Friday, April 04, 2008

With friends like this...

Randi Rhodes, Air America Radio host, has been suspended for being an idiot. (h/t Brendan)
She called Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro "f**king whores" at an appearance in San Francisco. Here's the video.

Should she have been suspended for this? I don't know. That's an issue to be worked out between Rhodes and her employer. Her agreements or contracts with Air America, what they expect out of her at official events, what they expect her to bring to the network's "brand," and whether or not this incident runs contrary to those things should be weighed in making the decision. They have obviously made their choice and I don't know enough about their relationship to have an opinion about whether that choice was the right one.

That's me being reasonable and level-headed.

But, there's a very large part of me that is not so level-headed. It says, for the purely self-serving reason that Randi Rhodes just bugs the hell out of me, that they should fire her and do everything in their power to keep her off the air forever. Granted, I don't have to listen to her, and I don't, but just knowing she's out there every day representing my position on issues that matter to me in that "Rush Limbaugh of the left" way drives me up a wall.

She is the Rush Limbaugh of the left. That is not a compliment. I can't stand Rush Limbaugh. That's partly because I disagree with him almost entirely on every political issue. But only partly.

Beyond the disagreement, I hate Rush Limbaugh's whole approach. Regardless of which side he comes out on, I hate that in his world, there are only two sides. It's either "dittos" or "go to hell." I hate the childish nicknames he gives his political opponents. I hate his stupid sound effects. I hate his juvenile skits and songs. I hate how he debases the discourse on important issues to a series of schoolyard verbal pissing contests.

And while I agree with Randi Rhodes on most political issues, I hate her approach to discussing those issues just like I hate Limbaugh's. And for the same reasons. I feel the same about Hannity. And Glen Beck. And Laura Ingraham. And Ed Schultz. And Michael Savage. OK, OK...Michael Savage is in a class all his own-below the barrel that Limbaugh is at the bottom of. However...

I think this dominant talk radio style of talking about politics debases vitally important discussions. It trivializes issues, the resolution of which can literally mean the difference between life and death, into a question of who can make the cleverest puns. I find that whole enterprise offensive regardless of whether I agree with it's proponent.

And it doesn't have to be that way. Rachel Maddow manages to have intelligent, opinionated discussions of the issues with a clear viewpoint delivered with passion without sounding like a moron or infantilizing her audience. So does Gene Burns, the mostly libertarian radio host on KGO in San Francisco. Ronn Owens and the late Pete Wilson (no, not the governor), both also on KGO prove that such discussions on the radio can be intelligent, reasoned, and entertaining
(And lest you think this is just some resurgence of Bay Area radio nostalgia, I can tell you that I thought many, if not most, of the KGO hosts were obnoxious as hell-as much as I may have agreed with the positions they took).

I know I sound like a crank, but I'm no victorian. I recognize that politics can be amusing or even hilarious. But Limbaugh's or Rhodes's guffawing jackassery just rubs me entirely the wrong way. Incidentally, so does the punny name-calling I see in blog comment sections (sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but "rethuglican," "repug," "rethug," "elephascist" and the like are nowhere near as clever as their frequent users think they are).

Moreover, as desperately as I want Barack Obama to win this democratic presidential nomination, and as distasteful as I think the Clinton campaign has been lately, attacks like the one Rhodes made are totally counterproductive. A circular firing squad is not helpful. This will now be talked about as something that the Obama campaign has to deal with or repudiate, which will lead to more tit-for-tat allegations that some Clinton supporter or another has engaged in some similarly rancid ad hominem, and the whole nonsense machine will continue to chug right along. That's damaging. The damage to the democratic party from this long primary season is WAY overstated, but this is the kind of thing that causes actual damage, because it wears people down. Hell, I live for this kind of thing, and it's wearing me down.

And it wasn't even funny. Sheesh...

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