By Art Paine
For 20 years I have listened to conservative talk radio. My liberal friends say they sometimes try but can’t tolerate it long. Ever since William F. Buckley (who was at least erudite), I’ve considered it a citizen’s obligation to tune in. Partly that’s because I’m a veteran and, like many veterans, I take it as an ongoing obligation to “support and defend” this country and everything it claims to stand for. Buckley promoted traditional right-leaning ideology, a small portion of which I agreed with. The Fox-backed Voice of Maine channel now airs Glenn Beck in the morning and Rush Limbaugh after noon. If you want to know the wellspring for most of the ideas that are threatening to divide and destroy this country, and making you anxious and depressed, ideas that unquestionably influence the tweets and chaotic outbursts of our President, then listen for yourself! Expect to be shocked.
During the past two years, after Beck finally jumped on the Trump Train, the rhetoric from these two has grown increasingly spiteful, divisive and untrue. A major portion of the thousands of lies now attributed to Trump originated here. Every day raises the bar on dangerous, probably illegal, speech (in terms of inciting violence and riots). As a former serviceman, I realize that rhetoric like theirs would never be tolerated out in the open, in the military. I don’t know law, but I surmise that much of it borders upon treason.
Here is an up-to-date synopsis: Democrats, liberals and inclusive, open-minded folk are lumped together in two words, “The Left.” This hateful faction, it’s claimed, are almost all secretly members of “Antifa” and are predominately Marxists. (I’m admittedly a proponent of liberal thought, but I have never met a compatriot who knows a thing about “antifa” or even what the word really means. As for Marx and Marxism, I think I slept through that college class, although at times I can recall the title of his book.) There are daily warnings that the entire educational system from grade school through college has been co-opted by a “radical leftist agenda.” As to the recent unrest arising out of the latest spate of police killings of Black men, the resultant Black Lives Matter movement and the standoffs against a “militia of patriots” in pickup trucks bearing AK-47s beneath Trump/Pence banners, Rush and Beck define this as a biblical battle as clear as white and black or good versus evil. They often use the “evil” word for “The Left” and not infrequently claim that all of us evil ones are negative on God.
It’s within this concept that they’ve lately introduced the claim that protests in “Democrat run” cities against police brutality, racial bias and gun violence are the opening skirmishes in a “New Civil War.” Glenn Beck mentioned slouching towards this new civil war no less than 20 times in a recent morning program. In fact, the reference to a “war” between the privileged and the disenfranchised, the “Right” and the “Left,” incorporating racial undertones, has been a common theme during the whole past year, especially out of Rush Limbaugh. I suppose this doesn’t upset their advertisers, some of whom advise in favor of concealed carry, home security systems, the stockpiling of gold and a six–weeks supply of freeze–dried food.
The problem is that invoking a false narrative with the authority, charisma and verve of a venerated journalist who maybe actually believes he’s been imbued with “talent on loan from God,” is that hordes of people actually believe him. Take a drive along Route 2 anywhere from Bangor to the New Hampshire border and count the blue signs alongside the road. Then ask yourself, what radio or television channel are all these getting their ideas from?
I fear that Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are playing into the hands of this country’s enemies who are tickled pink about the rise of chaotic division and an apocalyptic drift toward armed violence. Russia probably favored Trump once and may well do again. But they might’ve got even more bang for the buck by supporting super effective broadcasters on rural radio stations. In other places and in other times, uncivil speech in broadcasting has assisted revolution and “uncivil” war.
Makes me wonder. Were either of these men ever in the service? Have they ever been close to war? Do they know the terror of bloody battles, have they experienced personally the horror and pain, their best buddies reduced to a name chiseled on a wall? Even we fortunates of the Vietnam theater have nightmares about what was so close and what might’ve easily been. War is nothing to unleash a loose tongue about.
Our differences are nowhere near the level these powerful voices are spewing vitriol about. All of us, irrespective of our differences in skin tone, origin, beliefs or circumstances, mostly want identical security and happiness, and it’s time people behind the microphones recant and start to consider their right to free speech a privilege as well as a right, and begin to promote harmony.
Advancing the idea of civil unrest, or even war, is beyond dangerous. It is the epitome of being “un-American.”
None dare call it treason. But I do.
Art Paine resides in Bernard