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Posted by on Apr 3, 2008 in Politics | 21 comments

Air America Talk Show Host Randi Rhodes Suspension And The Vulgarization Of American Politics

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We’ve said it before and we will say it again: some (but not all) of liberal and conservative talk radio is seemingly merging now into one big blur of partisan and intra-party demonization — and host and caller rage — that has little to do with political discussion or even show biz: and here, in the middle of Campaign 2008, we now see a glaring example of this in the suspension of Air America talk show host Randi Rhodes.

No, it wasn’t on the air…but it’s a symptomatic extension of the push-the-envelope, ratchet up the political rage talk show radio culture:

Air America radio has suspended talk show host Randi Rhodes for what has been described as an appalling rant against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro.

Rhodes used obscene language in her choice remarks during a March 22 appearance in San Francisco, sponsored by an Air America affiliate station. In a statement issued on the liberal radio network’s Web site, Air America chairman Charlie Kireker said that kind of salty talk has no place in the political dialogue.

“Air America encourages strong opinions about public affairs but does not condone such abusive, ad hominem language by our hosts,” reads the statement by Kireker, issued on Thursday.

What did she actually say? Basically, she used a word that suggested Clinton and Ferraro are in the same class as the high priced ladies resigned New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer used to hang around with.

The Moderate Voice adheres to “newspaper standards” on language (although we occasionally slip). So we’ll pass on embedding the &%@$!-mouthed You Tube, but you can watch it yourself HERE. Enjoy.

There are comical — and quite serious — aspects to this story and what it reflects.

The Los Angeles’ Times blog Top of the Ticket gives this report:

It seems that another public broadcast personality — this time a woman — in the course of “entertaining” a benefit crowd for KKGN, the Air America outlet in San Francisco, called Sen. Hillary Clinton and ex-Rep. Geraldine Ferraro a whole lot of bad words having to do with prostitutes and what, we imagine, they’re supposed to do for that money.

She said that Clinton is a _____ ______. She said Ferraro is also a ______ _________. She also called someone a _____ ________. They are the kind of words and images that get huge laughs when high-priced comedians use them on the _____ stage in Las Vegas, which is a _______ town.

The speaker’s name is Randi Rhodes. (Spelling her first name that way makes her sound like a ____, doesn’t it?) She is — or was — the afternoon host on Air America, the “progressive” radio network that _______ and ______. It’s designed to compete with the much larger array of _____ conservative talk-radio hosts and programs that are ______ and _____. Seriously, if you listen to any in that ______ crowd you must be a ______ ______.

In a statement released today, Charlie Kireker, who is the _____ chairman of Air America, said the _____ network “encourages strong opinions about public affairs.” But apparently it does not condone words like ______, _______, or ______ when applied to public personalities, even if the speaker was _______ not on the air.

Kireker did not use the words _____ or _______. Or even _______.

But the network did suspend that _____ Rhodes indefinitely. Now she can go to work fulltime to support her candidate that ____ ______.

Yet there are some serious issues at play.

For one thing, there’s the issue of what most liberal and conservative talk radio has become.

Who ever would have thought 40 years ago (or 30 years ago) that so many Americans would find it entertainment to listen to an angry male or female host spend three entire hours a day badmouthing, demonizing and blasting the opposing political party and anyone who belongs to it? The only good guys (and gals) are the ones who belong to OUR party; all others have evil motives and are a threat to the country.

For another, Rhodes’ conduct, even though it wasn’t on the air(although it was at an Air America affiliates meeting, which shows she has no sense of corporate propriety), reflects the fact that in American politics (including blogs) some people consider themselves brilliant, witty and perceptive by calling those they don’t agree with names and cussing them out. Forget about points, politics, citing news stories: to some, showing how they feel rather than what they conclude and why equals serious discussion.

In reality, it’s symptomatic of not just the dumbing down of America, but also the vulgarization of America. There seems to be a rush to lower the bar on discussion of issues. And language? Language schmanguage, they’re only words. But didn’t ex-Seinfeld star Michael Richards say something like that when he sandbagged his career in a comedy club in Los Angeles? Words MATTER.

