1 March 2003
The left side of the dial
The reaction to the news that a Chicago venture-capitalist group will front the bucks for a liberal radio network has been mostly yawns, with occasional remarks along the lines of "So what's NPR, chopped liver?" Certainly nothing in recent radio history would suggest that this venture could possibly make enough money to stay out of the red, let alone raise Rush Limbaugh's blood pressure, but hey, it's diversity, right?
Mark W. Anderson, writing as The American Sentimentalist, has some thoughts on this from a present-day liberal point of view, and they go like this:
[T]rue political progressiveness, of the kind that addresses social inequality, the relationship between capital and labor, environmental activism (and the sacrifices needed to undertake it), the Rights of Man, and the practice of inclusion and community, can't find a hearing in America today not because the message hasn't been gussied up enough, but because simply no one is interested in hearing these messages. At least, not enough to make a dent in the kinds of messages Americans are interested in: mythological freedom, protected self-reliance, denigrating a dangerous Other, and endless self-indulgence passing as consumer choice and free market effectiveness. In order to break through this wall of illusion, the kind of programming needed would be the kind that would send advertisers scurrying faster than European intellectuals in a room with Donald Rumsfeld: programming that would speak the truth about what happens in the country behind the facades and televised images we've all grown so used to accepting as fact. Programming, in fact, that would explain what it was like for the Americans rifling through the dumpster behind the mall where the good life is purchased, where the message of what it was like to worry about the transmission on the ten year-old car needed to get to work and not about whether the SUV is the best off-road vehicle money can buy, about the trade-offs between employment and health care for single moms, between prescription drugs and food for the elderly, and job training and the minimum wage for the chronically unemployed. Or how to effectively campaign to overturn, for example, politically-charged court decisions, replace reactionary judges, elect candidates not beholden to big-money concerns, or how to undertake the kind of neighborhood, grass-roots activism needed to reverse the incarceration rate for African-Americans. Or how to make ensure developers respect the socio-economic make-up of urban neighborhoods slated for gentrification. Or a million other unsexy, nuts-and bolts kinds of stories people need to know in order to go to work every day to change the world they live in for the better.
Some of these concerns make a certain amount of sense, and some of them bug me. The preservation of the "socio-economic make-up of urban neighborhoods", for one, strikes me as folly: if these neighborhoods were so wonderful, it seems to me that the property values would be sufficiently high that no one would be all that anxious to tear them down and start over in the name of gentrification. And the biggest improvement that could be made in the incarceration rate of African-Americans, I suggest, would be getting fewer of them to commit crimes in the first place.
Still, Anderson is right about the crux of the biscuit: things aren't hunky-dory for everyone, and if a bevy of AM-band leftists can actually contribute something to the debate, more power to them. They'll have to give up their Thou Shalt Not Offend Anyone posture, though; commercial talk radio is no place for mild-mannered Cory Flintoff types. Posted at 7:44 PM to Political Science Fiction
The problem is bigger than that.
First off, this guy is somewhat delusional--since he's already dismissed the media as a veil of lies, and everything conservatives believe in as bunk, he has essentially decided he'll believe whatever he wants to believe, damn the evidence or any contrary viewpoint.
Which is, by the way, the opposite of real liberalism.
Second, he ignores the fact that everything is, indeed, hunky dory for most people. Indeed, what we consider "poverty" in the U.S. is laughable. The average person living below the poverty line is overweight, lives in a home with internal heating, has a telephone and a television, and most of them have cable TV and a car.
Furthermore, a huge segment of the homeless are drug addicts and/or clinically insane and--yes, it's horrible to say so, but anyone who's actually encountered the homeless knows it's true--are there by choice.
The problem is that the "liberalism" this guy is talking about is so far removed from reality, r basic honesty, as to be hard to take seriously.
I was amused by the bit about electing "candidates not beholden to big-money concerns". Even Ralph By-Goddess Nader has to go stumping for campaign funds.
I still think that Radio Green, or whatever it's to be called, is a good idea, if only because it will make it harder to claim that the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy® has a grip on the American psyche.
The only difference it'll make to Limbaugh and the rest is that they'll have more actual sound bites of left-wing idiocy to choose from for their own shows.
Jeff Jacoby has a piece in the Boston Sunday Globe which explains why this whole scheme won't work.
Anyone who views the society they live in as basically "hunky dory" is unlikely to be someone who might be expected to empathize or understand the lives of his less well-off fellow citizens, let alone make an effective judgements about who is or is not "delusional". Ditto, as Rush would say, for those who view the world as full of "left wing idiocy". I'm sorry that a well-reasoned attempt to examine an issue engendered nothing more than insults from some of you, or that you had to waste time with the viewpoints of another human being.
By the way, Dean, how's your waistline doing?
I hope it's doing better than mine.
(Then again, mine was about the same size when I was briefly a shelter-dweller, but that's an issue for another time.)
Ah, Mr. Anderson, I currently make $30,000 a year. I live in a trailer park. I am the child of a single mother, and have lived on welfare twice in my life. I have taken homeless people into my home. I devote a good deal of my time to debating people with different points of view. And, while I am not poor, like a majority of America's "poor" people, I am indeed overweight.
It is my experience, having actually dealt with real-life homeless people, that most people who wax eloquent about the meaning of the homeless phenomenon have little or no experience with themselves--seeing them more as symbols to beat other people up with than anything they actually know something about. This is especially obvious because, if they did, they'd know the "homeless" come in two distinct varieties:
1) People temporarily down on their luck, who almost invariably get back up on their feet with the help of charity groups and some government agencies, and
2) Drug addicts and the clinically insane, who are on the streets by choice.
But again, if one feels free to simply dismiss all evidence, then one is free to believe whatever he wants about anything, isn't he?
We are at the crucible of a promise I made some time ago, which was to make sure that I avoided getting into "flame wars" of any kind, as so much discourse writen on a public page can be misread for tone or intent. Please understand that that is not my own intent. Nevertheless, I must point out: a review of my piece finds a mention of "the homeless" exactly zero times - in fact, you are the one who introduced them as a means in which to beat up me (or my arguments). Should you have been amongst their ranks at one (or more) points in your life, you have my sympathy and my empathy, as I have been close many times before in my own life. As well, I live in Chicago and have volunteered for years with lower-income and homeless citizens. But the main point is that I did not "wax eloquent about the meaning of the homeless phenomenon" either in this or in any of the tens of thousands of other words I have written on my site. And your justification at attempting to hit me over the head with them can only be guessed at.
However, I do retract my question about your waistline as being unreasonable.
Oh, and by the way - if you expect that a yearly income of $30,000 is sufficiently small enough to ensure your status as "lower class", "disenfrachised", or otherwise able to speak against the kind of "latte liberal" you no doubt take me for, please understand that you easily beat me by a full third of my income for the last year.
Let's not get into a round of Poorer Than Thou, okay?