Protesting Dr. Laura’s Bias

Attempts to foil Laura Schlessinger’s anti-gay rhetoric and her new TV show this fall took a Jewish turn in large part thanks to the efforts of Robin Tyler, the national protest coordinator for and longtime comic, producer and gay rights activist. In the name of Jewish Orthodoxy, Schlessinger has used her radio presence to promote an anti-gay and anti-woman agenda. Tyler was concerned that activists protesting Schlessinger “keep this on message. …I wanted to make sure that there were representatives of Jewish people, gay and straight, so there wouldn’t be a subliminal anti-Semitism” from anti-Schlessinger activists. She was also intent on staving off “a kind of misogyny. …It’s much easier to vilify women than men.”

There’s a six-foot poster of Schlessinger on Tyler’s office wall—”the woman I’ve been living with for six months”—and the 58-year-old Tyler expresses her fight against Schlessinger’s rhetoric as a “hidden battle between two very willful women. …Here we have a woman whose parents, my parents, taught her ‘never again.’ And you have another women who is using the same language—’biological errors’—of the Nazis.”

Activists launched a campaign to get advertisers to drop Schlessinger’s broadcasts earlier this year after she called homosexuality “deviant” and “the result of a biological error.” Her brand-new TV show, produced by Paramount, was quickly suspended and then downgraded to the 2 a.m. time slot in many markets because of bad ratings and equally poor advertising.

What made the heavily grassroots StopDrLaura campaign a success? “In the good old Jewish tradition it was David versus Goliath,” says Tyler. The campaign was done on a shoe string—$15,000, most of it raised from the sale of anti-Schlessinger tee-shirts—testimony to the powerful effect of online protests when paired with traditional activism. “We don’t need to look for an organization to give us permission,” says Tyler. “The web has given us permission to organize.” The web site also helped neophytes to connect with experienced protesters to ask: “I’ve never been on the street before, how do I do this?”

Tyler hopes to use the momentum of the Stop DrLaura campaign to develop a national rapid response network around similar issues. Write to: