Thursday, March 30, 2006

Flagging the Debate

When I talk to fellow travelers about the dangers of the plague of wing-nut Talk Radio, I am met with knowing, dismissive yawns. The wing-nuts are just talking to each other, they say. Let the guys in the tank tops and crew cuts sip their High Life and confirm their Angry-White-Maleness with Limbaugh everyday. It's harmless and keeps them off the highways. Who needs more NRA bumper-stickers and road rage?

But, actually, it is Talk Radio that built up Junior Bush and tore down Clinton and Gore -- relentlessly, 24 hours a day. It is Talk Radio that ridiculed and promoted the Swift Boat lies about John Kerry, easily making the difference with a divided electorate that did not want to re-elect Bush, but, for some reason, wasn't comfortable with the alternative.

But those are only the Big Picture results. Where Talk Radio really does its damage is in inflicting the small cuts that cause every off-message opponent of the regime to bleed just enough to lose their credibility, no matter how solid their arguments. Wing-nuts don't argue; they damage and destroy. More importantly, their poisonous inquisitions leak into the MSM, where the guilt-ridden Big Feet throw bones to the wing-nuts by treating their "issues" as legitimate.

For instance, I was in my car for all of two minutes tonight (getting it off the street, the preference of the City Fathers here) and still managed to here one of our minor local wingnuts "discussing" the display of Mexican flags during the very impressive rallys held about the country this week (including 30,000 here in Milwaukee). There was, of course, the usual uncreative blather about them Mexicans coming here to get our welfare and get their kids in our schools (everything but calling them "wetbacks", which local repulsive wing-nut Mark Belling did about a year ago -- and he's still on the air). Now that's playing to the base.

But there were also a couple of themes developed by Karl Rove, no doubt, that I heard on both national and local shows. One was that the protests were promoted sneakily on Spanish radio and TV. I don't know what that has to do with anything -- the people still had to show up on their own; I don't think they were flown there by Telemundo traffic helicopters -- but the implication that those foriegners using those funny words are always talking about Us is meant to delegitimize the success of the rallies.

But the other non-issue was the display of the Mexican flag during the rallies. Whole industries -- well, kiosks in the malls, anyway -- are built on the desire of people throughout our supposed Melting Pot to display the flags of their national heritage, from St. Patrick's day to Milwaukee's famous German restaurants, etc. But, no, if these people want to object to an oppressive anti-immigrant policy, only U.S. flags shall be displayed. To what nation are they loyal, anyway?

Notice what both of these talking points do: They cast aspirtions on the advocates of a point of view, without ever getting into the real substance of the issues involved. This is what the wing-nuts do. Distract and destroy.

But the real success of this particular smear campaign won't be clear until the MSM takes these non-issues and discusses them on thier editorial and op-ed pages. "Some question display of Mexican flags at rallies", the headline will say, and there we go. People will know more about the flag displays than they will about the details of the proposed law, including the 700-mile fence at the border. Chalk up another one for the bad guys.

Next: What we can do about it (maybe).

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