Outrage has always been a big drawing card in the media racket. The English tabloids used to assign a special columnist to get people riled up by expressing outlandish views. For all I know, they still do. I haven’t read an English tabloid in decades.
When I worked at the Toronto Star, half a century ago, there was a drama critic named Nathan Cohen who wrote a no-holds-barred column. He was so outspoken he often brought gasps from his readers. And before I migrated to Canada from Jamaica, I recall that Vere Johns would set tongues wagging with his column in The Star.
These journalists often wrote things that readers might have thought but did not dare say for fear of causing offense. But they were not purveyors of hate like the toxic right-wing propagandists who infest talk radio and the Internet today.
As a former newspaper editor, I know as well as anyone that the media feed on controversy. The public yawns at reports of city commission meetings, regardless of the importance of the issues debated. But when a couple of commissioners get into a shouting match, the public sits up and pays attention. And that’s what draws an audience; that’s what brings in ads.
You can go too far, however.
And it looks as if Rush Limbaugh and his comrade-in-arms Sean Hannity have gone too far.
A lot of people need someone to hate. Especially when things go bad for them. Guilty and frustrated, they cast about for someone to blame for their misfortune – and mistakes.
Talk radio attracts these folks like molasses draws flies. And Limbaugh and Hannity – especially Limbaugh – know how to focus the bitterness of the disenchanted. Liberals, of course, are the cause of all that’s wrong with society. Liberals and anyone who is not like the listeners, anyone who is of a different skin color, for example, or who was born somewhere else and has come to America to take jobs from those who were born here , etc., etc.
Especially when that someone is in the White House, with his dark-skinned family, someone with a weird name like Barack Hussein Obama, someone who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and went to one of those weird Muslim schools.
And let’s not leave out women, young women especially, who pass the male listeners by on the street without so much as a second glance, who make less youthful and attractive female listeners seethe with envy. Who do these young women think they are, anyway? Them and their birth control pills! Sluts is what they are! Who needs ’em?
Those disgruntled listeners might have lapped that stuff up but it made advertisers cringe. And thousands of decent people recoiled in horror. Some started a boycott of Limbaugh’s advertisers. One by one, his advertisers backed away.
Today, I read in Yahoo News that the boycott seems to have done its job. Cumulus Radio is reportedly dropping Limbaugh and Hannity. And while Limbaugh could get picked up by Clear Channel radio, this could be the beginning of the end for the bloated big mouth.
The advertisers have learned their lesson, and I don’t think Clear Channel will have better luck than Cumulus at surviving the Limbaugh boycott. It looks as if Rush is about to fade into obscurity.
And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s good riddance to bad rubbish.