Saturday, April 21, 2007

A good day for paranoia

Carefully contextualized

Yesterday I witnessed an amusing confluence of right-wing angst. In the early morning, Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan of KSFO commiserated over the their exposure to the baleful eye (or is it ear?) of Media Matters for America. In rather subdued tones, they groused over the attention that Media Matters gives to their broadcasts, recording each word and reporting Rodgers and Morgan's more egregious statements on the Media Matters website. They were casting anxious looks over their shoulders, furious at the way that self-anointed media watchdogs were taking their comments “out of context.”

That turned out to be the meme of the day. Later, on the same radio station, Rush Limbaugh decried the way that Media Matters monitored his broadcasts and then took his remarks “out of context.” (Is Karl Rove still faxing daily talking points to Fox News and other right-wing media outlets?) One wonders, of course, just how much context is necessary to properly construe Morgan's remark that “We've got a bull's-eye painted on [Pelosi's] big, wide laughing eyes” or Limbaugh's thoughtful conclusion that the Virginia Tech mass murderer “had to be a liberal.” Both Morgan and Limbaugh also continued to flog the false notion that Media Matters is funded by the wealth of George Soros, one of their favorite bogeymen from the left.

It was deeply satisfying to listen to Rodgers, Morgan, and Limbaugh trying to deal with the fact that they are being held responsible for their words. Ever since the Spocko incident a few months ago, Rodgers and Morgan have been—if not exactly subdued—noticeably anxious and preoccupied with pre-emptive ass-covering. They know they can no longer simply deny having said the things they spout on the air (those words are no longer evaporating into the ether), so they intermittently wring their hands, abruptly check themselves on the verge of launching into a full-throated spate of hate speech, and mewl about “free speech” and “context.” How nuanced they are now!

To do them justice, I should not dismiss their concerns as being nothing more than paranoia. As someone once said, “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.” Rodgers and Morgan are right to be worried. It's not a matter of free speech. They have the right to climb up on their soapbox any old time they want and rant to their hearts' content. I, for one, would prefer that it be an actual soapbox, perhaps turned upside-down on a street corner in San Francisco's famous Tenderloin district. Appreciative listeners and passers-by could toss them pennies.

You see, freedom of speech has nothing to do with guaranteeing that Rodgers and Morgan continue to enjoy a platform on a five-thousand-watt radio station that blankets northern California. KSFO is a commercial undertaking and is therefore subject to the market forces that its talk-show hosts purport to idolize. If their right-wing rants chase away advertisers and listeners, that's just too bad. Whining about “context” is just making excuses. In the meantime, the Media Matters dossiers on Rodgers and Morgan and Limbaugh just keep getting longer and longer and longer. You'd think they would be pleased that people are listening so closely, hanging on their every word.

We shouldn't be under any illusion that the monitoring of right-wing hate media is likely to drive any of its major exponents into penury. Rodgers is doing well enough to cut back his work week at KSFO to four days. Morgan hawks her book (a sliming of Cindy Sheehan) and uses her radio platform to promote Move America Forward, her vehicle for nonstop fundraising and publicizing the “good news” from Iraq.

Limbaugh continues to be the behemoth of talk radio, even if his ratings have ebbed from their earlier peaks. His acolytes seem capable of forgiving him for anything. Drug abuse? Well, that's understandable for someone in such a high-stress job. Multiple marriages and dalliances? Be reasonable: how can marriage survive when Rush has to work so hard? And do as he says, not as he does. Caught at an airport customs checkpoint on his way back from a visit to the Dominican Republic with a Viagra prescription not in his own name? Okay, everyone needs a little recreation. And we already dismissed any concerns about drugs, right?

We don't have to worry about Rush's survival, even as he moves into his declining years under the burden of constant observation and the specter of continuing difficulties with drug dependencies. His future is secure. One day soon an attractive young thing will look across the room at a GOP fundraiser and what will she see? An anxious, half-deaf, OxyContin-perfused multi-millionaire who has trouble getting it up.



Media Matters has posted a partial transcript of Limbaugh's remarks on April 20. Here's a pertinent excerpt:
Media Matters, whatever—that website, the front organization for the Clinton campaign, bought and paid for by George Soros and the Clinton people. Media Matters for America, which takes everything that we say here out of context and puts it up there
Go check it out and decide for yourself how “out of context” Limbaugh is being taken.

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