My fair and balanced radio appearance
September 30, 2008 - 2:56pm ET
Popular This Week
Also Worth Reading
I had an interesting experience on the radio this past weekend. It might have been a telling one—I'm not sure.
On Friday I went to Chicago's public radio station WBEZ to tape a discussion on the week's news for American Public Media's show Weekend America. My co-panelists were comedian Dana Gold and
comedian conservative congressional staffer Tara Setmayer. We were asked about the financial collapse. I said it was the fault of the conservative ideology of deregulation. She said it was the fault of Jimmy Carter. Because he passed what she misidentified as the "Community Reinvention Act."
Yes, well, that would be the right-wing smear du jour: the Community Reinvestment Act caused the meltdown, not greedy bankers and the oily politicians who love them. As regular readers at OurFuture.org know, we've called the idea a modern day equivalent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion—a Big Lie narrative that blames a despised, outcast social group for problems they had nothing to do with, in order to aggrandize the ability of the dominant group to hate and oppress.
(How made up is it? CAF is on the case.)
So what did I do in that Chicago radio studio last Friday when a wingnut (who, incidentally, is African American) spewed forth some excrement about how
Jews harvest the blood of children for their Passover matzohs handouts to swarthy people are responsible for the meltdown of the American economy? I did my job. I called it a "lie and a slander," explaining in simple and forceful terms that lending institutions covered by the CRA have a lower mortgage default rates than ones that aren't, and that even if the former were the worst companies in the history of the universe, they wouldn't have helped produce the financial contagion had not conservative deregulation green-lighted the buying and selling of insanely irresponsible mortgage-backed securities.
Then we moved on to the next topic. I believe it was Lance Armonstrong's decision to come out of retirement.
Then, the next day, waiting in the drive-through line at a Burger King, I heard myself on the radio. But not my debunking of the right-wing smear. That part was cut.
What happened? My experience with Weekend America in the past—this segment on the evolution of Richard Nixon's "silent majority rhetoric"—was great; it seems a perfectly typical public radio production, liberal enough in that milquetoasty, NPR sort of way. And the reason a conservative lie was allowed to stand could have been perfectly innocent: perhaps the audio of my debunking was garbled by crosstalk. Perhaps they cut without a second thought, just for purposes of time; my stint in the recording studio was twice again as long as the completed segment, so they had to cut somewhere.
But it's also possible that the producers' thinking could have gone something like this:
He said: "it's the conservatives' fault." She said: "It's the liberals' fault." Both drew political blood in equal measure, and the canons of fairness and balance demand we leave it at that, rather than let the liberal sneak in the last word: "He said, she said"—snip, snip, snip.
Which would be a splendid illustration of how conservatives launder lies across our political discourse. Textbook, actually. No malice aforethought on the part of the media gatekeepers; just an overcautious commitment to the value of what they call "balance" over the value of Truth with a capital T.
Which is just how the right might be able to get away with making the 2008 presidential election a referendum, for millions of low-information voters, over whether minorities should be able to get away with taking over all the instruments of federal power and writing checks to each other, or whether they will be stopped before it's too late.
Tomorrow I'll have more: startling evidence of why we need the CRA now as much as we ever did.
Help us spread the word about these important stories...
Email to a friend
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future