This essay is from our Anastasis Series where we resurrect articles from the past that are either still relevant today or can be easily updated. This piece published almost nine years ago in its original form is interesting in light of where these ideas have led our nation in 2016 and today.
I do not often listen to talk radio when I am in the car. Typically, I listen to lectures or music and when I do listen to the radio it is generally NPR. However, last week I was running some errands and did not feel like the music selection that was on NPR at that time. So, I decided to do something that I do on occasion. I turned to one of the local conservative talk stations to see what they were saying. It so happens, I have a friend who is a morning host at this particular station.
I am not a fan of Limbaugh or Beck or any of the big-name conservative radio hosts and in general, I believe their rhetoric is not helpful. It is often far too polemical and designed to incite an emotional response rather than reasoned dialogue. Still, I think it is important to engage divergent ideas so, at times, I will take a listen. In fact, a few years back I had a friend who challenged me to watch Glenn Beck. She assured me that if I gave him a fair listen I would like his ideas. So, I caught him on the radio and set my DVR to record his television show.
My friend was wrong. I found his ideas distasteful and even deceptive. But, what surprised me the most was how watching his show every day influenced my emotions. I found myself becoming agitated, even angry. I found his rhetoric to be so emotionally charged that it does not yield itself well to dialogue. It cuts at you viscerally. In my case, it was a reaction to his logical gaffs and historical misrepresentations. But for those who agree with him, I think his rhetoric is designed to engender an equally strong but opposite emotional response. It actually got to the point that watching this show daily was so negatively affecting my emotional state that I decided to stop recording and watching the show so that I would not be channeling the anger.
Standard Fair Polemics
When I was in the car running my errands and listening to the radio, I had the opportunity to listen to Neal Boortz. I do not know a lot about Boortz. I have heard him a couple of times and know that he is a long time radio personality (forty plus years) and of a conservative persuasion. But, that is all I knew. [The Neal Boortz Show last aired in 2013]
Much of what was said as Boortz and his guest spoke (I do not remember the identity of the guest) was standard fair polemics. Boortz claimed that Obama is not very smart, flat out called him a jerk, and referred to Obama as “Dear Leader.” He also made comments about how he was old enough and established enough that he could leave the country if Obama wins the next election. Boortz also recalled the fall of the Soviet Union and claimed that Obama is in a position to do the same thing to the United States. He even went so far as to say “without hyperbole” that in his opinion if Obama wins the 2012 election the United States is beyond saving. I find this all reprehensible. But, it is the same sort of divisive speech I have heard on talk radio shows for the last twenty years.
The Extraordinary Argument
I do wonder though about the effect a constant diet of this sort of language has on a person. I do not see how it can do anything but divide, increasing the biases and prejudices of a population. It seems to me that in a governmental system based on dialogue that this sort of approach is very harmful, be it from the left or the right.
What really shocked me though were the voting policies being advocated by Boortz and his guest. Boortz advocated a policy that would allow people an extra vote for every $25,000 in taxes they paid beyond their first $25,000 in taxes. Fortunately, I had already parked my car…I was floored. His idea was of course to reward the “Job Creators” (a popular euphemism for the wealthy which has very little to do with actual job creation or if the jobs they do create are even in this country).
The consequences of such a policy are astounding. A wealthy person who pays $1,000,000 in taxes would be 40 times as much a person as the average Joe. I cannot even imagine how much more of a person Warren Buffet or Bill Gates would then be than a Ph.D. student at Princeton. Boortz’s guest was a little more moderate but he also admitted that he would not mind going back to a system where only owners of real property had a vote. Should we also then renounce the voting rights of women? Should we reinstate the partial personhood of African-Americans?
To be honest, I am still trying to process these arguments. As with so many things, I am not surprised that a person or a small group would have radical ideas. What I find shocking is that people do not find these ideas so repugnant that they refuse to be a party to it, thus denying him an audience!
What is sold as a positive affirmation of success is in reality so filled with bigotry that it is unfathomable to me. The consequences of such a voting policy as Boortz advocated would include institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and profession-ism. Unfortunately, on average, certain racial groups are still not equal economically. Women, as we know, often get paid a fraction of what their male counterparts earn. But, this sort of policy would also mean that certain professions make you more a person than others. A doctor would have more votes than a teacher; A professional athlete would have more votes than a Harvard professor; A lottery winner would have more votes than a bus driver; and a trust fund baby would have more votes than a preacher.
This is insanity! It is a violation of the American dream and the very core values of our republic. Yet a person like Boortz has been on the air for over 20 years. I have to admit I am not sure what to make of it. While everyone is entitled to a voice, it concerns me that the ratings seem to indicate that these sorts of ideas are not only being expressed they are being given credence in far too many minds.