I do not often listen to the radio when I am in the car. Typically, I listen to lectures or music from my iPod and when I do listen to the radio it is generally NPR. However, last week when I was running some errands I forgot my iPod 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. I have a friend who is a morning host at this particular station, The Truth 104.3.
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 couple of years ago 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 to what I was having. 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 any anger.
When I was in the car running my errands and listening to the radio, I had the opportunity to listen to Neal Bortz. I do not know a lot about Bortz. 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.
Much of what was said as Bortz and his guest spoke (I do not remember the identity of the guest) was standard fair polemics. Bortz 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. Bortz 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.
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 Bortz and his guest. Bortz advocated a policy that would allow people an extra vote for every $25,000 in taxes they paid beyond their first $25,000s 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). But, 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 be than a Ph.D. student at Princeton. Bortz’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, a week later 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 them, 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 Bortz 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 are paid. But, this sort of policy would also mean that certain professions make you more of 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. A violation of the American dream and the very core values of our republic. Yet a person like Bortz is still on the air and has been for longer than I have been alive. 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.