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Dr. Laura's N-Word Rant
August 12, 2010 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Tuesday on her radio program Dr. Laura Schlessinger took a call from a woman who wanted advice about her mixed-race marriage. Things quickly degenerated. Dr. Laura repeatedly used the N-Word, told the woman she was being too sensitive and suggested that maybe she shouldn't entered into a mixed marriage. The blogosphere responds. Dr. Laura apologized that day.
posted by Bonzai (224 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
lol @ her Wiki profile pic
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:12 PM on August 12, 2010


Don't click on the first link (wikipedia) unless you want to see a (fitting) picture of genital herpes that someone put in place of the good doctor's face.

It's been clear for over ten years that Schlessinger has been a bigot, ever since she got kicked off TV for calling homosexuals a biological error and pedophiles.
posted by thewittyname at 6:14 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


said picture has been edited out, but still available in the history
posted by leviathan3k at 6:15 PM on August 12, 2010


I have no interest in this.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:16 PM on August 12, 2010 [37 favorites]


Stay classy, Doc.
posted by hypersloth at 6:17 PM on August 12, 2010


Racist lady is racist. News at 11.

Happily, Wikipedia editors are ever vigilant and have taken down the offending picture, although I imagine there may be some future attempts to smear the, ahem, "good" doctor's entry.
posted by Diagonalize at 6:17 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Said picture is right there again. Avoid her Wikipedia page for a while.
posted by vidur at 6:18 PM on August 12, 2010


No thread about Dr. Laura can be complete without this.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:18 PM on August 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm cool with smearing her by putting up pictures of klansmen, etc- but putting up a photo of a woman's genitalia seems pretty fucking sexist to me.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:19 PM on August 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Pre-senile dementia.
posted by Azazel Fel at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2010


I remember Dr. Laura's show being a pretty good, snappy advice program back in the day before she took up politics (or before she let her politics take over the show.) It's a strange experiencing reading the aggression in the transcript followed by the perfectly sincere apology on the blog; like there were two different people at work.
posted by escabeche at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2010


"Don't NAACP me" ? Good god.
posted by koeselitz at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2010


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: "No thread about Dr. Laura can be complete without this."

Remember when President Bartlett tried to pass off this letter as his own?
posted by Bonzai at 6:21 PM on August 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


Pre-senile dementia.

No, she's been an insane hatemonger for well over a decade now. I get sad every time we do one of these, "crazy bigot says crazy bigot thing!" posts.
posted by availablelight at 6:21 PM on August 12, 2010


If the N-word isn't racist then what IS?
posted by Bonzai at 6:22 PM on August 12, 2010


I remember being in Christmas shopping traffic with my dad and younger brother in the early 90s (so I was under 10), listening to Dr. Laura on the radio. Some young girl called in (pre-teen I think) saying how she was having problems talking to/relating to her parents. I don't remember all of the details, but Dr. Laura's "advice" was that her parents were terrible people.

What I do remember, and quite clearly, is that my dad got pissed off and said, "that's right, Dr. Laura, way to ruin some child's life on Christmas Eve, you fucking cunt."

So when I clicked on the wikipedia link, I knew they had selected the correct picture.
posted by phunniemee at 6:22 PM on August 12, 2010 [22 favorites]


I don't remember all of the details, but Dr. Laura's "advice" was that her parents were terrible people.

Dan Savage gives this advice at least once a week. What's wrong with it?
posted by escabeche at 6:24 PM on August 12, 2010


vidur: “Said picture is right there again. Avoid her Wikipedia page for a while.”

Or, y'know... delete it. It's easy enough - just click "edit" in the top right corner, delete the filename for it in the textbox, scroll down and click "save." I just did this, in fact, though I'm sure the picture might be back in a few minutes. It's Wikipedia - that's what it's for; if it's wrong, fix it.

posted by koeselitz at 6:25 PM on August 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nice. She apologized for the "n word" (and going off on a "philosophical" point) but not for immediately dismissing her caller's concern about acquaintances using her as a proxy for all black people and instead ranting about Obama and blacks voting for him?
posted by R343L at 6:27 PM on August 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


I remember Dr. Laura's show being a pretty good, snappy advice program back in the day before she took up politics (or before she let her politics take over the show.)
She was always kind of a meanspirited jerk, actually. She almost never took a call that didn't involve her telling someone why they were a terrible person doing something terribly wrong. But when I first became aware of her she was a meanspirited, not-bigoted jerk. I specifically remember, for instance, that her rule for gay couples was exactly the same as her rule for straight couples: no sex until you've made a life-long commitment. She caught homophobia at exactly the same time that she realized it would be lucrative to hook up with the Christian right. A massive coinkidink, I'm sure.
posted by craichead at 6:27 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


The pic I got looked like anal warts, but it was taken down in a flash.

(Gosh, I could have gone my whole life without knowing what anal warts looked like... thanks for sparing me a close one, Wikipedia.)

In related news, 30 Rock is awesome:

Kenneth: It's like Dr. Laura Schlessinger says. Women should be more accommodating to their men, for the health of the marriage.

Cerie: She sounds smart. Is she really a doctor?

Kenneth: No, I think she's kinda like Dr Pepper.
posted by Leta at 6:28 PM on August 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


Isn't it interesting that often when people say "You have a chip on your shoulder" what they really mean is "I have a chip on my shoulder"? Projection not just for... um... projectors?
posted by ob at 6:29 PM on August 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


What's wrong with it?

Well, she was a little kid, for one. And if the parents were doing anything truly terrible (abusive/alcoholics/doing any textbook terrible parenting), my dad would have directed the vitriol at the appropriate target.
posted by phunniemee at 6:30 PM on August 12, 2010


Oh, and if you're not upset enough yet, she also said "Don't NAACP me" in reference to her guest's getting offended at her use of the n-word.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2010


The fact that she used the n-word is not the issue here. In the context of a reasoned discussion of race, it might be a little insensitive, but people have mixed feelings on that; some black people I know feel that if you are to discuss the word nigger, you should say the word, and not be circumspect about it. Others disagree, but it's not really the issue.

The issue is that Dr. Laura obviously has a chip on her shoulder about race. The black caller complained that her white family is insensitive, and Dr. Laura instantaneously busted out the "black people are oversensitive" comment. She asked for examples, but did not let her caller respond for more than a few seconds before interrupting her and going off on a weird, unrelated tirade about black people voting for Obama because he's half black. When the caller interrupted to say the word "nigger" had been thrown around in her presence, Dr. Laura again interrupted to say it wasn't a big deal, black comics use it all the time.

The caller deserved an apology from Dr. Laura because, rather than address her issue, the radio host decided to use her as a dart board for Dr. Laura's own racial insecurities and inchoate, uncomprehending, ill-considered, reactionary racial politics. And Dr. Laura's audience deserved an apology because, instead of helping her listeners, she decided her show was a perfect place to foment antagonistic racial dialogue. And she owes me an apology, because I have to articulate what she did wrong, instead of her figuring it out like the responsible adult she demands her listeners be.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2010 [122 favorites]


In the 1980s, I was a guest of Gary Owens (he namedropped) at the radio station where he worked. Dr. Laura, who had not yet 'gone national' had the timeslot before his and was taking live calls when we stopped in at the Master Control across the glass from her studio. On one call, she interrupted a caller, assuming they had just made a Freudian slip and ran with it into a fully detailed analysis of their obvious anti-social attitude, while Gary, the Engineer on Duty and I had clearly heard exactly what the caller had said: no slip, no misstatement, just Dr. Laura mishearing one word and turning it into a totally NOT helpful rant. The Engineer shrugged as Gary, who never denigrates other show biz professionals, said "and that's what is going to make her America's top radio psychiatrist". And he was right.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


MrMoonPie, I was at that march and totally have a picture of you! Wow, small world.

But honestly, Dr. Laura is, has been and will be a bigot. Why did this woman think she would get anything else except stupidity and racism word-vomited over the radio?
posted by Chipmazing at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually I think that her punishment should be to make that very same argument on pretty much any street corner anywhere close to where I live. Most North American inner-cities in fact. I think people would be genuinely interested in what she has to say.
posted by ob at 6:34 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure why Dr. Laura would have needed a bodyguard before this call.
posted by sanko at 6:34 PM on August 12, 2010


Can we hate on Dr. Phil as well? I'm not particularly aware of him having done anything notably bad recently or anything, I just really fucking hate Dr. Phil.

And Dr. Oz and his stupid fucking costume, but that's another matter.
posted by Artw at 6:34 PM on August 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


What kind of idiot would call Schlesinger with a problem like that? This reeks of hoax.
posted by Ardiril at 6:35 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The last time I heard Dr. Laura (10-12 years ago?), this pre-teen boy called in to talk about how his classmates were ridiculing him for his weight. Her response was that it was his fault because he was fat. She struck me then as an evil, evil woman. I also remember her as being pretty down on non-religious people. I'm unsurprised that she's racist as well.
posted by brundlefly at 6:35 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know that it costs like twelve cents to air a radio program, but how the fucking fuck does this woman have a show? Right around the time she mentions telling her bodyguard he had to play on her basketball team (which totally sounds like something that happened), you can hear the caller realize what a huge mistake she made.

I like the Obama rants. Amazing stuff and totally germane and grounded in fact. I made it about halfway through (right to "AAAALLLLright, chip on your shoulder") before I had to shitcan it, and I'm half inebriated. How is someone listening to that crap on a regular basis?
posted by yerfatma at 6:36 PM on August 12, 2010


I blame Dr. Phil for stealing Jeffry Tambor's mustache (maybe literally, I've seen a police report).
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:36 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just really fucking hate Dr. Phil.

Me too. He must have done something dodgy recently that can allow me to amp up my hate.
posted by ob at 6:37 PM on August 12, 2010


The other day I heard Jane Velez-Mitchell say, "Dare I say the other N-word?" Seriously, there's more than one N-word? Why didn't I get the memo?

From the letter I sent Laura Schlessinger
I saw the naked pictures of you on the internet. There are some things a man wishes he could just unsee! I didn't have even one impure thought. It was worse than the time I watched the "2 Girls 1 Cup" video. Have you ever seen that? It's disgusting.

