Back in the days when people read newspapers, columnists at competing publications would sometimes build readership by picking fights with each other.
It was nothing more than cheap theater, of course, but it got a lot of readers excited and brought in ads.
Indeed, the technique has proved so effective that it’s still popular today. Readers (and listeners) still respond to “controversy,” and the media are all too happy to feed it to them.
The genre has evolved over time, expanding to spawn a breed called “shock jocks” – Howard Stern, for example.
And it’s a favorite ploy of the political right.
Provocateurs such as Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin and a legion of talk show hosts spew outrageous remarks to get the public’s attention and prompt responses from “liberals.” The things they say are patently false, but they provoke “controversy,” so they keep right on saying them.
Even among this scurrilous crowd, Michael Savage (photo above, left) stands out.
Savage (born Michael Alan Weiner) is the host of The Savage Nation, a nationally syndicated show on Talk Radio Nation, and he is so extreme that he is banned from entering Britain. The Brits accuse him of “seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred.”
According to Wikipedia:
Savage has summarized his political philosophy in three words: borders, language, and culture. Some, including Savage himself, have characterized his views as conservative nationalism,while critics have characterized them as “fostering extremism or hatred.” He outspokenly opposes illegal immigration to the United States, supports the English-only movement and argues that liberalism and progressivism are degrading American culture.
He is especially outrageous when it comes to homosexuality. And this extremism led to his firing from MSNBC-TV a few years back. Here’s how the Associated Press described the incident:
Savage was taking viewer phone calls about airline horror stories, and a male caller began talking about smoking in the bathroom.
“Half an hour into the flight, I need to suggest that Don and Mike take your …” the caller said, before he was cut off and his words became unintelligible.
“So you’re one of those sodomists. Are you a sodomite?” Savage asked.
The caller replied: “Yes, I am.”
“Oh, you’re one of the sodomites,” Savage said. “You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How’s that? Why don’t you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it.”
Nice guy, eh?
Yet his radio show has 8 to 10 million listeners on 400 stations across the United States – making it the third most listened-to in the country.
I shudder to think what that says about the American people.
So why am I writing about this jerk?
Because I read in Yahoo News this morning that he has offered Newt Gingrich (photo above, right) $1 million to drop out of the Republican presidential race.
His stated reason is that Gingrich can’t beat President Obama, but I suspect there’s more to it than that.
He argues that when Gingrich appears on TV “he will come off badly compared to Obama and look like nothing more than what he is: a fat, old, white man.”
So what will Mitt Romney look like? Not so fat, of course, and not so old, but just as white, and even richer.
My guess is that Savage’s “attack” on Gingrich is fake, that it’s just another trick designed to manipulate the mainstream media and give the presidential candidate more exposure. After all, isn’t Gingrich the political equivalent of the media’s “shock jocks? Won’t he say anything to score a point – even that the Palestinians are “an invented people”?
I wouldn’t put it past Gingrich to cook up this “fight” with Savage. And, just in case you were wondering, he isn’t going to accept that million-dollar offer.