On PointVincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes his On Point column most weekdays. He is also an author and freelance writer. Reach Vincent Carroll at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
Carroll: Seeing Imus everywhere
Last weekend, two more New York City talk show hosts were forced to walk the plank for bad taste and worse judgment — the Don Imus disease — after what The Associated Press delicately calls a “prank phone call rife with offensive Asian stereotypes.”
Good riddance, you may say, and I wouldn’t argue. But should the same unforgiving standard apply to off-the-wall political views? The director of the left-wing Web site Colorado Media Matters seems to think so.
“In the past several days,” Bill Menezes e-mailed me last week, “one of Clear Channel’s local radio talk show hosts likened the governor of Colorado to a rapist ... and another (Bob Newman) used the state’s most powerful radio station to call for the elimination of civil rights for all Muslim immigrants, including those who are naturalized U.S. citizens ... These comments followed a few days after a third host, Peter Boyles, promoted a YouTube video depicting physical violence and ethnic slurs against Hispanics.”
Menezes then asked what the Rocky thinks of this “use of the public airwaves.”
It’s not hard to tell what Menezes thinks: In a column last month, Menezes declared that radio hosts regularly cross a line that “Denver broadcasters — and their advertisers — should fear to tread.” He then suggested advertisers (uh oh, that word again) and listeners should do something about it.
But Menezes asks a fair question, so I’ll answer it (speaking for myself, not the Rocky).
Talk host Jon Caldara did not liken the governor to a rapist. He said, “What [Bill] Ritter and pals are doing is the equivalent of fiscal date rape. They are taking the money without asking you first.” The comparison is jarring, but no reasonable person would conclude that Caldara is saying fiscal date rape is the moral equivalent of rape.
If this is Menezes’ standard for a Don Imus moment in political commentary, there’s not a talk show host alive who’d survive the next six months.
On April 25, Boyles’ did indeed plug an ugly YouTube video, although he halted virtually in midsentence after someone in the background apparently warned him off. Boyles later said he’d never seen the video. Convenient? Maybe, but it’s also plausible given his original description of it, which never mentioned that it starred a comic trying to be funny. That would be the first thing anyone who saw it would be likely mention.
The last time I was on Boyles' show, he and I traded insults and spent half of the time talking over each other, so I hold no brief for his program or his doomsday take on immigration. But I don’t want him run off the air, either, just because he promotes what is, in the news media, an unpopular view.
Finally, the indefensible. Last week “Gunny” Bob Newman said he wants “every Muslim immigrant to America who holds a green card, a visa or who is a naturalized citizen to be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times. And the FBI and the NSA should monitor their phones and their e-mails ... as well as bug their places of work and their residences. If they don’t like the idea, or if they refuse, throw their asses out of this country.”
Newman’s extremist tirade on behalf of the unconstitutional monitoring of an entire class of citizens based upon their religion is, of course, vile — and that is the kindest thing that can be said for it. If Newman were more influential, maybe I’d be more alarmed.
The best protection against such bilge is the radio dial. Turn it to sports talk. Turn it to music. Turn it to any island of sanity and let Gunny Bob rant to his heart’s content. The great thing about the “public airwaves,” after all, is that there are so many of them.
Vincent Carroll is editor of the editorial pages. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountain
This is nothing new. Calling for boycotts and such has been going on for a very long time. Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt often urges listeners to cancel their newspaper subscriptions to papers that don't meet his standards - of course Vince doesn't grip about that, I wonder why??
Menezes and Hewitt are both within their rights to call for boycotts and targetting advetisers if they don't meet their "standards" (remember all the hoopla following Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction"?)
What Vince misses is that there is, and should be in my opinion, two standards - what is allowed by the FCC (which we supoosedly already have - you can't drop the F-bomb on public airwaves) and standards set by the broadcaster/publisher and advertisers. As editor of the Editorial pages, Vince certainly has a set of standards as to what he allows to be published - he doesn't publish all letters to the editor and decides what columnist get to appear in the RMN.