Speaking of photos...can I get an autographed one? I prefer one where your clothes are on, but that's really up to you.
I didn't expect a reply, but it did make me feel better.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


My (unstable, fundie christian) sister loves Dr. Laura. Everything in her world is *ahem* black and white. All her advice is unequivocal. Funny thing is, my sister is the type of woman that Dr. Laura would simply tear to pieces. I suspect that's true of a lot of her most faithful listeners.
posted by klanawa at 6:39 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Surely this!
posted by clarknova at 6:39 PM on August 12, 2010


The West Wing bit where Bartlett slams the thinly veiled Dr. Laura is a pleasant alternative to listening to anything she has to say.
posted by Babblesort at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


Religious books:

* How Could You Do That?! The Abdication of Character, Courage, and Conscience.


Well at least she writes what she knows.
posted by shinybaum at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2010


"Dr." Laura sounded so oppressed, didn't she? Just constantly barraged by all these black people and their unfair rules. They have such a chip on their shoulder. White people voted for Barack Obama, so how can she be racist, just because she acts racist and holds racist views? Do the math, people.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:43 PM on August 12, 2010


I've heard of Dr. Laura but I never listened to her. She sounds like the adult version of some of the girls I went to high school with, the ones who wanted me to explain and justify, in 30-second soundbites, the history, quirks and pop culture of all black people throughout the history of time. But no explanation, no matter how well thought-out or cited, was ever good enough. I could never get through to them, and many wouldn't let me try.

I was seduced into thinking people grew out of that after attending my very liberal public college, but alas...
posted by girlmightlive at 6:43 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't heard Dr. Laura speak in over ten years; her voice is very different from how I remembered it. But she's still the same Grade A asshole I remember.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 6:46 PM on August 12, 2010


Thank god people cannot comment on her blog....would have been a blood bath...
posted by The1andonly at 6:49 PM on August 12, 2010


Dr. Laura apologized that day.

No, she didn't. She issued the same textbook nonpology you always see trotted out by the borderline sociopathic. "I didn’t intend to hurt people, but I did. And that makes it the wrong thing to have done." She doesn't regret her action, she regrets the reaction to it. "I'm sorry that you got upset by what I did, and I hope that you'll stop being upset" is not an apology.
posted by kafziel at 6:53 PM on August 12, 2010 [69 favorites]


I love how after centuries of taking away black people's rights, white people like Dr. Laura now get to decide whether blacks have a right to be offended.
posted by problemspace at 6:53 PM on August 12, 2010 [17 favorites]


"I'm sorry that you got upset by what I did, and I hope that you'll stop being upset" is not an apology.

Really? I see it in MetaTalk all the time.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 6:54 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy. You may not think that makes sense, but you are asking for brutal Internet spankings if you don't go along with that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:54 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, I hadn't thought about this hateful woman in a long long time. Bigot is as bigot does.

Dan Savage gives this advice at least once a week. What's wrong with it?

While Dan Savage isn't even close to the category of somebody like Schlesinger, he's often showed himself to be fatphobic, biphobic, transphobic, etc. So I wouldn't exactly hold him as some shining example of advice columnists.
posted by kmz at 6:58 PM on August 12, 2010 [12 favorites]



This is why im happy with Frasier Crane for all my radio advice.
posted by Widepath at 6:59 PM on August 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race.

I can barely even parse this sentence. "IF RACISM UPSETS YOU, STICK TO YOUR OWN KIND!"
posted by naju at 7:01 PM on August 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


Really? I see it in MetaTalk all the time.

Metafilter: the same textbook nonpology you always see trotted out by the borderline sociopathic.
posted by EarBucket at 7:02 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Canadiens successfully drove that hatemonging loudmouth off our airwaves by boycotting hell out of her sponsors. And damn did that feel good.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:02 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I'm sorry that you got upset by what I did, and I hope that you'll stop being upset" is not an apology.

Really? I see it in MetaTalk all the time.


And it's a shitty apology when done in MetaTalk too. "I'm sorry for what I did" is an apology. "I'm sorry people were offended by what I did" is not.

Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy. You may not think that makes sense, but you are asking for brutal Internet spankings if you don't go along with that.

Ooh, you're so edgy!
posted by kmz at 7:03 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


use/mention distinction
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:03 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's a nice West Wing bit for the non-apology as well.

SAM - Then don't answer it. We're focusing on energy and dependence this week.
C.J. - No, we're focusing on this this week. I can try a non-apology apology.
JOSH - Try it.
C.J. - "The President didn't realize that the camera was hot and he said something he shouldn't have, as we all do from time to time."
JOSH - Nice.
SAM - Yeah. It's a head-fake towards contrition.

posted by Babblesort at 7:04 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Caller: "I don't like it when people keep giving me the black-people-walk-like-this-amirite crap"

Laura: "Well you blacks just voted for Obama because he's black."

I find that response even more offensive than her use of the n-word. (or "n****-word")
posted by klarck at 7:04 PM on August 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Btw, Dr. Laura is um, not a medical doctor or a psychologist. She apparently has a PhD in physiology.
posted by Maias at 7:05 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice. She apologized for the "n word" (and going off on a "philosophical" point) but not for immediately dismissing her caller's concern about acquaintances using her as a proxy for all black people and instead ranting about Obama and blacks voting for him?

This, a million percent.

And people listen to her, why?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:05 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


She's not a psychiatrist.

But she sure is a stone cold bigot and a world class hypocrite who raised a fucked up kid after she stole another woman's husband and did exactly what she tells other mothers they can't do, devoting all her energy to a career.

I hope this is the end of her career.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:06 PM on August 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy. You may not think that makes sense, but you are asking for brutal Internet spankings if you don't go along with that.

And I favorited this one so hard it bounced off the wall.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:06 PM on August 12, 2010


I may be misremembering this, but I did a reading of a play I wrote, The Substitute Bride, in Hollywood back in 1992. There were quite a few young actors participating at the reading, including Jesse Borrego, who you may remember from the Fame television show, and, I am almost certain I am right about this, Don Cheadle, who was scarcely known then, mostly from his appearance in Colors.

At one point, the play had the word "niggardly" in it. It was the person I remember as Don Cheadle who had the line, and he read it, and then he said "Heyyy!"

"No, no, no," I said. And the person I remember as Don Cheadle grinned at me.

"Naw, I'm just fucking with you," he said.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:06 PM on August 12, 2010 [49 favorites]


My wife no longer lets me recount the batshitinsane things I hear on AM talk radio to her. She actually had an intervention with me, where she said "Honey, I know you get your giggles listening to this stuff, but I can't do it. I literally can't, at least with Dr. Laura. When you work in the domestic violence movement, hearing the incessant victim blaming that comes out of that woman's mouth will just send you straight off the edge. I don't want you to ever tell me another thing that Dr. Laura says in my life. I love you."

So I'll admit that I've listened to Dr. Laura on and off for several years. It's hard, because most of the time when I'm driving around town, when I tune into AM talk radio, it's non-stop commercials. But if I can tune in for her, I'll listen until the next commercial comes on.

What kind of idiot would call Schlesinger with a problem like that? This reeks of hoax. Yeah, I wouldn't say that. These sad, desperate people call her all the time with real and immediate problems, and she brushes them aside, gives them horrible advice, and then goes on her weird rants. One call I remember well was a mother calling about her teenage addict son, who's been in and out of rehab facilities for DMX (cough syrup) abuse. Dr. Laura refused to listen to any of the woman's issues and ranted about how it's impossible to be addicted to cough syrup, and how the caller is obviously a prank caller. It was sad. This woman was calling for advice about her son's addictive behavior (really, it could have been any of several AskMes) and was basically screamed at for 8 minutes.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:11 PM on August 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'll bet Clearchannel just gave Dr. Laura a raise thanks to the left wing blogosphere making her relevant again. Good job everyone!
posted by any major dude at 7:12 PM on August 12, 2010


I was gonna jump in and say exactly what kafziel said. That badgering, racist tirade - and the PR-spin non-apology that followed* - I think it just broke my brain.

In good news, I absolutely love the Wikipedia write-up of her. On it's face, nothing objectionable at all. But it sure is a perfect example of pragmatic inference, and how that can be gleaned from text on a website. Best worst write-up ever. The author(s) struck a perfect balance of craftily coded vitriol and deadpan obligatory fact-hitting for this one! I. Love. It.

*I mean really...they actually snuck in a promotional letter - a testimonial - into the apology?! How do they get away with that?! The subtext of it is: "Here, if you too were offended by yesterday's show, let me offer you this viewpoint: I hope you feel like this model viewer feels, because she's not going to stop listening and neither should you." OH, and this part, "I agree that the argument some African-Americans use that it is ok for them to use it and not others, is ridiculous." Fuck you, Laura and your bullshit fake letters.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:14 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was once in the car with my mother, and the radio was tuned to a station that plays Dr. Laura broadcasts. I don't remember which station, but my mom had been listening to something else earlier in the day, and just hadn't changed the station.

During a pause in our conversation, we actually heard what was on the radio. Laura got about three sentences out before my mild-mannered Midwestern Quaker mother said "Shut the FUCK up, you sanctimonious bitch!" and stabbed the off button. I'm not sure I'd ever heard her use such language before, but I may have burst into applause.
posted by KathrynT at 7:16 PM on August 12, 2010 [28 favorites]



...who's been in and out of rehab facilities for DMX (cough syrup) abuse.

The active ingredient in cough syrup is dextromethorphan hydrobromide, abbreviated DXM. This is DMX.
posted by logicpunk at 7:22 PM on August 12, 2010


Can we have a derail about Don Cheadle's awesomeness now? Because, I mean, really. He's so dreamy.
posted by sugarfish at 7:23 PM on August 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy.
NIGEL
Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it! No one...no one...no! Don’t touch it.

MARTY
Well uh I wasn’t...uh I wasn’t gonna touch it...I was just pointing at it...I....

NIGEL
Well don’t point, even.

MARTY
Don’t even point?

NIGEL
No. It can’t be played...never...I mean I....

MARTY
Can I look at it?

