Felicia Muftic " Talk shows must be taken with a grain of salt
April 19, 2009
For the past 20 years or so this country has been polarized, fragmented, and sometimes going off on tangents that later prove to be much ado about little. There are many factors contributing to this trend. One that is influential is the rise of the radio/TV talk show host.
I have a word of caution: Take TV and radio talk show hosts with a grain of salt. My comments are meant for both the politically left and right masters of the acid tongue and advocates of the hysterical approach to every issue possible.
It takes one to know one. I was one of the early talk show hosts in Denver. Fortunately, I got out of it before it turned nasty and rabble rousing. One thing I learned: Talk radio is a business. It depends upon listener ratings to bring in the dollars to the station owners and to the host. I do believe that talk show hosts reflect their personal political instincts, but they find an issue and ride it hard so long as it attracts callers, sponsors, and public notoriety. Talk show hosts have no responsibility to be responsible. They will not be voted out of office next time around if their “platform” proves to be a theory that fails. They can make outrageous statements that go unchallenged. Sadly, listeners sometime mistake them for reporters, who must check sources and make an attempt to report the facts in a balanced way.
Currently the talkers on the right are the more acidic than the left. Perhaps the big difference is that the left wants Obama to succeed so they bite their tongues regarding bailouts of Wall Street and the increase of forces in Afghanistan, while many on the right want him to fail, so they roar.
I was more than amused when the macho mongers of the talk shows were trying to portray Obama as a wimp in the pirate episode as symbolic of being soft on something. Dang, there must have been some disappointed folks that Obama did not shirk from authorizing deadly force to rescue Captain Phillips.
Now there are two other hysterias on the tongues of these talkers that have had a variety of results: to increase the talk show listener ratings and the sales of guns. Yes, there is a call from the Mexican government and the U.S. left, in the wake of the Mexican drug wars, to ban assault weapons. The Second Amendment issue was such a mine field for Democrats in the primaries and in past years that, while still thinking it is a good idea to ban assault weapons, Obama said Thursday he is putting the assault weapon ban on the back burner. (Read: He is not touching that one with a 10 foot pole). Instead Obama says he wants to focus on enforcement of existing laws regarding trafficking and making it easier to trace bullets to the criminal perp. Besides, banning assault weapons in the United States would not solve Mexico’s problems since assault weapons are easily available from other sources worldwide.
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The newest hysterical rant is that Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, is going to crack down on conservatives. Say what? This is the e-mail I got last week. “I just heard on Fox News that the Dept. of Homeland Security plans to ‘crack down’ on right wing extremism. Napalitano (sic) is asking for special powers to better control the conservative voice in America.”
To say that conservatives would be cracked down upon is just another example of talk TV’s hysterical fear mongering. Let’s separate extremist committers of violence from participators in honest debate. Those of a liberal bent would not stand for violating the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, which they hold so dear even when they disagree. That includes the right of citizens to throw tea parties and protest taxes.
On the other hand, we do have some history with right wing violence that justifies keeping alert. Remember the Oklahoma City bombers, which were from the right fringes? The deranged individual who wiped out a large number of students and teachers of ESL in a cultural center in Upstate New York was inspired by the talk fear mongers that his guns would be taken away from him by Obama. The hooded KKK is a terrorist group that once was even popular. Even county clerks were threatened with violence by the tax protesting Posse Comitatus. Racism and hate of others who are different, whether black, brown, or immigrants, or of the very rich or of even government authority, are powerful motivators of those suffering from mental illness or post traumatic stress to commit violent acts.
It is only human that we want to listen to those who agree with our political philosophy or who arouse our emotions. It does not mean we should stop listening to them. What it means is that we should take the time to listen to opposing views, separate fact from opinion, and recognize when someone is pandering to our fears. This is called critical thinking. It takes effort, but it is well worth it if cooler heads are to prevail.