It’s been a few years since I’ve read O’Connor’s 2008 book Shock Jocks but its relevance could hardly be greater in today’s divided and misinformed America. Contrary to constant claims by some media outlets that “liberal media” control the conversation, O’Connor reveals that “democratic dialogue is being hindered by a huge ideological imbalance in the medium. Conservative viewpoints have long dominated talk radio.” The result of this has not only been widespread misinformation on crucial issues like gun control but more subtly a deep hatred of “liberals” whether they be so named or claim the name Democrat, progressive, socialist or leftist. This is a dangerous and largely unexplored phenomenon that has yet to play out in America. There are some liberals who have earned this hate with their smug self-righteousness, PC policing and angry attempts at censorship but these could not explain the constant and venomous vilification of the left that is broadcast by shock jocks to large audiences every day.
I got to thinking about the open-carry gun rights march coming to Richmond, Virginia on MLK Day and how so many people fall for the paranoid claim that the 2nd Amendment is under threat and the government is coming to take away our guns. Unless you equate any gun control legislation as a violation and a threat (a bit of a stretch) this is not even close to true. Shock jocks often promote 2nd amendment fears and plentiful evidence demonstrates that for decades the NRA has deployed disinformation and stoked hysteria about threatened gun rights – and now we know what they’ve done with all the money they took from their members. I enjoy shooting sports and I appreciate the 2nd Amendment but I have no need to carry a gun nor do I have a problem with sensible gun legislation. I have no fear that our guns are going to be taken away. To the contrary, it could be argued that the militia movement is by far the greater threat to America – especially with our current president.
In this digital-bluetooth-communications revolution we might be tempted to dismiss radio as an outdated and ineffective medium of communication but this would be a mistake. Podcasts, a radio-friendly medium, are hugely popular now and as I’ve noted, the impact of shock jock talk radio is having widespread and ugly reverberations in America. Most students of history know that the Nazis were the first to use radio for propaganda purposes to stoke irrational fear and hatred of Jews and other “undesirables.” Fewer folks know about the role of radio in the Rawandan genocide of the early 1990s.
The inconvenient and horrific fact is that over 800,000 people were hacked to death by machete wielding fanatics, stoked and specifically guided by the ultimate in hate radio. We might first notice that gun laws would not have prevented this mass murder but more chilling is how easily a country can be duped into a civil war and genocide by targeting and demonizing a scapegoated group through the old-fashioned but economical medium of radio.
Here at WRWK TheWorkFM.org we reject hate radio and the scapegoating of minority groups as strenuously as we reject the corporate bias of commercial radio. You can support our mission to bring intelligent, non-commercial and relevant talk radio to the airwaves by making a donation or volunteering today.