What Vince misses is that there's nothing wrong with Menezes calling for boycotts or Hewitt calling for cancelled newspaper subscriptions - both are within their 1st amendment rights and their calls can be argued against (as Vince does here) or just plain ignored.Posted by on May 15, 2007 09:20 AM
Colorado Media Matters is a crummy organization simply pushing their so called "progressive" agenda.
There is a difference between commercial censorship - a radio station firing a shock jock because keeping them on the air is financially damaging when the sponsors pull out - and suppression of the 1st Amendment, which has simply not happened.
The media can self censor all they want. It's a financial decision. They have to run the line with their programming that stays "cutting edge" and at the same time, does not cause backlash.
Media Matters needs to just go away.Posted by on May 15, 2007 09:22 AM
I'll have to check out the Colorado Media Matters website. Sounds very interesting.Posted by just sayin on May 15, 2007 09:35 AM
Menezes wants to censor Newman but not the people who call Bush a dictator, a charge that is obviously not true. He wants to censor people who call Moslems dangerous, but not the people who call Christians dangerous.
He wants to censor people who think that American blacks have a dysfunctional culture but not the people who think that they should be singled out for government aid.
Menezes is not against censorship, he just wants to be the censor.Posted by Yaakov Watkins on May 15, 2007 09:46 AM
Menzes is, surprise surprise, a former Denver Post reporter. Once again "What liberal media?"
Media Matters is another "progressive" [as in progressing toward a secular socialist state] project from David Brock and his wealthy leftist benefactors back in D.C. such as George Soros. See http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewSpecialReports.asp?Page=%5CSpecialReports%5Carchive%5C200503%5CSPE20050303a.htmlPosted by CC on May 15, 2007 11:01 AM
Menezes = Media Matters = David Brock = George Soros + Peter Lewis = Hillary Clinton = Takeover by the left and European socialism = Decline of the United StatesPosted by SlouchingtowardBoulder on May 15, 2007 11:04 AM
Vincent Carroll: "The best protection against such bilge is the radio dial. Turn it to sports talk. Turn it to music. Turn it to any island of sanity and let Gunny Bob rant to his heart’s content. The great thing about the “public airwaves,” after all, is that there are so many of them."
We are blessed to have a great variety of radio in the Denver area. However, if you travel, east, west, or south (past Co. Springs), that great selection disappears in a hurry. If you can pick up anything in these radio bereft areas, it's often talk radio. When I enter Colorado from the east on Hwy 76, the first Denver station I get is 850am (KOA).
The other side of this picture is that the radio waves do belong to the public. Clear Channel et al operates by license, not by ownership of the medium. So just as there is a limit on the amount of pollution we will accept in the air, there should be a limit on the amount of pollution we accept on the airwaves.Posted by anderson on May 15, 2007 12:11 PM
Maybe Vince is just pouting because of Colorado Media Matters past history of shooting holes in his columns that cross the most important of journalistic lines....that of credibility and accuracy.Posted by jay on May 15, 2007 12:18 PM
09:22 - Agree or disagree, Media Matters makes no bones about being "progressive" and reporting (or whatever you want to call it) on conservative media figures, but they are accurate - I hear the right complain about them a lot, but hardly ever do the complaints cite (or substantiate) specific examples of inaccuracy. They do pretty much the same thing as the conservative Media Research Center - but you don't hear conservatives complaining about them (that's called hypocrisy BTW).
Yaakov Watkins -
technically, Menezes isn't trying to censor anyway (look up the definition), but what is more like a boycott - just like the first comment says Hugh Hewitt does calling for listeners to cancel their newspaper subscriptions. You don't hear conservatives complaining about Hewitt - again, hypocrisy.
