Talk Radio Calls and Politics

Taking calls from listeners (as usual)?
On the phone-call monitor in front of me, my engineer, who took the call initially, has typed in that the caller has identified himself as Bob and that he’s calling from Idaho?but, really, he could be Anybody from Anywhere… A lot of the callers are truckers or people in cars but they will sometimes identify themselves by their home state when in fact, they might be anywhere in the country– calling on their cell phones.
I often get calls from some trucker who is listed as calling from Texas but is currently rolling through Indiana hauling a load of appliances or dog food or plastic bags…
Some calls I can recognize by the area code (whenever someone calls any radio show these days their phone number appears on the screen. Once people became aware of this, it cut down quite a bit on prank and outright bigoted, cursing phone calls).

But I digress… So, there I have on the phone, Bob from Idaho, and, not to be doing a version of auditory racial profiling here– I can tell right away from his accent, tone and the rhythm of his speech, that I am dealing with someone very dense and probably very conservative…

Used to be, when I first got to Sirius and took calls from all over the country, that I had to adjust my classic New York City bigoted attitude toward anybody with pronounced Southern or Southwestern accent.
Prior to going on Sirius, I had spent 25 years on a local New York City station–WBAI-FM– where almost every caller had been from New York City, with a few from Jersey and Long Island… Not that I didn’t get my share of idiotic callers and outright loons but, on the whole, the calls I got were mostly from people where pretty well educated or least knowledgeable about the subject they were calling in about…
Growing up in New York City and having traveled in my much younger days a bit around the country (including down South and out West) I had gotten and retained a definite contempt for the intelligence of Southerners and South westerners…
But looking back on it all now from the eminence of older age, I can safely say that, having done more traveling, especially up to the rural Maine, and fairly recalling my days in New York among all sorts of religious, ethnic and racial groups, that stupidity and bigotry is evenly spread everywhere across our great land?
However, having said that, it does seem to me that in a city like New York, with a hundred different languages and dialects spoken and every different color, religion and sect represented, people tend to make room for each other– They get along pretty well–plain civilization and simple spatial accommodation require it? You even tend, being so constantly exposed to so many different kinds of people, to develop acquaintances and friendships among otherwise very different groups of people; or, at the very least, there develops a certain wearing away of bigotry…
It?s really when you go to place where the population is almost completely homogeneous (Wassila, Alaska?) that you run into a kind of mental inflow (like a backed up drain-pipe) that produces a turgid mass of fear and rage. This soupy sludge sloshes around inside a thick casing of received ignorance.
And when outside events, or some person, crack the casing, the contents explode in a really nasty way.

To wander (and have I not already begun to do that) into politics?
Lately we’ve seen this combination of ignorance, fear and rage most markedly and frighteningly represented at the rallies for Sarah Palin and John McCain… When you show up at a place where everyone is reliably white, very conservative, and, more likely than not, less educated/informed than the average American, you’re going to get more outright bigotry expressed than at a typical Obama-Biden rally–where you get a much broader deeper mix of people… Homogeneity can have its great pluses but one of its great deficits is that it is a prime component of every out-of-control mob or political/religious movement in history?
Of course, you also have to fan these flames with outright demagogic rhetoric Like “Obama pals around with terrorists!” Or have a fully uniformed white Florida sheriff, who, while introducing Palin, talks about Barack HUSSEIN Obama..
So, in the end, what you get is what you got this past Friday–where some poor, frightened, deeply ignorant woman in Minnesota got up at a McCain rally, took the hand-held microphone and said she was afraid because he (Obama) was an Arab… (An Arab! Oh God and Jesus defend us–call the 101st Airborne!).
McCain, after spending a couple of weeks–along with his scary sidekick, Palin–telling everyone who listened to him, that Obama was, in essence, a terrorist, finally had to take the microphone out this woman’s hands and say: “No M’am, he’s not an Arab– he’s an American and decent family man…”
Poor old John McCain, his sense of honor and his mad ambition have met in a head-on crash inside his heart and brain– and caused him to fragment completely…

