The recent case of Rush Limbaugh’s rant against the Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke once again highlights the national problem we have with ‘hate radio.’ In the name of free speech, demagogues such as Limbaugh are allowed to run free and say virtually whatever they wish to say irrespective of who they hurt, what misinformation they spread, or the potential consequences of their remarks.
Hate radio is not a new phenomenon in the USA. During the 1930s, the notorious ultraright-wing priest Father Coughlin used radio to spread anti-Semitic nonsense.
Yet what we are currently experiencing feels like Father Coughlin on steroids. Since the 1980s there has been an explosion of hate radio with many of these right-wing ‘commentators’ serving as defacto organizers for right-wing causes, egging their listeners on irrespective of the truth.
In the case of Limbaugh, his attack on Fluke apparently went too far. I say “apparently” because there was a well-deserved counterattack that resulted in him losing sponsors. This should tell us something.
The radio stations that sponsor these hatemongers are looking to make money. If the hatemongers bring in the listeners, the sponsors are happy and the station gets rich. On the other hand, if the sponsors are embarrassed, they will walk away, costing the station money.
So, let’s up the ante. Appealing to the consciences of the radio station owners is to no avail. Even if they have a conscience, they more importantly have a wallet and bank account that they wish to fill. Attempting to explain the immorality of these hatemongers to the radio station owners is a waste of our breath. Going after the sponsors, however, might meet with different results particularly if we do it in a concerted fashion.
In your state, try an experiment. Identify a particular radio hatemonger. Do research to find out who are the key sponsors of this hatemonger’s program. Get together with some friends who share your antipathy toward this demagogue.
Begin a campaign, quietly at first, by going to important community institutions to get them to sign on to a request that a sponsor(s) pull their support from the demagogue’s radio program.
Listen for a scream
If the sponsor agrees to pull their support, make that big news and encourage your friends and community members to support that sponsor. If the sponsor declines to withdraw their support from the demagogue, begin a very public boycott of any and all products of that sponsor. When you hear them scream, you will know that you have won.
This approach has worked in the past and it will continue to work. We just have to be determined.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is executive editor of BlackCommentator.com and is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.