Saturday, May 05, 2007

Urban right, pt 3: I have some questions

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?


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rick Esenberg said...

I was hoping for reasons supported by something other than name calling.

Anonymous said...

"aren't you simply saying that people with whom you disagree ought to shut up?"

I hate to say it, but many on the left would agree with that sentiment. Much of it, I believe is due to the socialist/collectivist mentality. Collectivists need conformity and any that dares stray from the conformity must be dealt with. But just who decides what everyone should conform to. When you try to answer that question, you get down to either one persons, or a small group of people's determination of what is absolutely correct without question. It's about power and that's why they believe anyone that is non-liberal/green should be shut up at a minimum, well we've already seen the maximum in the USSR.

Anonymous said...

Actually, only the last sentence of my post called anybody a name and it was, in context, self-evidently the conclusion of a reason-packed discussion of how Sykes and others can be offensive, noting that McGee's statements were revolting.

In response to your stated reason for the censorship, I provided a careful, reasoned answer to the central question in your post. I guess you didn't like the answer.

But, I when you own the blog, you can pick or choose what gets shared with the world.

Formerly, 11:24.

Rick Esenberg said...


No, actually your first few paragraphs just stated your conclusion. There were no examples. That would have been ok, but all I can do is delete the whole thing and if you want to call a guy whose mother just died in a fire a lousy name, you're going to have to do it elsewhere

Anonymous said...

Most objectionable about the censorship is that you are now characterizing the post after deleting it. As you darn well know, I didn't simply attack Sykes; in responding to your question, I gave my critical thoughts about both McGee and Sykes et al. I may have given no "examples" but so what? I gave specific reasons for my conclusion.

But frankly, I am stunned that you set this thing up to facilitate discourse and you censor an otherwise meaningful post because, by some strange stretch of your imagination, the verbiage could incidentally hurt Sykes' feelings? Are you kidding me?

And for anyone else reading this, despite what Rick won't let you see, no, I didn't make fun of or otherwise rip on Sykes' recent loss. I was discussing his work as a radio personality and apparently Rick didn't like it so much.

As a slightly humorous aside, I love the conservatives beating on those who call for sensitivity to certain issues and then have to play knee-jerk censor when a local celebrity is criticized because, despite the fact that he is a controversial public figure, its apparently a sin not to pretend and like his work for some period after his private family tragedy.

If you got this weird "momma" sensitivity, you should have waited to ask your question. Ironically, Sykes would be the first to laugh in your face Rick.

Anonymous said...

"its apparently a sin not to pretend and like his work"

Just like its a sin not being liberal and dare say anything critical of anyone on the left without being called a bigot.

The local left privately rejoiced when it was made public who died in the fire. The only sadness on the left's part is that it wasn't Charlie himself who had died.

Anonymous said...

Acutally, though I have spent a chunk of my non-sleeping life arguing politics and policy (mainly with conservatives) and am a screaming lib, I can think about only the rarest of occasions in which bigotry has come up. This is another rightwing myth.

And, one problem it causes is that any attempt to discuss the impact of race/sex/religion is met with shrieks of "you're playing the race, etc. card."

Likewise, the notion that any except the most fringe couple of individuals took joy in the tragic death of anyone is just gibberish. The simple fact is that I believe it is awful for anyone to deal with such a loss. But I am not going to pretend to have a personal connection to the situation. It would be like calling a random stranger having read about a parent's death in the paper.

As an aside, I think the problem with both McGees is that race is an issue that needs to be talked about but destroy every meaningful discussion with a bunch of offensive nonsense.

But, really, try and offer something other than made-up assertions that the "left" whoever that is (and I can't imagine where you get your info) - prefer rain to sunshine, want puppies killed, and generally hate the good and love the evil.

I love nothing more than finding a conservative who believes that conservative policies will lead to a better world rather than lib policies; I think the spirited debate is both educational and entertaining. But, its harder to find. You read these blogs and about 87% of the time all they contain is outragious statements about the "left's," motives - rather than the substance of the ideas.

