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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

2/29/12: Will Israel’s Supreme Court Tilt Right Under New Chief?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

JERUSALEM – It ordered the West Bank security fence rerouted because it cut through private Palestinian property. It overturned state-backed discrimination against Arab Israelis on issues of land distribution and ruled against the Israel Defense Forces’s use of military methods deemed to cause “disproportionate” harm to Palestinian civilians. It overturned Israel’s ban against political parties said to be too “radical.”

And just last week it ruled that the Tal Law, which grants exemptions to haredi Israelis from Israel’s military draft so they can study in yeshiva, is unconstitutional.

These are just some of the Israeli Supreme Court decisions that have changed the way Israel does business during the tenure of justice Dorit Beinisch, Israel’s first female chief of the court.

The Supreme Court’s interventionist approach – with its strong emphasis on protecting minority rights – was pioneered by Aharon Barak, who served as the court’s president (the Israeli equivalent to chief justice) between 1995 and 2006. But Beinisch, who is retiring from the court this week after serving since December 1995, upheld the tradition of judicial activism, keeping the court at the center of Israeli public debate and making it a lightning rod for Orthodox and right-wing critics.

That could change as Beinisch, who turned 70 on Tuesday, steps down and is replaced by Asher Grunis, a conservative justice who has made a name for himself as a supporter of judicial restraint.

“There is a huge difference between Grunis’s approach and that of Barak and Beinisch,” said Barak Medina, dean of Hebrew University’s law department. “If the Supreme Court were to move in Grunis’s direction, it would be a 180-degree turnaround.”

In recent months, critics of the court have stepped up their efforts to curtail the court’s power. Lawmakers from the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu parties – supported by Justice Minister Ya’acov Ne’eman, a critic of judicial activism – have recommended a slew of reforms aimed at changing the way justices are appointed. Perhaps the most far-reaching proposal is to take away the court’s veto over justice appointments and give all the power over appointments to the Knesset.

Israel’s highest court has 15 members, though only some of the judges are assigned to each case.

Critics of the court argue that the present system for selecting justices results in a court comprised largely of like-minded figures who seek the appointment only of those who share their ideological agenda, which they charge is pro-human rights and left wing.

The court’s defenders say that in Israel’s fractious society, where the Knesset frequently shirks its responsibility to protect religious pluralism, civil liberties and the rights of Palestinians, the court has no choice but to fill the moral and legal vacuum. Maintaining an independent judiciary, they say, serves as a counterweight against the danger that a “tyranny of the majority” tramples the rights of those who are not properly represented by the political system. Increasing politicians’ role in choosing judicial nominees would destroy a necessary balance of powers.

Though its critics accuse the court of ideological bias, the court’s rulings are far from one-sided.

In December, for instance, the court rejected a petition by the Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Gvul against Israeli quarries operating in the West Bank, which the Palestinians claim as their future state. And in January, the court upheld the Citizenship and Entry Law, which severely restricts the right of Palestinians married to Israelis to receive Israeli citizenship.

So far, none of the reformist motions have passed, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sided with the more liberal-minded members of his party – ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin – against the court’s opponents within his own party and beyond.

But with Beinisch stepping down, change could come through an evolutionary process that might bring about a conservative shift in Israel’s supreme arbitrator of justice. Grunis’s support for judicial restraint was demonstrated in a recent Supreme Court ruling that rejected extension of the Tal Law, which was passed in 2002. Grunis was the only justice on the expanded nine-person panel who argued on principle that the court should not interfere with an issue best left up to lawmakers (though two additional justices opposed intervention for other reasons).

Grunis and other more conservative-minded jurists have argued that too much judicial activism involves the court in controversy and increases the chances that justices will appear politically partial, which can lead to a deterioration of the court’s strength and legitimacy.

By contrast Beinisch, who has served as the court’s president since September 2006, was among the six justices who ruled that the Tal Law was “unconstitutional” because it discriminated against Israelis who were drafted into the IDF. Israel lacks a formal constitution, but several Basic Laws, which protect human rights, have quasi-constitutional status in the eyes of the court.

While Grunis, 56, opposes Beinisch’s judicial activism and would like to reduce the number of petitions the court hears from parties that lack legal “standing” (i.e. are not personally affected), it is far from clear that Grunis will be able to transform the 15-member court.