NIGEL
No.

posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 7:25 PM on August 12, 2010


thanks, that's what i meant.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:25 PM on August 12, 2010


As if there weren't any white people who only voted for the other guy 'cause he wasn't black. Just sayin'...
posted by windbox at 7:28 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Things like this, things like that AC360 clip have certainly always been around but seem to be exponentially increasing in frequency. White Fear is at an all time high, my friends. They will hang on to this country if it kills them! And us.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:30 PM on August 12, 2010


From the letter I sent Laura Schlessinger
I saw the naked pictures of you on the internet. There are some things a man wishes he could just unsee! I didn't have even one impure thought. It was worse than the time I watched the "2 Girls 1 Cup" video. Have you ever seen that? It's disgusting.

Speaking of photos...can I get an autographed one? I prefer one where your clothes are on, but that's really up to you.
I didn't expect a reply, but it did make me feel better.


I don't really think this is cool at all. Mocking a woman for how disgusting her body is doesn't magically become okay if she's an evil bigot or whatever.
posted by nasreddin at 7:31 PM on August 12, 2010 [44 favorites]


Things like this, things like that AC360 clip have certainly always been around but seem to be exponentially increasing in frequency. White Fear is at an all time high, my friends. They will hang on to this country if it kills them! And us.

Don't be afraid. They're getting louder because they're losing.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:38 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


It is very dispiriting to me to see that we are in a climate where legions of racist bigots are crawling out from under their rocks and feeling emboldened and supported enough to spew this kind of vile diarrhea in public. If only it was just this stupid woman, but it seems to be everywhere.

"Don't NAACP me."
posted by madamjujujive at 7:38 PM on August 12, 2010


It is very dispiriting to me to see that we are in a climate where legions of racist bigots are crawling out from under their rocks and feeling emboldened and supported enough to spew this kind of vile diarrhea in public. If only it was just this stupid woman, but it seems to be everywhere.

Don't be afraid! They're louder because they're losing!
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:48 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I see what you're doing there, thirteenkiller, and I both appreciate and like it.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:49 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Canadiens successfully drove that hatemonging loudmouth off our airwaves by boycotting hell out of her sponsors.

I'm not really a Habs fan, but I gotta say that's the kind of power play I can get behind.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:54 PM on August 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


This will either make you laugh or discourage you but a few years ago the local talk radio station kicked off Dr Laura and replaced her with Sean Hannity.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:58 PM on August 12, 2010


The Wikipedia page about the history of the word. I just wondered if there was a specific turning point for when it became an offensive word to use. Pretty interesting article.
posted by annsunny at 8:02 PM on August 12, 2010


My mother loves Dr. Laura. And the crazy/sad thing is that I would be extremely hard-pressed to explain to her why this particular moment is evil and racist.

Then again, less than a decade ago I would have been in the same ideological boat. For the longest time I thought racism was exclusive to the South. Fortunately, I had the good fortune to work with an extremely militant feminist who taught me a lot about bigotry. Totally opened my mind.
posted by jnrussell at 8:07 PM on August 12, 2010


Astro Zombie's first comment is all anyone needs to know about this situation.
posted by zardoz at 8:08 PM on August 12, 2010


"While Dan Savage isn't even close to the category of somebody like Schlesinger, he's often showed himself to be fatphobic, biphobic, transphobic, etc. So I wouldn't exactly hold him as some shining example of advice columnists."

That is so weird, because I've been reading his columns for, what? Ten years? Never noticed I was reading the work of some kind of serial killer of people's feelings. And now all these phobias I don't notice are making me sad, because maybe I'm actually evil and just don't know it!

Mmm....evil.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:10 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


he's often showed himself to be fatphobic, biphobic, transphobic, etc. So I wouldn't exactly hold him as some shining example of advice columnists."


I have listened to most of Dan Savage's podcasts....he usually brings in advocates for transgender people (who happen to be transgender), deals with a lot of call in which he tells people IT is OK to be bi........I do know he prefers for HIS partners to be in shape but when overweight people call in he often tells em "there's someone who has to like you the way YOU are and if you dont want to change DONT"

Not sure about the phobia there.
posted by The1andonly at 8:13 PM on August 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's like listening to the greatest hits of every single "I'm not a racist" racist I've ever had the misfortune of knowing in person.
posted by nola at 8:24 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't really think this is cool at all. Mocking a woman for how disgusting her body is doesn't magically become okay if she's an evil bigot or whatever.

Even if that's what I was doing I could still live with myself.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:24 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even if that's what I was doing I could still live with myself.

Congratulations.
posted by nasreddin at 8:39 PM on August 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


she also said "Don't NAACP me" in reference to her guest's getting offended at her use of the n-word.

Maybe I misread it, but it seemed to me that she was saying "Don't NAACP me" to mean "don't take my words out of context," i.e. "I wasn't calling you or anyone else the n-word when i said it." Now, how "NAACP" = "take someone's words out of context," I don't know - it sounds to me like she got the Breitbart/Sherrod situation totally fucking backwards.
posted by naoko at 8:39 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man.
posted by StopMakingSense at 8:46 PM on August 12, 2010


My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man.

Also some of her best friends, I'm sure.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:54 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Must not leave out the famous Vanity Fair article about the most hypocritical Dr. Laura.

not the best web page, but I couldn't find it elsewhere
posted by eye of newt at 8:55 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe I misread it, but it seemed to me that she was saying "Don't NAACP me" to mean "don't take my words out of context," i.e. "I wasn't calling you or anyone else the n-word when i said it." Now, how "NAACP" = "take someone's words out of context," I don't know - it sounds to me like she got the Breitbart/Sherrod situation totally fucking backwards.

No way. Bet you anything she uses the phrase "race pimp" in private.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:55 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apologizing for saying something stupid on purpose doesn't count.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:05 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just more proof that conservatism causes brain damage. People start out just a little bit stupid, and over the course of time, holding conservative socio-political positions causes them to become more and more stupid, until they start spouting the N-word on the radio in front of the whole world.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:19 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pardon my French, but fuck "Dr." Laura in her hate-mongering, self-righteous, tighter than Cameron the Ferris disciple's ass. I wouldn't be surprised if her call-screener gets canned for allowing this call to make it through. Thanks, Laura. You're what makes America great. I totally don't understand why the world thinks we're complete assholes.

*This message typed under the influence of happy hour extended WAAAY too long this evening.
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 9:25 PM on August 12, 2010


Not sure about the phobia there.

Except for the part about, you know, how disgusting women's genitals are.

I can't stand Dan Savage.
posted by jokeefe at 9:27 PM on August 12, 2010


I remember listening to Dr. Laura a decade ago, when someone called in regarding sleeping with their boyfriend now that he had terminal cancer.

She excoriated that poor caller, declaring that if he wasn't going to be around to take care of the kid, she better not fool around with him.

Seriously.
posted by effugas at 9:34 PM on August 12, 2010


Wonder if she'll craft a necklace based on the experience. That's how she winds down.
posted by hermitosis at 9:43 PM on August 12, 2010


"Dr." Laura Schlessinger gets off on abusing people who are hurting so desperately that they call her shitty little show. Fuck her, and fuck all those who listen to her. She is purest filth.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 PM on August 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm rather annoyed that the focus is on the usage of "the n-word". That's not only the focus of her apology, but also most of the outcry. I just don't think her use of the word is the most racist part of that interchange. If she's a racist because she used "the n-word" as a white person, well, that's ignoring the whole point. I think it's really shallow to focus on that.

The racism is that she utterly refuses to acknowledge the current existence and impact of racism, and dismisses the perspective of Jade as an "oversensitive" black person. By making Jade "the other" it made it easier for Laura to dehumanize Jade to the point that she could continue hurting someone who called her for help, even as the poor woman protested, just to make a political point.

But you know what? The dehumanization and othering of black people and our perspectives is not some far-right "evil". I think her arguments and much of her perspective are shared by the majority of Americans, right AND left.

The first racist argument:
- Black people are sometimes oversensitive about race. I think this is the majority viewpoint. I would say blacks are more likely than whites to know when something is racist (doesn't mean a black individual is always right, but they have more expertise). However, I know for a fact that my point of view is in the distinct minority.

The second racist argument:
- Saying something is "a black thing" without acknowledging racism is reasonable (and can be funny). The fact is, whites in America really cannot talk about blacks without confronting racism each and every time, because their entire perspective is going to be tainted by it. Dr. Laura thinks it is possible for whites to say "blacks do this" or "blacks do that" without racism being involved at all. Again, I think this is very common and it is not limited to people on the far right. Stereotyping blacks is the way of the country.

Third argument:
- We should be colorblind, so when black people do something (like use the n-word) and white people do the same, it is equivalent. Again, the colorblind mentality is the dominant one in America, and people usually take great pains to condemn both whites and blacks who use the n-word, as if it is exactly equivalent.

Fourth argument:
- The election of Obama has caused more hypersensitivity about racism and not enough credit to white people. Many, many people believe that the election of Obama is a sign that there is less racism. And I just watched a Daily Show clip where Jon Stewart and his "senior black correspondent" are making fun of black activists for using the race card so much lately.

Fifth argument:
- The NAACP is known for taking things out of context. Admittedly, this argument is one most likely to be used by people on the right. However, a lot of that is because most Americans don't see the NAACP as all that relevant whereas people on the right see it as a threat. I didn't see many liberal blogs paying any attention to anything the NAACP had to say until they said something about the liberals' current favorite group of white people: the Tea Party. So whether a white person is treating the NAACP like a threat, or treating the NAACP like it's irrelevant and invisible, what's the difference? It's all racism.

Her main argument that she reiterates at the end is that people should able to discuss things in racial terms without racism being involved. I daresay she is not far out in this opinion. I think it's dead wrong, but then again, I also think that when a bunch of white men say they're "just not attracted to black women" then racism is relevant, but much of Mefi disagreed. Most white people think you can talk about race and what different "racial groups" do and are without racism having an impact on your perspective.

And my main argument is that it is dangerous and disingenuous for anyone to pretend that her beliefs are right-wing extremes or some kind of "evil". Her tone was very strident, yes. But when I look at what she was actually saying, even though I disagree with all of it and find it racist, I also see a lot of things that people commonly argue on both sides of the aisle. Racism is deeply ingrained in America, and the use of stereotyping is very common, even from those who are ostensibly sympathetic. I am NOT saying that politics makes no different, but I am saying that as long as people treat racism as some individual evil and not something that infects every sphere of American life and EVERY institution then it will continue to get worse.
posted by Danila at 10:13 PM on August 12, 2010 [34 favorites]


You think you're funny with your "NIGEL" crap. We know what you meant. Just because you changed a couple of letters doesn't make it OK.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:14 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was going to go out and play basketball. My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man. And I said, "White men can't jump; I want you on my team." That was racist? That was funny.

