Shut up, Jim Norton, you're not being censored

In 1961 Lenny Bruce had to spend a night in jail because he said "cocksucker" on stage. Twelve years later a radio station played George Carlin's 7 Dirty Words bit and they got reprimanded by the FCC. Both were instances of censorship. They were government actions that infringed upon free speech.

Today you can say "cocksucker" almost anywhere without reprimand, with the FCC carving out certain profanity-free zones that are becoming increasingly irrelevant to media consumers (nice ratings, broadcast networks!).


So when Jim Norton says that people who don't like rape jokes are censoring him, he needs to shut the fuck up. Just because people don't like what you say that doesn't mean you're being censored. Rather, it means the First Amendment is operating as it needs to. You're allowed to say anything you want but you also have to live with the consequences of what you say.

This fallacy is repeated over and over by right-wing politicans. Sarah Palin said Chick-Fil-A boycotts suppressed free speech. Herman Cain said the backlash against Chris Broussard's anti-gay comments suppressed free speech. But this is exactly what the First Amendment protects - people using competing ideas peacefully to persuade others. Saying that your free speech is being infringed upon is a typical and incorrect crutch for bigots trying to create their own persecution complexes.


Jim Norton isn't a bigot, but has a persecution complex. He thinks that rape jokes becoming socially unacceptable is censorship. Under his line of thinking, people decrying Michael Richards' pro-lynching rant are censors as well. They're not. Rather, people like Lindy West contribute to the marketplace of ideas by persuading audiences and comics that jokes that minimize the impact of rape have low social and comedic value.

Lindy West isn't calling on the government to ban rape jokes. Rather she's trying to increase the extralegal social taboo against some of them because they contribute to a culture that minimizes the impact of rape. That's censorship as much as other comedic taboos are, like the ones against stealing jokes. You might disagree with the taboo because it makes your act less popular, but that doesn't mean it's censorship. You can either abide by the taboo, which Norton hasn't done, or seek to lower it, as Norton did on Totally Biased.


But Jim Norton can't go around saying he's being censored because he's not. When he does that, he's just being a cocksucker.

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