OK, I hesitate to enter into this argument mostly because i find it boring and the equivalent of "arguing with a dining room table" as Barney Frank recently stated to someone who just couldn't have an intelligent conversation. But a number of people have commented on Rush Limbaugh's bus comments and I find it hard to believe that people are saying that Limbaugh comments are not intentionally racist.
Now I also come at this from a rather unique perspective. I was a radio producer and sound engineer for a conservative talk show for years working with the likes of Bob Grant, Jay Diamond, Jay Severin and a host of others. There's only one thing that you need to know about producing these shows and that's if you want to light up the phone lines you say something controversial--abortion and racism were easily the two most popular topics that we could do at any time. We would hope that something about either of these topics were in the papers on any given day because we knew that the phones would be hot. Personally I liked all three men, on a personal level, especially Grant who was rather easy to work with and never really acted like a prima donna and was always good to me. We disagree on politics but I always tried to consider his point of view and we would often pinpoint our areas of disagreement when we'd talk off the air. Grant often said that I had a gift for finding him callers who had pinpointed their disagreement with him, that would often lead to either an intelligent debate or we'd find that the caller and Bob would be so far apart that talking with the caller would usually would be the very thing that would send Grant into a fiery rage. "GET OFFA MY PHONE!", he'd scream.
I also worked as a desk assistant early in my radio career with Don Imus. And wrote on his controversial statement regarding the Rutgers Women's Basketball team some time ago for BustedHalo. And while his show is humor-based, it also often used race or religion to bait listeners into staying with the program to hear what the next crazy thing was that he was going to say.
Now to our friend, Rush Limbaugh. Anyone who thinks that Rush isn't clearly using the race card to boost ratings (and he has been doing it for years) is hopelessly naive. Rush somehow gets a free pass with this with the exception of his forced resignation from Monday Night Football for his comments on Donovan McNabb being the starter for the Eagles because the media wants a black quarterback to do well. (Yes, I'm sure that the Eagles base most of their player personnel decisions on what the media says). Since this is such a repeated pattern, I have no doubt that Rush is either a racist or uses racist statements to appeal to his base or to accuse the media of reverse racism at best. Unlike Imus, Rush is a bit more serious minded of a program and therefore when he makes on overtly racist statement, even to make a greater point about the media or congress, or something else, we have to do a double take and ask: "Is this funny, serious, or is he simply out of phone calls?"
Still don't believe that this is a ploy? Let's take a little walk down memory lane:
Here are five quotes that I can remember hearing off the top of my head that I researched and found for accuracy:
"I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark."
"Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing."
"Take that bone out of your nose and call me back(to an African American female caller)."
"I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve."
and of course:
I report, you decide...I won't even go into the whole Sotomayor comments.
Sorry forgot to add a final point...The general listening public often mistakes programs like Rush's for news programs instead of opinion programming. One caller once remarked to me that the station has a responsibility to get the facts straight. I replied to him, "Sure during the four minute news segment at the top of the hour, we do. During the talk show it's all about OPINION and not mere fact."
And that is why people listen, of course. But often certain segments of the listening audience DON'T know the difference. I can't tell you how many times I've heard members of my own family say "I heard Bob Grant say that on his show." (implication: so it must be true).
And lastly, many members of the listening audience respect folks like Limbaugh and Grant because "They say what everyone else is afraid to say." Who is the quote from? My own mother who is 81 and who mentions it because she thinks most people who have racist tendencies only share their feelings with other like-minded individuals and not in the general public.
And she's wrong. These shows evoke what certain people's deepest prejudices are and then they provide them with a home for others who share their opinions and they can listen anonymously or even give themselves a moniker and become a caller "Joe in White Plains" or whatever. What is the result? Ghettoism. We develop a place where we never have to talk with anyone who disagrees with us again--or we can make fun of those who disagree.
We don't do that here on this blog. We welcome everyone to the conversation...so weigh in on what you think and let's talk about this intelligently bringing lots of points of views forward!