WHOOSH!

Ignorant or evil? I'm tending to think the latter.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:18 PM on August 12, 2010


That was awful. Just awful. I am full of wanting to yell at someone and there's no one for me to yell at here. The cat will not work for this purpose!!
posted by grapesaresour at 10:22 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd agree that that fact that she actually said the n word was the LEAST racist part of that insanity. And that is NOT something you want to hear.
posted by grapesaresour at 10:23 PM on August 12, 2010


hearing the incessant victim blaming

Bingo! I was trying to remember what I thought was her distinctive calling card.
Asshole, yes. Bigot, absolutely. But this is it. Blaming the victim is her schtick. It's also why she's insanely popular, incidentally.

Horrible human being.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:29 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Dr." Laura Schlessinger

To be fair, Dr. Laura does have a PhD, even if it's in physiology, and holding a PhD entitles her to use the honorific "doctor" just like it would for anyone else.
posted by Dr. Send at 10:30 PM on August 12, 2010


If the N-word isn't racist then what IS?

Refusing to rent a house to someone because of their race. That's more racist than quoting someone else's usage of the N-word and neglecting to disguise it with a euphemism.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 10:30 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


And Dr. Oz and his stupid fucking costume, but that's another matter.

The man is a doctor dammit, save your vitriol for the creepy middle-aged women who all but dry hump him while he's graciously trying to list the top ten foods that can alleviate their hemorrhoids.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:37 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


To be fair, fuck "Dr." Laura and her supposed "PhD".
posted by five fresh fish at 11:03 PM on August 12, 2010


This is my favorite statement on the "n-word" subject... in song!

Now we need to just stop using the D-L-words.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:16 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not sure about the phobia there.

Transphobic

Biphobic

Fatphobic

Oh, forgot about racist and ableist.
posted by kmz at 11:26 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Christine Baranski's take on Dr. Laura was pretty on the nose.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:50 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Savage is also apparently quite pit bull-phobic. Every month or so sees a new post ranting about pit bulls on the Slog.
posted by formless at 12:51 AM on August 13, 2010


Mocking a woman for how disgusting her body is doesn't magically become okay if she's an evil bigot or whatever.

I think the letter was referring to the impact her mind has. Her body would be pretty nice did it not house that disgusting psyche.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:07 AM on August 13, 2010


This is going in entirely the wrong direction. What gives a word more power than forbidding it? Now the word has such potency that racists can bond over it by daring to use it in each other's presence. Which I guarantee they do, having witnessed the phenom when I lived in the South and also very white areas of the Western US.

Far better would be to dilute the word's power by using it all over the place. OK, I just got my new cat's name.
posted by telstar at 1:14 AM on August 13, 2010


To be fair, Dr. Laura does have a PhD, even if it's in physiology, and holding a PhD entitles her to use the honorific "doctor" just like it would for anyone else.

Not really. Most PhDs in fields that do not have clinical practices do not use the title "doctor" routinely as a form of address, even if we're entitled to the honorific "technically." But this is much more of a burden on someone who purports to be a therapists, and who works in a therapeutic setting where there are medical doctors (and for that matter PhD psychologists) who use the title.

A PhD in physiology (which is sort of a BS field anyway) does not give Laura Schlesinger any specialized expertise to offer her opinion on how other people should handle their problems. That she uses the title to imply a credential as a therapist is deceptive advertising at best, outright scamming at worst. If she worked in a mental health facility, she would not be called "Doctor" Schlesinger, because nothing she studied for her doctorate would get her such a position anyway.

PhDs in other settings who insist on being called "doctor" (in all but, perhaps, an initial formal inquiry letter, that is, in writing, or to identify your expertise in a newspaper article or on TV) are insecure about their actual status. Most PhDs would laugh at the conceit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:29 AM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


The thing is, it's not simply a matter of it being forbidden or not. The caller said "n-word", Schlessinger knew the caller was black, Schlessinger is white, but instead of doing the same as the caller Schlessinger said the word, which was not necessary for discussing when and how it can be used. That's throwing down the gauntlet, I would think - it's intentionally creating a hostile environment for your black interlocutor when there's no purpose to it.

It's like a white guy spitting on a black guy's shoes and grinning and saying, "What are you gonna do about it?" If no one responds to that they'll just do it leeringly again and again and convince themselves that they can do similar offensive things. They would simply push onward to find the next antagonistic thing to do and you'd go through the same cycle with whatever that was. You'll end up having to draw the line somewhere but by the time you do that the people trying to oppose racism will be all confused because they won't know where the goalposts are.
posted by XMLicious at 1:49 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy.

Wait... what?

Niggardly is out too? I can't bore people with Pulp Fiction dialogue anymore? I can't sing along with those "rap" songs that seem to be so popular in recent decades?

Tsss.
posted by mvuijlst at 3:39 AM on August 13, 2010


I have an honorary doctorate in theology, but I don't ask that people call me Dr. Astro Zombie.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:43 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


jenfullmoon: "Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy. You may not think that makes sense, but you are asking for brutal Internet spankings if you don't go along with that."

Yeah, I know right? It is so oppressive not being able to use oppressive language. [/rollseyes].


Seriously, I need to understand this. Why does a certain segment of the white population feel as though they are missing out on something by not being able to use the word "nigger?"* I don't get this. Who cares if its "unfair" that you can't use a hateful and hurtful word? Why would that bother any reasonable person? What are people actually missing out on by not being able to use this word in public (I say public because I have the sneaking suspicion that those that feel this way do use it in private)?






*yes I'm using it. I'm black and you're not . . . neener-neener -neener!
posted by anansi at 4:53 AM on August 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy. You may not think that makes sense, but you are asking for brutal Internet spankings if you don't go along with that."

OK, cracker.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:13 AM on August 13, 2010


And now, a brief word from Sly Stone.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:20 AM on August 13, 2010


I haven't heard Dr Laura's show in years, but I do remember hearing it once when a guy called in because, as he put it, he had "accidentally" cheated on his wife. Dr Laura's response was, "How do you accidentally have an affair? Did you fall off a building with a full erection and land on someone?"

I thought that was pretty funny, and I still do.
posted by Shohn at 5:25 AM on August 13, 2010


I love it when racists act all racist and use the word nigger and then complain that they can't use the word nigger but black people can and that just proves that black people are racist and blah blah blah, whiny whiny myopic self-centered ignoramous whiny blah. No, dipshit, you're racist because you view people of different races differently and disregard their concerns because you do not share them. The mere use of the word nigger does not a racist make. And, if you do use it, the world does not implode. (*fingers crossed*) It's an interesting word with a fascinating etymology, and its remarkable how much its meaning and power continues to change as society changes.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:35 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why does a certain segment of the white population feel as though they are missing out on something by not being able to use the word "nigger?"*

From my own conversations with people who feel the above... being excluded from using any derogatory term is unfair because they don't think they are racist (it's just over-sensitive minorities). This then mutates into indignation at being perceived as being racist so the resentment grows.

Basically, they're ignorant fucks.
posted by fullerine at 5:40 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


A PhD in physiology (which is sort of a BS field anyway)

WTF?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:45 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bachelor of Science.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:59 AM on August 13, 2010


Schlesinger's PhD dissertation (in 1974, at Columbia) was entitled:

"Effects of Insulin on 3-0-Methyglucose Transport in Isolated Rat Adipocytes".

So she's an expert on rat digestion. Sounds about right.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:05 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have an honorary doctorate in theology, but I don't ask that people call me Dr. Astro Zombie.

Sure, but I would anyway.

Doctor...
posted by grubi at 7:07 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bachelor of Science.

Once, I considered myself a bachelor of Science, but now, I realize I'm more of a Husband of Liberal Arts.
posted by grubi at 7:08 AM on August 13, 2010


Is it just me, or is the appeal of Dr Laura (to her listeners, at least) similar to the appeal of BSDM?
posted by grubi at 7:10 AM on August 13, 2010


I have an honorary doctorate in theology, but I don't ask that people call me Dr. Astro Zombie.

Dr. Spaceman!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:10 AM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Note to Dr. Laura: no white person can use the N word, for any reason, whatsoever, even to point out the strangeness of black people using the word. You can't even say that word that is similar to the n word that means that you are stingy. You may not think that makes sense, but you are asking for brutal Internet spankings if you don't go along with that.

Really?

Really?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:17 AM on August 13, 2010


I remember Dr. Laura's show being a pretty good, snappy advice program back in the day before she took up politics (or before she let her politics take over the show.) I

I worked in an office back in 90-91 where we kept the dial on KFI all afternoon (before talk radio was overrun by Rabid Right Wingers.) I remember we had a running joke that Dr. Laura should just get a parrot and train it to say, "Leave him." Her advice always seemed to boil down to "leave him because he isn't perfect." She never seemed to counsel people to communicate with their loved ones.

She became so huge because there is a certain segment of the population that buys into authoritarianism. She is the aural equivalent of a school head mistress wielding a cane-- she whips her callers, beats them mercilessly for the smallest of infractions and-- like most authoritarian figures-- she is a big, fat hypocrite. She rails against divorce even though she herself is divorced. She lectures about the evils of sex outside of marriage even though she herself engaged in extramarital sex and pre-marital sex. She counsels women to put their children first and become stay-at-home moms even though she herself was a working mom. She demands that her listeners reach out to estranged family members even though she herself completely cut off her own mother and sister. Really, it is amazing how many of her own rules she breaks but that is par for the course-- she no doubt considers herself above the masses.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:20 AM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I hate the n-word."
posted by ColdChef at 7:24 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The best part of that Louis CK bit is the punchline, when he reveals what he was thinking about the barista at the coffee shop.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:56 AM on August 13, 2010


Most PhDs in fields that do not have clinical practices do not use the title "doctor" routinely as a form of address, even if we're entitled to the honorific "technically." --fourcheesemac

Reminds me of Dr. Science. "He knows more than you do, because he has a Masters Degree...in Science!" When asked how he can call himself Doctor if he only has a Masters Degree, he answers that he had his first name changed to Doctor.
posted by eye of newt at 8:07 AM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I note in the Related Posts window the last Dr Laura post was in in 2000. Let's hope it's another 10 years before the next.
posted by xod at 8:21 AM on August 13, 2010


I think we really need a discussion on the N word and what it really means for many people when it is spoken.

