For the past quarter of a century, a sizeable segment of the nation’s citizenry, mainly right-wingers, has been conditioned to believe inaccurate political allegations, wild conspiracy theories and just about any story requiring a modicum of thought to impugn—no matter how bizarre. And like greedy TV preachers raising money by preying on the guilt of sinners, a large number of political and media opportunists line their pockets by exploiting the ignorance of the country’s polarized society. A case in point is The Amateur, a book of distortions at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List.
Number two on the best seller list is Cowards, a tome co-authored by sanity-challenged TV and radio personality Glenn Beck—the ex-disc jockey who has gotten rich by fleezing morons. Most of what the self-professed “rodeo clown” writes is predictable. However, the author of The Amateur, Edward Klein, has bona fides that include a Masters Degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism and top editorial positions with Newsweek and the New York Times Magazine—the latter job being one he lost because of his poor judgment.
Despite being fired by the Times, it would seem that Klein has enough brainpower to avoid making up stuff when writing “non-fiction” books. But at the age of 75, perhaps he is a victim of early dementia—although there is no evidence of drool on his manuscript. I’m giving Klein the benefit of a best case scenario in explaining his irresponsibility, a doubtful premise since he previously published another error-filled book titled The Truth About Hillary Clinton. A more likely explanation of Klein’s propensity to distort and lie is he is a smart guy who sees an opportunity to make money by taking advantage of the sour mood of the anti-Obama, anti-Clinton, anti-progressive, anti-government wing of the Republican Party—a suspicion he denies.
In my opinion, much of the winger brainwashing gained momentum beginning in 1988 when ABC Radio provided a national venue for a fat failed disc jockey named Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. For the sixteen years prior to gaining a national forum, he bounced from job to job. Limbaugh dwelled in anonymity before finding a niche as a talk show host. His big serendipitous break occured in 1984 when a Sacramento, California radio station hired him to fill the time slot of syndicated loudmouth Morton Downey, Jr. Serendipity struck again three years later after the Federal Communication Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, paving the way for Limbaugh to say whatever he damn well pleased without having to provide free equal time for opposing views.
By late 1990—two years after his show was nationally syndicated—Limbaugh had cornered nut market. He built an audience of people with nothing better to do but listen to the radio during the hours most folks were working. Based on the responses of Limbaugh’s so-called “ditto-heads,” most of his listeners were too lazy to read books, magazines, newspapers or even think for themselve. Consequently, they were easily led them down a path toward ignorance by the pill-popping college drop-out whose only political affairs expertise was making up facts.
By 1994, Rush Limbaugh had emerge as the “Republican Idol,” an honor bestowed on him by serial adulterer Newt Gingrich—the author of a pamphlet teaching GOP candidates inflamatory words and invective to use against Democrat opponents. Following the takeover of the House of Representatives, Limbaugh was invited to Washington where Gingrich and fellow Republicans bowed down and kissed the ass of talk show host.
Envious of the affection and respect shown Limbaugh, other radio personalities like Sean Hannity adopted policies of lies and distortions that vaulted them to iconic stature as the voices of the far right. Their ranting gave wings to a bogus scandal called Whitewater, led by “Independent” Counsel and closet pornogapher Kenneth Starr. Seven years and $70-million later, Starr and his merry little band of voyeurs exposed President Bill Clinton’s rendezvous with intern Monica Lewinsky and facilitated impeachment for lying about the encounters. Clinton was acquitted in 1998, leaving unanswered the lingering question of whether blow-job is one word, or hyphenated. As a journalist assigned by CNN to investigate the Whitewater farce, I opt for the former.
By then, Fox “News,” aka the Republican Propaganda Network had entered the 24 hour cable news wars and began its winning battle by defeating CNN in the ratings race. But not in the “smarts” race. Surveys disclose that dumbness is the characteristic best defining Fox viewers, a willful ignorance that has seemingly spread to a majority of the Republican Party.
Given the tenor of contemporary politics, it is not surprising that candidates—Republicans and Democrats—are able to distort reality, compromise principles and radically change positions in a blink of the eye under the assumption that their constituencies will not notice, or worse yet, don’t care.
At my age—one year older than the aforementioned Edward Klein—it’s nice to know that I’m a modern man on the left. Indeed, I can name-call just as well as tea-partiers, racists/birthers, and the idiots who depend on Fox “News” and talk radio for their public affairs knowledge.
And I can do it without drooling.
My memoir, Odyssey of a Derelict Gunslinger: A Saga of Exposing TV Preachers, Corrupt Politicians, Right-Wing Lunatics…and Me is available at amazon.com, soft-cover or Kindle and at independent bookstores like the Cottonwood in Baton Rouge. It offers $19.99 worth of laughs and much more. The book is an account of my illustrious (I choose the adjectives) investigative reporting career.