The Pervasive Power of Hate Radio
by: Teddy Goodson
Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 21:13:44 PM EDT
( - promoted by kindler)
"Radio is everywhere," intones an advertisement for advertising on radio. How true. There is enough bandwidth for hundreds of local radio channels to broadcast their messages, often from crude and hidden transmitters. Radio increases the message perimeter for the political views of the broadcaster as if the former ranter on his soapbox in the park suddenly acquired a giant bullhorn.
The Economist reported on 25 July on the phenomena, citing the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in which the "Thousand Hills Radio" seemed to be directing the massacres with catch phrases like "killing the cockroaches." In Kenya today opposing radio stations issue cryptic announcements such as "People of the Milk, take out the weeds in our midst," (telling the Kalenjin tribe to get rid of the Kikuyu) and, conversely, Kikuyu radio warns against "the animals from the west" (Kikuyu, watch out for the Luo). American military in the Middle East, using armed drones and satellites against Taliban-loving tribal chieftains in the Af-Pak borderlands struggles to deal with the small FM Mullah Radio where extremist Mullah Fazlullah whips up enthusiasm, terrorizes personal foes, and no doubt issues coded orders. Since mid-twentieth century tyrants big and small have used control of radio channels to "foment hate and fear" and thus maintain power.
Things are no different in twenty-first century United States, where much of the content of so-called talk radio is becoming ever more poisonous and violent, often showing far less subtlety than the circumlocutions of African tribal broadcasts: where vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin actively encouraged violence by her followers against opposing presidential candidate Obama who, she said, "pals around with terrorists;" and where Fox, a major radio and television channel, endlessly degrades and lies about the duly elected president in increasingly violent terms, excusing it all as First Amendment freedom of speech. Seeing where hate radio led in Rwanda, and how destabilizing it is now in Pakistan, is there anything we can do to control or mitigate hate radio here at home? Should we do anything?
|The constant harping on race by right wing commentators, mostly on Fox channel, has one obvious objective: to frustrate Obama's agenda so that he "fails," and, by tapping into the long-standing historical racism in America, frighten and thus energize voters to vote Republican in the November elections and in the presidential election of 2012, while suppressing minority voting. Accusing Obama of being a racist (by using the Cambridge incident between police Sergeant James Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr) is an ideal vehicle for accomplishing these goals. It distracts Obama from fighting the health care battle and is also a form of political guerrilla warfare much as the Monica Lewinsky incident was used to hamstring Bill Clinton.
The real danger of these tactics is that, once loosed on the airways, there is no telling what an unstable listener will feel justified or compelled to do. Violent words inevitably begat violent action, especially if repeated endlessly, as talk radio is doing. Far too many "red" states have no other source of news than channels running right wing talk radio all day. The hate talk is a steady diet in the ear of these voters all day every day, and their entire view of the world has been crafted by toxic talk radio. Psychologists and historians can plumb the reasons hate talk is so successful (sense of being victimized, fear of "the other," anger over the economy or job loss, religious fervor, dislike of change...?), what I am interested in is the possible result: a compact, angry group of self-righteous people thirsting for revenge, filled with hate for "liberals" and their treacherous black leader who in their eyes is not even a natural-born American citizen as well as a goddam socialist-communist-fascist thief stealing their money and their children's inheritance and giving it to undeserving welfare queens, who's bankrupting the country, and going to turn us over to the terrorists, and so on and so forth.... marching morons turned into a rampaging mob.
Exaggerated? Not really; many on the right frankly expect "civil unrest," and are preparing for it by stockpiling food and weapons; George W. Bush has been said to have allotted over $600,000 to the Pentagon to construct camps to deal with "refugees" here in the United States. Some investment newsletters also warn readers to safeguard their wealth during the projected collapse of civil society as a consequence of an extended Depression, job loss, and homelessness.
IS THERE AN ANSWER?
1) Jamming talk radio or trying to shut it down is out of the question; it really is protected free speech after all, unless an individual talk jockey openly incites to riot, rebellion, or murder. 2) One response, tried during the campaign in Kosovo-Serbia was to provide alternate FM broadcasts. According to The Economist, Mukhtar Khan, an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation (a Washington think-tank) "rival FM transmissions run by locals... and catering to local interests, from farming to music," is one way to answer Mullah Radio along the Af-Pak border. Unfortunately, it would take a massive amount of money to set up such a radio network in the red state heartland of the U.S.; that opportunity slipped away several years ago. 3) Rather than a rival network, smaller local transmitters might work in specific areas.
Eric Rosenbach, a veteran of American military intelligence with experience in the Balkans, says, "...if you offer something new that's not obviously artificial, they may grab on..." The "'ring around Serbia,' consisting of Serbian language broadcasts from neighboring states, which America helped to establish, probably helped topple Slobodan Milosevic in 2000," says The Economist.
4) Another means is to find some way to use the Internet, where it is used by enough people, to create an alternate source of news and entertainment, but radio is used everywhere including in cars and trucks. 5) Restoring the "fairness rule" would create a firestorm of opposition, and Republicans have already launched a very effective pre-emptive strike against that. 6) Boycotting the products of sponsors of the most virulent shows might force companies to withdraw their advertising and tame the hate talk that way.
7) There is always the hope that cooler heads in the Republican Party (there may still be some) will rouse themselves to disapprove of the extreme violence-talk. Creating social pressure to grow up and tone down the hate could create a climate of moderation, but I'm not holding my breath. 8)However, there may be a few religious leaders whose strong and continual disapproval could call a halt to the worst offenses. 9) Letters to the editor and repeated calls to management protesting the culture of hate in specific instances can have an affect as well, as average citizens express strong disapproval (instead of officials of the offended political party).
The escalation and intensity of hate talk is spiraling out of control; current Republican leadership may pretend to distance themselves from it, but they seem quite willing to take advantage of it. We cannot allow the hate talk to destroy our civil society, and that is what will happen if it is not brought under control.