Sunday, December 14, 2008

Clear Channel's House Racist Strikes Again

The pride of Clear Channel and the shame of Milwaukee, Mark Belling, made national news this week – featured as he was on Media Matters for one of his all-too-frequent racist diatribes.

"Whether it's blacks, Mexican-Americans, whatever," said Milwaukee’s most obnoxious racist on his unfortunate radio show on December 10th, "people who live in a neighborhood should not have to put up with newcomers deciding that that neighborhood is going to be ‘Crimeville.’ You wonder why racism occurs, why people fear ‘look what's happening to the neighborhood’ when some -- when a minority person moves in. The answer is because sometimes it does mean an increase in crime."

I don’t know who tipped of Media Matters to this particular outrage – I mean, Belling - when he isn't causing undue pain by libeling grieving family members - says something stupidly racist almost every day. I was driving around on Friday, I think it was, and he was blabbering about kids in ritzy-North Shore Bayside middle-schools were buying, selling and otherwise sharing the ADHD drug Adderall. These are good kids from good homes, he said, not like those bad kids from bad homes who spend all of their time ruining their own and the rest of our lives. This is something we expect and don’t care about from inner city kids, but if it’s going on in white suburbia, well, now it’s a crisis. Why this distinction needed to be made – I mean, drug dealing is drug dealing, is it not? – is clear only in the fevered imagination of Belling, who thinks so little of his listeners that he thinks this is the kind of race-baiting crap they want to hear.

As I have said before, Mark Belling is worst than a racist. He doesn’t believe a word of the fear-mongering, blacks-are-ruining-your-life crap he peddles everyday on the radio. But he plays on the prejudices and ignorance of his targeted South Side, angry-white-male audience by feeding them what they want to hear; by validating their disgust for the black people they encounter on the bus and on the streets; by telling them that all their racist perceptions are correct. The insecure clowns that hang on his every word are being played like a violin by Belling, who is smart enough to know better, but cynical enough to poison the community discourse for the sake of rating points and a few extra bucks in his pocket when it comes time for contract renewal.

By all appearances, Belling exists in a world of his own, strangely isolated from the community of other right-wing talk-show hosts and bloggers who spout the same tired GOP talking points but also engage each other and, sometimes, some of us on issues big and very small. He doesn’t maintain a blog himself, largely ignores what is happening on the political blogs and, on the right anyway, they ignore him. By comparison, Charlie Sykes is a social butterfly, even as he hides in the same studio cocoon as Belling. This gives the other right-wingers plausible deniability on Belling’s racist excesses – Rick Esenberg, for instance, pretends not to listen to him and therefore refuses to defend or condemn any of it. But, scurry as they might from Belling’s stink, they are all part of the same echo-chamber and ultimately responsible for the poison messages spewed by one of the two guys with the largest megaphone.

But those most responsible for Belling’s racist regime are not officially political at all – Clear Channel, the monopolistic owner of WISN and five other radio stations in Milwaukee and the advertisers who make his continuing irresponsibility possible. The reason Belling has always been untouchable is because he gets the best ratings in Milwaukee’s ridiculously weak afternoon drive-time radio market. He and his nonsense are still there because he makes money for Clear Channel, through the advertisers who throw money at WISN to air ads during his show. It is way past time to make an association with Belling painful, not beneficial. None of Belling’s advertisers should be patronized by anyone who is against racism – which should be everyone. Those who pretend to be good corporate citizens, starting with Clear Channel and ending with every advertiser right down the line, should take a good look in the mirror and figure out what is more important – a temporary presence on a highly-rated radio program or a healthy community, unblemished by the daily broadcast of blatant racist garbage.

UPDATE: Commenter David M. asks a legitimate question: why do I think Belling doesn't believe what he says on the air? I thought I would bring my response out here.

The primary reason I think this is because he is otherwise too smart, too well-read, too conversant on other complicated issues to reduce things in his own mind to the black-and-white idiocy he spouts in front of the microphone.

