Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sauce for the goose and all that

Okay, I know you've heard about the brouhaha about Ed Schultz but for those of you who have just emerged from coma, here's the deal:

On his syndicated radio talk show on May 24, Schultz called reactionary wacko Laura Ingraham a "right-wing slut." Actually, he did it twice within a couple of sentences; the second time it was "talk slut."

The following afternoon, May 25, he was suspended without pay for a week from his four-times-a-week TV show on MSNBC. That same evening he issued a lengthy and by all accounts sincere apology.

Now, right at the top, let's be clear that what he said was wrong. Sexist, cruel, and wrong. (He himself called it "vile.") I do think the punishment was rather extreme since MSNBC has no connection with, oversight of, or responsibility for his radio show, but be that as it may, he did deserve to be slapped down in some way.

However, what this really raises for me is how it demonstrates the terrible, gross, massive, mind-boggling, truth-distorting hypocrisy in our mainstream media in the way voices of the left and voices of the right are treated.

This was a single instance, a single case, on Schultz's part and he apologized and got punished immediately. Compare that to the years, the decades, of vituperation and villification that the left has experienced at the hands of right-wing talk radio with little more than an occasional BFD shrug from that same mainstream media.

You want a specific comparison? Here's one: On August 15, 2005, Glenn Beck called Cindy Sheehan a "slut" on his nationally syndicated radio program. A few days later, he followed up by insisting he hadn't called her a "slut" - even though he had - but rather a "pimp," as if that was better. So he called her a slut and a pimp, lied about the first, and apologized for neither.

What was his punishment? A short time later, he was given a one hour TV show on CNN.

It's been this way from the start. On right-wing talk radio, "liberals" - which in their terms means the entire left half of the American political spectrum - should be “mowed down" or "rounded up" or "wiped out."

We've been called tyrants, Nazis, traitors, vermin, foreign rodents, un-American, terrorist-lovers, America-haters. We've been accused quite literally of wanting to kill ten percent of the U.S. population in order to "gain control." We've been accused of "staging riots" to advance our "radical agenda." Right-wingers have been urged to "shoot to kill."

Remember that Islamic community center to be built in lower Manhattan? At least two right-wing talkers have said it should be built precisely so that someone can "blow it to smithereens."

And of course there was Bill O'Reilley, the man with the perfect initials, who referred to Dr. George Tiller by some form of "Tiller the baby killer" on at least 28 separate occasions on his show, in addition to accusing Tiller of "Nazi stuff."

This sort of stuff can be found up and down the dial every day in every part of the country. What is the reaction? What price gets paid? In the vast majority of cases, there is none at all. No firings. No suspensions. No slap-downs. In fact, often enough the result is a reward in the form of a new contract.

But let someone somewhere, anywhere, on the left do it even once, let an Ed Schultz do it? Bam! A wall falls on them.

And this is no longer limited to radio and TV talking heads preaching reactionary garbage. This threatening rhetoric, this violent rhetoric, this eliminationist rhetoric has penetrated deeply into the most mainstream parts of the conservative political establishment.

Who could forget, for example, Sharron Angle preaching how if the right doesn't get what it wants by voting, there are "Second Amendment remedies?" Or Sarah Palin tweeting "Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Or Michele Bachmann referring to being in Washington DC as being behind "enemy lines?"

The point here, though, is these are not isolated examples. This has become common currency among GOPper members of Congress and candidates for Congress.

Two candidates, Ron Kirkland and Randy Smith, joked about beating or killing gay troops. Rep. Todd Akin wanted to "dump socialists - where they belong in the river." Rep. Paul Broun told an "Open Carry" rally (one for people who want to be able to carry loaded weapons everywhere they go) that "We must declare war against Socialism, and you are the people to do that." Candidate Brad Goehring opened his campaign by noting it was opening day of hunting season and declared he wished he could issue hunting permits for liberals with no limits on the take because "we desperately need to thin the herd."

Rep. Gregg Harper is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. When asked what the group does, he said "We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it does seem like a waste of good ammunition." Rep. Steve King declared "Let's beat that other side to a pulp. Let's take them out, let's chase them down." At a campaign appearance at a gun show, candidate Robert Lowry's target was a silhouette of a human figure with the initials "DWS" next to the head. His opponent in the race was Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And Allen West described the goal: "You've got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house."

