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