• 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

    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.

    18, 2007

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

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