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".