Rhodes increasingly fits in with a certain type of talk show host who gets great ratings by offering huge doses of partisanship and insults. She’s in the same club as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. But who are we to criticize? From the standpoint of radio professsionals, this style of show attracts big audiences that raises increased ad revenues. Once Rhodes’ suspension is over, she’ll get better ratings than ever. Notoriety sells.

Some partisans who don’t like Hillary Clinton will cheer her on — but they wouldn’t if Rhodes had done a #&! rant about Barack Obama. Just as some Republicans might chuckle at Rhodes going off on Clinton but they (and Bill O’Reilly) would be screaming and blogging up a storm if a similar rant had been a potty-mouth diss aimed at John McCain, George Bush or Laura Bush.

In reality, many American reserve their outrage for only when THEIR side or THEIR candidate is impacted, a manifestation of the divisions in America — divisions that talk show radio hosts are paid big bucks to foster, nurture and accentuate so they can draw more and more True Believers into three hour shows telling them what they already agree with and affirming how dangerous those horn-with-pitchfork, ill-intentioned folks on the other side are.

On the other hand, talk radio is playing an increasing role in the U.S. polity. Both left and right wing talk radio have now become vital broadcast town halls where those who have the same party affiliation and think alike can reaffirm their beliefs, get “psyched” to defeat the other side, and mobilize. It helps solidify group think — something needed to win elections.

But, most of all, it gets ratings in America, and the talk radio culture sound bite, mega-confrontational culture has now permeated American politics and the Internet.

Not all talk radio show hosts operate this way, but the ones who do set the Gold Standards for all talkers.

And they’re the ones — with their big audiences and big paychecks — whom aspiring talkers will likely and unfortunately emulate.

SOME WEBLOG REACTION TO THE RHODES SUSPENSION :

Pamela Leavey:

I’ve never been much of a talk radio fan, but I used to enjoy listening to Randi’s show occasionally, until I grew tired of her propensity to attack our own. The misogynistic screed in the video..is astounding, simply astounding.

Quite frankly I think Rhodes should be fired, not suspended. There’s nothing progressive about her in my book — she’s the liberal, female version of Rush Limbaugh on a good day.

skippy (who writes in lowercase);

we’ve enjoyed randi, harking back to her days in miami, and have always encouraged people to listen to her. but this sort of vitriol is the very thing we have been admonishing blogtopia and yes, we coined that phrase, against.

the last thing we need is dems v. dems.

—-Rhymes With Right calls Air America “Air Hyprocisy” and HERE’S WHY.

Allapundit:

This makes twice in the past two months that Rhodes is in trouble for (a) clearly joking (b) about something 90% of the public — including liberals, as you’ll hear from the raucous cheers when she says it — would have little problem with as humor in the course of private conversation. “But AP, she hosts a public talk show!” Yeah, for Air America. It’s like getting mad at Olbermann for accusing McCain of wearing Depends. If Ronald McDonald made a joke about Bush, would you lose sleep over that? As for whether this calls Rhodes’s feminist credentials into question, anyone who’s watched the left go after conservative minorities over their race should know by now that identity politics turns on ideology, not identity. Hillary’s not really a “sister” anymore; if she drops out and leaves poor Barack Obama alone, then — maybe.

Liberal Values:

My first thoughts upon hearing of this were along the lines of “Air America is still in operation?” and “Randi Rhodes is still on the air?” Beyond that, while I would not have used the same language and cannot agree with everything she said, at least Randi Rhodes does not fall into the mind set of knee jerk support for a Democrat because they have a D after their name, even when their views and conduct are very bit as repellent as the Republicans they seek to replace (and emulate). Maybe Randi Rhodes and Samantha Power can team up and form a successful act.

Wake Up America:

After all the outrageous things Randi Rhodes has said and did, she finally went too far even for Air America, an extremely far left liberal radio show, and that is saying something.

What did she do?

….Funny how everything else can go unpunished, but let her insult Hillary and her butt gets kicked to the curb.

Amazing that.

To keep updated on blog reaction to this story go HERE.

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