Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wait, who hates America?

The New York Times reports today on forest fires in California that have forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes. Many, doubtlessly, have lost everything they own to the flames: the homes in which they were raised, their photographs and memories, family heirlooms, anything they did not have time or room to carry with them as they fled the approaching fires. In most cases, a tragedy such as this would inspire sympathy. But since California is a "blue state" and many of the fire's victims were doubtless Democrats, the devastation is a cause for gloating for some on the Right. Popular conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck, for instance, had this to say about the fires:

"I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."
Now, to reiterate, Glenn Beck is a right-wing talk show host. So just like Rush Limbaugh, who was never admonished for referring to anti-war veterans as "phony soldiers," you can expect that Beck will suffer no adverse consequences for expressing these vile sentiments. The sad fact is that a media conglomerate will only sanction a host if his audience is appalled by what he says and demands corrective action. That's why Don Imus was fired from CBS and MSNBC when he made shameful, racist remarks about African American basketball players on a women's basketball team. Many of Imus' listeners were liberals or political moderates, and they demanded some sort of accountability. But right-wing radio is different. Its listeners feed on hatred, invective, bile, xenophobia, homophobia and just about any form of bigotry one can imagine. So not only did Beck fail to enrage his listeners when he suggested that California residents were getting exactly what they deserved as they stood helplessly by and watched horrified while flames engulfed their homes, Beck no doubt was expressing what many of them were also thinking.

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