I have some relatives in the South, and when I would go to visit them as a child I would sometimes here the N word. This is what they meant when they said it--some upstart person of color thinks he can speak out about something or other--someone ought to get a gun and take him out. Yes, they would say things like that. They really meant it. It is a continuation of the thinking that took place during the horrible period of brutal slavery. Some people still think that way.

It is not just an insult. It is much, much worse than that. It is a way of thinking that denigrates an entire group of people because of their skin color--that they are chattle to be used and abused and killed on a whim.

People may not think of this when they use the word. I don't know what 'Dr' Laura was thinking. But to the people to whom it is directed, this is what they hear.

These people included my own Grandfather, who was otherwise a nice, friendly guy (really!). I didn't talk much to him for fear of these subjects coming up. I was naturally shy, and used that as an excuse (but I would talk up a storm to my other Grandfather).

I was convinced that that whole side of the family were all brutal slaveholders, but shortly before he died, my Grandfather mentioned once visiting his Grandfather, who had African Americans living on his farm. "He would spend his money buying slaves and setting them free. Some, he would give jobs on his farm, and they even had houses there where they lived on into retirement" Me: "WHAT??" "He was a Quaker who believed that no man could own another man."

I would have asked more, but he said that last line dismissively. So it was just you Grandfather--what happened to you? What made you go to the dark side and use the N word, so filled with hatred and so dismissive of a man's humanity?
posted by eye of newt at 8:24 AM on August 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


mrgrimm : Ignorant or evil? I'm tending to think the latter.

Hey now, that's unfair.

There is no reason to believe it can't be both.
posted by quin at 8:41 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't really think this is cool at all. Mocking a woman for how disgusting her body is doesn't magically become okay if she's an evil bigot or whatever.
posted by nasreddin at 7:31 PM on August 12


Actually, it does.

She is an evil, unrepentant bigot and hypocrite, so she deserves no respect from me. Therefore I think it would be perfectly appropriate to talk at great length about how ugly she is, how disgusting she looks, how stupid she is, and how bad she smells. I also hear she gives terrible blow jobs, and may have helped Glenn Beck bury a body back in the '80's (allegedly).

She is a bad person, and more people need to say in ever increasing volume and frequency what a bad person she is. Any method of conveying that she is a bad person is perfectly legitimate. She is repulsive, has ridiculous hair, and has not aged at all gracefully, most likely due to the poison circulating in her veins.

Maligning someone for no reason is not fair at all, and could be discriminatory. Maligning someone who you have proof is a terrible human being is perfectly fair, and is not discriminatory in the slightest.

You're confusing general denigration of an entire sex with specific denigration of a particular person.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 8:48 AM on August 13, 2010


My Grandfather mentioned once visiting his Grandfather, who had African Americans living on his farm. "He would spend his money buying slaves and setting them free. Some, he would give jobs on his farm, and they even had houses there where they lived on into retirement" Me: "WHAT??" "He was a Quaker who believed that no man could own another man."

Interesting. I would maybe examine those statements with a critical eye. Slavery took many forms and some slaveholders (including Quaker slaveholders) were "nicer" and gave their slaves a certain amount of freedom. It was still slavery.
posted by naju at 8:50 AM on August 13, 2010


If you're making a movie and you want the audience to get the idea that a certain character is an effete douchebag, the first thing that character should do is insist on being called Dr. because he/she has a non-medical PhD.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:52 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Any method of conveying that she is a bad person is perfectly legitimate.
Bullshit. When you insult Dr. Laura by calling her physically repulsive, you harness the power of misogyny to make your point. You call upon the power that every man has over every woman to remind us that our value rests on your personal appraisal of whether you'd like to fuck us. And saying that didn't hurt Dr. Laura, because she'll never read it. Her personal assistant will read the letter and throw it away. But I read it. And I was reminded that every guy in the world has the power to put me in my place by telling me I'm hideous and unfuckable, because my value as a human being in my society rests in part on whether men want to have sex with me.

Now, you may not care that you're hurting other women in order to say something rude about Dr. Laura. But if so, then Dr. Laura isn't the only bad person in this story.
posted by craichead at 8:54 AM on August 13, 2010 [38 favorites]


naju, no, doing some research I found out that his farm was part of the Underground Railroad. Most of the Quakers left the area in disgust, but he stayed to fight the battle.
posted by eye of newt at 8:56 AM on August 13, 2010


Dr. Mrs. The Monarch begs to differ.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:56 AM on August 13, 2010


Now, you may not care that you're hurting other women in order to say something rude about Dr. Laura. But if so, then Dr. Laura isn't the only bad person in this story.

Yeah, have we not been down this road with Coulter? Many times?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:06 AM on August 13, 2010


Dr. Laura's own ... inchoate ... reactionary racial politics.

This word doesn't mean what you think it means. "Incoherent" is not a precise synonym. Inchoate only means "incoherent" in the sense that something has not yet been fully articulated, formed, or perfected, like a glimpse of something through an obscuring fog as you approach. It means "not yet perfected," in the grammatical sense. While LS's politics are certainly logically incoherent, they are quite plainly visible, as she voices them pretty loudly.

posted by thesmophoron at 9:13 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


craichead, if self-worth is predicated on how attractive a person is, or how many people want to fuck them, then most people of either sex are pretty worthless.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:23 AM on August 13, 2010


You're confusing general denigration of an entire sex with specific denigration of a particular person.

When you use misogynist language to attack someone, you reinforce misogyny as a valid thing. Is it also acceptable, in your mind, to use racial slurs to attack someone as long as you can justify it to yourself by saying that they had it coming?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:25 AM on August 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


. Is it also acceptable, in your mind, to use racial slurs to attack someone as long as you can justify it to yourself by saying that they had it coming?

Right. Would you feel it would be okay if someone said "I wouldn't let Michael Steele pick my cotton!" or something similar?
posted by nasreddin at 9:30 AM on August 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


That whole, disgusting tirade just reminds me that I miss Dr. David Viscott.
posted by malocchio at 9:30 AM on August 13, 2010


I feel a tiny bit bad about diverting a discussion about racism and turning it into a discussion of sexism, so I'm voting we either let this matter drop or take it to Metatalk. (But I agree that it's been hashed out about a zillion times over Ann Coulter. So maybe just let it drop?)

Anyhow, back to our regularly scheduled discussion of "Dr." Laura being a racist fuckwit.
posted by craichead at 9:34 AM on August 13, 2010


craichead: no, your line of reasoning is bullshit. And your implication that I am a bad person is offensive.

Saying it is impossible to insult one member of a group without implicitly insulting all members of that group is juvenile and intellectually dishonest.

My opinion, and this method, has nothing to do with the sex of the person.

Rush Limbaugh is a disgusting, balding, fat idiot. Now, have I denigrated all males by calling upon a tool of societal castration by referencing his lack of hair and substandard physique? I mean surely I have called into question his masculinity and desirability as a mate, and therefore devalued all males through utilizing imagery of reproductive prowess. The very idea is preposterous.

"harness the power of misogyny". Please.

If I say one person is ugly, then it can just mean I think that one person is ugly. Really, it can. Not their entire gender. Or race. Or religious/ethnic background.

Why is it okay for others to call Dr. Laura stupid, and even to question her choice of graduate study? That could certainly be taken as an extension of a stereotype that women are less intelligent than men, and less able to perform in a "real discipline" than men.

You can find sexism, or racism, or ageism, everywhere if you go out of your way to look for it. It would be theoretically impossible to offer any criticism of any person in any context.

On preview, Pope Guilty: Calling someone ugly or disgusting is in no way, shape, form, or fashion a misogynist thing to say. Just because it is against a female does not magically make it so. What if I insulted a male? Is it misandrist then?

Seriously, this type of demagoguery is crazy, and it hampers the goals of progressives every single day.

On preview again, nasreddin: SAYING SOMEONE IS UGLY IS NOT A SLUR AGAINST ANY IDENTIFIABLE GROUP. It cannot be made to compare to a racial slur, no matter how hard you squit your eyes and tilt your head.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 9:35 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Back sometime in the early aughts, I was dicking around on Amazon and discovered the most perfectly hideous gift for my gay friend--the Dr. Laura party game. It was on sale for like five bucks. Naturally, I bought it for his birthday.

Ho ho ho! We had a good laugh when he unwrapped it. Then, of course, we decided to drink whiskey and play the thing.

Sometimes you'd have to predict which answer Dr. Laura genuinely supplied to some luckless fool asking for advice: this was incredibly easy, we discovered. You simply picked the stupidest, most offensive possible answer given. Sometimes you had to pretend to give Dr. Laura-style advice, with players voting on how you did. This was also incredibly easy: you simply thought of the most horrible way in which to heap scorn on the notional caller; bonus points for soft racism or homophobia.

We lasted about twenty minutes before a queasy mix of boredom and appallment set in. I just did a Google hunt for that wretched game. Amazon still lists it. Sort of. It's there as "Zebra - Printer label cutter."
posted by Skot at 9:37 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


She is still around? I thought the old bitty died by now.

Who calls her (or Dr. Phil for that matter) for ANY advice?? Is she going to go on Nancy Grace next for confirmation of her feelings?
posted by stormpooper at 9:37 AM on August 13, 2010


"ugly" is the go-to insult to be directed against women in our culture in which it is not acceptable for women to be anything but perfectly fit and gorgeous. Attacking a woman's looks instead of what she says and does- something which is almost never done to men- is in fact misogynist. It reduces a woman to her appearance, dismissing the parts of her that make her a person.

And as an aside, she's far, far uglier on the inside than any person could ever be on the outside, which makes the choice to attack her exterior beauty rather baffling.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:48 AM on August 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I feel a tiny bit bad about diverting a discussion about racism and turning it into a discussion of sexism, so I'm voting we either let this matter drop or take it to Metatalk. (But I agree that it's been hashed out about a zillion times over Ann Coulter. So maybe just let it drop?)

