High Dudgeon: The Right Wing is Offended
The right wing is in high dudgeon: they have been accused of inciting violence through political attacks and virulent talk radio invective. What? Right wing radio filled with ugly and irresponsible invective? Right wing radio stirring up hate? Really? Whiney-voice Mark Levin calls liberals and Democrats “A-holes,” “Schmucks”, “Jerks”, “Losers”; Michael Savage dubs Katie Couric, “Katie Kourva— “kourva”, Yiddish for “whore”; Democrats are traitors and worse? Great American Sean Hannity, says, who me? Hateful? He wrote a book characterizing liberalism as evil, lumping it in with despotism and terrorism, crying out for its defeat. Rush Limbaugh compares the Democratic Party to the Nazi Party, President Obama to Adolf Hitler: “Obama’s got a health care logo that’s right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook, (he’s) asking people to rat each other out like Hitler did, sending out his brown-shirts to head up opposition to genuine American citizens who want no part of what Barack Obama stands for and is trying to stuff it down our throats.” Hateful?
After the attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords, those on the right were called out for the climate of hate they have generated in the country. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik cited those like Limbaugh who incessantly attack Democrats, Liberals, and the Government, creating an environment roiling with anger and extremism. Their opponents are not just politically wrong, they are traitors! They have stolen the country. They have created a dictatorship and the very heart and soul of the country is in peril.
Robert Kennedy, Jr. wrote in an op-ed of the ferocious mood in Dallas just before his uncle’s assassination, the cheers of joy that went up after the killing; he compares that to the incessant ugliness that characterizes right wing rhetoric these days. Sean Hannity’s lame rebuttal? Lee Harvey Oswald was not right wing, but a Marxist, missing the greater truth that an environment of hate stirs up all the crazies, those on the left and the right. When you sow the wind with hate, as the right wing has been doing, you will reap a whirlwind and the whirlwind can come from any direction, can reflect any philosophy or no philosophy. To the crazies the fury in the air is a kind of accelerant to explosion. Ideology is only incidental.
To suggest that this rhetoric is ugly and even dangerous is an affront to those on the right. Sean Hannity is offended. How dare the right be accused of vicious, violent inciting rhetoric, angering people toward the government?
Deliver us from evil, Sean Hannity wrote. And who is evil? The usual devils of course, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, but then, astoundingly, the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George Kennan, John Kerry, Edward Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Janet Reno, Jay Rockefeller, Dick Durbin, Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, Wesley Clark, and the United Nations. Not just politically wrong. Evil! Evil! All evil!
There is something pathological in Hannity’s animus toward liberalism. It’s boundless and, Mr. Hannity, hateful. And it goes far to explain Hannity’s distaste toward Obama. In Hannity’s distorted view, Obama’s church, the people he may or may not have associated with, the social programs he espouses, these are at the least proof somehow that Obama is at heart a terrorist who wants to subjugate our land to some Marxist dictatorship. Obama is evil incarnate.
Chris Matthews after the Tucson assassinations pointed out the role of talk radio in fueling this firestorm of anti-liberal, anti-Obama, anti-Government attacks. “…Mark Levin, Michael Savage, for example, …every time you listen to them, … are furious. Furious at the left. With anger that just builds and builds in their voice and by the time they go to commercial they are just in some rage every night with ugly talk. Ugly sounding talk, and it never changes, it never modulates.”
Savage’s program is the nation’s third most-listened to radio talk show, behind only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Mark Levin’s nationally syndicated show is fourth.
A peeved and outraged Savage told Newsmax: “This is a blood libel by Matthews. His remarks may cause me serious economic damage. I only hope his inconsiderate, malicious libel against me does not bring harm to myself or my family. I pray that an imbalanced left-wing fanatic does not take Matthews' libel against me to heart and seek to inflict bodily harm on myself or my family.” As to Savage’s incessant calling Katie Couric a whore, well, don’t you have a sense of humor? Nadogadach, as my Yiddish grandmother would say, “poor thing.”
Levin is verbally perhaps the most brutal of the commentators, (Michael Savage runs a close second) and that brings up an interesting pathology: Mr. Levin is a dog lover of embarrassing sentimentality! He recently lost a dog to age and illness and he was uncontrollable, disconsolate. On air, he became choked with emotion. He wrote a book about his experiences with Sprite, the dog. As pure and angelic as Sprite was that’s how low, evil, and devilish liberals and Democrats are. Weep for Sprite, the dog. One senses that Mark Levin would have done anything for his dog. For humans, however, particularly if they’re on the left, hell-fire is too good for them, “schmucks, fools, jerks. That’s right, I said it!”