Long-Delayed Death Of A Bad Dude

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

In the 1980s, I was an unrefined adolescent from blue-collar Butler, Pennsylvania. I knew nothing and cared nothing about politics. I had no idea if I was a conservative or a liberal, Democrat or Republican, or much of anything else.

But I knew one thing: Muammar Khaddafi was a bad dude.

And now, three decades later, and some 40-plus years after coming to power, he is gone, dispatched to the ash heap of history with other murderous terrorists and dictators: Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin.

I will not here add to reports of how Khaddafi met his final fate, but I would like to share a valuable piece of information that was revealed to me by Bill Clark, Ronald Reagan’s right-hand man and national security adviser when Khaddafi was ramping up in the 1980s.

It was early 1981. President Reagan had just been inaugurated. Alexandre de Marenches, the director of France’s external intelligence agency, SDECE, came to the White House with a highly sensitive plan to remove Khaddafi. The plan was to assassinate the Libyan dictator during a parade, by use of an explosive device placed near the reviewing stand.

“Our answer,” said Clark, “was that we understood their feelings toward the man, but we don’t do assassinations.”

That was because there was an executive order banning assassinations, first signed by President Gerald Ford and supported by President Carter. The Reagan team had no intention of violating the order as one of the first acts of the new administration.

Intelligence sources I consulted confirmed Clark’s recollection of de Marenches’ request.

“He came over to the U.S., probably in early February 1981,” said one source, a high-level CIA “operations” person. “His interlocutor was Vice President Bush. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the removal of Khaddafi. He came to try to get us involved operationally in the plan…. He wanted not just our moral or political support but to get us involved in the actual operation.”

This same source pointed to the “Safari Club,” which was a group of countries – France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the Shah’s Iran – that had banded together for two primary purposes: 1) to fight the spread of Soviet communism in Africa; and 2) to counter Khaddafi, particularly his adventures in neighboring Chad.

The group was formed by intelligence ministers in the mid-1970s, and de Marenches was its catalyst. The group was appalled by America’s unwillingness to no longer stand up to the Soviets; it was post-Watergate, post-Vietnam, Americans had elected an incredibly liberal Congress, and Jimmy Carter was president. The Club sought to fill the vacuum.

De Marenches’ offer concerning Khaddafi was consistent with the concerns of the Safari Club.

As an indication of the confidential nature of his overture, de Marenches did not discuss his offer to the Reagan administration in either of his 1986 and 1992 books. But he did note yet another intention to kill Kaddafi: He said that on March 1, 1978, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had asked de Marenches for help in “disposing of him [Khaddafi] physically.”

Think of the irony here, and how tragically history unfolds: It was Sadat who would be assassinated, in October 1981. He was killed at a reviewing stand at a parade, shot by Islamists for his “crime” of making peace with Israel.

While Sadat died, Khaddafi was permitted to live. Sadat made peace. Khaddafi left a trail of blood and violence.

And here’s another irony still: Just weeks after de Marenches’s offer to Reagan to assassinate Khaddafi, Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981, and nearly bled to death.

Why Glenn Beck Scares Israeli Leftists

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Israeli radical leftists have long had an intense hatred for American conservatives, who are almost all pro-Israel. Actually, Israeli leftists hate American conservatives precisely because conservatives are pro-Israel.
 
As is the case in most other countries, radical leftists in the Jewish state are anti-Israel in addition to being anti-American.
 
Israeli leftists insist that overseas supporters of Israel who are conservative should be shunned. Israeli leftists insist that Israel should only allow itself to be befriended by foreign leftists. Never mind that the search for pro-Israel foreign leftists is about as productive as the search for human life on other planets. The left outside of Israel is almost entirely anti-Israel, and foreign liberals are by and large (though not entirely) anti-Israel as well.
 
Israeli leftists want foreign pro-Israel conservatives to be regarded as personae non gratae by Israel. A few years back, Amiram Goldblum, a professor at Hebrew University and a founder of Peace Now, called upon Israeli officials to prevent American evangelical Christians from entering Israel. He objected to them because they are too pro-Israel. The Israeli left is outraged that Israeli cable TV carries Fox News, because it is pro-Israel. The anti-Israel BBC and CNN, however, are fine.
 
            The most dramatic manifestation of the Israeli left’s hatred of pro-Israel foreign conservatives was evident in the severity of the Beckaphobia we’ve seen in recent days.
 