This was posted too soon to my post for me to see.

You should feel bad, because it was an intellectually dishonest thing to do, in my opinion.

I've not read every Ann Coulter thread on MeFi.

I too am willing to let it drop, because I really don't feel like having this discussion. Your opinion will not change, and you've already branded me a misogynist, so now I have no recourse or any rhetorical foot to stand on. If you only ascribe nefarious goals to what I post, we can't have a discussion anyway.

I will only say that it is okay to insult bad people. Really, it is.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 9:50 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dr. Laura: I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop...

So it's okay for whites to hate blacks as long as we have a black president? WTF?
posted by xenophile at 10:00 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it just me, or is the appeal of Dr Laura (to her listeners, at least) similar to the appeal of BSDM?

No, I think it's a bit closer to the appeal of scat and watersports.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:00 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, that was insensitive of me. People who enjoy being showered in other people's bodily waste, I apologize for drawing a connection between your recreation and that creature. I wouldn't want thoughts of her popping in during the act and leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


And as an aside, she's far, far uglier on the inside than any person could ever be on the outside, which makes the choice to attack her exterior beauty rather baffling.

I understand the impulse to brand someone thoroughly loathesome, in every way -- but again this is well-covered ground.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2010


SAYING SOMEONE IS UGLY IS NOT A SLUR AGAINST ANY IDENTIFIABLE GROUP

What an utterly uglyist thing to say!
posted by grubi at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2010


Attacking a woman's looks instead of what she says and does- something which is almost never done to men- is in fact misogynist.

Rush Limbaugh is a BIG FAT idiot

Michael Moore is a BIG FAT stupid white man.

Your BIG FAT boyfriend - how to stay thin while dating a fatty

Almost never ? Seriously ? - men are constantly judged on appearances too, and it's not as though concerns about shape or endowment never make it into popular culture, either.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:25 AM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


"ugly" is the go-to insult to be directed against women in our culture in which it is not acceptable for women to be anything but perfectly fit and gorgeous.

Except when you don't care about the gender involved. I've called plenty of dudes ugly. As a matter of fact, I've referred to more men as ugly than I have women. Does that make me sexist in either direction? Or was I simply stating my opinion on someone's looks? If you tell me that it is inherently sexist to refer to someone as "ugly" then that would seem to imply that calling them "pretty" would be sexist, too.

Paul Rudd is handsome. OOH I'M A MAN-HATER
posted by grubi at 10:26 AM on August 13, 2010


Calling a woman ugly instead of challenging her points is a bad thing.

That's not what I've seen happening here.

Also, you don't think people react to men's appearances this way?

1. Karl Rove
2. Pope Palpatine
posted by hermitosis at 10:57 AM on August 13, 2010


What's the ugliest
Part of your body?
What's the ugliest
Part of your body?
Some say your nose
Some say your toes
But I think it's your MIND . . .
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's the ugliest
Part of your body?
What's the ugliest
Part of your body?
Some say your nose
Some say your toes
But I think it's your MIND . . .


No, it's my belly.
posted by grubi at 11:11 AM on August 13, 2010


Newt Gingrich has been called ugly very often by his political foes. It's not about gender -- we use "ugly" to describe ideas and beliefs all the time. When an unattractive person says unattractive things, it's a natural metaphor. Albeit one that unintentionally slurs unattractive people with lovely opinions, who have no control over their looks.
posted by msalt at 11:15 AM on August 13, 2010


A beautiful person can have ugly thoughts.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:27 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


While LS's politics are certainly logically incoherent, they are quite plainly visible, as she voices them pretty loudly.

No, I meant they are unformed, not incoherent. I don't think she has considered them with any real depth. I think they stem from a reactionary, mean place in her brain that feels somehow threatened, and she has grasped at barely formed thoughts as a way to articulate her emotions, rather than expressing a complicated and carefully considered worldview that is rooted in facts.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:36 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, I think it's a bit closer to the appeal of scat and watersports.

And there's *another* group of people Dan Savage is horrible about...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:39 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not sure about the phobia there.
Transphobic
Biphobic
Fatphobic
Oh, forgot about racist and ableist.


Comedian advice columnist who says 'shocking' things for a laugh and to get attention/ratings isn't as politically correct as we'd all like -- film at 11!
Seriously, kmz, are you getting paid to feed the troll?
posted by coolguymichael at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2010


If she worked in a mental health facility, she would not be called "Doctor" Schlesinger

Except yes she would, because she has a PhD. What part of this is so hard to understand? If you hold a doctorate, you can use the title "doctor." That's why they call it a doctorate.
posted by Dr. Send at 12:44 PM on August 13, 2010


Best. Game. Ever.
posted by fyrebelley at 12:55 PM on August 13, 2010


I wouldn't let Michael Steele pick my cotton t-shirts, because I think he has very poor taste.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:26 PM on August 13, 2010


Except yes she would, because she has a PhD. What part of this is so hard to understand?

No, if you worked in a clinical setting, it's common that only people with clinically relevant doctorates would be addressed as "doctor."

If I worked or volunteered in a clinical setting, be it medical, psychological, or more social-work, I would expect not to be called "doctor," even though I have a PhD, because that might confuse patients/clients, their family, or (new) staff.

Likewise, while it's difficult to imagine this ever happening, if you had an MD radiologist working or volunteering in a clinical psych clinic with no use for a radiologist, it would make sense to address him as just "mister" to avoid confusion. And in the same setting, it might make sense to address a licensed therapist who held one of the non-doctorate therapy degrees as "doctor" to denote their clinical responsibility.

If you hold a doctorate, you can use the title "doctor."

AFAIK, in (most of) the US anyone can use the title "doctor" irrespective of their educational attainment so long as they aren't attempting to defraud anyone or do something that requires a professional license without having one.

In this case, by performing (ostensibly) therapeutic functions without a therapeutic degree of any sort, it's arguable that calling herself "Doctor Laura" at least approaches fraud by omission.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:17 PM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Except yes she would, because she has a PhD. What part of this is so hard to understand? If you hold a doctorate, you can use the title "doctor." That's why they call it a doctorate.

Originally, a couple of centuries ago, the only "doctors" were PhDs. Medical degrees are baccalaureate degress, and so did not at the time earn the title. (In many countries they are still called MBs.) However, the best and most learned physicians had PhDs and so they were called doctors. Those without the advanced degree were called mister (or herr, monsieur, senor, etc.) like anyone else. Some of them were not only doctors but held faculty positions at universities and were called professor, an even more esteemed title.

At some point, in the US medical schools decided that all physicians should be "doctors" so they changed the name of the degree to MD and started calling each other doctor. The rest is history. Now even pharmacists, podiatrists, optometrists, lawyers, dentists, and chiropractors call themselves doctor. It really doesn't mean much anymore, because these are all just professional degrees, not doctorates.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:27 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


So . . . Gene Simmons doesn't have the cure I'm thinking of? FUCK! I knew it was too good to be true. No bills! No fees! Sigh. I trusted you, Gene.
posted by Skot at 2:34 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's not calling herself "Doctor Laura" because she wants recognition for her educational accomplishments. She's calling herself "Doctor Laura" because she wants to give the impression that she has extensive and authoritative training and education in therapy and counseling, which she does not. My mom's got more education in counseling than she does and deals with a lot of the same issues, and she doesn't call herself a doctor. Why? Because she's not dishonestly trying to give the impression that she's more than she is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:48 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or is it because she doesn't have a doctorate, and calling herself doctor would be disingenuous?

I'm not trying to defend Dr. Laura, because she's obviously and idiot and an asshole, but her being an idiot and an asshole has nothing to do with her professional credentials, nor does it relate in any way to the appropriateness of her using the title "doctor." The fact is, as I've said, she has a PhD and she can go by the title "doctor" if she wants to, and why wouldn't she?

Is she using the title in order to give the impression that she has some kind of psychological expertise? Probably. And if she is, that's kind of an asshole thing to do. But if I met her, I would probably still call her Dr. Schlessinger, because that's a basic sign of respect for anyone who's put in the work to earn a doctorate degree.

Also, ROU_Xenophobe, she's not working in a clinical setting, so that whole line of argument is kind of a red herring. She's a radio talk show host.
posted by Dr. Send at 4:09 PM on August 13, 2010


It's inappropriate to promote your work in one area by calling yourself a doctor when your doctorate is completely unrelated. Somebody with a JD wouldn't walk into an ER and call himself a Doctor unless he was a giant egotistical asshole.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:25 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having a PhD doesn't necessarily mean having my respect. If I met her, I'd be much more likely to call her a hateful asshole than "Dr."
posted by five fresh fish at 4:28 PM on August 13, 2010


Calling a woman ugly, unnattractive, unfuckable, etc. uses a long history of misogyny in a similar way as calling black people monkeys uses a long history of racism.

If you want to call "bad people" out on their shit, why don't you point out what it is that they're doing wrong instead of using ad hominem attacks anyway? Then you avoid "accidentally" putting down any oppressed groups by using cultural dynamics that keep them down AND you don't sound like a prick that's resorting to (potentially sexist, racist, lookist, etcist) name-calling because you can't make a good argument.
posted by NoraReed at 4:45 PM on August 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


The fact is, as I've said, she has a PhD and she can go by the title "doctor" if she wants to, and why wouldn't she?

Having a doctorate is not a requirement for using the title "doctor." AFAICT, in the US anyone can use it (or any other title) so long as they don't intend fraud or to pass themselves off as licensed. If she wants, she can go by "Professor Padishah-Emperor Doctor Colonel Princess President For Life Laura Schlessinger, Esquire."

She probably ought not to, in her line of work, because in her line of work it implies a level of relevant training and expertise she does not have.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:52 PM on August 13, 2010


Seriously, kmz, are you getting paid to feed the troll?

WTF? Do you understand what the phrase "feed the troll" means? Who was trolling?

And yes, clearly I am paid by the feminist/anti-racist blogosphere cabal. Damn, I'm going to have to ask for an extraction.
posted by kmz at 8:09 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dr. Send: “But if I met her, I would probably still call her Dr. Schlessinger, because that's a basic sign of respect for anyone who's put in the work to earn a doctorate degree.”