“Morons!” Levin screams in a voice that sounds as though it’s been ripped from steel wool. “Bill Maher is a little dwarf moron!” That’s the sort of ugly, corrosive attacks we hear daily from the Radio Right, Michael Savage calling Katie Couric, “Katie Kourva” for months at at time. Savage’s attacks, like Levin’s, are pathologically personal, painfully scurrilous. The Fox anchorwoman Greta van Susterin is “Scarface”, Larry King: “Garlic Breath.” He not only attacks liberals and TV journalists, but his fellow right-wing radio personalities. He excoriates Rush Limbaugh as ‘Hush Bimbo’; Sean Hannity, “Pawn Vanity”; Bill O'Reilly, the "Lepre-con" and "Loofa-Man," a reference to Bill O'Reilly's sexual harassment scandal a while back. Rush Limbaugh has his own loopy brand of verbal attack, a liberal named Wakeoff is Whackoff, Barney Franks is “The Banking Queen”, a homophobic parody of an Abba song, Obama is the “magic Negro”, an idea cadged he reminds us from the pages of the New York Times, ignoring context and intent.
And this sells! Certain of the American public love to hear ugly talk; it’s a brutal sport like Ultimate Fighting, the mixed martial arts (incidentally the favorite “sport” of both Levin and Savage) where virtually anything goes and testicle crushing is considered high art.
The right wing radio talk show hosts have become millionaires—in Limbaugh’s case, a millionaire many times over. And so they shamelessly poison the airways, proclaiming ideological rectitude while raking in the shekels. Who knows what they really believe? We do know they have legions of followers who hang on their every poisonous word.
And words there are! The right wing radio attacks are a torrent of words, persistent, ferocious, and unrelenting. From the time I wake in the morning and turn on my radio, until the late evening, there’s a constant storm of vicious assault on Obama, Democrats, and Liberals. Limbaugh from nine till noon, Hannity, noon to three, Mark Levin, three to six, then, in the evening I have a toxic smorgasbord to choose from, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Bill Cunningham, Jerry Doyle, on and on and on and on, a non-stop chalk-across-blackboard screed. It may not be a conspiracy, but it certainly is a mind-set locked in concrete. Ideology is not thought, it is the shadow of thought, and this flood of brutal attack is one note, goose-step precise, and dare I say, dangerous!
Twelve hours and more of constant Obama bashing: The President is a traitor, a liar, dishonest, may not even be an American citizen, is a Muslim, a communist, a Nazi cultivating his own army of Brown Shirt thugs, his own Gestapo and SS, a terrorist, an American-hater, a con man, a Chicago gangster, a political hack, someone intent on undermining our democracy and installing a Marxist tyranny; he’s The Annointed One, The Messiah, arrogant, essentially stupid, cold, heartless, cannot function without a teleprompter, a puppet controlled by invisible strings, the pawn of foreign powers. He’s accused of being everything but a child molester and I’m not sure they won’t get around to that soon: after all he’s only been in office two years. He’s a rigid ideologue, a manipulator, he’s part of a worldwide conspiracy, a cabal; he’s a fanatic, a racist, someone intent on destroying America, a fraud, a phony. On and on and on. For months Sean Hannity could not bring up Obama without linking him to Bill Ayers and unrepentant terrorism: in that grotesque technique of assigning guilt by association, Hannity has marked Obama down forever as someone who wants to blow up our society! Forget the sins of the fathers; these are the sins of the neighbors…
With this tidal wave of brutal accusations, the assertion that right wing radio is somehow threatened by supporters of Obama is disingenuous at best. The left has been using a peashooter in this battle, the right, a battleaxe. There hasn’t been as concentrated, venomous, and furious an assault on an American political movement since Westbrook Pegler’s dozen or so year attack on the New Deal and the Roosevelts, (even going so far as to advocate FDR’s assassination!) Pegler had enormous power, a readership of over ten million people, an audience in its day the equivalent of Limbaugh’s audience. Pegler ended up on the manure heap of history. With Limbaugh et. al., we can only hope.
History has shown that there are always weak-minded souls adrift in our society, sickos a-tremble with the Zeitgeist, wolfmen howling at moons of political chaos. Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Rays, John Hinckley, Jr., Mark David Chapman, Arthur Bremer, Timothy McVey, and this latest nut case, Jared Loughner, psychologically fractured beings tuned to dog whistles of demagogic pitch and shrill. In a frighteningly larger sense, the wild, murderous hysteria whipped up by an Adolf Hitler was a manifestation of this: the world vibrates with hate. Kill them all! When a leader or a people or a political movement is slandered day in and day out, early morning to deep night, constant drumbeat, continual drone, a malicious cacophony: the others are evil, traitorous, subversive, tyrannical it is not hard to imagine a pathologically wounded personality fantasizing becoming a hero who saves the country, who preserves the world.
The haranguers of the right are sowing the wind. The attack on Congresswoman Giffords is a dark cloud of what could be ahead. Heaven forgive us if the nation is forced to reap the whirlwind.