Monday, August 02, 2004

Near-Racism on Talk Radio

As someone who actually listens to right wing talk radio, who appreciates much of the humor even while I may disagree with the hosts occasionally, I'm usually one of the first people to defend talk radio from the litany of charges it frequently receives - it's racist, sexist, homophobic, part of a vast brain-washing conspiracy by Clear Channel to make you vote for Bush, etc. Depending on the show, it's no more, and no less, thought-provoking than what you hear on National Propaganda Radio (which I also listen to religiously), but the biases are acknowledged here, so you know what you're getting.

That said, there are some talk show hosts who actually do fit the standard litany of charges, such as Michael Savage and Jay Severin. Last week, I had the misfortunate of discovering more of the same. I listen, on earbud headphones, to radio over the internet while I do mindless data entry. I recently checked out 950 AM KPRC, a station out of Houston. I had heard of Glenn Beck, but never listened to him before, and aside from knowing that he was conservative, really didn't know what to expect. I don't know if this will apply to him personally, but the two people who sat in for him had to be some of the most bigotted assholes I've ever heard on the radio.

Their names are "John and Ken," and apparently they have a regular show that airs in the Los Angeles market. I listened for over an hour, and Jesus, I wish I had that hour back. All I got was a litany about how horrible it is for the Mexicans to be crossing the border, coming to America, and how easy it would be for Arab terrorists to blend in with them to cause us harm. ('Cause, you know, when it comes down to it, all brown people are alike...) They spoke highly of efforts of militia groups to stop Mexicans from coming, arresting CEO's of companies than hired "illegals," and basically took Mexican immigration to be the single biggest security issue we, as Americans, face. I wanted to hurl by the time I finally found something else to listen to. Someone pointed out that it would actually be much easier for terrorists to cross through Canada than through Mexico, and they laughed at that idea, again appealing to the idea that Arabs and Mexicans look so much alike, and that coyotes would easily assist any Arab who paid them to take them across.

Ugh... I don't even know if I should dignify their ignorance by refuting their claims. I'll just say that the strange thing about Mexicans is that they, like most people, just want to earn an honest living, and that the economic freedom America offers makes that possible here in a way that it will never be in Mexico, so long as their government remains corrupt and statist. They enrich our economy, like immmigrants always have since the country's founding, and most of them wouldn't come here if wasn't for the fact that they like the American way of life and the American dream, and wanted to pursue it.

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that what they say about teeming Mexican hordes on the border, aiding and abetting al-Qaeda and other Middle Eastern terrorists, is virtually indistinguishable from what people used to say a century ago about the teeming hordes of Europe. Xenophobes then, too, feared terrorism - anarchist terrorism, which claimed the life of a US President and countless scores in riots and other outbreaks of violence. (Nothing quite on the level of 9/11, nor anything to compare with weapons of mass destruction, but between the assassination of a President and the cumulative total of dead from riots, I can't imagine the state of fear stoked native-born Americans was much different).

And they believed that the immigrating Europeans were bringing their anarchist and Marxist terrorism with them. I wonder how deep these parallels go, but I imagine that they are ominous enough. All we need now is a Mexican Sacco & Vanetti...

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