No disrespect, but doctorates don't mean shit, least of all how much work you've done. Believe me, I can show you at least three dozen PhDs who are complete idiots, who clearly did no work whatsoever in their time as students, and who are not worth the respect. It seems like it makes more sense to respect people based on what they've actually accomplished, not some phony piece of paper from some organization that half the time shouldn't even be accredited, much less respected.
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having a doctorate is not a requirement for using the title "doctor." AFAICT, in the US anyone can use it (or any other title) so long as they don't intend fraud or to pass themselves off as licensed. If she wants, she can go by "Professor Padishah-Emperor Doctor Colonel Princess President For Life Laura Schlessinger, Esquire."

Sidenote: Except for the esquire, yes. But holding yourself out as licensed to practice law when you're not is a crime in most states.
posted by kafziel at 11:17 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


A Wikipedia citation from the New York City Bar says:^
There is no authority that reserves the title "Esquire" for the exclusive use of lawyers.
posted by XMLicious at 12:32 AM on August 14, 2010


No disrespect, but doctorates don't mean shit, least of all how much work you've done. Believe me, I can show you at least three dozen PhDs who are complete idiots, who clearly did no work whatsoever in their time as students, and who are not worth the respect. It seems like it makes more sense to respect people based on what they've actually accomplished, not some phony piece of paper from some organization that half the time shouldn't even be accredited, much less respected.

Oh please. That is such preening bullshit, and I'm surprised to hear it coming from you rather than some pimply fifteen year old on a transhumanist website. I've met my share of idiot medical doctors--it doesn't mean I didn't call them "doctor." Determining whether they did the work or not is not my job; my job, as a decent human being with concern for the standards of politeness, is to call people what they would prefer to be called and to respect the institution that issued their degree--and unless it's actually a diploma mill, that institution and the people that have graduated from it deserves at least my verbal respect. What people have "actually accomplished" is a whole different matter that has very little to do with what title you use when you address them. My grandfather has accomplished a lot of things, more difficult in an academic sense than the work needed for many PhDs, but I would never call him "Doctor" or expect anyone else to do so. That would be ridiculous.
posted by nasreddin at 2:09 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Determining whether they did the work or not is not my job; my job, as a decent human being with concern for the standards of politeness, is to call people what they would prefer to be called and to respect the institution that issued their degree--and unless it's actually a diploma mill, that institution and the people that have graduated from it deserves at least my verbal respect.
Ok, seriously? This is someone who has exploited the false impression that she's an authority on people's personal problems. She's done that so she can build for herself an extremely lucrative career. That career is based on convincing desperate people, who have nowhere else to turn, to seek her advice, and then humiliating and berating them publicly. She humiliates and berates them in a manner that is intended to uphold social hierarchies: she uses her false authority to undermine efforts by gay people, women, members of racial minorities, non-religious people, people who don't think sex is dirty and shameful, and other marginalized groups to seek equality. Her bad advice hurts the desperate people who call her, and her underlying effort hurts all of us.

There are much bigger issues at stake her than the politeness of respecting degree-granting institutions.
posted by craichead at 3:16 AM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would probably call someone what they wanted to be called, in general, but out of politeness, not because I think that they deserve it. School can be pretty tough but I have difficulty believing that what a recipient of a degree did during the two or three or five years or whatever that their doctoral program took is that much more inherently important or deserving of respect than what other people were doing during the same time.

For someone to insist on the honorific is basically a form of advertising like a marketing department would use by requiring business partners or journalists to always use their terminology and messaging when speaking of a product - it's insisting on pro forma hat-tipping to imply that the desired perceived characteristic, the authority earned by an expert, is verbally assumed to be there whether it really is or not.

Also, "I didn't go through six years of evil medical school to be called Mr. Evil."
posted by XMLicious at 3:25 AM on August 14, 2010


Ok, seriously? This is someone who has exploited the false impression that she's an authority on people's personal problems. She's done that so she can build for herself an extremely lucrative career. That career is based on convincing desperate people, who have nowhere else to turn, to seek her advice, and then humiliating and berating them publicly. She humiliates and berates them in a manner that is intended to uphold social hierarchies: she uses her false authority to undermine efforts by gay people, women, members of racial minorities, non-religious people, people who don't think sex is dirty and shameful, and other marginalized groups to seek equality. Her bad advice hurts the desperate people who call her, and her underlying effort hurts all of us.

Koeselitz was talking in general terms, not about Dr. Laura in particular--and in any case, his comment doesn't apply to her, since she did, after all, graduate from Columbia and write a dissertation and everything. In her case, I agree that there is at least some false advertising involved there, but I don't think the solution is to demand she stop using the honorific--rather, it's to make sure that her audience knows what her degree is in.


School can be pretty tough but I have difficulty believing that what a recipient of a degree did during the two or three or five years or whatever that their doctoral program took is that much more inherently important or deserving of respect than what other people were doing during the same time.

"Doctor" doesn't mean "deserving of respect." It means "someone granted a degree with a D at the end of it." What I meant by "verbal respect" is that when you refuse to use the honorific with someone who wants you to use it with them, you are implying that their school and all of their classmates are frauds, which is not, I think, a helpful thing to imply about someone.
posted by nasreddin at 5:22 AM on August 14, 2010


I'm a PhD, which just goes to show they'll give one to any idiot, I guess. For sure it had nothing to do with 6 years of constant reading, writing, research, and teaching I had to do to get it while being paid the equivalent of minimum wage. Bunch of bullshit, really. Everything I know I learned from digging ditches. (Don't laugh, I've dug ditches.)

15 years on, as a professor, I get a lot of cold-call correspondence that addresses me as "Dr. X." (I know, if your surname was X, you'd be pretty psyched too, right?). It's actually the incorrect honorific salutation -- a faculty member with a professorial appointment (in the US) should be addressed as "Professor X," or "Dean X," etc. But where someone is an independent scholar or the proper rank is not known, or just out of habit, "Dr. X" comes in a strong second as the default salutation. It doesn't rise to consciousness for most American PhDs as a problem in written formal address, and it comes across as polite, if perhaps overly so. ("Mr./Ms." is really quite OK for lateral or subordinate address across generations and within the academy, and fine ever for superior address among those under about 50.

I have no problem with honorific or deferential uses of "Doctor" in the context of formal salutation, although I almost always switch to first name basis in a reply unless its to an academic superior or a truly eminent colleague -- or a much older one of any eminence level. Retaining it (responding with "Dear Dr. Y," or signing your reply "Dr. X" or even "Firstname Lastname") in response to anything but an outrageous or unethical request or inquiry these days stinks of priggishness to my generation and younger, although it's still natural for the generation older than me to continue to address their correspondent formally as "Professor X" in a first reply. So these are not hard and fast rules, of course, and the etiquette changes over time.

So there's no simple right or wrong way to use the title "Doctor." This is a debate that cannot be won on facts, because like other aspects of grammar, prescriptivism is a social project, not a linguistic phenomenon as such (it's a metapragmatic function rooted in literacy, or one might call it language ideology, more specifically). The only thing that matters is what people do and how other people understand and respond to it. Pragmatically, Dr. Schlesinger's use of the honorific title as part of her public "brand" is in a long tradition of American quackery and charlatanism -- there are uncounted people with PhDs in fields unrelated to clinical medicine or psychology who are out there advertising themselves as "Doctor This" or "Doctor That."

Nutritionists with PhDs in Basket Weaving abound. This is not even to mention the ease with which one can acquire a defensible "doctorate" these days if all you require is legal cover for using the title. Or how hard it is to confirm the PhD as a credential compared to say MD or LLD claims. It's funny how MA degrees become PhD degrees over time on the loonier fringes of American culture in particular, and how cheap the token "Doctor" can become in popular cultural usage. People like "Doctor Laura" (and a thousand other radio psychologist, even the many with actual degrees in psychology) have helped make the title hard to decipher in public discourse.

Ask any American to sort out the categories of credential and function that structure the world of mental health provision, and a large percentage will not understand the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, a licensed MSW therapist and an uncertified analyst, an attending physician and a resident, etc. It's all alphabet soup to a huge number of Americans, even fairly well educated ones. What we have here is a mess, but this is true of titles and honorifics in general in the contemporary west (and a major source of cultural distortion in dealings between westerners and Asians and Latin American colleaguess, in particular, Europeans to a lesser extent). We're getting less and less formal (and less and less polite, one might say, or less and less deferential to social status in another phrasing) with every generation in the US (and arguably, this is a global phenomenon). This also creates plenty of opportunities for mischief, where one can exploit cultural difference or popular confusion to imply claims you cannot make explicitly. Because I guarantee you millions of people assume "Dr. Laura" is an expert in the topics on which she provides advice -- that her doctorate is relevant to her authority. That's the pungent stink of quackery she exudes mostly being observed in this discussion.

Of course, there are critical uses of the ironies and ambiguities that result from this messy field of practice. The use of a title can also imply sarcasm, false deference (classic passive-aggressive strategy in oral discourse with some intonational marking, so "If Doctor Schlesinger prefers to use her entitled honorific, who am I to say otherwise?"

And there are some good old pragmatic uses that I must confess are too tempting to resist. Making hotel, travel, or rental car reservations under the title "Dr." -- it's often an option -- gets you (frequently) slightly better service when you travel, especially abroad, but in the US too. I do it, and when I don't do it I notice the difference. I'm playing a minor game of the deception practiced by "Dr. Laura" when I do that, so call me a hypocrite. But I get the best performing car on the lot, the extra smiles and extra miles from the gate agents and reservation clerks, and my complaints handled more efficiently because of the possibility I might fall into a more socially respected category (and a wealthier one) than I'm actually in as a social science professor.

We all game the system with language. Whether it's the same thing when one does it to get that electric blue Mazda 3 with 3000 miles and a tiptronic transmission and satellite radio and brand new performance tires instead of the dumpy white Nissan Versa or to sell millions of dollars in advertising telling people they fucked up their lives and need to turn to Jesus and stop having sex, hard for me to say.

