Sunday, January 16, 2011

Some Thoughts from Tucson--Let's Create an Economic Crisis For Hate, Inc.

Our President, Barack Obama, came to my home town the other night and told Tucson and America exactly what we needed to hear. He rocked McKale Center and the rest of the country with personal stories that made us cry a lot and words of hope and encouragement that made us cheer.

A number of my friends from out East said they were a little thrown off by the festive atmosphere at McKale given the trauma and tragedy that had rocked our community. But they don't get it. First, Arizona Wildcats basketball fans (and EVERYONE in Tucson is a fan) are used to cheering their heads off whenever they come to McKale.

Also, Tucson had been through real tragedy but we also had real heroes that made us very proud. The college student Daniel Hernandez who saved Gabby's life with his courage and expertise made us proud. So did the three older folks who tackled the murderer and kept him from reloading and killing more people.

And those doctors!
Is there anyone in the country who is not impressed with the University Medical Center's Trauma unit and the miracle workers who staff it?  Not only can they save lives--they can explain frightening and scary medical stuff so the rest of us actually think we understand it.

It was an amazing evening of sadness and hope--of tears and cheers--of shame and pride. And our president topped it off by making the most wonderful speech that most of us have ever heard. It was full of compassion and sympathy but it was also laden with hope, challenge, and a vision of how we can best move forward as a city, a state, and a country.  Obama pointed out that the vitriolic hate speech that has replaced real dialogue in our country was not a direct cause of the shootings, but there is no doubt that without a return to civility and real conversations we have no chance to surmount the daunting challenges we face as a country. 

It is already clear that the attacks from the Right will not go away.  But it's not just because the purveyors of hate speech are bad people. It is because the Right Wing hate industry is a multi-billion dollar business and lots of people are making big money--BIG money.  The behavior will change when the economics change.  Period.

Clear Channel Communications made more than $1 billion in profits last year. They are the patriots from Texas who bring us Rush Limbaugh (who has a $400 million dollar contract to spread fear and outrage through 2016), Sean Hannity ($40 million income a year), Mark Levin (who has threatened to sue anyone who suggests that his vicious rhetoric prompted the Tucson shootings), Michael Savage and other angry radio luminaries.

Fox News made $700 million in profits last year--more than all other TV news operations combined. It brings us Glenn Beck ($32 million in income in 2009), Bill O'Reilly,($20 million), and is committed to bring down our President in the name of saving our country Fox is also providing full employment and millions of dollars worth of free publicity to Sarah Palin and the other potential Republican candidates for 2012 as part of their commitment to spin-free, fair and balanced news.

Those dollar figures debunk the ridiculous claims from my Right wing friends that "both sides do it." It is true that there are those on the left who engage in harsh and sometimes unfair criticism of the Right. But there is no Left Wing hate industry To suggest some sort of equivalency is to suggest that a jaywalker and a murderer are equally reprehensible because they have both committed crimes or to compare a lemonade stand to McDonald's because they both make money selling food. Give me a break.

Keith Olbermann,, Rachel Maddow, and all the other Left-leaning broadcast professionals put together don't make in a year what Limbaugh makes in a few months. And that's not to mention that the are outnumbered
20-to-1 by the Right wing media stars. Meanwhile, the "voice of the common man" Glenn Beck makes twice as much in an hour than an average Americans makes in a year.

The issue is not whether the promotion of hatred and outrage is legal (it is), whether it was the direct cause of the shootings here in Tucson (it wasn't), or whether most Liberals want guns banned (maybe super-sized ammo clips and automatic weapons that are only useful for killing lots of people, but not all guns).  It is about doing what is good for our country going forward.

When you receive an email full of lies and distortions that encourages you to hate or be afraid of good people and forward it to others, don't delete it. Instead,  give the sender links and facts that prove he is spreading lies. Tell him you are disappointed in him for spreading slanderous and vicious lies about those in public life and encourage him to copy you on his apology.  Make our friends who spread hatred and lies pay at least an emotional price for their damaging behavior.

When a TV or radio station puts people on the air whose only motive is to promote anger and fear, write the general manager of the station and ask them not to give hate-mongers a podium. Also email the sponsors to make sure they know that You will no longer buy their products until they stop enriching and enabling those who are destroying civility in our country.

The social change organization Jewish Funds for Justice {JFSJ) has submitted a petition signed by 10,000 calling for Fox News to drop Glenn Beck. The letter cites Beck's anti-Semitic series on George Soros in which he referred to Soros as a "puppet master" and a "Jewish boy who helped send his fellow Jews to the death camps." New Yorker magazine accused Beck of broadcasting tropes that "corresponded uncannily to those of classic anti-Semitism."

The letter also pointed out that Beck had made more than 400 references to Hitler and Nazi Germany over the last 18 months--almost always to point out their similarities with Obama and his administration.

In addition, the president of JFSF said that "We are not accusing Glenn Beck or (Fox News head) Roger Ailes or Rupert Murdoch of pulling the trigger in Tucson. Only one man did that. But we are accusing them of playing to the worst in all of us."

The JFSF petition makes great points. But but acts like this by themselves won't achieve great results. As we have learned decisions about guns and what kind of media and government we get are based on money, ratings and sponsors. But there's encouraging news there too.

Recently, Beck was pulled off the air in New York City when radio station WOR dropped his show. Philadelphia radio station WPHT has recently dropped both Beck and Hannity. The shows weren't dropped because of letters or threats. It happened because no one was listening to them. It this case, the stations weren't trying to do the "right thing." It was all about money, ratings, and sponsors.

In the Tucson audience was our Senator John McCain who just wrote in the Washington Post that Obama made a great speech and went on to call our President "a patriot." This is the same guy who two years ago questioned Obama's patriotism by stating that Obama was willing to lose a war in order to win an election.

Fox News boss Roger Ailes instructed his anchors to "shut up and tone it down" after the shootings and told them to "make your points intellectually"--a pretty clear admission that for news reporters to be intellectual and rely on facts would require a huge change at Fox. Then Glenn Beck came out and praised Obama for his speech and said the man who he last year called a racist and a socialist who wanted to destroy America has now grown into a good president.  Do you think these decisions were made due to an epiphany that their behavior was hurting America or was it based on their fear that they had pushed the hate envelope too far and it might start costing them some money?

We should encourage our media and politicians to do the right thing. But the villains here aren't running a charity. They are running a multi-billion dollar business. The key to success is creating an environment where  hate doesn't pay and a financial crisis that brings Hate, Inc. to its knees. 

That's an economic crisis we can all pray comes speedily in our time.  Then we'll really have a reason to cheer.


nsender said...

Your comments mirror my thoughts completely.
I agree that it is important that we al speak up and refuse to be intimidated by the hate mongers who wrap themselves up in the flag of patriotism .
Thank you for your blog ,very erudite .
Neville Sender

S. B. Frank said...

Beautiful Larry! Thank you for bearing witness and inviting us all to share in your experience and knowledge. Those salary figures are staggering and so important to bring into the limelight.

P.S. Perhaps I am an Arizonian at heart. I was the only one at the lunch table last week that could offer a heartfelt defense/explanation for the cheers (along with the tears). Everyone else - east-coasters that they are - felt it was in poor taste!