Glenn Beck was in Israel last week (he has been here a lot in recent months) for one purpose only – to support Israel. He is an outspoken and well-spoken American conservative. His political opinions are solidly conservative and you cannot listen to his recent speech in Jerusalemwithout being convinced of the sincerity of his love for Israel and solidarity with Jews. You might even be moved to tears (from his citing the Book of Ruth, for instance).
 
The Israeli left has been jihading like crazy against Beck. Yossi Sarid, the ex-head of the semi-Marxist Meretz party, crayoned an op-ed demonizing Beck (just recently Sarid published an op-ed in Haaretz claiming Israel fought the Six-Day War out of a Nazi-like quest for Lebensraum – his word). Sarid was joined by lots of left-wing Haaretz writers in Beck-bashing. And even the normally sensible Maariv editor Ben-Dror Yemini decided to gripe about Beck. Naturally, Peace Now denounced the decision to allow Beck into the country.
 
The leftists demanding that Beck be regarded as persona non grata are almost without exception the same people who protested when Israel denied inveterate Israel bashers Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomskyand Richard Falkentry into the country. The lesson is clear – the left’s mantra is really this: Israel, hate it or leave it.
 

Meanwhile, Israeli patriots loved Beck and many attended his rallies. Caroline Glick wrote in The Jerusalem Post:

 

Beck is rare, because he refuses to bow to the intellectual intimidation and groupthink that plagues the discourse on Israel in Israel itself and throughout the world . Unlike the leftist public intellectuals such as New York Timescolumnist Tom Friedman who are celebrated and obsessively covered by the Israeli media, Beck exerts real influence on public opinion in the U.S. His calls for action are answered by hundreds of thousands of people. His statements are a guidepost for millions of Americans. Aside from radio host Rush Limbaugh, no media personality in the U.S. has such influence. It is highly significant that thousands of Beck’s supporters followed his call and came with him to Israel for a week to express their support for Israel and the Jewish people. It is similarly significant that millions more of his supporters followed his actions on Internet.

 

Beck, of course, is also the right-winger American left-wingers most love to hate. He is perhaps the only TV and radio personality who can upset the left even more than Rush Limbaugh does. But those who hate Beck, in almost all cases, also hate Israel. True,  some liberal American Reform rabbis denounced Beck for criticizing George Soros, but if anything, Beck should carry their condemnation as a badge of valor.
 
Some American Jewish liberals squirm when Beck’s name is mentioned because they have a problem with Mormons. Give me a nice team of Mormons any day over liberal Jewish pseudo-clergypersons preaching that Judaism is really “social justice” and pursuing a liberal political agenda.
 

Mormons may invite you to join their faith and pray for you to do so. Liberal Reform rabbis often misrepresent Judaism and are guilty of chillul Hashem (sacrilege). I feel fine with the former. And I salute Glenn Beck.

 

 

 