And, you just gave us a great example.

Anonymous said...

The local left privately rejoiced when it was made public who died in the fire. The only sadness on the left's part is that it wasn't Charlie himself who had died.


Care to offer some evidence for any of this? This is almost as idiotic as old man McGee's remarks.

By the way, the good news is, McGee Senior has gotten the boot. The bad news is, McGee Junior is taking over behind the mic.

Anonymous said...

Rick wrote: "Here are my questions. They aren't rhetorical. I really want to know."

I guess he doesn't "really want to know."

Anonymous said...

anon 3:37

I read your post and it wouldn't have been deleted if you hadn't ended it by calling people farm animals...third graders do that kind of stuff.

And no it was not, in context,self evidently the conclusion of a reason packed discussion." You are obviously "articulate" (oops - my bad for using that word) and could have concluded your discussion in a more civil manner. Looked to me like you just added that final sentence to be nasty.

Anonymous said...

I guess you'll have to reeducate me Anon. And even better, I found a use for the ANWR you'd support. The ANWR is similar to Siberia, isn't it?

Rick Esenberg said...


This isn't hard. You don't have to pretend to like anyone's work. You can say it is offensive (although it'd be nice to know why) and you can say it is about the stupidist thing you've ever heard. But if you want to say that Sykes or McGee or McNally or Esenberg or whomever is a xxx, do it someplace else.

And put your name to it.

Anonymous said...

Reddess, i am honored.

But, my instant of name-calling came at the end of an otherwise thoughtful and, if I dare say, right on the mark, response to Rick's question.

As you and Rick know from my censored post, I opined that no good faith debate is offensive. But I also shared my sense that some of the rightwing commentators are simply entertainers who (not unlike the McGees) are interested in creating controvery and whipping up anger. Because they are bigots? Hate-filled? Evil? No - simply because it makes Charlie, Ann, and Rush big money. Its not immoral, just amoral.

Ok, so I ended that discussion by calling both McGee, Sr. and Sykes a name in connection with their public personas. I did so to emphasize the preceding points.


"I read your post and it wouldn't have been deleted if you hadn't ended it by calling people farm animals...third graders do that kind of stuff."

Well, Reddess, RICK WROTE more than a day or two ago:

"Jerrell Jones who owns WNOV and who continues to host this cancer . . ."

So - it seems that a little name-calling to express strong emotion in an otherwise thoughtful discussion is not so offensive. But, of course, that means that my post wasn't deleted for the reason you give; it was deleted simply because Rick or you or both just didn't like the answer I offered to his question.

Now, he can do whatever he wants with his blog; that's the beauty of living in these United States. But, it gets a little hard to claim that he is interested in meaningful debate.

Anonymous said...

Oh, its a little harder than you might imagine.

Let me see if I get this. So, calling McGee a "xxxxxx" is commentary but calling him a "xxx" is abusive?

Are we really using Xs to spare your audience the pain and moral degradation of being exposed to the name of a disease and the name of a tasty farm animal? Really?

Just out of curiosity, is the new no-naming calling rule going to be applied across the board?

As for my name, you're the one who invites anonymous posts. And, i think you should - it encourages focus on substance and not personalities. And, there is already enough inclination to ignore substance.

Rick Esenberg said...

You should be honored. Herself rarely posts here.

I try to be evenhanded. I don't think calling McGee's show a cancer is the same as calling someone - particularly someone who just suffered a personal tragedy - an animal. On the other hand, I don't think McGee and the others are comparable in any way. If I have failed to be as consistent as I ought to be, I guess I'll just have to try to get to sleep tonight anyway.

What I find more interesting is why someone would think that conservative talkers who, like liberal talkers, lose some nuance and generate some heat in the course of trying to do a show that will have more listeners than I have readers are somehow comparable to a guy who revels in the deaths of others. It was, after all, you who lumped them together in the same part of the farmyard. I'm just as puzzled at that as I was when I started.

Anonymous said...

You are simply acknowledging that you deleted the post not because it was objectively and pointlessly abusive but because you disagree with the substance of my opinion.

