(Updated twice thrice four times: to add fax # for the Department of Defense office in charge of AFN, to add a .pdf of the letter I faxed to them, to add a link to VoteVets' petition to pull Rush off AFN, and now to add a link to the AFN website feedback page. Please read to the end for more things you can do to help!)
WHAT THIS POST IS:
A one-stop-shop for how to lobby to have Rush Limbaugh removed from so-called "Armed Forces Radio," including petitions, talking points, and (most important) direct contact info for the decision-makers involved, who will respond if we flood them with citizen input.
America's military personnel are not obligated to be politically neutral; they have every right to listen to the myriad, sometimes conflicting political viewpoints that inform a healthy, diverse democracy, and to form, discuss and vote their own opinions. They should be free to listen to liberal, conservative, progressive, Libertarian, and other voices; to read editorials on all sides of pressing issues, without political censorship. They are the front-line defenders of our freedoms; they deserve the liberties of speech and press at least as much as anyone else.
That's why the Armed Forces Radio & Television Service ("AFRTS") and the American Forces Network ("AFN") are absolutely right to air a variety of programming for our troops and their families overseas, ranging from conservative Sean Hannity to liberal Ed Schultz and everyone in between. When it comes to political viewpoints, AFN is correct to adopt a policy stating that it "does not censor content and they do not seek to protect the overseas Department of Defense audience from hearing views with which they may disagree." https://kb.defense.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/718
We respect AFN's desire not to censor political content. We respect AFN's care in ensuring that voices across the political spectrum are available to deployed personnel. But we also know that America's sailors, airmen and Marines and their families are honorable men and women, who presumably would never want to be party to bullying, dishonesty, or lawbreaking. They exemplify the best of America, not the worst, and they are the protectors of our citizens, not in league with those who, for the sake of ratings and profits, would gleefully harm them.
Rush Limbaugh, whose show is carried live on the Armed Forces Network - Europe, spent nine hours over three days, not discussing politics or ideas, but slandering one particular Georgetown college student, whose only "crime" was to testify, at the request of her Congressional representative, in favor of including contraception coverage in basic insurance plans offered by her university.
Mr. Limbaugh had every right to disagree with the student, Sandra Fluke, on the issues -- but he went much, much further, calling her a "slut" and "prostitute" and indulging in numerous personal, sexual attacks. Among other things, Mr. Limbaugh said the following about this American citizen:
"[She] says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute."
[People like Ms. Fluke] "want to have sex any time, as many times and as often as they want, with as many partners as they want."
"Now, what does that make her? She wants us to buy her sex."
"She and her co-ed classmates are having sex nearly three times a day for three years straight, apparently these deadbeat boyfriends or random hookups that these babes are encountering here, having sex with nearly three times a day.”
“Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
"We want something in return, Ms. Fluke: And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we are getting for our money.”
“Here this babe goes before Congress and wants thousands of dollars to pay for her sex.”
[Ms. Fluke is] “a woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her-life woman.”
“She wants all the sex in the world, whenever she wants it, all the time.”
( Much, much more here.)
Further, after issuing a tepid apology to Ms. Fluke, Mr. Limbaugh then continued to criticize her by name to his millions of listeners, suggesting that he in fact is not apologetic at all.
AFN is correct to refuse to censor real free speech, but it is absolutely wrong to pretend that Mr. Limbaugh's behavior falls into that category. Personal abuse of American citizens has nothing to do with the marketplace of ideas, and should never be supported by the U.S. military. And, worse, demeaning women in this way increases the risk of sexual assault on U.S. servicewomen (which is why female Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans are among those calling for Mr. Limbaugh to be pulled off U.S. military airwaves).
To date, at least ten of Mr. Limbaugh's advertisers, and at least one of his local affiliates, have publicly withdrawn their support from Mr. Limbaugh's radio show. Is the U.S. military more tolerant of bullies like Mr. Limbaugh, and less supportive of citizens like Ms. Fluke, than ProFlowers or AOL?
To send a moral message about what is and is not acceptable behavior by people privileged to use America's airwaves, and to protect Ms. Fluke from further abuse, AFTRS and AFN have a moral obligation to stop broadcasting the Rush Limbaugh Show to our servicemen and servicewomen, and to replace him with someone who -- whether "liberal" or "conservative" -- accepts that his or her first duties are to be fair, truthful and respectful of the citizens our military serves. Anything less is dishonorable and contrary to the traditions and purpose of the military.
If you agree, please restate something similar to the above in your own words, and forward it by emails, fax and telephone to the following people. IMPORTANT: our leaders respond to public outcry more than to organized media; listen more carefully to individual citizens than they do to advocacy groups; respond better to telephone calls and faxes than they do to online petitions; and weigh calls to their local (home state) offices more highly than they do to their D.C. offices. For those reasons, it is imperative that each of us make several contacts from the list below,preferably by telephone and fax, and that we keep up the pressure, ideally even filling up their D.C. and local-office voicemails every night and leaving piles of fax paper strewn on their floors.
Please leave any helpful info on how these contacts go -- names of better people to lobby, positive/negative responses, etc. -- in the comments below.
WHO TO CONTACT:
At all times, be constructive and polite!
AFTRS Plans & Policies Office: email@example.com , telephone 301-222-6496
American Forces Network feedback website: http://myafn.dodmedia.osd.mil/email.aspx
Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense: (703) 692-7100 (explain you're a citizen and want to leave a message for Secretary Panetta on a policy matter).
Douglas B. Wilson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (in charge of AFTRS): (703) 692-7100 (ask to be transferred to his office). UPDATE: DOD PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE FAX NUMBER: 703-695-4299
Navy Captain John Kirby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations (serves under Mr. Wilson): (703) 692-7100 (ask to be transferred to his office).
U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee main office: telephone 202-224-3871, fax 202-228-0036
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee: Carl Levin (D-MI): http://www.levin.senate.gov/contact/offices/
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee: John McCain (R-AZ): http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.OfficeLocations
U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee main office: Phone: (202) 225-4151
Fax: (202) 225-0858
Chairman, House Armed Services Committee: Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R, CA-25), Washington D.C. telephone (202) 225-1956, fax (202) 226-0683 (Also consider contacting his Santa Clarita, Calif. and Palmdale, Calif. local offices by telephone or fax; info here.)
Ranking member, House Armed Services Committee: Rep. Adam Smith (D, WA-09), Phone (202) 225-8901 Fax (202) 225-5893
FINALLY: Please check back here periodically for more information and suggestions. We'll keep gathering contact information and steering you toward the correct decision-makers; your job is to keep the pressure on until Mr. Limbaugh no longer is allowed on the publicly-owned signal beamed worldwide to fighting men and women who deserve better than him.