Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Transference

Miami used to have a fine classical radio station — WTMI. But on December 31, 2001, it sold out and changed its format to “dance” music, which I and my friends refer to as “gay teen disco.” Some enterprising souls took up the gauntlet and bought a Spanish language AM station, changed the call letters to WKAT, and started broadcasting classical music with many of the same people that used to work at WTMI. But AM radio is not the medium for classical music; the signal was weak and it sounded like they were channeling the music from an old eight-track through a series of downspouts, and stereo AM went out with quadraphonics. A couple of months ago they threw in the towel and switched formats again, this time to conservative talk. Miami already has one powerhouse talk station — WIOD — with the likes of Rush and his imitators, so WKAT is carrying the second-string of Rush wannabes like Michael Medved.

The point behind that lead-in is that WKAT has embarked on an aggressive advertising campaign to attract listeners by putting up billboards around town promoting the new format: LIBERALS HATE IT. WKAT 1360.

It’s a catchy slogan, but it’s also in keeping with the paranoid bunker mentality that seems to have infected the right wing for the last forty years or so: the liberals are out to get them, the intelligensia hates them, and they love it. Richard Nixon used it to great effect in his political and personal career, and even the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan had a hard-edged tinge of allusions to attacks from his opponents. Today with the battle lines between the red and blue states, the Christians and versus the secular, there is this constant drumbeat from the right wing that “the liberals hate us and we welcome their hatred because it energizes us.”

What it actually does is give them a reason to point their fingers at something else, conveniently diverting attention away from their own vitriol. Speaking for myself and from what I’ve seen in the virtual neighborhood I hang out in, I am hard-pressed to find a level of animosity or even hatred from the left that comes close to the level of noise and anger from the right. Anyone who was around during the Clinton administration can recall the attacks on Bill and Hillary from the day he announced his candidacy, and it’s still going on; can Rush or Oliver North or G. Gordon Liddy get through a day without some attack on them? And we’re not talking about policy differences… there were enough accusations of everything from drug-running and murder (remember “The Clinton Chronicles”) to rape and adultery to populate an HBO series on the level of “Deadwood” or “The Sopranos.”

The left’s attacks on George W. Bush have been pale in comparison, and usually they are in the manner of satire and comedy; even accusations of drug use or secret abortions have been overshadowed by the laughingstock supplied by the malapropisms and goofy Alfred E. Neuman smirk that mark the legacy of George W. Bush in spite of the genuine fear and recklessness to our rights and allies that his policies have engendered. The attacks from the left have for the most part been in keeping with the Mel Brooks philosophy of deflating pomposity and disarming one’s enemies by laughing at them, which drives them crazy because we’re not playing their game. Laughter is not a sign of hatred.

The right wing’s hatred for their opponents and their ideas comes from the fear that even though they control nearly every aspect of American life and government, they still feel like they are under attack, and deep inside they doubt their own legitimacy and live in dread that they will be found out. This self-doubt turns into self-loathing and it causes them to lash out, accusing their enemies of the very thing they feel in themselves. So when they say that liberals or secular humanists hate them, it empowers them.

The ironic thing is that here in South Florida the one messenger of civility — classical music — has been sacrificed for the sake of the voice of hatred, and it’s the right wing that blames the liberals for the coarsening of our culture.