You simply explain that McGee deserves to be called names and Sykes doesn't. So, with a mouse-click or two, you delete the opinion. That's all that happened.

The fact is that McGee and Sykes (and others) are very similar; its all about self-promotion, not the opinions they claim to have. And, the technique is simply to whip up furor. It works, I just think its bad for the world in both cases. Now, I am in the minority on this, the market speaks for itself.

I also find this hypersensitivity about the personal life of a controversial local celeb to be sort of childish. The outrage of McGee's rant was not that it might have hurt Charlie's feelings but that it was simply debased and designed only to offend. But, as part of a meaningful dialogue - one you asked for - do we really have to pretend to have a personal relationship with the guy?

I am quite certain Charlie would be the first to say that he will persevere through his loss and heal from it without any regard whatsoever to what I or any other stranger say in a blog comment.

Anonymous said...

Ya Rick, we would want member of the media whipping people into a furor over nothing to self promote an agenda. I mean, look at this US District Attorney thing.....oh crap.

Anonymous said...

James - as part of my public service and good deed for the day, I am going to make some small effort to help coach you out of your pathological fantasies about liberals. Here it is:

(1) I think the Thompson case raised meaningful questions about Biskupic's decision to bring it. What happened in the court of appeals was stunning and almost unheard of; the case was non-existant and typically, a lawyer who brings a meaningless claim is and should be held to account.

(2) While I thought that some of the media was over the top and unfair to Biskupic, and I lamented the inevitablity of my party going nuts on him - Biskupic also had some basic bad luck. he got dramatically hammered in a very high-profile political case going after a Dem governer at exactly the wrong point in history - in the middle of the Gonzalez/US Atty scandal. No one's fault but serious bad luck.

Here's the finale:

(3) I think Biskupic screwed up by ruinng a life with a lousy case but I am certain to my bones that he did not have an ounce of political motive in him. He screwed up bad but he is one of the most honest guys out there.

See, James, its ok to articulate an actual idea or observation rather than just joining the pack in howlin' at the moon.cbjuji

Anonymous said...

When liberals get government out of my life and just let me make my own decision, then I'll give up the "pathological fantasies." As for examples, how about taking more of my hard earned money so government employees can retire early while I have to work my ass of to what, probably 80. Or how about my dietary intake, it's trans fats, foie gras, and smoking today, what gets banned tomorrow?

Anonymous said...

James, I think some of this stuff is too much, some is an effective tool for public health and the economy. I laughed out loud when I heard that Chicago was going to ban foie gras.

But, your whiny "I live in a fascist dictatorship" nonsense is unconnected to reality. Having to pay taxes doesn't mean we live in Nazi Germany. I actually think life in the US is pretty good for many.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right, no you're not missing anything, but you are letting the WCMS guys (notably Von was absent) WAY off the hook.

After timidly dipping a toe in the water, Vianna Jordan called and said all the wrong things given that audience (explaining what and why would be fascinating but long), and then callers ranted how much they agreed with Sr. and would say worse, how hate does get you places, etc.

This let the hosts get warmed up--and good. We got an earful of more elaboration of stuff I've hear from them before--how only white people can be racists, and basically everything reduces to a power struggle, so stick it to The Man--and he has no right to speak or do anything in his own defense, because that is "unjust."

It was UGLY. And this all trickles down to the thugs in the street who walk around in a sea of anger looking for targets. And the rest? Most will sit by while you are beaten on a bus, because you are white, and you've got it coming.

It's a good line, better than admitting cowardice and capitulation to evil.

On Sykes, the only really awful thing I;ve ever heard--and each show--is the ridiculous fanfare intros, most of all the Winston Churchill "finest hour" speech line about The British Empire, Christian Civilization, and lasting 1,000 years.

That puts a white supremacist tone out there all right, and obviously it doesn't take much for many to hear it in all the rest of the show. Plus Charlie's schtick is totally stereotypical white, anal, even whiny straight man (in the older sense of that phrase). The analysis never does go that deep, though it's world better than a Belling or Limbaugh. It does have a certain cultural context rife with anger and frustration, which it feeds.

