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The Case for Left-Wing Radio
© by Jean Hay Bright
Right-wing hate radio has taken it on the chin lately, and it’s about time.
It started last month when Senator Tom Daschle blasted forth: "What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen. They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, on our families and on us, in a way that's very disconcerting."
Right-wing pundits rushed to Rush’s defense, using the First Amendment as their shield. But even the First Amendment does not protect people who slander, and I believe Rush has crossed the line, many times, but particularly when it comes to Tom Daschle.
The non-profit group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (on-line at www.fair.org) described some of Rush’s inflammatory rhetoric.
“Now he's decided to roll the dice and align himself with Iran, North Korea and Hussein," said Rush of Daschle. "In essence, Daschle has chosen to align himself with the axis of evil."
“What do you want your nickname to be? Hanoi Tom? Tokyo Tom? …You sit there and pontificate on the fact that we're not winning the war on terrorism when you and your party have done nothing but try to sabotage it, which you are continuing to do. This little speech of yours yesterday… It's nothing more than an attempt to sabotage the war on terrorism for your own personal and your party's political gain. This is cheap. And it's beneath even you. And that's pretty low."”
It is Rush who is “pretty low,” and his comments, to my mind, are grounds for Daschle to file a libel suit against Rush. This stuff is beyond the pale. It is inflammatory, and it is nonsense.
Yes, the standards necessary for a public figure to win a libel suit are higher than for thee and me, but, in my humble opinion, Daschle has plenty of evidence to work with.
Of course Tom Dashle is not Rush’s only target. Using a technique copied at smaller stations across the country (including here in Maine), Rush will brand anything he doesn’t like as a liberal-extremist idea. As in: “The high rate of poverty in the United States is nothing more than a statistical trick, a dirty little liberal secret.” As a proud liberal, I resent his lies and mis-characterizations.
The problem is that many in the listening public believe that Rush and his ilk wouldn’t be allowed to say those kinds of things on radio unless they were true. But the Broadcast Police who watch out for the “seven dirty words” don’t care a rip about this other foul-mouthed garbage – trash which I believe is doing far greater damage to our nation, our democratic heritage, and other living things, than any four letter word.
Rush, of course, also targets women in general and pro-choice feminists (whom he calls “feminazis)” in particular, The National Organization for Women is so concerned about Rush and his cohorts on talk radio that they have launched a campaign “to expose bigotry on the airwaves…to uncover the hateful, divisive fanaticism of Rush Limbaugh and his clones.”
In the mailing I got recently, their campaign has two major components:
1. Petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “…to counter unfair and unbalanced use of airwaves for overtly political purposes.
2. Identify advertisers on Limbaugh’s show and “then think carefully before you purchase any products from the advertisers who underwrite his hateful rhetoric—or that of his cohorts.”
Nice try, ladies, but this ain’t gonna cut it.
First, if you’re going to boycott something, make some noise. Announce it publicly, or at least send a letter of protest to the advertiser. If they don’t get that kind of feedback in their faces, they won’t know you’re upset with their support of these hate-mongers.
Second, it does little good to protest to the FCC about unbalanced use of the airwaves without presenting a solution – in the form of a list of cutting-edge left-wing commentators who are ready and waiting to dish it out. (Paul Begala on Crossfire would be a good model to start with. Then there’s Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower….)
From a financial perspective, such a shift toward more balanced programming would be a winner for both the public and the business community. A new left-wing radio program or two would give all those potential advertisers who wouldn’t be caught dead on Limbaugh or similar shows the opportunity to tout their wares in a friendlier forum. Radio stations would discover a whole new audience – and advertising clientele – out there just waiting to be tapped.
How about testing this concept, starting with the talk-radio stations we have here in Central Maine?
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