Headline News

Cool New Sites

Science News


The 4th Estate






A Movable Feast

Bohemian Beat


Religion in America


Our exclusive sports columnist... Bear Bryant



hen Rush Limbaugh first hit the scene big in the early 90s he was a breath of fresh air to a country where political correctness was out of control and unchecked. Back then dead white men were the ultimate bad guys. Television and radio had been overwhelmed by the hippy ethics of the 1960s. Watch some of the last episodes of M.A.S.H. and you'll come away thinking that guys like Gen. MacAuther were nothing more than knuckle dragging Neanderthals who slaughtered children for fun and slapped women around just so they could brag about it to their buddies. The media at that time was mostly left-wing self-congratulatory propaganda.

Then came Limbaugh. Filling Morton Downey Jr.'s vacated spot on a Sacramento radio station Rush helped redefine Republican politics after the fall of Communism. The new enemy would be the "liberal," a straw man who possessed the exaggerated ideals of the Left as portrayed on television. At the time it was like shooting fish in a barrel. By using the most lunatic fringe as an example of anyone even slightly left of the political center Rush reinvented talk radio and produced a mountain of imitators. It proved a successful formula and Limbaugh clones popped up everywhere. A few of them, like G. Gordon Liddy and Neal Boortz, do the shtick even better than Rush himself.

AM radio has divided the country into two camps. The "conservatives" are pro-gun, anti-abortion, pro-capitalism, anti-socialism, pro-Christianity, anti all other religions, pro-Bush, anti-Clinton, pro-White, anti all other races, (With allowances made for Thomas Sowell, Ken Hamblin and Walter Williams who have made careers out of trashing other Black people.) pro-tobacco, anti-marijuana, pro-men, and anti-women. They firmly believe that Western European anything is the best and, oddly enough, seem to be pro-pollution. The "liberals" believe exactly the opposite. Neither one of these extremist views represented your average American but this is the cartoon black and white world of talk radio.

According to the current Rush du jour Sean Hannity "...this is a new world in which we live. It's a world of good versus evil." That's all fine and dandy until you start wondering what he means by "good" and "evil." In the post 9-11 world you might think he's referring to "terrorists." But he's not referring to the IRA or the vandals responsible for the Boston Tea Party. "Good" to Sean Hannity is virtually everybody and "Evil" refers to a handful of deranged and violent lunatics who kill without remorse or hesitation. Unfortunately these evil people are not exclusive to or excluded from any class, race, religion, nation, age or sex. So all of Sean's listeners get to be "good" and anybody who they disagree with gets lumped in with the deranged violent lunatics. But who cares? It's just a dumb radio show.

We Birminghamsters have done our best to distance ourselves from the stereotype of the racist hillbilly as portrayed by the politically correct media that Rush Limbaugh helped to dismantle. Despite trying to put our best face forward local Limbaugh wannabes are constantly dragging us back into the gutter. As any local who ventures out into the big world will testify, there's a lot of baggage that comes along with being from the deep South. I guess if you’re Black you can avoid being labeled a racist, but a lot of people are still going to think that you're stupid. It should have ended a long time ago, but vocal advocates of hate and ignorance make such good press the media can't resist them. It's not enough that the big news outlets in New York and LA delight in trashing the South we have to provide them with fodder for the flame.

Hank Erwin has traditionally been the chief embarrassment broadcast from the local airwaves. Erwin, an Evangelical, promoted junk science, attacked all religions save his own and particularly vilified homosexuals. Before moving on to the state Senate, Hank worked for Crawford Broadcasting which now owns 101.1 FM. The current darlings of Crawford's local enterprise are Russ and Dee Fine. It was very telling when Crawford was renewing Russ and Dee's contract live on the show. The boss at 101 pretty much came out an said that Russ and Dee's anti-gay politics were such a plus that he could forgive the fact that they were Jews and thus, in his opinion, were going to burn in Hell for all eternity.

