Imus Agonistes

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It would be
nice if we had arrived at a teachable moment in the business of
talk radio, but don’t bet on it. Don Imus’ firing over a flippant
racially charged remark is already being described as a watershed;
a turning point in what the public will accept from radio hosts.

Already, congratulations
are flowing into the offices of broadcast managers for “doing the
right thing." Unfortunately, like so much of what commands
our attention in the media, what passes for “news” is in reality
a distraction from the real issue. Many of the same pundits and
activists who went crazy when Don Imus made his offensive racial
remark can be heard routinely yukking it up with the rabidly lying,
low-brow, right-wing “hosts” who have brought about the degradation
and humiliation of the United States through their willful dissemination
of rank propaganda and their smearing of any leader, politician,
commentator, or citizen, who dares deviate even one centimeter from
Karl Rove’s officially embossed neo-con orthodoxies.

On any given
day you might hear Charles Rangel or Lanny Davis, etc., trading
bon mots with Sean Hannity, on whose show the WMD in Iraq have long
ago been found, and where stem cell research is equivalent to abetting
homicide, on a world that is 5800 years old, where George W. Bush
is a wise and trusted leader who came to the presidency after a
heroic stint in our armed forces, where he absorbed the wisdom and
bravery to save us all from the “terrorists” who he tricked into
all going to Iraq so we can “fight them there rather than fighting
them here," but only until we train the Iraqi army “to stand
up so we can stand down."

On Hannity’s
show and so many others of the same transparent shtick, the notion
that George W. Bush’s “signing statements” somehow insure our liberty
by terminating it, is standard boilerplate.

Many big-name
media people and political “leaders” bill and coo with Hannity and
the other low-brow, right-wing hatchet men in-between the ugly personal
smears and outright political lies that characterize these radio
spectacles and that have so cynically warped America’s political
decision making in layers and folds of deliberately sewn confusion
and distraction.

Despite the
documented fact of the fervent opposition of all of Bush’s Joint
Chiefs of Staff as well as Generals Casey and Abizaid to Bush’s
escalation of the Iraq fighting, on the Sean Hannity show, it is
only “The Left," personified by Ward Churchill and those that
“hate America” who oppose Bush.

On Sean Hannity’s
young and innocent planet, Rudolph Giuliani “got rid of all the
porn stores," so good Christian New Yorkers could live saintly
lives devoid of the scourge of pornography. In truth, Rudy strong-armed
some of the porn stores to relocate out of the theatre district
to ease the way for the Disney Corp. to make billions in NY, at
the same time porn metastasized all over Manhattan’s residential
communities and to the outer boroughs; places where children are
now seen playing amid the new porn zones courtesy of the same Rudy
that Sean absurdly praises as having conquered porn.

And though
these examples of deliberate distortions of truth are culled from
about 30 minutes of the Sean Hannity program, they are typical of
the bilge that is the stock in trade of many of the practitioners
of the genre of low-brow, right-wing commercial talk radio that
has debased the politics and public culture of our country and brought
about a crisis of governance that threatens our very constitutional
framework.

If this latest
controversy involving Don Imus is allowed to be written off as merely
the well-deserved downfall of one man who made an insulting racially
oriented statement, an important teachable moment will have been
tragically ignored as we once again allow the media to misinterpret
and distract us from a truly critical issue, which, simply stated,
is the wholesale lack of any ethical standard at all in what radio
personalities do on the air. This lack of standards is far more
than a lack of good manners in racial matters; it is a complete
breakdown in the most grave responsibility that a radio broadcaster
has to the public; the moral obligation to tell the truth.

Right now,
cynical hidden agendas rule the day on radio. And remember, no radio
personality puts himself in front of the microphone. It is always
the station owner who is speaking, and it is always the station
owner who is responsible for upholding the ethical barricades against
the lure of money and political power. An owner who forswears his
responsibility to present honest programming commits an offense
against our democracy by distorting the airwaves with hidden agendas
and hidden special pleadings.

This is the
real offense against decency and it would be a dangerously missed
opportunity if we allow ourselves to be bamboozled by media into
thinking it is merely about bad racial manners.

And here is
a suggestion. Don’t trust what you have just read under my name.
Listen for yourself and measure what I have told you here against
what you hear with your own ears. Today at 3PM Eastern, tune in
the Sean Hannity program (or Any of the cookie-cutter, low-brow,
right-wing talk shows) and listen to it, mindful of what I have
written. And when you hear it, bear in mind that though you may
be knowledgeable enough to judge the accuracy of Mr. Hannity’s statements,
many of his listeners simply take it as faith that he is telling
the truth. And then they vote.

April
18, 2007

Jay Diamond
[send him mail] is a
talk show host/commentator in New York.

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