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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
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Phil Donahue: American Pestilence


The good news is that the ratings for Phil Donahue’s MSNBC talkfest were so weak they forced the program’s unceremonious termination; the bad news is that MSNBC gave this raving anti-American, pro-Palestinian leftist a platform in the first place, reconfiguring its entire nighttime lineup around him and terminating the program hosted by the pro-Israel Alan Keyes in the process.

The contrast with Keyes was never more clear than the night when Donahue hosted the Jewish pro-Palestinian activist Adam Shapiro and his Palestinian wife, Huiwaida Arraf, and conducted the interview as if on bended knee — at one point cooing to the couple, “You take our breath away,” and at another gushing, “…Man and wife; holy cow….I’ll tell you, this is unbelievable…”

Donahue’s most recent audience may have been minuscule, but make no mistake: when they look back at the social and cultural meltdown that preceded and ultimately abetted the demise of American civilization, future generations will take special note of the singularly mendacious influence of this pioneer of daytime television talk.

Indeed, it is not too strong a statement to suggest that it was Donahue, more than any other media figure of the 1970’s and 80’s, who softened up the moral underbelly of Middle America, leaving it all too vulnerable to assault by the forces bent on a complete eradication of traditional norms and values.

While it’s true that Donahue was hardly the first and certainly not the last media star to push a particular agenda on a more or less captive audience, he nevertheless was uniquely situated to capture the hearts and minds of the legions of (mostly) women tired of the usual mind-numbing slop routinely served up on daytime television.

And, truth be told, his program, certainly in its earlier years, did stand a few intellectual notches above the spinning wheels and video pulp that littered the landscape of television’s morning and afternoon wasteland.

But in short time the Donahue show became the most slanted and misleading program aired on a regular basis; indeed, a steady diet could leave a viewer wondering whether there was still a solitary well-adjusted Caucasian of moderate taste and modest demeanor to be found anywhere in the country.

Yes, the gang of grotesqueries was all there: A collection of perverts, narcissists and out-and-out psychotics, with Donahue himself in the role of glorified ringmaster presiding over a circus in which specimens of the most exotically deviant lifestyles regularly took center ring, invariably in the company of some trendy sociologist or pop psychologist armed with misleading statistics and glib justifications.

All of the above, it should be noted, occurred years before the onslaught of the talk show vulgarians — Oprah and Sally and Geraldo and Montel and Jerry and Jenny and Ricki, not to mention the dozens of others whose efforts were, mercifully, much more short lived — who focused the attention of critics on the phenomenon that came to be known as “trash TV.”

The phrase may have been coined for the sleazemeisters who followed in Donahue’s wake, but trash TV of the daytime variety had its genesis on the Donahue show — though Phil, in contrast to his television progeny who shamelessly blamed their excesses on an increasingly dumbed-down pool of viewers, shrewdly couched his penchant for the lowest of the lowbrow in the highbrow rhetoric of political correctness, employing the sensitive cadences beloved by liberals:

We’re expanding horizons! Exploring neglected areas of the human condition! Raising society’s level of tolerance! Moral equivalence! Egalitarianism! Multiculturalism uber alles!

Making of a Space Age Liberal

According to his 1980 autobiography, Phil Donahue grew up a rather repressed young man, terribly inhibited and plagued by all manner of monstrous neuroses caused by the strict Catholic ambience of his childhood.

Poor Phil apparently felt shackled by the moral absolutes that informed church doctrine — so much so that his struggle to cast off all traces of his religious upbringing would last well into adulthood.

Then along came the Sixties, wondrous decade of self-indulgent baby boomers

proclaiming that they — not their mothers and certainly not their fathers — knew best about how the world works, or ought to work, and never mind five thousand years of recorded human history and the customs and conventions that developed over millennia.

This flouting of traditional standards, coupled as it was with a sniveling disregard for all forms of authority, found a home in the hearts of college students across the country (not all, or even most, but enough to attract the kind of heavy — and largely celebratory — media coverage that served to permanently identify an entire generation with the burgeoning counterculture).

But callow, college-age youth were not the only Americans to fall under the spell of the anti-establishment, revolution-for-the-hell-of-it pied pipers of the countercultural left; there existed no shortage of adults who, lacking the perspective and wisdom usually associated with age, loudly let it be known that, hey, maybe the kids were on to something.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.


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