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Online Petitioners Demand Armed Forces Network “Flush Rush”

Should the media that American soldiers are exposed to be censored? Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen—as well as a host of American defense contractors—overseas are often able to get television and radio broadcasts of live sporting events, scripted television, and films while deployed overseas, either in the rear or on forward operating bases in combat zones thanks to the Armed Forces Network (currently renamed to American Forces Radio and Television Service).

There has been a petition circulating online that demands that AFN, “a taxpayer-funded station,”  stop airing the Rush Limbaugh radio program. The petition asks Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel—a few pay grades above those at the Defense Media Activity who run AFN—to remove “Rush Limbaugh’s sexist and misogynistic radio program” saying it “fuels a culture that condones—if not encourages—sexual harassment and assault on military bases.”

The petition seems to have begun on the liberal blog The Daily Kos after Congress passed sexual assault reform that left control of prosecution in the hands of military commanders. Yet, Rush Limbaugh doesn’t profit from his show being on AFN.

“They generally offer [shows] gratis for the troops,” Cal Miller, the Deputy Director at AFN told Latest.com. As far as funding goes, tax dollars are only spent on delivering the content to service members across the globe. No one: not NPR, Comedy Central, or even Rush Limbaugh makes a dime when AFN airs one of their shows. As for content?  “We would never take it upon ourselves to make a decision to censor, well, anything,” Miller says, adding that those decisions are made at the Congressional level.

This petition is well-intentioned but a wrong-headed approach that is indicative of a much larger problem with progressives. When it comes to speech that certain individuals find distasteful, they seek to silence that person, even if that person isn’t particularly vocal about the unpopular opinion.

There are two reasons why this is a bad idea, neither of which have anything to do with sexual assault. While Limbaugh’s show—hell, his very existence—is offensive suggesting that it in any way contributes to the military’s problem with sexual assault is akin to suggesting troops that have committed war crimes did so because of violent video games.

What AFN does for troops is provide bits of culture that one misses when deployed to a warzone. It makes transitioning back to the civilian world a bit easier and offers the solace of something familiar while in the heart of the military machine.

A soldier I served with in Iraq, who was passionately liberal, listened to Rush every day (along with watching The Daily Show in his quarters at night) just so he’d have something to argue with his rampant right-wing father about during their weekly calls. While it sounds maddening, it was how they remained close despite the geographical distance.

Which brings us to the second reason why keeping Rush’s show on AFN is important. The U.S. military is almost certainly the last place left where people can disagree about almost everything, yet would readily give up his or her life for that person. There is no echo-chamber in the barracks, except when everyone is doing in-cadence push-ups.

Photo by DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.