Vince Carroll is recklessly mistaken if he thinks that talk radio "bilge" such as Newman's is harmless. In 1994, Colorado Springs talk host Chuck Baker made the sound of a gun being cocked and fired after a caller asked what should be done about the Clinton administration. A few days later, an avid Baker listener from Widefield drove to Washington and fired shots at the White House. Harmless, Vince? Think again.Posted by Sharon on May 16, 2007 12:46 AM
Dear Mr. Carroll,
The talk radio world doesn’t suffer from the Don Imus disease. It’s weak minded people like you who suffer from the Political correctness disease.
Mr (or Ms.) 09:22 you are a hypocrit yourself - read Vincent's column again - you will see two examples of mr. Menezes falsification. Vincent provides that actual dialouge from those radios shows. You read but do comprehend. You people on left are the ones who cannot produce anything of substance - just bumber sticker slogans when you are proven wrong.Posted by BB on May 16, 2007 07:09 AM
Sharon brings up a great point. I wonder what Vincent Carroll will say when, some day when Peter Boyles has whipped up his gullible blue-collar audience into an anti-illegal-alien frenzy, some Minuteman-wannabe listener bombs or shoots up a Mexican restaurant. Oh, sure, Boyles will claim that he's not responsible for listeners' actions based on his words. But in the next breath he'll read an ad for Rocky's Autos and then tell Rocky's that customers have done business there on his say-so. Words do have consequences, Mr. Carroll. I'm sure John Temple is a good enough editor that he wouldn't permit inflammatory headlines in your privately-owned newspaper. Why should you endorse them on the publicly-owned airwaves? Please reconsider your nearsighted position.Posted by Sherm on May 16, 2007 08:40 AM
It's difficult to establish direct correlations between what's presented on media, and the response or behavior of its audience. We've been arguing about the effects of violence on TV for years for example. But I think inferences can be made.
As for talk radio, I don't know their share of the radio audience but it seems the medium is ubiquitous (just as we can find fast food on nearly every corner, we can hear talk radio at nearly every junction). Not so many years ago, it seems, one could drive cross country at night and hear a lot of country music or variety. Now the music is mostly gone, and talk radio fills the air coast to coast 24/7 (my subjective impression). If it wasn't having an effect, it presumably wouldn't be so available.
Anyone who's listened to talk radio, and read the comments of readers on the RMN editorial pages, should see its influence, not so much in the conclusions drawn (Repub or Dem, for or against Iraq) but in the nature and the quality of the arguments made (their readiness to identify and attack a villain, or to use labels, or the tendency to see issues as black and white).
The current format of talk radio (Boyles and Newsome are examples) is highly divisive in nature. And it seems we've become more divisive in society.
Posted by anderson on May 16, 2007 02:52 PM
"09:22 you are a hypocrit yourself - read Vincent's column again - you will see two examples of mr. Menezes falsification."
Read again what I wrote:
"Agree or disagree, Media Matters makes no bones about being "progressive" and reporting (or whatever you want to call it) on conservative media figures, but they are accurate - I hear the right complain about them a lot, but hardly ever do the complaints cite (or substantiate) specific examples of inaccuracy. "
Note that I said Media Matters, not Menezes. And BTW, my post was 03:40 not 09:22.
"You read but do comprehend"
I learned everything I needed to know about Islam on 9/11: Islam = hate.Posted by Mel on May 17, 2007 08:22 AM
Obviously Mel is so bigoted against Muslims (he's gotta' be a "Gunny Bob" listener), that it is very unlikely that he knows any. They are not all fanatical and hate-filled as he so inaccurately implies. His ignorant implication is no different than saying that Christians are terrorist thugs due to the actions of anti-abortion activists who kill doctors that perform abortions or the actions of Timothy McVeigh (he professed to be Christian). Mel and "Gunny Bob" Newman are probably best chums.
Mel+"Gunny Bob" Newman+blatant ignorance=bigotry and hate.Posted by Beavis on May 17, 2007 11:14 AM