On August 10th, an incendiary radio host took a call from a black woman named "Jade". Jade’s married to a white dude and is starting to resent him. Why?
"We’ve been around some of his friends and family members who start making racist comments as if I’m not there or if I’m not black. And my husband ignores those comments, and it hurts my feelings."
The host asks for a couple of examples.
"Last night — good example — we had a neighbor come over, and this neighbor — when every time he comes over, it’s always a black comment. It’s, ‘Oh, well, how do you black people like doing this?" And, ‘Do black people really like doing that?’"
Unimpressed with the story ("I don’t think that’s racist.") and not at all interested in offering good advice to ease the caller’s mind in order to help her solve her problem, the host asserts the following:
"…well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for [President] Obama simply ’cause he was half-black. Didn’t matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That’s not a surprise."
Not realizing how dumb she was sounding, she continued to embarrass herself by offering this anecdote:
"…we had friends over the other day; we got about 35 people here — the guys who were gonna start playing basketball. I was going to go out and play basketball. My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man. And I said, ‘White men can’t jump; I want you on my team.’ That was racist? That was funny."
Jade asks about a particularly offensive epithet and receives this response:
"Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger…I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing."
Again, not really. For instance, Chris Rock invokes the word to criticize certain types of black people. But I digress.
Rather than offer any kind of helpful tips to the caller, she returns from a commercial break and continues to dig herself a very big hole she can never climb out of. After asking Jade, "What did you think about during the break, by the way?", the startled woman admits being taken aback by her use of the word "nigger". As she tries to get to her point about race relations, the host abruptly cuts her off with, "Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians."
When the caller tries to point out, despite constant interruption, that despite Obama being the U.S. President, "racism has come to another level that’s unacceptable.", the host replies, "Yeah. We’ve got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious."
All you have to do is go to the Media Matters For America website to realize that Jade is more in tune with reality than the host.
As they argue over whether white people are afraid of Obama being in the White House and who actually voted him in, the host has reached her breaking point:
"Chip on your shoulder. I can’t do much about that."
What a kind thing to say. Here’s another:
"I think you have too much sensitivity…and not enough sense of humor."
Then they spar over the appropriateness of saying the word "nigger". Finally, the host ends the call in frustration and ceases to refrain from espousing her appallingly mean-spirited rhetoric:
"Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race. If you’re going to marry out of your race, people are going to say, ‘OK, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?’ Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s ‘think.’"
She needlessly goes on:
"And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think — and it’s really distressting [sic] and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the N-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear ‘nigger, nigger, nigger.’" I didn’t call anybody a nigger. Nice try, Jade. Actually, sucky try."
"Need a sense of humor, sense of humor — and answer the question. When somebody says, ‘What do blacks think?’ say, ‘This is what I think. This is what I read that if you take a poll the majority of blacks think this.’ Answer the question and discuss the issue. It’s like we can’t discuss anything without saying there’s -isms?"
"We have to be able to discuss these things. We’re people — goodness gracious me. Ah — hypersensitivity, OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it. Yes, I do. It’s all about power. I do get it. It’s all about power and that’s sad because what should be in power is not power or righteousness to do good — that should be the greatest power."
When Laura Schlessinger freely offered these remarks nearly three weeks ago on her long-running radio show, she once again demonstrated the most offensive element of her personality: her condescending, hypocritical arrogance. (Check out her Wikipedia profile for some notable examples.) At no time during this now infamous segment did she show the slightest bit of compassion or understanding for the caller’s dilemma. In fact, she did nothing but put the caller down and not once take her situation seriously. She didn’t even really answer her question until after she ended the conversation. But by that point, did Jade even care?
The very next morning, smartly anticipating what was bound to come, Schlessinger posted a brief written apology on her blog. But instead of apologizing for being a unhelpful, cold-blooded jerk to an upset caller who needed help, she was sorry for saying "nigger" (referred to as the "n" word), a word Jade actually said herself.
Then, on her radio show, she apologized again and read a letter from a longtime listener who, despite expressing dismay over the incident, ended with this:
"I have not made the decision to stop listening to your show, but I felt compelled to respond because I found it offensive."
Also posted on her blog, the apology ended with a plea to get Jade back on the line so she could actually solve her problem. Now, that’s funny.
On August 12th, the ever helpful Media Matters posted the entire two-part segment on their website and enclosed a complete transcript. Interestingly, they noted that you couldn’t read or hear it on Schlessinger’s official website. Unsurprisingly, the news media and comedy shows like The Daily Show and The Howard Stern Show pounced on the story. Despite being ahead of the critical onslaught, Schlessinger was still in the doghouse.
But then, instead of maintaining this facade of contrition, she turned whiny. During her August 17th appearance on Larry King Live, she claimed that when her current contract expires, she’ll be off the radio for good. (Yeah, right.) Instead of admitting that maybe, just maybe, her whole career has been devoted to putting her foot in her mouth over and over again, she complained about all the negative coverage. With a gigantic dose of chutzpah, she claimed that her free speech rights had been violated and in order to "regain" them, she needed to quit radio.
Most ridiculous was this comment:
"I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart, and what I think is helpful and useful, without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates and attack sponsors."
Wouldn’t that be wonderful to have your every word lavished with praise regardless of its validity? On Planet Earth, however, that’s not how it works. When you say something stupid, people get pissed off. When you continue to say dumb things over and over again like homosexuality is "a biological error" or wives are to blame when their husbands cheat on them, that leads to more collective anger. It appears Schlessinger wants a one-way conversation with the world, one in which what she says goes and no one has a right to express their outrage about it.
And there’s only way to have that one-way conversation. By yourself.
But that’s not the Schlessinger way. She’s been on the radio since the year of my birth. 35 goddamn years. She’s written books for 16 years. She can’t keep her nonsense to herself and judging by the longevity of her career, the marketplace doesn’t want her to. Just because Media Matters highlights her moronic hyperbole and asks her sponsors and the radio stations that air her show to understand what they’re actually supporting isn’t censorship. It’s actually democracy in action. Those stations can continue to air her program and those sponsors can continue to place their ads during her time slot, if they so choose. No one’s forcing anyone to do something they don’t want to do.
Here’s what’s probably going to happen. By the time 2010 comes to an end, Schlessinger’s current radio contract will expire. Maybe she takes some time off after that, maybe not. But at some point in the near future, someone will offer her more time on the air. And she’ll be back to being a jerk again. And Media Matters will highlight something offensive that she’ll say. And she’ll make another apology. Then, she’ll complain about the constant barrage of criticism. Then, maybe she offers to quit again after her latest contract expires.
Any way you look at it, if Don Imus can still be on the air after all these years, what are the chances Schlessinger won’t be?
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, August 29, 2010