By Tom Danehy
AS THE NOMINAL radio-TV guy at this particular institution, it falls to me to the battle of the airwaves between the President of the United States and the bilge-spouting, rancid right-wing pustules who set the tone and demeanor of what passes for political discourse in this country today.
I come down on the side of the pustules.
As I've mentioned here before, I hate those assholes. Rush Limbaugh is a mean-spirited, woman-hating dirty fighter who has managed to tap into a rich vein of pissed-off white people in this country who are too lazy or too stupid to think for themselves.
His unofficial lieutenant in the right-wing charge, G. Gordon Liddy, speaks to a drooling throng of guys who feel the need to pack heat in their back pockets because they ain't packin' up front.
These very small men, lacking in character and intellect, have helped to change the course of America, at least temporarily. Many people are angry about that, not the least of whom is their biggest target, President Bill Clinton. People want to lash out and make these guys shut up, but an attempt at censorship is the absolute worst way to go about it.
It is incumbent upon us, the wiser, to remember that nothing lasts in America more than 10 years or so. The shifts in the political winds are inevitable and it's best to think of America as a sailboat sailing into the wind. It must tack back and forth, to the left and right, in order to make overall progress in a forward direction.
Any hasty reaction to a perceived threat is, by definition, reactionary, and only serves the jerks in the long run.
Clinton did indeed politicize the tragedy in Oklahoma City by telling the radio guys to tone down their rhetoric. And the reactions by Limbaugh and Liddy raised their vileness to record levels.
What Clinton said was right. These are hateful people and their talk is indeed offensive. But so what? This is America. Salman Rushdie has said, "What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."
If Clinton was clearly wrong, the radio guys' reaction was absolutely stupefying. Neither of the dolts had the common sense to make it a First Amendment issue, which it obviously is. Limbaugh took it as a personal attack, even though he was not named, while Liddy took it as an act of war.
Limbaugh's disengenousness was absolutely vulgar. He claimed that he doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He says that right-wing militia types aren't part of his audience. Okee-dokee.
He ranted and raved, challenging anyone to bring up even one instance where he has been hateful or mean-spirited. Callers did so and he ridiculed them. This is a man who regularly refers to people as "Femi-Nazis," "uglo-Americans" and "environmental wackos," then turns around and says, "When liberals lack a substantive argument, they resort to name-calling."
Limbaugh, has been caught in dozens of lies and false statements and he tries, like a little kid caught stealing, to explain every one of them away. If he would own up to one, just one, my perception of him would change immensely.
Meanwhile, Liddy spun off on a tangent in which he instructed his listeners to shoot ATF agents in the head (he subsequently claimed he was talking about self-defense, but I and millions of others heard him say it the first time). He bases this harangue on some anecdote provided by a woman who claims that the Feds broke into her house, stole some cash and then stomped her cat to death.
As for Clinton, well...if, in fact, in politics, timing is everything, then Bill Clinton seems doomed to Jimmy Carter-dom. He was well within his rights to call these guys hate-mongerers. The problem is, he should have done it months ago, before the elections. Hell, he should have done it two years ago when Limbaugh made fun of Chelsea Clinton's appearance.
I have no doubt that Timothy McVeigh was far more likely to listen to Rush Limbaugh than to Bill Clinton. But we cannot allow the tragedy to cloud our judgment and construct a straight line between Limbaugh's verbal garbage and a madman's car bomb. As for Liddy, I find it at the very least ironic that he is making a fortune throwing verbal bombs at an intrusive government that he was very instrumental in constructing.
These two men (and others like them) are indeed vile and hurtful, but the way to handle them is not by shouting them down or attempting to censor their words. They should be allowed to have their say, then be exposed for the buffoons that they are.
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