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

The Medved Alternative

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
            If you’re a conservative who’s tired of the increasingly cartoonish yawping coming from the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Savages of talk radio, you might want to check out Michael Medved’s nationally syndicated program (heard in the New York area on WNYM 970 from 3-5 p.m. weekdays and 3-6 a.m. Sundays).
            Medved, a conservative who refuses to see the world in one-dimensional terms, is the author of several books, notably the mega-sellers What Really Happened to the Class of ’65?, an anecdotal account of suburban Los Angeles baby-boomers coming of age; Hollywood Vs. America, a searing indictment of the entertainment industry, and Right Turns, a political/spiritual autobiography.
            Born in Philadelphia and raised in San Diego, Medved currently resides in the Seattle area. In an interview with the Monitor for a profile some years ago, he described his upbringing as having been traditionally Jewish but not Orthodox.
            “My family belonged to Conservative synagogues,” he said, “and my mother always felt guilty about not keeping a kosher home, which she had done until I was about six. But I remember feeling when I was a teenager that my parents were old-fashioned and tribal, and way too Jewish.”
            Fascinated with politics from a young age, Medved said he was more or less a typical 1960s liberal – active in the antiwar movement, a worker in Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and a supporter of George McGovern four years later – though never one of the era’s self-styled student revolutionaries preaching the evils of capitalism while living off generous allowances and trust funds.
            But a new interest in Judaism – “during a six-month period,” he said, “I went from a position in college where I saw my parents as too Jewish to one where I saw them as not Jewish enough” – coincided with a decidedly rightward drift in Medved’s politics.
            In 1973 he became a Sabbath observer and joined an Orthodox congregation, experiences touched on in What Really Happened to the Class of ’65? and explored more substantially in Right Turns. At about the same time he began to seriously question the political wisdom of liberals who were so vociferously condemning U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union.
            In addition to being repulsed by the moral equivalency argument advanced by liberal intellectuals inclined to apportion equal blame for the cold war or, worse, paint the U.S. as the prime culprit, Medved was appalled by those whom he saw as hawkish on Israel but dovish on everything else.
            “It seemed very hypocritical to me,” he said, “for anyone – especially anyone claiming to be Jewishly committed – to call for more and more military aid to Israel while at the same time being opposed to American defense spending and the U.S. military in general. That kind of hypocrisy, not to mention shortsightedness, really got to me.”
            It was only a matter of time before Medved’s evolving political views led to a switch in party allegiance. The last Democrat he supported for president was the late Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1976 primaries.
            Medved graduated with honors from Yale before going on to Yale Law School and working as a screenwriter in Hollywood and a film critic for CNN and theNew York Post. His greatest visibility before he began his radio career came from his twelve-year stint as co-host of “Sneak Previews,” the movie-review show on PBS.
Medved’s radio program reaches an audience of nearly 5 million. Though the show is primarily about politics and current events, listeners often call or write to tell him how much they’ve learned from the show about Jews and Judaism.
             Something else they learn is that not all Jews share the ritualistic liberalism promulgated by the secular Jewish establishment. For many listeners, Medved is one of the few Jews they’ve seen or heard in the media whose views aren’t lifted verbatim from the editorial page of The New York Times or the platform of the Democratic Party.

             For conservatives who prefer to think rather than be yelled at, Michael Medved offers a smart alternative on the radio dial.

 

 Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Jews On The Rise In Conservative ‘New Media’

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Many reviews already have appeared of “The Undefeated,” the soon-to-be-released documentary about Sarah Palin’s tenure in Alaska. Yet none of them – even in The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post or Politico.com – mentions that nearly all of the film’s many pro-Palin media talking heads are Jews.

The dominant meme that Jews as a group are uncomfortable with Palin or her views seems less than convincing after viewing prominent Members of the Tribe defend her politics and record in elected office. Internet news mogul Andrew Breitbart, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Mark Levin and L.A.’s radio phenom Tammy Bruce all deliver full-throated tributes to one of America’s most conservative political figures.

Following a recent Manhattan screening of the director’s cut of “The Undefeated,” I mentioned this to filmmaker Stephen Bannon. He replied that he had not taken note of their Jewishness in choosing to include them. That in itself is significant: Jews have become so commonplace in the conservative “new media” that the fact of their Jewish identity fails to garner much notice.

One reason may be that Jews tend to be “early adopters” of innovations and were present at the birth of the conservative new media.

Start with Maryland-born muckraker Matt Drudge, the granddaddy of the conservative new media. Since his website’s launch in the mid-1990s, the Drudge Report has retained its place at the top of the new media right and now averages an astounding 30 million “hits” daily, or close to a billion a month. It has a huge influence in setting the agenda for national talk radio and for the conservative commentariat in general.

But Drudge’s influence doesn’t stop there. A Washington Post editor recently conceded that 10 percent to15 percent of his newspaper’s daily online traffic is driven by links from Drudge.

Soon after, conservative voices began emerging within explicitly Jewish new media precincts themselves, notably the pioneering Jewish World Review, started in the late 1990s by Binyamin Jolkovsky, and IsraelNationalNews.com, an organ of the settlement movement, which had also operated a pirate radio network.

Jews are also playing a prominent role in conservative talk radio. Besides Levin and Bruce, and the top-rated Michael Savage, two of the national talk hosts on the Salem Radio affiliate where I broadcast – Dennis Prager and Michael Medved – are Jewish, and both serve on the board of the GOP-oriented Jewish Policy Council, along with a third Salem host, Bill Bennett, who “happens to be a Catholic.”

The nation’s largest talk station, New York’s WABC – home base for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin – now features a highly rated Sunday program with investigative journalist Aaron Klein, who once edited the Yeshiva University Commentator and now reports from Tel Aviv, and for about a year featured Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (politically centrist, but with an Orthodox point of view), who got his start as a Lubavitch emissary, founding the immensely popular L’Chaim Society at Oxford University.

