August 12, 2009
I was deeply disappointed over the recent profile of Michael Savage. The New Yorker, which in the past has brought us extraordinary portraits of great men, articles pointed, accurate, rich with observation— Lillian Ross on Hemingway, Truman Capote on Brando— here presents us a toxic mediocrity, Michael Savage, and treats him as though he were somehow worth writing about. Despite its adroitness, the profile fails utterly to reflect the true Savage whose radio career I have followed for the past ten years, followed as one tracks what my mother would call a mashuga, a madman — corrosive, dangerous, and destructive. I’m not sure who Kelefa Sanneh had his sights on, but his article might have been written by Savage’s poodle, Teddy.
Mashuga Savage has consistently advocated imprisoning liberals, putting members of congress and the ACLU in orange jump suits, using atomic weapons on Iraquis, raged that his country has been taken over by communists, calls the president a dangerous dictator on a par with Josef Stalin, a traitor whose cabinet and supporters are gangsters. Day in and day out, he attacks homosexuals, Muslims, immigrants illegal and legal: one of his drum beat canards (repeated by Mr. Sanneh) is that illegal immigrants make up thirty percent of our prison population; the real number posted by the Justice Department is less than seven percent.
For weeks he savaged CBS anchor woman, Katie Couric, calling her “Katie Kourva”. (Kourva is Yiddish for whore). Mr. Sanneh failed to remark on this. He did tell us that Savage is Jewish and frequently employs Yiddish, but in the years I have listened to Savage I have never once heard him tell his audience that he was Jewish and often in the old days when he did utter a Yiddishism, he would characterize it as “Old German”, never linking it to his own ethnicity. Indeed, there is almost no group that he is as disdainful toward as establishment Jews, mocking in a thick New York accent, a bare exaggeration of his own, the Brooklyn, NYU, or Columbia loy-yahs. And there are no money-grubbing cheats in our society as venal as the workers for Goldman Sachs or Lehman Brothers, code words for what? He does all but call his co-religionists kikes.
These are not vagrant comments, but daily attacks. This past week he raged that Obama is a dangerous dictator, a naked Marxist engineering a communist takeover of the country, a traitor committed to sacrificing thirty million of our best citizens in order to conquer the United States. “We don’t have an administration running the country, we have a gang… A gang has taken over the country, not a political force… We have a nation of slaves, slaves to drugs, legal and illegal, captured by an illegal gang from Chicago in cahoots with the media… I was targeted by Obama’s friends through England. Yes, I was targeted! Why Michael Savage? Why did they choose me? Because I am the only person educated enough to know history.” Mashuga Savage glories in his education, chest thumps about it as though his Ph.D in herbology is on a level with Einstein and relativity.
Unfortunately, in Sanneh’s profile we get little sense of how foolish Savage is, even delusional. Recently, he has taken to braying that he is “a national treasure”! This “national treasure”, “the only person educated enough to know history”, constantly mispronounces words, misquotes writings, commits historical and literary lulus, attributing words by Shakespeare to Dickens, Herodotus to Plutarch, on and on. The man’s self absorption is monumental: Savage to caller, April 5, 2009: “You don’t know anything, that’s why you’re nothing and I’m very famous.” “I always felt a benign dictatorship was the ultimate form of government.” “I am a master and a genius.”
But none of Michael Savage’s dangerous, absurd, and frightening psychopathology do we get from Kelefa Sanneh’s benign profile. Capote and Lillian Ross have long left the scene and we are forced to settle for a Savage without savagery, Uncle Fuzzball suffused in treacle.