It appears that Michael McGee, Sr. has finally gone too far. If Jerrel Jones lets him on his air again, he is just placing his business at risk. There is no reason to believe that this guy will ever conform himself to what a radio station must expect of its talent. McGee has a constitutional right to say what he wants, but Jones has a legitimate interest in keeping the process servers at bay. Maybe, in this case, a defamation suit would fail because McGee's comments were so off the wall that no unmedicated person could have understood him to be asserting a matter of fact, but that's probably less comfort than a station owner would like to have.
I was, however, genuinely puzzled by some of what I heard yesterday afternoon on Milwaukee's "other" urban station, WMCS. I appear on that station most Thursday afternoons and can say that, however they may really think I'm an irredeemable wingnut, the people there have been unfailing courteous, friendly and professional to me. Eric Von runs a very good show and the station plays an important role within the community that it primarily serves. So what follows is an attempt to further dialogue and not simply to attack.
I listened to a small part of the afternoon's proceedings, so I am not claiming that the response that I am about to describe is "typical." My purpose here is to talk about what I heard, not to argue that it is characteristic of "liberals" or "blacks" or anyone else. There have been people on the left who have unambiously and unreservedly condemned McGee.
I heard one caller in particular wondering why there is no outcry over what were asserted to be somehow comparable and daily divisive and inflammatory comments by Charlie Sykes and others. Fred Gordon, filling in for Eric, thought this unremarkable and obvious, saying that talk radio was a business and that "people of color" and "liberals" were pawns that are somehow abused by it. I did not hear McGee's remarks defended. One of Fred's guests allowed that they "may have been bigoted if you want to call them that." (Yes, actually, I do.) But there seemed to be a general assumption that what "goes on all the time on WTMJ" was to be regarded as, if not equally, at least comparably bad; as something that you could put in the same sentence as McGee's vitriol.
I really try to be modulated on this blog, but this strikes me as preposterous. What you hear on TMJ is fairly standard conservative analysis. It is certainly jazzed up to make it accessible and entertaining - a radio show is not a graduate seminar. But I have yet to hear anyone thank God for anyone's death and pray for more. Generally speaking, you have to go to WNOV or al-Jazeera to find that.
Here are my questions. They aren't rhetorical. I really want to know.
If you are on the left, do you really think that people who believe that taxes are too high (or need not be raised) or who think that organic market solutions are often preferable to government mandates, are being inappropriately divisive? Do you believe that people who, on balance, regard law enforcement as a good thing and not a threat or who see street violence as largely the product of cultural factors and a matter of individual responsibility as opposed to a mechanistic response to economic forces, are "hateful?" Are those who have come to believe that racial preferences perpetuate, rather than ameliorate, racial division excessively inflammatory?
If your response to any of this is affirmative, aren't you simply saying that people with whom you disagree ought to shut up? Might a healthy modesty and self awareness require that you leave room for the possibility that you may not hold all of life's answers?
When I have raised this with colleagues on the left, one response is that it is not what is said on talk radio but how it is said. There is too much vitriol and not enough thought.
As I said before, popular punditry - if it is to be popular - tends to become sharp. Look, for example, at Joel McNally, who is a Shepherd Express columnist and now the morning guy at WMCS. Perhaps his private persona is more discerning, but, between the white lines, McNally repeatedly portrays conservatives as idiots, bigots and greedheads. There is no ambiguity or nuance in anything that he says or writes. Based upon what he says in public, it seems that, if there is anything that he is sure of, it's his own moral superiority.
You might argue that conservative talkers are just as bad, but I fail to see how you can say they are any worse. If there is any difference between McNally and his right wing counterparts on the "nuance" and "divisiveness" scales, it is that Joel has far fewer listeners.
But none of them - neither McNally nor the conservative talkers - have ever come close to McGee, Sr. and there is no way in which they ought to be equated or even compared.
What am I missing?