Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What is to be Done? Violent Rhetoric on Talk Radio

I get really frustrated when I see people on the left get pushed into the black and white corner of the right when it comes to violent rhetoric on talk radio or TV. People in the media have an especially hard time discussing this issue because they are afraid of saying anything that even hints of a restriction.

If you call out someone for their violence rhetoric following an act of right wing violence the quick response on the right is, "Are you saying I'm responsible? I didn't pull the trigger. I've got my free speech! What, don't you like free speech?" Then, to respond, some people start with the, "I didn't say you were responsible, Yes, I love free speech, I'll defend your right to say etc. etc. etc."

Using this response they have pulled us into the position to supporting THEM.

The right will never say that their words will have a direct causal link to action when it comes to violence.


One reason could be because they don't believe their words are powerful enough to convince someone to be violent. Their words can convince people to:

  • buy products
  • vote a certain way
  • make phone calls
  • show up at rallies
  • donate money

but in their mind their words can not convince anyone to do anything violent. Does that make any sense?

The power of their words always stops short when it comes to violence. Nice trick that, obviously they know their audience and their non-violent ways and commitment to peaceful resistance. (snark)

Another reason is that the focus has been moved to who is responsible is broadcast lawyers advising them. They have developed the idea that they can't be held legally responsible so they are working that argument in public. They don't want to deal with moral or ethical responsiblity, just, "Can I be sued or go to jail if I say this?" It is a legalistic mind set that fits in quiet well with the Authoritarian mind set. They will happily use lawyers to help them create legal cover. They ask the lawyer, "I want to do this, how can I do it with out getting into trouble legally?"

They will also use people I call platitude free speech advocates to support them. These are people who bring out the "I'll defend to the death your right to free speech" before knowing what the other person is even talking about. If you asked them, "Would you defend their right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theater?" they would say no. So you really need to look at exactly WHAT you are saying you are defending.

I was at a presentation Monday sponsored by Working Assets/Credo that brought together Dave Brock, CEO of Media Matters, Eric Boehlert, author and senior fellow at Media Matters and Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.

I asked a question I wanted them to address. What can we do economically about violent rhetoric on talk radio?

I wanted to get us into an area that we have some proven successes in this regard. We could go to the FCC to start the process of adding inciting violence to the list of finable offenses, but that would be a multiyear process and a fight that the right might want to have so they can be seen as the poor victims who are just talking about "self defense". It also would turn into a linguistic word splitting game. And as we all know, the right is better at parsing words to avoid responsibility than anyone.

The government might not want to step in and say, "If you suggest to your listeners on the air that they go out and kill people" we will fine you or take away your license, but that doesn't stop the sponsors from saying, "Our corporate value system is against suggesting you kill people on the air." (Pretty funny that we need to count on a corporate value system, but there you have it.)

Corporates are still made up of people who can make decisions on where they spend their advertising dollars. They are not the Government. They can make a business decision that they do not want to taint their brand by sponsoring people who suggest violence toward others. Others who are potential customers. Others who are current customers.

They do not have to come out and say anything about whether or not the radio hosts are or are not responsible for anything, if they pull support they aren't censuring any one, just withdrawing their paid support. As I point out time and time again, the hosts have no right to paid sponsored speech.


Blogger LessBread said...

What can be done when the commercials themselves advocate violence? Yesterday I overheard a commercial for used cars on the local Rush Limbaugh channel that began with a 30 second rant against liberals that ended with the phrase "I'm not saying go out an kill someone, but if you're going to do it, do it right." I was astounded. I called the station's business office to complain, but they hung up on me. The FCC was no help. Neither was the FBI and there is no DHS office in the city that I live in. So what can be done about incitements to violence embedded in radio commercials?

2:49 AM  
Blogger libhom said...

LessBread: Excellent points!

11:37 AM  
Blogger Dead Hippo said...

The funny thing is, most of these right-wingers are constantly bleating about individual responsibility (and the supposed opposition of liberals to same), yet are shocked when it is suggested that they should be held accountable for their foaming-at-the-mouth rants.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

I got here via other blogs this time:

10:47 AM  

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