Belling is not the only one who insults his listeners' intelligence - Sykes and the others do it all the time. For instance, when the GOP sends out a talking-point about, say, the supposed taint of "Chicago machine" and Illinois politics on Barack Obama, all the wing-nuts talk like they are totally convinced and, in fact, "worried" about this. But they know better -- they have read the articles all over the place that Obama directed his career above and around regular Chicago pols and was a distant as he could be from the dreadful Blagojevich. But they pretend to believe it in an effort to score phony political points.

Same with Belling and racism. I don't know anything about him personally -- I saw him at a Bucks game once -- but he is too much of a cosmopolitan city-dweller to believe that nonsense. He is being deliberately provocative, dangling the prize of validation before his needy audience.

Like I said, this makes him worse than a racist. Those willing to say ugly things they don't believe to stir up the emotions of those they think are manipulable and weak are the worst kind of demagogue, whether it's for ratings or political power.

Anyone who actually believes the racist nonsense spouted by Belling wouldn't have the capacity of talking for three hours a day on the radio. Belling has the brains and talent to do so, and chooses to manipulate people with what he doesn't believe rather than enlighten people with what he does. In radio, it's called "being a cynical hack". In politics, it's called "fascism".

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

For those of us that can't bring ourselves to listen, would be good to see a posting of the advertisers again. Especially in these tough times, now's the time to take it to them.

Anonymous said...

When it takes you 5 days (and Media Matters 3 days) to determine that something that someone said days ago is now considered "racist" it probably wasn't racist in the first place. But hey, whatever fits your rationale.

I suppose it's also racist that a majority of criminals in our state's prisons are minorities.

Mike, tell us all why you don't live in the central city of Milwaukee...tell us without sounding racist like Belling.

David M. said...

I am truly amazed by the nastiness of Mark Belling, not only to the community of which he belongs but even to his own listeners. His listeners, in this case the people who call in, seem to thrive on his discourtesy. He's abrupt and mean spirited. With all of this in mind, what I don't understand is the notion that he somehow doesn't believe what he's saying. Is there evidence of this? I find it difficult to understand how a person could say the things he says without somehow believing in what he's saying.

Vic said...

I have witnessed the ability of Mark Belling to appeal to the lizard brains (Hat tip: Ariana Huffington) in our community and I have evidence that they exist from Racine to Port Washington.

A communications director told me once that a well crafted message of hope will always beat a message of hate. I hope that someone emerges in our community with that message.

Anonymous said...

Hope, dreams, and peace signs don't sell ads nor do they draw an audience.

Mike Plaisted said...

David asks a legitimate question: why do I think Belling doesn't believe what he says on the air?

The primary reason I think this is because he is otherwise too smart, too well-read, too conversant on other complicated issues to reduce things in his own mind to the black-and-white idiocy he spouts in front of the microphone.

Belling is not the only one who insults his listeners' intellegence - Sykes and the others do it all the time. For instance, when the GOP sends out a talking-point about, say, the supposed taint of "Chicago machine" and Illinois politics on Barack Obama, all the wing-nuts talk like they are totally convinced and, in fact, "worried" about this. But they know better -- they have read the articles all over the place that Obama directed his career above and around regular Chicago pols and was a distant as he could be from the dreadful Blagojevich. But they pretend to believe it in an effort to score phony political points.

Same with Belling and racism. I don't know anything about him personally -- I saw him at a Bucks game once -- but he is too much of a cosmopolitan city-dweller to believe that nonsense. He is being deliberately provocative, dangling the prize of validation before his needy audience.

Like I said, this makes him worse than a racist. Those willing to say ugly things they don't believe to stir up the emotions of those they think are manipulable and weak are the worst kind of demogogue, whether it's for ratings or political power.

Anyone who actually believes the racist nonsense spouted by Belling wouldn't have the capacity of talking for three hours a day on the radio. Belling has the brains and talent to do so, and chooses to manipulate people with what he doesn't believe rather than enlighten people with what he does. In radio, it's called "being a cynical hack". In politics, it's called fascism.

Anonymous said...