Anonymous said...

Agh, blog comments are just not the place for serious thought. But I wanted to say Rick, these are good questions, and you are the only con blogger I know of who is putting such thought, time and ability into local political blogging. I am not so sure the medium is worth your time.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to thank Anon for the tone of many of his posts. You also provided an excellent example of the condescending elitist who believe he/she is better than everybody else. I guess the rest of us lowly peasants are just too dumb to make our own decisions and need royalty like you.

Anonymous said...

eXactly, james, yOu are an "eFFective tool" for subsidizing his idea of his perfect world.

Anonymous said...

James, actually, I almost always deal in substance and enjoy a respectful back and forth. And, I tend to find that here more than at any other conservative blog.

But if one wants to spew forth like a fool, their feelings should be hurt by the tone of posts holding them responsible. And, when I say spewing forth like a fool, I don't refer to whether or not I agree with a post; its about whether it contains any substance or whether it is the sort of empty, angry, bumpersticker-like, nonsensical declarations you have posted from time to time.

The fact that you have embarassed yourself doesn't make the folks in front of whom you have done so condescending elitists.

Anonymous said...

"Condescending elitists" -- yeh, I tried to find any of that above, too, and didn't see it. So it's a tipoff that James is just buying into the terms that are considered as constituting discourse on some neo/conservative blogs.

James, this blogger is a conservative, but a thoughtful one. So it's just not the same here as at some blogs where such memes are spewed back and forth like kids in a spitting contest. If you're looking for one, you can find that -- well, that b(&)s.

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 12:16 am wrote:

On Sykes, the only really awful thing I;ve ever heard--and each show--is the ridiculous fanfare intros, most of all the Winston Churchill "finest hour" speech line about The British Empire, Christian Civilization, and lasting 1,000 years.

That puts a white supremacist tone out there all right, and obviously it doesn't take much for many to hear it in all the rest of the show.

That's interesting. Do we have to jettison our western heritage or be seen as white supremacists? That we - black white and brown America - are the product of precisely what Churchill was referring to seems undeniable. That tradition has its worts, although I'd argue that it has, on the whole, been a singular force for human advancement. Remember that Sykes also plays an intro from King's speech at the March on Washington - remarks that are themselves based in Christian civilization.

I understand why some folks are sensitive to that kind of thing, although I wonder if that sensitivity has outlived its usefulness.

DK - Thanks for the kind remarks. I actually think there are many blogospheres. I try to live in the one that will have me. Perhaps someday you'll join us.

Dad29 said...

What the Biskupic prosecution proved is that Congress can't write laws which are clear.

And because the law dealt with corrupt practices, that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Anonymous said...

Is having some taste and respect with how a heritage is used "jettisoning" it?

I'm sure most people are too ignorant to have any significant or predictable response to the Churchill, but the main offense for me is tearing it from a meaningful context and slapping it into the Sykes fanfare, whatever great civilizational triumph it represents. It's like offering good wine at Burger King. Particularly that historical moment for the British, now canned audio spam. It is trivializing.

It is also profoundly ironic. TMJ and an endless sea of blog comments belch forth the comments of "conservatives" time and time again who wish to announce they are leaving the city, left long ago, won't go to Brewers' games due to black thugs shooting people everywhere. Does not a response to them apply here akin to the one frequently offered liberals who wish to relocate to Canada or France?

Cheese-eating surrender monkeys: leave and silence yourselves or deal with it.

Or take simply the endless outrage with this tax policy or that. Does it ever produce a single assertive political act?

I see nothing to resemble the brains, fortitude and resolve of 1776 or 1940 on either side of the Atlantic among the regional "conservative" rabble.

I doubt my pragmatic rhetorical point is lost to you either--how "British Empire" equated with "Christian Civilization" lasting for "1000 years" sounds to people with basic grasp of non-triumphalistic versions of history, or the new testament.