This is what now passes for routine political discourse on the right. Denunciation, lies, and threats of physical violence intended to intimidate, to silence, to make us be afraid to come out of our houses.

What's more, it's not just words. The number of incidents of right-wing violence avowedly against the left is lengthy and getting longer. Just as a start, trying googling any of these names: Eric Rudolph. Scott Roeder. James Von Brunn. Byron Williams. The Hutaree Militia. Daniel Cowart. Paul Schlesselman. Richard Poplawski. Jim Adkisson.

I know you know all about the "underwear bomber." Extensive, massive news coverage. Do you recall the guy who shot up a Holocaust museum? Do you remember the guy who killed several people at a Unitarian Church because "all liberals should be killed?" What about the guy killed in a shootout with police who, it turned out, was on his way to murder people at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation?

And who ever heard of, much less remembers, William Krar?

But let's get back where I started: the media and the differing treatment of voices of the left and right and of those associated in the media with the left and the right.

On January 17 in Spokane, Washington, city workers found a bomb that was set to go off along the route of a Martin Luther King Day parade. The bomb, placed on a park bench where the blast would be directed toward marchers, contained shrapnel dipped in rat poison (an anti-coagulent, i.e., something that prevents blood from clotting and thus makes bleeding much worse). According to one FBI official, the bomb was "a viable device that was very lethal.” Another called it "the worst device, and most intentional device, I’ve ever seen" in the US.

In March, a white supremacist with links to neo-Nazi National Alliance named Kevin Harpham was arrested.

Okay, compare and contrast. On May 1, 2010, a poorly-made bomb was found in Times Square in New York City. It contained some Fourth of July firecrackers and some nonexplosive fertilizer. It was a dud - it smoked some, but it didn’t explode and very likely could not have.

The person arrested was a Muslim-American named Faisal Shahzad, who was reportedly outraged by civilian deaths from US airstrikes in Pakistan.

In the 10 weeks following the Times Square story, reports FAIR, it got 49 mentions on broadcast network evening news. In the 10 weeks following the Spokane bomb, that one got three. ABC World News didn’t mention the Spokane bomb a single time.

The dud got 16 times as much play as the real bomb; the smoke and fizz was regarded as 16 times more important that "the worst device I've ever seen" bomb. The difference? The dud was planted by a Muslim, the real one by a neo-Nazi white supremacist.

In fact, a November 2010 FBI sting operation in Portland, Oregon which involved a fake bomb provided by government agents in order to ensnare some hapless Somali-born Muslim teenager who had talked (but never done anything about) jihad, got nine mentions on network TV news. That's three times the coverage that a real neo-Nazi bomb did.

But, y'see, neo-Nazis are of the right. So that's not important.

Footnote: I feel obliged to add before closing that Laura Ingraham is no shrinking violet, nor is she a slouch in the nasty department. As a commenter at a right-wing site noted as an example,
She once inserted loud baby crying sounds (and some music) into audio footage of someone's heartfelt explanation of how different health care could have prolonged his dad's life.
Mocking someone mourning their dead father? Unaccept- oh wait, she's a right-winger? Never mind.


TGirsch said...

Excellently put. One nit, however, is that I think you underestimate the extent to which the location of the fake firecracker bomb (NYC) fed the amount of coverage that it got. Among its many failings, our media establishment has a huge NYC bias.

That still doesn't excuse the contrast against the Portland incident, however.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Outstanding piece of research and commentary. I wish I'd written it; can't think of anything more to say.

Thanks for posting this; great job.

It will, of course, be totally wasted effort. But you knew that.

LarryE said...

T. -

I expect you're right that a NYC/DC bias in the media affected coverage, but I also expect you'd agree that the bias is clearly more than geographical.


I can't take credit for the research; most of that was just stuff I compiled from what FAIR and David Niewert had published.

As I said in a post a couple down, this post was based on my notes for my local cable TV show so I failed to keep the links because I wouldn't be using them there. If I'd actually been ambitious, I would have re-located them and included them here.

I wish I'd written it

Coming from you, high praise indeed. :-)

It will, of course, be totally wasted effort. But you knew that.

I never like to think in those terms, but yeah, I suppose....

DaisyDeadhead said...

I'll link you too, dude! :)

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