September 22, 2005

Get Ready for the Storm

No, not Rita. The storm of letters to ABC Radio. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights reports that Kim Serafin of KABC radio in Los Angeles slandered the Catholic Church and was not disciplined in any meaningful way by her supervisors. This in spite of the fact that ABC radio talk-show host Michael Graham was fired over the summer after making an offensive remark about Islam.

There is a very clear double-standard at work here: it is not politically correct to make insulting remarks about some groups of people, but Catholics are on their own. The usual reasoning behind this approach to "free" speech is to say that Catholics are part of a larger group (Christians) that has enjoyed cultural hegemony for a long time and hence making offensive remarks about it is not as threatening as making offensive remarks about groups that have traditionally been in the minority and have lacked any real power in the culture. In short, the reasoning says that it is not offensive remarks per se that are objectionable, but rather belittling folks who have not enjoyed positions of power. Once Islam becomes the dominant religion in this country, then it will be open season on them at ABC Radio. (One wonders whether, if that should ever come to pass, the members of the group in question will be as apt to roll over for ABC Radio.)

The mistake in the reasoning is clear. It is slanderous speech itself that is harmful, not the nature of the target of the slander. If slanderous speech is not wrong in itself then there cannot be anything wrong with slandering anybody any time, including Islam, so Michael Graham should not have been fired. But if there is something wrong with slanderous speech, then it is wrong to use it against anyone any time, including the Catholic Church. So if there is any justice at all at ABC Radio either Kim Serafin will have to be fired or Michael Graham will have to be re-hired. I wonder which it will be. Probably neither, proving that there is no justice at ABC Radio.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League has promised a letter-writing campaign of biblical proportions if ABC Radio does not take steps to discipline Kim Serafin. Since she thinks that the Catholic Church is corrupt, the best discipline I can think of is to make a contribution in her name to Catholic Charities, but I think I'll also write one of those letters to ABC Radio.

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