Recent years also have witnessed the emergence of a whole class of crusading Internet journalist-activists, many of them Jews, such as Klein, who is also senior correspondent for the mega-site WorldNetDaily.com and a weekly columnist for The Jewish Press, anti-Islamist activist Pamela Geller (AtlasShrugs.com) and repentant “Radical Son” David Horowitz (FrontPageMag.com).

Probably the most high profile of these crusaders today is Breitbart, a leading publisher of conservative websites such as BigGovernment.com (focusing on national politics), BigPeace.com (foreign policy), BigHollywood.com (the film industry) and BigJournalism.com (the Fourth Estate). It was Breitbart who pursued the Anthony Weiner affair and caused the corruption-tainted voter and housing activist group ACORN to lose billions in federal funding.

Industry insiders say Breitbart is now looking to launch a site that would be devoted to Middle East coverage named – what else? – BigJerusalem.com.

Another important development is the shift of Jewish “old media” conservatives to new media platforms. William Kristol is now better known as a Fox News commentator than in his role as founding editor of The Weekly Standard. Charles Krauthammer also reaches a far larger audience at Fox than as a syndicated columnist based at The Washington Post. Jennifer Rubin, formerly of Commentary, now reaches a much larger readership with her Right Turn blog at The Washington Post, and Jonathan Tobin, recently the executive editor of Commentary, has transitioned to being full-time editor of the magazine’s “Contentions” blog.

President Palin?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Last week’s column, on the declining popularity of several of talk radio’s most prominent conservative hosts, seems to have ruffled more than few feathers. Even some readers who in the past have agreed with the Monitor virtually down the line took issue this time – but, interestingly enough, not on the subject of talk radio hosts.
No, the umbrage – ranging from polite demurral to vehement disagreement – was directed at a parenthetical comment about Sarah Palin.
“Really,” I had asked, “how many times in a given hour can a listener with an IQ above room temperature abide hearing how Ronald Reagan was a precursor of today’s Tea Party activists (he was nothing of the kind) or how Sarah Palin is Abe Lincoln in heels (she is nothing of the sort)?”
My take on Sarah Palin is similar to what I feel about talk radio. When I hear a snooty liberal trash Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Palin, I immediately get defensive and want to go to war because I’m inherently sympathetic to much of what Limbaugh or Hannity or Palin stand for.
But when I think about it rationally, I have to admit that Limbaugh and Hannity have become boring and predictable and at times a little careless with facts. (And I think Hannity actually had a better show on Fox when Alan Colmes was there as the putative co-host – it gave Hannity a liberal foil to play off of).
Likewise, while it pains me to write this because I appreciate her deep support of Israel and detest the barrage of attacks launched against her by the mainstream media from the moment John McCain introduced her to America as his vice-presidential pick, Sarah Palin is in no way qualified to be president of the United States.
People joke about Barack Obama being disconcertingly dependent on a TelePrompter, but he’s generally able to answer questions and talk off the cuff without making the listener cringe. Sarah Palin has a real problem answering the most basic of questions in even a semi-coherent manner.
            Palin’s responses to interviewers make her seem vacuous and totally uninformed – if you disagree, there’s plenty of evidence available to prove you wrong on YouTube, where her stupefying responses to the likes of Charles Gibson and Katie Couric are available in all their gruesome glory.
            While some conservative pundits were willing to break ideological ranks in the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign and question Palin’s credentials, it’s only in recent months, with the 2012 presidential contest coming into view, that there has been a really noticeable surge in publicly voiced anti-Palin sentiment on the right.
            As the editors of the ConservativeHome website wrote last month, after making note of the various economic and foreign-policy crises facing the country, “[W]e need a strong, serious decisive leader on the Republican ticket in 2012. Let’s face it. Sarah Palin is clearly not that leader. She’s fun. She’s attractive. She’s appealing. She’s down-home. She’s got a populist vibe. She shoots animals. But she’s clearly not presidential timber. Not in times like these.”
   Former Republican congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough (“Morning Joe”) asked, “What man or mouse with a fully functioning human brain and a resume as thin as Palin’s would flirt with a presidential run? It makes the political biography of Barack Obama look more like Winston Churchill’s.”
   To conservative columnist Mona Charen, Palin “would be terrific as a talk-show host – the new Oprah. But a presidential candidate? Someone to convince critical independent voters that Republicans can govern successfully? Absolutely not.”
   Janet Daley, a conservative columnist for the (London) Telegraph, wrote that “The virulent attacks on her from the liberal establishment [in 2008] reminded me uncannily of that mix of misogyny and snobbery which had been thrown at Margaret Thatcher, and if only for that reason, I was inclined to defend her. But enough is enough. She is not another Thatcher – nor is she another Reagan. She does not have the experience and substance of a Romney or the genuine warmth and charm of a Huckabee.”

