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If This Doesn’t Kill the Village Voice, The American Left Has No Soul

Rush Limbaugh said some mean things to a young woman, and is reaping the results of his remarks. Something like 100 advertisers have dropped his show, and the decency police don’t think he’s suffered nearly enough.

Some on the right have looked at the left’s tolerance of self-confessed “pottymouth” Bill Maher and seen a double standard. Righties get it in the teeth for anything short of the finest chivalric behavior while lefties can slime women as much as they like, but because they are reliable supporters of organized feminist groups on reproductive issues they suffer no blowback.

Much more troubling, at least to Via Meadia, is the example that NY Times columnist Nick Kristoff points to in this morning’s paper: Village Media, the company that owns the longtime (mostly) leftie newspaper the Village Voice also happens to own Backpage: a prostitution and pimping site that, Kristoff tells us,

accounts for about 70 percent of prostitution advertising among five Web sites that carry such ads in the United States, earning more than $22 million annually from prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a media research and consulting company. It is now the premier Web site for human trafficking in the United States, according to the National Association of Attorneys General.

To be fair to the left, the Village Voice has long since lost its position as a flagship paper for leftie dissent in the United States. It has been some time since anyone at Via Meadia picked up a copy; last we looked it had become some kind of weekly shopping paper with a faintly counter-cultural air that mixed attacks on slumlords with sex shop ads in its time-honored way. (Apparently, at least some of the people who indulge in grubby sexual behavior like to salve their consciences by professing high ideals when it comes to economic issues that involve no inconvenient and annoying personal restraint. The Voice has been servicing this quirky demographic for decades.)

Kristoff’s story focused on a 24 year old African American woman, now a college student with ambitions to practice law, who (while under age) was pimped out on Backpage for years. Read the whole story here.

There is a difference between what loudmouths like Limbaugh and pottymouths like Maher do to women and what Backpage does. The difference is major and it needs to be socially marked.

Clearly, the Village Voice staff should either walk away from its owners or the paper should close its doors from shame. There are some companies for which a person cannot work while maintaining the esteem of the community at large.

Hopefully, Kristoff’s column will touch off a national firestorm of loathing and condemnation with right and left joining to make the owners of the Voice feel some of the pain and shame they have profited from in the past. The response to this column will give some real time information on whether the left’s anger at Limbaugh was grounded in a passionate moral commitment to the rights and the sexual freedom of women.

Via Meadia is looking forward to the response.


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  • Cromwell

    Hasn’t liberalism been defined as allowing 16-year-olds to appear in smut flicks as long as they’re paid the minimum wage? By this definition the VV is well within the mainstream. PS DR Mead, it’s “sex worker” not “prostitute”

  • BillH

    You’re dead right. And I’m sure about 90% of the deep south would agree (i.e. excluding Atlanta).

  • Chase

    Not quite professor. Limbaugh is by far the most listened to radio host in America. And he is terrible. And his show, which typifies all that has gone wrong with American political discourse, has netted him something like 300 million dollars. In one of your other essays, you quite rightly attacked the vast amount of cultural pollution generated by the boomers. It’s too bad you didn’t put up a picture of Limbaugh in that article because his product fits what you were talking about.

    Most Americans, even the liberals, have never heard of the village voice, and never will. Trust me on this one, I live in the Midwest.

  • Cromwell

    Also, not sure “soul” can even be considered part of Leftist theology, unless its anthropomorphized Gaia or the Rousseau’s General Will.

  • vanderleun

    “If This Doesn’t Kill the Village Voice, The American Left Has No Soul”

    In that case, it will not kill the Village Voice.

  • Yahzooman

    Prostitution should be legalized, taxed and regulated.

    Prohibition of most anything (kiddie-porn is a major exception) backfires and leads to black markets, exploitation and crime.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Yahzooman: presumably if we forbid kiddie porn we also forbid kiddie prostitution, which is what this site apparently does a lot with.

  • RJ

    @Chase: I see your Limbaugh with the whole CNBC lineup, and raise you the soft leftie outlook of the rest of the networks.

  • Jim.


    If you think that name-calling on the Rush Limbaugh show is anywhere near as bad as a solicitation service, you’re part of the soulless pollution Mead is decrying.

  • Everyman

    I’m guessing that Chase has not spent much time out there in the midwest listening to Rush, based just on his uninformed description of the content of the man’s program. But, as usual, that doesn’t preclude his censure, an oddly important part of the Left’s determined narrative.