Try bringing it up sometime on WMCS.

Prudential judgments are often made based on the sensitivities of people who will never get over them. It's not necessary to tread on every foot in the path.

On your comment system here, it is possibly malfunctioning. I've had trouble getting posts to "take."

Re. blogging, I've done enough of that in many places in the past. many times. I'm focusing the hobby more now on multi-user sites for citizen journalism, community organizing, and generally helping get some good little things done at the neighborhood level. Less opinion, stuff people can agree about, mostly.

Rick Esenberg said...


That's a bit more of what I had in mind.

Certainly some taste and respect regarding what is, at some rather significant levels, our common heritage is in order, but the criticism has to go beyond the mere fact that it is invoked. While prudence is certainly a virtue, there is also a point at which a thing, call it sensitivity or prudence, becomes substantive. Deciding to omit references to the strengths of western culture because it has it's dark side is hardly neutral. We have a lot of the stuff that both the left and right hold dear because of those dead white males.

I'm guessing you agree with that but believe that, on talk radio, one of the problems is that this tradition is invoked by people who, as you imply, aren't really interested in a solution. I think that misreads some of the people you may be referring to, but it is not an unfair observation regarding some conservative responses to urban issues. There are areas in which outrage is a needed response, but it is hardly a sufficient one.

At a certain level, its hard to argue with the Burger King reference. Talk radio isn't Commentary or the New York Review of Books (although,ironically, Sykes is one the local MSM pundits who probably keeps up with that stuff), so you can always point to a certain degree of oversimplification and lack of nuance. My own view is that, while Sykes and McBride are certainly not - and cannot - run on the air graduate seminars, they are no less sophisticated than WPR (which can't run one either).

But doesn't that also suggest that the BK reference is a bit unfair?

I worry that, if you do not buy into 40 years of things that haven't worked or fail to make proper obeisance to the peculiar etiquette that we have thrown up around issues of race and poverty, you are presumed to be acting in bad faith. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think this is behind a lot of the dismissal of the TMJ crew. People point to things like Sykes referring to what everyone who has been around the Milwaukee County court house for the past 25 years can recognize as a culture of ennui and entitlement as the "dark side" and then argue that this is a coded racial message. Forgive me if I find this less than compelling.

Blogger's comment verification does suck. Actually, I think that whole technology of copying the scribbled letters is weak. I'd like to turn it off but, the last time I did, I got come-ons for porn. Maybe I'll try again.

Anonymous said...

Anon, did you really address the questions Rick asked in the original post?
Rick, IF he did, could you not recreate the answers without the last paragraph?

"I love nothing more than finding a conservative who believes that conservative policies will lead to a better world rather than lib policies; I think the spirited debate is both educational and entertaining..."

I like that too from a conservative stand point. NO LIB has put any answer whatsoever to the original questions, only righty opinion clap-trap on what they think LIBs think or off topic babble.

I think what Sykes spews usually makes a lot of sense from a common sense angle, regardless of what a Republican would think. Is it slanted? Of course it is, but I can't remember a time when Sykes went off on a McGee except as a reaction to what one has said or done. On the other hand, I rarely think Paul Christofferson makes sense except through a liberal spectacle.

I know there are many, many intelligent beings out there who have actual reasons for being liberal minded. Do any of you actually like where your party is leading you? I know many Conservatives have spoken up about where their leaders have been taking them, in the polls of the last election.
So I added a question to Rick's original one. Any takers?

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with anything you said in response Rick. Yes the "hate" ascribed to Sykes is nuts. Certain "racial" biases (really more a matter of social class and enculturation) come into play, but nothing remotely close to the racialized discourse on a "moderate" urban black station like WMCS. I don't get bugged by that either; it may be mildly frustrating. The one big exception was the Vons show (sans Von) in response to McGee Sr.

I could live with the Churchill if Sykes dropped the Gibson. I mostly find him boring and woefully superficial which is all the worse because he is deep compared to most.

Egh, Blogger isn't even taking my google login most of the time, and it takes two tries to post a comment.