So Mike admits knowing nothing about Belling other than seeing him at a Bucks game once...but yet he cherry-picks one item (a forwarded talking point from Media Matters no less) and all of a sudden Mike is an expert on him and surmises that Belling has to be a racist and the worst kind of racist? I wish I could make those kind of leaps because I then would have made the varsity basketball team in high school!

Other Side said...

It must have been a supremely untalented team.

patrick said...

If all the right wing is poisoned by belling's comments, then all the left is poisoned by those of the left? What nonsense.

I wonder? Is it true that "when a minority person moves in. The answer is because sometimes it does mean an increase in crime."? If so, when is something both "true" and "racist"? is there some objective standard we might apply? Also, if a statement is "racist" and "true" is it then necessarily illogical or taboo as a subject for discussion in our free and open society?

Mike, your post seems to suggest that you can not only interpret belling's comments but also the reaction of the audience. Is that logical? Or, is your thinking, and writing, of the same calibre that otherwise would produce racist comments? Are you a lefty fundamentalist?

Anonymous said...

Belling was not saying only certain minorities are criminals and everyone in those groups is a criminal. That's racism. What he was talking about is prejudice, which is not racism. I am prejudiced/presumptively suspicious of any large male walking toward me on the street at night. Their dress and skin color is certainly going to affect my perception of a potential threat as well. This is too bad, but it's way better than willing yourself into some kind of PC state of naivete/innoncence of the world or looking at your toes as you walk and getting mugged.

The interesting thing about Belling's remarks is how it makes quite a difference to its meaning depending on how you read the last paragraph, as quoted by Media Matters. If you're white, or if you're thinking in terms of a white Belling as the generic "You," it sounds like he's saying newcomers=non-whites, and then you may assume he is assuming the old-timers are whites.

I don't know what he meant there, but the truth is, in Milwaukee neighborhoods, crime stats are higher where stats on wealth and white residents are lower. My guess is that its more the wealth than whiteness that matters most, but they tend to correlate. This knowledge affects the thinking of every person in every area of the city, whether they are black, white, hmong, or something else--as it should.

After a decade of living in transitional neighborhoods in Milwaukee and having to deal with migratory drug houses, Belling's remarks seem to be a matter of stating the obvious. Blacks, Hispanics, or Hmong people moving into your Milwaukee neighborhood are a good enough indicator that trouble will follow that many onlookers (including other minorities) will stiffen up with a presumptive suspicion that may or may not be justified. More often than not, it is. And this is not good. Rather progressive, isn't it, of Belling to figure that out?

The problem that Belling, like most people--left or right--don't see is that it's more about class than race, and most Americans are very bad at reading class codes among groups they are not a part of. Plus, "black culture" in the last few decades has deliberately blurred some lines.

I am pretty sure that few east siders (definitely the liberals and baby boomers) can tell the difference between a real drug dealer and some teenager who adopts the drug-dealer aesthetic for his mode of dress. The panicky confusion--a mixture of fear and guilt--that sets in when such minds are confronted by such realities says a lot about Milwaukee. People here are so self-segregated and self-righteous about race, they don't know how to really relate. They can't distinguish a threat versus a non-threat.

Roland said...

Mike, in reference to Belling's segment on the Bayside kids dealing in prescription meds, you said:

"These are good kids from good homes, he [Belling] said, not like those bad kids from bad homes who spend all of their time ruining their own and the rest of our lives."

That's a complete mischaracterization of Belling's argument. They replayed that segment today (12/26/2008) on a "Best of Belling" show. I heard him say that those kids should be referred to the juvenile justice system so they can learn what they did was wrong. He also railed against the parents for failing to teach their kids such a lesson. Furthermore, he made the point that if this story involved inner-city (black) kids doing the same thing, it would not be newsworthy nor would there be big outcries to treat them lightly. He was criticizing those people who would try to treat the "privileged white, North shore kids" more delicately than some inner-city kid whose behavior, unfortunately, doesn't surprise anyone.

How can you criticize Belling when you are bending the truth (perhaps lying) to make YOUR point?