  • Tom Gates

    Due to the nature of my work, I listen to a lot of Limbaugh. I find it interesting that he talks to more female callers than male, that almost all are mothers, and that they often tell him he should run for office they respect his views so much. You can say he screens the calls, but I think not. This is the core of what is left of the middle class in fly over country and the primary group that makes up and leads the Tea Party, 30-40 year old mothers. I wonder what Dr. Meade and Chase scored on the Charles Murray’s elitist test?

  • John Burke

    This is nothing new. The Voice has been dependent financially on hooker ads for at least 30 years, back to when Clay Felker owned it. In those days, it was display ads for “massage” and personal classifieds for hookups that filled many pages in the back of the print paper. These gradually morphed into more blatant prostitution ads, even before the whole thing migrated to the internet via Backstage.

    The Voice got a pass in part due to its iconic status as “alternative” journalism but even more because it emerged in the late 70s as a virtual house organ for gay rights.

    Kristoff notwithstanding, don’t hold your breath waiting for lefties to gang up on the Voice.

  • Matthew Brotchie

    I appreciate the moral sentiment behind this, but I am dismayed by the general problem of the media. While this blog covers huge stories such as the collapse of the blue social model, our recent diplomatic maneuvers in the far east the general media will always be obsessed with having a Bill Mar and a Limbaugh pointing out how each other are hypocrites. I would venture to say that youth today believe more in conspiracies theories and Noam Chomsky than any other American generation and they go to those sources because the media is so generally awful they look for alternative explanations of our society. If Sean Hannity picks up this story the left will only thinks its propaganda or retort with a similar story aimed to show how soulless the right is. When it comes to the general media I see incompetence and soullessness all round. I would to see a full essay from WRM about this, in the same vein as the Baby Boomer essay.

  • vanderleun

    The real question is: “What if the Left is just one Potemkin Village after another?”

    Asked and answered here:

    Ryan Sager was the guy who broke the story big-time. As Sager described it in 2004:

    “All of the major reform groups – Common Cause, the Alliance for Better Campaigns, the Campaign Finance Institute, the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Responsive Politics, Democracy 21 and the William J. Brennan Jr. Center for Justice – are funded by the same eight liberal foundations, and have received millions upon millions of dollars each.

    “Yet, by maintaining the fiction of independence from one and other, they appear to much of the press to be a pack of scrappy underdogs sinking their teeth into the ankles of the big-money men.”

  • Kris

    “Righties get it in the teeth for anything short of the finest chivalric behavior”

    Chivalric behaviour?! You sexist pig!

    WRM@9: “presumably if we forbid kiddie porn we also forbid kiddie prostitution”

    Not necessarily. I am reminded of one of the odd situations created by current law: in certain states, I can have sex with a 16-17 yo, but Heaven forfend I should tape ourselves! That would be kiddie porn!

    As to your larger point, allow me to rebut: It’s not the same! It’s not it’s not it’s not! Why are you defending that misogynist Limbaugh? You’re nothing but a right-wing shill who wants to keep women pregnant and barefoot!


  • Chase

    Guys, I’m not an elitist. Even if I wanted to be, which I don’t, this option is foreclosed to me by modest salary and assets. :-).

    Folks, even my grandma – who ALWAYS voted republican, and was raised in rural Missouri – told me that Limbaugh was a jerk. When I was younger – around 13, no joke – I was very conservative and I always wanted to listen to Limbaugh in the car. But my Republican grandmother refused to go along.

    In the 90s, Limbaugh mocked Chelsea Clinton’s appearance. I ask you guys, what was conservative or political about that?

  • Ranger Rick

    Chase, I recall no such mockery of Chelsea’s appearance. And unlike your elders, mine never forbid me from listening to Limbaugh for myself during the ’90s.

  • Luke Lea

    Limbaugh called Chelsea a dog when she was still an adolescent I recall.

  • Matthew Brotchie

    So far no Firestorm yet.

  • Earl of Sandwich

    Horrific stuff. How can I tell if my local leftie rag, the Chicago Reader, shares the same vice? It has “escort” style ads in the backpages. Should I stop reading it?

  • Gina

    Ya’ll KNOW, don’t you, that the Conservative states are the highest consumers of underage sex-slavery in the United States, don’t you? Just because the VV happened to be a somewhat Left-leaning publication in the 70s doesn’t mean it holds the same status, today. You’re all deluded if you don’t think Conservatives are using Backpage. Why is everyone on the right so fixated on sex, anyway? I agree, wholeheartedly, that sex slavery needs to be punished – severely – and stopped. And every time an avenue to its continuation is found, it gets blocked (i.e. Craigslist) but that “free market” that you all love SOOOOO much will find another way. Don’t blame the Left because your policies are failing. Regulate and enforce.

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