Tim Cuprisin took a break from his American Idol summaries to write a story in the Journal Sentinel Saturday about how "vigilant" Milwaukee radio will be in the wake of the Imus firing. The article is a classic piece of tripe in which Cuprisin dutifully discusses these serious matters with program directors of the two wing-nut radio stations in town, and finds them both minding the store with the utmost concern for their vulnerable listeners. In fact, both could care less what crap they put on the air, as long as it furthers their political agenda.
Take WISN’s Jerry Bott – please. When he’s not arranging time-slots for slime-masters like Mark Belling, Jay Weber, Sean Hannity and Mark Levine, Bott has also sidelined as a substitute wing-nut himself. Bott, who proudly kept the race-baiting Belling on the air after he called Hispanics "wetbacks" a few years ago, is no doubt proud of the racist promotional spot that plays on his station repeatedly, promoting the ridiculous Weber’s morning show. The spot features an outrageous Chinese voice caricature, who announces that he is "Mao Tse-tung in Hell", come to sing the praises of Jim Doyle’s "tax increases". I tell you, it’s a stitch. Other spots declare the station "Your Conservative Home" and say it fights against "poverty pimps" and "Democrat traitors". Yes, sir – Bott is just the guy to talk seriously about civility on the radio.
I’m not sure Cuprisin quite understood what Bott was telling him. The Bott quote is such a mush of double-speak, you can almost hear the asides running around in his head: "Any time you go through an incident at your station [like that "wetback" thing, can you imagine those damn whining minorities? What a pain in the ass.], it certainly puts a sharper focus on the potential problems [or defines what we might be able to get away with] that broadcasting such material could put forth [unless you are ready with attack dogs that can provide cover]...And it makes you more vigilant [so that we can continue poisoning the political discourse without all these damn questions].
Likewise, TMJ PD Jon Schweitzer, who did nothing last week when Charlie Sykes called Al Sharpton a "pimp", except, maybe, give him another raise. "[A]nything you say is gone the moment you say it," said the obviously-brilliant Schweitzer, who presides over such local gone-sayers as Sykes and the atrocious Jessica McBride. Proving that anything goes on the formerly respectable TMJ, Schweitzer defends the placement of syndicated hatemonger Michael Savage on the late shift. "Anything we carry on our air is our responsibility...Obviously, we have less control." Well, whatever. You wouldn’t want to break your back trying to get some programing on the air that isn’t demeaning, racist, homophobic, war-mongering and otherwise inflammatory. I mean, that’s just asking too much, isn’t it?
The only thing that gets the radio wing-nuts even slightly off the hook for their deliberately divisive tactics is that someone else decides that they get to be on the air in the first place. Immediately after the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated by Reagan’s FCC in 1987, program directors around the country took advantage of the situation to poison the public airwaves with patronizing conservative talkers, seeking the angry-white-male demographic. That evolved into the current situation, where the now-established wing-nuts take GOP spin and talking-points and run them into the ground, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all over the country.
The effect of this development on the national discourse is to skew, divide and destroy the entire political atmosphere, like smog on a clear day. The program directors most responsible for the right-wing hijacking of the airwaves should not be held out as responsible "vigilant" radio executives. Well, they're "vigilant" alright, but it has nothing to do with decent radio and everything to do with creating support for Republican policies that, especially these days, would not otherwise exist.