A quick dose of reality over all the jawboning about whether people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Fox News are really causing the things that led to a 22-year-old shooting a Congresswoman in the head and murder six people in cold blood, including a 9-year-old child.
I’m not absolving Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Mark Levine or any of these people (since that’s who the left is –um– targeting) from their daily spewings. But here’s the facts:
The average age of a Fox News viewer: 65 –the oldest audience in cable news. Think I’m picking on Fox? Not really. CNN’s average viewer? 63. MSNBC, 59.
Fox’s viewers are older than the Hallmark Channel. That’s the channel that gets made fun of for it’s geriatric appeal with things like “Matlock” and “Murder, She Wrote” marathons.
The average age of the Rush Limbaugh listener: 67 (and getting smaller, down to 14 million from the 20 to 25 million during the Clinton years. It’s because the audience is aging, and dying.)
That’s not a criticism; it’s just numbers, and they come directly from Neilsen and Arbitron, respectively.
People talk about how the debate on cable news and talk radio is dominating the airwaves. Katie Couric, who supposedly is an abject failure with her evening newscast, has more viewers than O’Reilly, Olbermann and whatever’s on CNN at that time, combined. True.
The fact is not that many people are watching any of this.
So why does it dominate people’s conversations? Because it dominates the columnists’ conversation. The Senators and Congressmen go on these shows so columnists and journalists have to watch them and they think the whole freaking world is watching and that everyone’s political beliefs are being formed by them.
Sadly, in America these days, most people watch whatever or listen to whatever because it conforms to a political opinion they already have. These shows aren’t changing much of anything.
It’s like magazine subscriptions. If you’re conservative you read the National Review or American Spectator. If you’re liberal you read The Nation or Mother Jones.
Recently, the cable companies did a survey. The cable outlets are scared; they’re trying to hold onto people because it’s becoming more common to watch TV on the internet through things like Hulu, or (if the cable company’s lucky), on TiVo. Cable costs money; Hulu is free, so viewers –younger viewers– are cutting the cord to TV –either regular, cable or satellite.
So the survey asked, among other things, what network you can’t live without.
You waiting for Fox News to show up? Here’s the list, in order:
20. The Disney Channel
10. The Food Network
9. Comedy Central
3. Fox Television
Everything else was too small to measure.
Is the debate in this country corrosive. Yes.
Is cable news and talk radio convincing people to kill people? No.
The sad hypocrisy of what’s going on right now. The left is saying it’s the right. The right is saying that’s stupid and insulting to believe that what’s going on in the media convinces anybody to pick up a gun.
Excuse me: Isn’t the right wing saying this all the time about video games? Violence on television? Sex in movies?
Both sides like to believe only the other side is responsible for anything.
The fact of the matter is, we had juvenile delinquency, political assassinations and violent crime long before talk radio, cable news, video games or any of this.
Read your Shakespeare. Half of the plays are about political assassinations.
Again, I’m not absolving people from hate speech.
I’m just saying we have to look deeper. But if you want to see where a 22-year-old is getting his ideas, you look to the internet, not cable TV or Rush Limbaugh.
Read this paragraph from Jacob Weisberg’s column in the online magazine, Slate.
At the core of the far right’s culpability is its ongoing attack on the legitimacy of U.S. government—a venomous campaign not so different from the backdrop to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Then it was focused on “government bureaucrats” and the ATF. This time it has been more about Obama’s birth certificate and health care reform. In either case, it expresses the dangerous idea that the federal government lacks valid authority. It is this, rather than violent rhetoric per se, that is the most dangerous aspect of right-wing extremism.
The article is entitled, “The Tea Party and the Tucson Tragedy: How anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism made the Giffords shooting more likely.”
Look how the sentiment is echoed in the lyrics of this song:
So do your duty, boys, and join with pride
Serve your country in her suicide
Find a flag so you can wave goodbye
But just before the end, even treason might be worth a try
This country is too young to die.
Sound like the kind of right-wing extremism Weisberg is writing about? The song is by Bill Ochs, called “The War is Over.” It’s an anti-war song from 1967.
Former FBI agent Brad Garrett is well known in law enforcement circles. A hostage negotiator for 17 years, he’s the one who got confessions from the first World Trade Center bomber, the D-C sniper, the CIA shooter and on and on. He’s worked so many big murder case in the last 15 years that it earned him the nickname as Dr. Death. His experience tells him what?
All of these things in the media could have some effect on this kid, but they don’t really have the same effect on the rest of us. The average person who goes and watches a violent movie sees it as entertainment.
When you get the people like Jared and others who may be predisposed to be violent for a lot of different reasons, it can sort of legitimize all that for them. It’s not the moviemaker’s fault, it’s not the talk show host’s fault but it does have some effect on people like him.
At the end of the day, these people don’t like anybody. Even if you come into their “positive radar screen” for a while, they will eventually become disappointed and eventually not like you. It’s one of the reasons they end up being so isolated, because they literally cut everybody off and turn people that they may have had a positive relationship with into, “this is just another person who wants to hurt me,” or is ignorant, or whatever. I think that’s what he did with her.
What about the other victims? Why them?
Because he’s not thinking about shooting people. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even remembers shooting a 9-year-old. He just remembers the glory of the gun battle and making his point. The media play into this is that by doing this he knows the media will make him famous. John Wilkes Booth knew that night that he’d be the most famous man in America the next day.
Again, I’m not absolving people from hate speech and nasty rhetoric. I don’t like it, I think words matter, I think civility is important on the air. I’m pretty sure John Wilkes Booth was consumed by the hateful rhetoric of the day, the pamphleteers, the outcome of the Civil War, and maybe that factored into his decision to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. And maybe that can happen again today, but not with this guy, not in the direct way the people on the left claim. The left is just venting about talk radio and Fox News the way they always have, and there’s certainly merit in some of their criticism. But Jared Loughner as an unwitting brainwashed pawn of strident partisan political rhetoric from anyone in the chattering class?