So McCain, and his pit-bull assistant, and his campaign managers, and the Republican National Committee have been calling Obama a terrorist and foreigner etc. etc., for a couple of weeks now—And then, when stupid, vicious mobs at rallies start calling for Obama to be killed and, incidentally, booing the press and using the word “nigger” when referring to a black camera-man working for one of the TV networks, McCain has to back peddle and tell the crowd (who booed him for saying it!) that Obama needs to be respected?
The very next day?Saturday–both McCain and Palin have switched to issues, like abortion, etc. (lying completely of course, but what else can you expect)–and taking a break-who knows for how long–from Bill Ayers and this shameful stuff about terrorism…

But wait! I digressed again! Why do you let me keep doing this?
So, anyway, Bob from Idaho calls and he has this thick, slow, dumb tone to his voice and he proceeds to tell me how scary Obama was because he’s not an American and he’s a Muslim and he’s a terrorist and his ex-pastor, Reverend Wright, hates America, etc. etc.– One dumb piece of received drivel after another… (Being tired after 2 and 1/2 hours on the air, I didn’t even think to call the guy on the most obvious stupidity in his little deck of cards– That Obama was “a Muslim” and his pastor, Reverend Wright hated America… How could Obama be a Muslim and have a Christian pastor? Oh well, who cares?)
Anyway, I tried to be calm, factual and patient with Bob?Telling him, with each wrong fact he uttered, that the opposite was the case–
I asked where he heard this stuff– He said: “Its all over TV”. I told him that simply wasn?t true and asked him which TV channel he heard all this on? He just repeated: “TV.”
You have to assume it was a local Fox affiliate somewhere…
If it?s not that, its some right-wing local or national radio show–
This really makes me angry? I’ve actually met Rush Limbaugh and I know that he and the clowns on Fox TV, are not stupid people. They really are, with a couple of exceptions (Sean Hannity being the most prominent) at least average or above average intelligence. They may be grandiose and belligerent and project all sorts of inferiorities onto the American public, but they are not stupid, and not uninformed either. In short, they KNOW better.
They are deliberately and cynically pouring this stupid inflammatory poison into people’s minds… And because they seem, by the surrounding graphics and their serious, professional tone, to be real “reporters” or “hosts”?the sort that might work at a relatively legitimate news channel?the mass of frightened and ignorant people in this country, and there are tens of millions of them?these people take this nonsense for the gospel truth…

I’ve listened occasionally to the hosts and callers on right-wing radio and you always tend to get (in response to the loud and angry drivel bei
ng issued by the host) much stupider, more bigoted people calling into these shows..

It?s an old rule of talk radio–maybe the most fundamental rule?(And I have experienced this for around 30 years on the air) that on radio, you always get back what you put out. You could measure it scientifically?with the most delicate of instruments? If you talk in a reasonable, balanced, and intelligent way about something (which, excepting many–even some spectacular–lapses, I have tried to do during most of my radio life), then that’s generally the kind of caller you will get when you pick up the phone?and the kind of letters and e-mails you will get from listeners.
As I have gotten older and more isolated and grumpy, I have become somewhat less reasonable and mature on the air?and I have, just as surely as night follows day, gotten more unreasonable and immature calls from the listeners. This, I think, is proof of the theory?

There are millions of Bobs from Idaho but there wouldn’t be half as many if the people they seem to look up to (their political leaders) and the people they get their information from (TV and radio hosts and reporters mostly) attempted to be honest, respectful and more factual?
But what am I saying?! How incredibly naïve and foolish!
How can you win an election or swindle or lie to millions of people on a daily basis unless you keep them as ignorant and scared as possible?
This is something political and religious leaders have been doing since humans gathered in caves, and will continue to do until the world ends?which, judging by what I see happening all around me now?might be sometime around Halloween.

– Mike Feder (New York City – October 12, 2008)

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