Wrote CBS CEO Les Moonves in a memo, "He has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people. In taking him off the air, I believe we take an important and necessary step not just in solving a unique problem, but in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of our company."
I pointed that 'unique problem' out wednesday. The problem is that racism and hatred are nothing new to talk radio and that Imus might be among the least of the offenders.
Right wing radio host Neal Boortz, who referred to Rep. Cynthia McKinney as a 'ghetto slut,' takes away a different lesson. In a post to his web page yesterday, obviously written before CBS fired Imus, he wrote:
Liberals see this whole Imus situation as a way to rid themselves of the problem of talk radio. Now that they've succeeded in getting MSNBC to pull Imus' program, they'll concentrate on CBS .. trying to get the radio show cancelled. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if they succeed. Then they will turn their attention to the rest of us. The tape recorders will be running. There is not one single significant right-of-center radio talk show out there that is not going to come under fire. Liberals know -- they've proven it to themselves -- that they simply cannot succeed in talk radio. So, it's all very simple. If they can't succeed, destroy the genre. Their original plan was to wait until Democrats control the congress and the White House and then murder talk radio with the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." Now that they're on the verge of having a talk radio scalp on their belts as retribution for a bad and mean-spirited joke, they see that they may not have to wait for the electorate to give them the power.
You know how you can tell this is a load? You think about it for a moment. If this is all about liberals taking conservative talk radio down, why Don Imus? It's not an extremely political show. You want an easy target for taking down talk radio over racism? Michael Savage would be my choice -- the guy's a freakin' nazi.
And 'the tape recorders will be running?' Dude, they're already running. They've been running for years -- on both sides of the political spectrum. Imus merely had his 'macaca' moment.
What Imus does (or did) isn't the same thing as what people like Boortz and Savage and Limbaugh and O'Reilly, et. al., do. Imus's intent was to amuse, their intent is to anger.
George Orwell, 1984:
...The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp...
Orwell was wrong. It takes quite a bit longer to work up an unreasoning hatred than two minutes. It takes about three hours a day. This is why right wing talkers resort to racism and intolerance and gay baiting and misogyny. This is why people who don't support their point of view are enemies who hate America or the godless minions of Satan. This is what they do so they don't have to make an argument.
An epitaph is a declaration, not an argument. In other words, 'you suck!' isn't debate. But if you can get someone to hate someone once, they'll probably hate them forever. And, whether it's intellectual laziness or an actual strategy, that group of people you should hate forever is always growing. It probably started out with hating the left, but then it creeped. People who either are or are seen to be aligned with the left are then hated. Which is why people have hateful opinions of not only blacks, women, and gays, but the french, people who say 'Happy Holidays,' and the Weather Channel. The list of those you're required to hate grows almost daily. If the list grows absurd, it really doesn't matter.
But the people you aren't to hate never shrinks. It's always the Republicans. They'll throw the occassional one overboard, but for the most part, Republicans are golden by default. They, like Big Brother, will protect you from the Emmanuel Goldsteins of this world.
So Boortz has good reason to fear. He's taught his audience to hate one helluva lot of people. And those people aren't going to take it forever. In 1984, The Party is never brought down -- it can't be. But 1984 is fiction and there is no eternal party. History shows that systems based on hatred and intolerance eventually fail, drawn down by the weight of the enemies they've created out of whole cloth. They're ruined by enemies they never would have had without the ginned up hate.
Those people you choose to hate will hate back -- with better reason. As you create a larger group of imagined enemies, you create a larger group of actual enemies. This is why hatred is a weapon that inevitably destroys the wielder. In the end, you have no allies left. All that remains are those you've chosen to hate as enemies and you stand alone.
If Boortz or Savage or Beck or O'Reilly or Limbaugh or any of a sadly large number of professional haters goes down, it's their own damned fault. To say otherwise is to embrace the argument of the criminal looking for revenge against a witness. If you say something racist, I point it out, and you find yourself in a weak moral position because of it, who's fault is that? It's sure not mine; I only pointed out what you said.
Hatred may work as a short term tactic, but as a longer strategy, it's a proven loser. If Boortz and company want to ignore that inconvenient fact, that's their choice.
It's just not a very wise choice.