Laura Schlesinger's use of her title to game the status and authority implications it possesses is the least of her hypocrisies. She could call herself A Divine Mistress of the Moral Universe for all I care. She's mean, she's judgmental, she's cruel, she's proudly ignorant, she thinks her shit don't stink, and she's almost always wrong. She's so very American, I suppose she ought to wear the trappings of the classic American snake oil peddler and tent-show preacher with pride.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:26 AM on August 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


My brilliant physicist boyfriend had only this to say about the whole debacle:

"Dr. Laura is an idiot, in my opinion...as a doctor."
posted by Diagonalize at 7:42 AM on August 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Doctor" doesn't mean "deserving of respect." It means "someone granted a degree with a D at the end of it."

I am Dr. Thesmophoron, a (Juris) Doctor.

That said, your rule, while quite good, has some exceptions. The undergraduate Divinity degree in some UK institutions is a B.D., rather than a B.Div. or B.A. in Divinity.
posted by thesmophoron at 9:57 AM on August 14, 2010


And there are universities that award a D.Phil. instead of a Ph.D.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:09 PM on August 14, 2010


‘Doctor’ doesn't mean ‘deserving of respect.’

I'll take your word for it but it's called an "honorific" and "honored" seems to me suspiciously close to "deserving of respect."

...when you refuse to use the honorific with someone who wants you to use it with them, you are implying that their school and all of their classmates are frauds, which is not, I think, a helpful thing to imply about someone.

It means that I am refusing to honor them. If that's unhelpful, tough shit. I would be happy to say "I recognize that you graduated with a doctoral degree from an accredited school but I'm still not going to genuflect to the title they bestowed upon you."

Keep in mind that as I said above I'd probably call someone what they wanted out of politeness but I do not feel compelled to do so nor do I feel that my refusal to do so would have to mean the same thing as it would if I was at an academic conference or a tea party with them.

I just realized how ironic it is that Tea Party means just about the exact opposite of "an environment of excessive etiquette."

This has reminded me of a quote from James Clavell's novel Tai-pan, which is set in Hong Kong:
"Strange, strange people, the Chinese, Culum," Struan said. "For instance; only the emperor among three hundred millions is allowed to use vermilion ink. Imagine that. If Queen Victoria said, ‘From now on, only I am allowed to use vermilion,’ as much as we love her, forty thousand Britons would instantly forswear all ink but vermilion."
posted by XMLicious at 5:29 PM on August 14, 2010


Those who hold PhD's are real doctors alright. I would call someone who had a PhD in English Literature (my field) a Doctor unless:

1) they have a higher title in an academic setting like Professor or Dead;
2) I'm being friendly with them so I wouldn't call them Dr. X as I wouldn't call them Mr. X either;
3) calling them doctor would cause confusion such them being in a medical environment and they aren't a medical doctor or such.

Maybe it's because I'm in the military, but if someone is granted a title and it's an appropriate place, I tend to give them the title despite my feelings about them. I would say Captain X even if I hate Captain X. I would say President Bush because despite my feelings for him, he did hold that office. Of course, if I were talking to people in informal setting, I would probably drop any title after awhile. "Bush" works when we're sitting around the house discussing his policies.

However, I would never call Doctor Laura "Doctor" on her show because it causes confusion. Her show is a semi-therapeutic/counseling/something-else and she does not have a doctorate in that area. By calling herself doctor on her show, she creates confusion about her specialty. If she had a show on physiology, use doctor all the way because that's your proper title. If we're having lunch (however unlikely that is), I'll call you doctor as it's a setting that doesn't incur confusion. When you're working in a specialty, you should only use titles that are appropriate in that specialty. Doctor Bill Frist would not be called Doctor by me when we're talking about his legislative career because that's not the office he's acting in. Senator Frist would be appropriate unless he was doing heart surgery in Congress.

(Yes, I know a lot of the people that I mention conflate they're own offices. I know a lot of them are somewhat [if not totally] scummy. I know plenty of people don't give people social respect if they have no personal respect for them. I'm merely explaining the consistent system I use in order to give respect to titles that are legally given. I hope to get a PhD someday, and though I wouldn't jump into a emergency room calling myself one, I still aspire to the title "doctor".)

P.S. The only person who always gets called "Doctor" is, of course, the Doctor.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:50 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would say Captain X even if I hate Captain X.

Dr. Laura is like a guy who owns a 40-foot sailboat who insists on being called Captain.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:38 PM on August 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Conservatives Throw Away The Dog Whistle
posted by homunculus at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't found any news sources confirming it, but on Twitter folks are saying that, on the Larry King show, Dr. Laura just announced she's ending her show.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:17 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dr. Laura is like a guy who owns a 40-foot sailboat who insists on being called Captain.

Or the small business owner with no employees who prints the title of “President” on his business card.
posted by Krapulous at 6:41 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


And now rumour is that she's off the air. Good riddance to bad trash.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It doesn't surprise me that she's completely ignorant about what the first amendment means. It grants her the right to say what she wants to say, but it doesn't insulate her from the consequences.

What it boils down to is control; she's upset about other people exercising their first amendment right to call her out on her bigotry and stupidity.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:18 PM on August 17, 2010


who prints the title of “President” on his business card

I am Supreme High Dictator-in-Charge on mine.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:25 PM on August 17, 2010


Ahhhhhh...
posted by clarknova at 9:26 PM on August 17, 2010


In case anybody's wondering – we totally won this one. MediaMatters is reporting, via Larry King Live, that Dr. Laura has announced that she will end her radio show due to criticism of her N-word rant.

I am happy about this.
posted by koeselitz at 9:41 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love how she's blathering on about free speech. Mrs. Schlesinger, the Constitution guarantees you free speech, not consequence-free speech.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:41 AM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


The reason is, I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart, and what I think is helpful and useful, without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates and attack sponsors.

That's right, Dr. Laura. It's the liberals' fault that your sponsors got upset about you using the word "nigger" live on the air. Mean old liberals.

What is the purpose of Dr. Laura’s program?

Dr. Laura is available to help people with a wide range of personal, work, and family problems. She "preaches, teaches and nags" about morals, values, ethics, and personal responsibility.

posted by EarBucket at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2010


Randy Rainbow (note: auto load audio on 'Randy' link) calls Dr. Laura for advice about dating Mel Gibson. *

* -- comment resurrected from this deleted FPP.
posted by ericb at 3:41 PM on August 19, 2010


Sarah Palin has come out in support of Dr Laura.
posted by stavrogin at 7:14 PM on August 19, 2010


The irony is that Dr. Laura was never a fan of Palin.
posted by ericb at 8:02 PM on August 19, 2010


"Jade"'s perspective: "there's nothing she can say to me at this point"

I agree with Jade, that the "apology" was worthless because Dr. Laura honestly meant all of the things she said (including that Jade/Nita Hanson shouldn't have married a white man if she couldn't accept his family's racism). Now that Laura is coming out gunz blazing about her "first amendment rights" it just makes it all the more obvious.

To me (and apparently to the victim), this wasn't mainly about the n-word but about the deep racism that informed Laura's entire argument, and it's a racism that I still maintain is shared by MANY MANY people. I think it's really part of the cultural and social fabric of America. Minorities have to be grateful for whites do ("they voted [Obama] in"), be respectful in the face of racism ("answer the question and discuss the issue") and make sure we don't get too uppity ("chip on your shoulder"). Otherwise, we are succumbing to "black-think" and "hypersensitivity". It's no wonder Ms. Hanson was feeling like she had done something wrong. That's because the codes and arguments spewed by Laura are embedded deep in the psyche of anyone who is born here or spends enough time in this country. People of color are the victims of a massive and masterful gaslighting.

But if using the n-word was what it took to push this over the top and get her off the air, then that'll do.
posted by Danila at 2:47 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


gaslighting

Thanks for the new word. Now I know what to call Fox News.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:42 PM on August 20, 2010


It's no wonder Ms. Hanson was feeling like she had done something wrong.

Well, to be fair, I think she did do something wrong. She called the damn show for advice. Anyone that listens to that show for more than an hour will see that Laura Schlessinger never listens to her callers, never treats them with respect, is judgmental and a fucking loon. This isn't a child playing with a handgun here. Nita Hanson is an adult that went looking for answers in the fucking sewer and is upset it smelled like shit down there.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:48 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


That she would resort to calling "Dr." [spit] Laura is an measure of how completely our society's social system failed the caller. Most people don't scrabble in shit if they have access to a better option.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:34 PM on August 20, 2010


We need to give Jade a AskMetafilter membership. One of the things I like best about AskMe is that you do get opinions from a lot of different people who all speak from their varying experiences and fields of knowledge, and you can synthesize the best of the advice and cast aside what doesn't work. I bet AskMe has done more real good in the world than Dr. Laura ever has or ever will.
posted by orange swan at 9:12 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sarah Palin has come out in support of Dr Laura.

Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")
...

Palin not qualified to run for the bathroom

While this sort of low-hanging fruit is fun, easy, and good ratings, it seems a bit counterproductive.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:37 AM on August 24, 2010


The Hurt Talker: John Oliver refers to the Palin Index ticker to prove to Wyatt Cenac that the r-word is more offensive than the n-word.
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on August 25, 2010


Interesting discussion on Racialicious about Jade's question: What do you do when you’re in an interracial relationship and your partner ignores racist comments?
posted by Danila at 10:18 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice closure, Danila. I couldn't have been the only one as offended by Dr. Laura's disregard of the question as by the hateful language.

"What do you mean by that?" is a good response to racist comments and one that I've used successfully, mostly in regard to homophobic hate speech.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:55 AM on September 1, 2010


"That's pretty serious stuff," Schlessinger remarked, possibly taking Towns' "thought police" reference more literally than he had intended it. "And it doesn't start with the government. It starts when small interest groups -- groups that are supported and aided by political parties -- decide that they are the guardians of what is politically correct!"

"That's how it started in Germany," she went on. "That's how it started in communist China. That's how it's right now in Iran. So when I speak about leaving syndicated radio at the end of the year to regain my ability to speak freely, it is so I can speak freely."


People who oppose racism are just like Hitler.
posted by EarBucket at 12:12 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Therefore, Mike Godwin is Hitler. IPSO FACTO
posted by msalt at 9:59 PM on September 8, 2010


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