The Russ and Dee show often runs a copyright notice which is designed to prevent guys like me from writing about how Dee equated frat boys dressing in black face and posing in front of the rebel battle flag to kids dressing up as witches on Halloween. "You don't see the witches out protesting," she said. That was a rare slip. No one can be overtly racist on the radio these days. The trick is to scour news sources and clip out articles involving Black folk doing stupid things. If you keep it up you can create the illusion that these carefully selected news stories represent all Black people. It's a simple trick that can be used to portray any group in a bad light. It's almost comical to hear Russ quote some Norwegian weekly while ignoring local stories that might not mesh with his political agenda. Last Martin Luther King's Birthday (which is a big deal in Birmingham) Russ and Dee decided to boycott the celebration. Though it was King ad nauseam throughout the Magic City, Russ and Dee dedicated their entire show to rising cable bills.

Though covertly anti-Black, Russ and Dee are blatantly anti-Brown. The rising Hispanic population is fair game. There's no stopping immigration and the US's demographics are changing quickly. In order to insure racial hostility in the new century, talk radio pundits are moving quickly to paint the Mexicans in a bad light. This straw man is still being constructed and is guaranteed to revitalize the kind of racial insanity that we've been trying to overcome for the past 50 years. It's important to remember that free trade always works and that Mexicans are Americans too.

While dehumanizing people of different races is an old populist trick used by many demagogues, Russ and Dee reserve their special venom for the gays. They're always calling for ineffectual boycotts of companies like Disney and Home Depot because they provide insurance coverage for domestic partners. For most Americans it's hard to get worked up over a total stranger's insurance package, but if you hate gay people any sign of equitable treatment under the law is unbearable. By once again using militant extremists as examples of the mainstream right-wing radio hosts would like to deny any human dignity to homosexuals.

Once when cornered Russ explained that he hated gays because they are condemned in the book of Exodus. A pretty sad argument from a Jew who eats pork and ignores the Sabbath. Just as the Blacks are supposed to forget and forgive, the gays are expected to live up to a higher standard than Russ and Dee themselves. The book of Exodus is only 51 pages long and if it's the cornerstone of your philosophy it seems you might want to read it. But holy text is rarely read. Rather it's revered as an icon or waved like a flag. If you actually read the Bible, the Vedas or the Koran you can't just pretend they say what you want them to say. Of course the other extreme is to study them vigorously and pull out the parts you agree and dismiss or explain away the parts that you don't.

Let me explain a few of the debate tricks used by Russ Fine and others of his ilk on the radio:

First, act like you're reporting the news but only find stories that support your political agenda. If someone shoots a burglar, celebrate the story as an example of why we need more handguns. It might be a good idea to follow it with some canned applause. Be sure to ignore the 10 children that are accidentally shot that day.

Second, if you get cornered rephrase your argument, then change it to something your opponent agrees with and claim victory on your original point. Russ is great at this. One time he was going on about how the mentally ill shouldn't be allowed to vote. Sounds good on the surface, but then a caller phones in and says he's clinically depressed. Rather than admit he was making a dumb point Russ redefined mental illness until it only included the most deranged lunatics.

Third, be incredibly gullible when it comes to believing bad things about your enemy and good things about yourself. According to Russ and Dee, Palestinians don't love their children, they only love murderers and terrorists. The Koran overtly advocates violence but the Bible would never do anything like that. Be sure to keep it simple, 100% good vs. 100% bad.

Forth, if a caller is making a sophisticated point that you don't agree with catch him on a technicality, like a mispronounced word, then declare his whole argument wrong. Sound bites are much better than complicated explanations on temporal media like talk radio.

Fifth, let your callers lie for you. Be sure to object to an occasional wild accusation to maintain some credibility.

Sixth, compare your opponent to Hitler. Russ is the King of this. Bet you didn't know that Hitler was a "liberal" and the Nazis were politically correct.

Seventh, if you bring on guests to debate find the dumbest burned out hippy to represent the Left.

Finally, if all else fails go to a commercial.