Nation/World

Insight Or Incite? Is Talk Radio Fueling A Reasoned Discussion Or Is It Feeding A Hateful Far-Right Frenzy?

Even before the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton said: “If you preach hate, you get a talk show. If you preach love, you get a yawn.”

Do radio talk show hosts preach hate? Read on, and decide for yourself:

On WABC-AM in New York, Bob Grant dispenses rhetoric about blacks and gays that has led civil rights groups to demand his removal from the air. He’s described blacks as “savages” and “primitives” and said of a gay rights parade: “Ideally, it would have been nice to have a few phalanxes of policemen with machine guns and mow them down.”

G. Gordon Liddy, syndicated host, tells callers how to defend themselves if they are attacked by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He said: “They’ve got a big target on there, ATF. Don’t shoot at that because they’ve got a vest on underneath that. Head shots, head shots … Kill the sons of bitches.”

On KFYI-AM in Phoenix, Bob Mohan denounces gun-control advocate Sarah Brady and her disabled husband, Jim Brady. “She ought to be put down,” Mohan said. “A humane shot at a veterinarian’s office would be an easy way to do it … I wish she would keep wheeling her husband around … wiping the saliva off his mouth once in a while - and leave the rest of us damn well alone.”

On KVOR-AM in Colorado Springs, Colo., Chuck Baker says there’s a need for an armed revolution to remove “slime balls” from Congress and bureaucrats “who are too stupid to get a job.” His guests include Linda Thompson, the extremist militia leader who briefly called for an armed march on Washington to remove “traitors” from Congress.

These are extreme examples, of course. Most talk show hosts, be they conservative or liberal, engage in debate which, while lively or even rude, does not promote violence or spread hate. The most popular host of all, Rush Limbaugh, has been accused of bashing women and gays, but his tone tends to be more humorous than hateful.

“The spectrum has moved so far rightward that, in many markets, Limbaugh sounds like a moderate,” says Jeff Cohen, director of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which studies conservative radio. “Things are being said on the air that are specific incitements to violence.”

Critics say talk radio creates a climate of intolerance.

“Talk radio sells programs, sells advertising, by treating people like crap,” Bob Kerrey, the Democratic senator from Nebraska, said Thursday. “Make fun of people. Belittle them. Trash them.

Peter Laufer, a disaffected former talk-show host and radio executive, has written a forthcoming book, “Inside Talk Radio” (Random House, $19.95) that is harshly critical of the medium.

“Talk radio is a carnival - an amusement show,” he says. “Fancy parades as fact. Uninformed opinion is championed as thoughtful commentary. Groundless innuendo gets the same respect as investigative journalism. Hate is heralded as a valid response to problems.”

On the air this week, Liddy defended himself: “I don’t feel that I’m fueling the lunatic fringe.” He has said that he is only advocating armed self-defense, not that people go out and shoot federal agents.

Larry Kahn, the director of talk programming at Westwood One, which syndicates Liddy and Grant to stations across America, said the diversity and robust nature of talk radio is one of its strengths.

“Talk radio is probably the most brutally honest form of media we have today,” Kahn said. “It is uncensored, unedited, a free flow of ideas and an exchange of opinion.”

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “I believe the people who have been ranting and raving about starving school children, calling those people involved in legitimate political dialogue ‘extremists’ are in fact promoters of paranoia and purveyors of hate and devisiveness.” - Rush Limbaugh

“When they’re talking about it on the talk show, they’re not out building bombs or shooting somebody,” - Oliver L. North

“I don’t feel that I am fueling the lunatic fringe.” - G. Gordon Liddy

“Shoot twice to the body, center of mass, and if that does not work, then shoot to the groin area. They cannot move their hips fast enought.” - G. Gordon Liddy Giving advice on how to handle armed federal law enforcement officers who enter their homes.

“Even as we defend the right of people to speak freely and to say things with which we devoutly disagree, we must stand up and speak out against reckless speech that can push fragile people over the edge beyond the boundaries of civilized conduct.” - Bill Clinton<

This sidebar appeared with the story: “I believe the people who have been ranting and raving about starving school children, calling those people involved in legitimate political dialogue ‘extremists’ are in fact promoters of paranoia and purveyors of hate and devisiveness.” - Rush Limbaugh

“When they’re talking about it on the talk show, they’re not out building bombs or shooting somebody,” - Oliver L. North

“I don’t feel that I am fueling the lunatic fringe.” - G. Gordon Liddy

“Shoot twice to the body, center of mass, and if that does not work, then shoot to the groin area. They cannot move their hips fast enought.” - G. Gordon Liddy Giving advice on how to handle armed federal law enforcement officers who enter their homes.

“Even as we defend the right of people to speak freely and to say things with which we devoutly disagree, we must stand up and speak out against reckless speech that can push fragile people over the edge beyond the boundaries of civilized conduct.” - Bill Clinton<



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