The Old Truths Often Are the Best Truths

Words written in 1963 still perfectly apply in our modern era. The prescient author could have written them yesterday.

Richard Hoftstadter

In 1963, Knopf published Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, by Richard Hofstadter, a distinguished professor of American History at Columbia University. In 1964, the book won the Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction.

Hofstadter, who also is famous for another classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, published in 1964, portrayed in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life an American culture largely inimical to intellectuals, and the process of rationality and speculative thought. In this thoughtful and illuminating book, The parallels to our modern know-nothing society are striking. Consider this passage:

Continue reading

The Voice is the Sound That the Soul Makes

Matthew 7:16: By their fruit you will recognize them.

Stanley Elkin.

Stanley Elkin, one of my favorite authors, wrote this sentence for his novel, The Dick Gibson Show: “The voice is the sound that the soul makes.” This memorable sentence uncovers a simple truth: We can learn a great deal about who people really are by how they speak, and what they say. To illustrate this point, click on the following chilling video of Adolf Hitler, and watch while the Nazi Führer carries on madly at the podium.

Some who listened while Hitler deliver his hateful, histrionic harangues were convinced he was the devil incarnate. One respected international reporter once had a vantage point behind Hitler while the Nazi leader was at the podium. The man swears that he say a violent series of blue electric flames shoot out from the back of Hitler’s head while he was speaking!

Continue reading

A Modern-Day Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy: "I hold here in my hands ... "

I just finished reading an excellent article entitled “The Last Days of Joe McCarthy,” by Richard Rovere, and published by Esquire magazine in its August 1958 edition. At the time, Rovere was the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker. As such, he had a ringside seat at McCarthy’s 1954 Senate censure and the inglorious public denouement of the politician that followed. Rovere continued to cover McCarthy until his death in 1957 due to cirrhosis of the liver. The Wisconsin senator drank himself to death.

What stands out in Rovere’s on-the-scenes print portrayal of this dangerous demagogue, a malevolent frightener and bully from the paranoid, anti-communist, early 1950s (the “McCarthy Era”), is how closely he resembles another modern-day demagogue from the Midwest, Missourian Rush Limbaugh. One notable difference: McCarthy (“Tail Gunner Joe”) actually served in the military during his generation’s war (World War II) while Limbaugh remained safely on the sidelines during that of his generation (the Vietnam War), due to a cyst on his butt (so appropriate). Other than this discrepancy, however, the picture that Rovere paints of McCarthy could quite easily be that of Limbaugh.

Continue reading

Wicked Words

Words count. Some lift us up. Others tear us down. Rush Limbaugh and his radio brethren deal only in the latter variety.

Rush Limbaugh – as ugly as his words.

Here is what the hateful Rush Limbaugh had to say right before the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008: “Now, I am not inspiring or inciting riots. I’m dreaming. (singing to the tune of White Christmas) I’m dreaming of riots in Denver. Remember 1968?”

Then he said, “Riots in Denver at the Democrat convention would see to it we don’t elect Democrats – and that’s the best damn thing could happen for this country as far as anything I can think.”

And then he said, “I mean, if people say what’s your exit strategery, the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”*

Continue reading

Bloody Microphones)

The secret and shameful thought that rattles around inside the little brains of radio demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage: “Freedom of speech allows me to say any crazy, demagogic, incendiary, inflammatory, rabble-rousing, grossly untrue thing I want on the radio, and nobody can shut me up!”

Right-wing radio talk show hosts and shock jocks feel free to say whatever they want during their broadcasts, no matter how provocative, dangerous, irresponsible, and false.

Why is this? The reason could not be more obvious: Such flame-throwing, burn-down-the-house rhetoric boosts their audience ratings and public profiles. As a result, radio demagogues make more money – which is what they are really all about.

Unfortunately, others often pay dearly for their hateful dialogue. Certainly, Gabby Giffords is the latest example of this, no matter how insane Jared Lee Loughner may be. And don’t try to tell me that the hateful rhetoric that spews forth daily from right-wing radio had no effect on Loughner.

Continue reading