   The last word this week goes to George Will, who said that after 2008, Palin “had to go home and study, had to govern Alaska well. Instead, she quit halfway through her first term and shows up in the audience of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and other distinctly non-presidential venues.”

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Twilight Of The Radio Gods?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
The interview with John Batchelor on the front page of this week’s Jewish Press should clarify, for anyone who still doesn’t get it, why Batchelor’s show is thriving while many of talk radio’s erstwhile Big Names suffer declining ratings.
Batchelor’s answers to interviewer Sara Lehmann’s questions offer a marked contrast to the prefabricated, often inane, talking points endlessly repeated by too many right-wing hosts. Really, how many times in a given hour can a listener with an IQ above room temperature abide hearing how Ronald Reagan was a precursor of today’s Tea Party activists (he was nothing of the kind) or how Sarah Palin is Abe Lincoln in heels (she is nothing of the sort) before feeling the need to slam the radio against the nearest wall?
In the introduction to her interview with Batchelor, Lehmann quotes from an article by John Avlon. In that piece, radio executive Randall Bloomquist, referring to the drop in listeners experienced by the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, tells Avlon, “if we ever want to grow, if we want to expand, we’ve got to be doing more than 18 hours a day of ‘Obama is a socialist.’ “
The Monitor saw this coming three years ago. In a piece written for Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog, your always modest correspondent vented his frustration with the way conservative radio hosts were treating John McCain even as it was becoming obvious that McCain stood a better than fair chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination later that year.
“The relentless pounding of McCain,” I wrote, “while certainly popular with some conservatives, has elicited a growing backlash among others, with a number of conservative bloggers expressing disdain for the tactics of Limbaugh and company – some of them saying they can no longer bring themselves to listen to the very voices that for so long had constituted a focal point of their day.”
I admitted to knowing that feeling, noting that my own personal moratorium on Limbaugh and Hannity (I’d listened only sporadically, and never enthusiastically, to the various other hosts who had taken to treating McCain as though he were a Trotskyite trying to crash a conservative ball) began in stages, since old habits and loyalties do die hard.
I’d begin each day thinking that maybe the attacks on the senator would at long last start to diminish, in number if not intensity. But within minutes of either host opening his show the sliming would pick up right where it had left off the day before, with little or no regard for nuance or perspective. I’d switch to sports talk for an hour or so before returning to Limbaugh or Hannity, only to once again find myself muttering at the radio and reaching for the dial.
I noted that while “talk radio has, with rare exceptions, always been the thinnest of intellectual gruel, the rise of conservative talkers – which took place in the years just before the Internet changed everything about the way we consume news – was a galvanizing event for those of us who always saw through the neutral posturing of the Walter Cronkites, the John Chancellors, the Roger Mudds of that era. At last we had a slice of mass media we could call our own and by which we could help sway policy and elections and stay connected to fellow conservatives across the country.
“But talk radio is already something of a dinosaur, a rusted hulk lying on the side of the information superhighway. How could it be otherwise, in an age when we can log on and directly link to thousands of conservative websites and blogs – when we can communicate, unfiltered and instantaneously, with like-minded people not just across the country but around the world?
“Sean Hannity can insist all he wants that John McCain is a liberal, but simply by Googling McCain’s lifetime voting record we can see for ourselves that if he’s a liberal, words have no meaning. Rush Limbaugh can loudly champion Mitt Romney as the second coming of Barry Goldwater, but a quick Internet search is enough to confirm that Romney is anything but.”

Three years later, I would take back none of what I wrote. If anything, the reaction in right-wing radioland to the election of Barack Obama and his first two years in the White House has served only to amplify the problems already evident in 2008.

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

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