We’ll Start The Day with a “Wait, What?!?”

A quote from an interview in the New York Times:    (Bolding is mine, as always.)

Can we stop dividing ourselves? Do racists exist? Yes. Do bigots exist? Yes. But most of us are not. Most Americans just want to get along. Why can’t we do that? What has happened to us?

A very thought provoking question.  Why can’t we just get along?  In my opinion, much of it has to do with the extremist rhetoric coming from the political and religious right.  So much of what is said by people like Rush Limbaugh, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Glenn Beck, Bryan Fischer, Phyllis Schlafly, and Pat Robertson, amongst so many others, is divisive, “us against them” propaganda.  Liberals aren’t just people who disagree with them politically, they are “enemies of the state.”  Obama isn’t just a Democratic President, he is a “socialist commie Muslim.”  People fighting for marriage equality are not after equal rights, they want to “persecute Christians.”  When we fight for women to have the right to make their own health care choices, we are really just trying to “kill babies.”

In the days before the internet, language like this could have an effect, but it would be limited by the neutrality of the major media news organizations.  While you can argue that the network news shows were slanted to a degree, none of them were ever openly one sided, as Fox News Channel is today.  So while you may receive partisan information from a source or two, it was tempered with the impartial sources we depended on as well for information.  Now, with the rise of cable television and the internet, it is possible to live in a completely partisan news bubble, where all the information one receives is from organizations with the same political ideology as you.  This is a problem for both sides of the political spectrum, but the problem is much more pronounced on the right, with the domination of talk radio by right wing conservatives, and the incredible popularity of the Fox News Channel.  When you add in conservative websites such as The Blaze, The WND, Townhall, and so many more, you have a world in which a Republican can begin her day with Fox and Friends, and end it with The O’Reilly Factor, with nothing in between but conservative talk radio and conservative websites to challenge anything she has been presented with.

These news outlets cater to their consumers, providing the news with a right wing tint.  The more extreme the viewpoints you air, the higher your ratings seem to go.  Before his show became toxic to advertisers, the one true limiting factor on how extreme you can be and get away with it, Glenn Beck was drawing higher ratings than his three time slot competitors combined with rhetoric like:

”I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.”

Glenn Beck, on why people who lost their homes in forest fires in California had it coming, ‘The Glenn Beck Program,’ Oct. 22, 2007

or

”This is fascism. This is what happens when you merge special interests, corporations, and the government. This is what happens. And if people like you don’t take a stand…at some point, you know what poem keeps going through my mind is ‘First they came for the Jews.’ People, all of us are like, well, this news doesn’t really affect me. Well, I’m not a bondholder. Well, I’m not in the banking industry. Well, I’m not a big CEO. Well, I’m not on Wall Street. Well, I’m not a car dealer. I’m not an autoworker. Gang, at some point they’re going to come for you.”

Glenn Beck, on closures of auto dealerships under the bankruptcy deals of GM and Chrysler, ”The Glenn Beck Program,” June 10, 2009

or

”Some may believe we’re on the road to the Hitler youth.”

Glenn Beck, on teaching kids about climate change, Fox News’s Glenn Beck show, Feb. 5, 2009

or

”This president I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture….I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.”

Glenn Beck, on President Obama, sparking an advertiser exodus from his FOX News show, July 28, 2009

or

”There are a lot of universities that are as dangerous with the indoctrination of the children as terrorists are in Iran or North Korea. … We have been setting up reeducation camps. We call them universities.”

Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck show on FOX News Channel, Sept. 1, 2010

(Glenn Beck Quotes all from About.com’s Craziest Glenn Beck Quotes of All Time page)

While I am picking on Glenn Beck at the moment, I could make similar lists from the rantings of countless other right wing media pundits.  The extremism brings ratings, which brings viewers, who only get their information from partisan sources and in turn, become more extreme themselves.

It has resulted in a political landscape where compromise and bipartisanship are now seen as dirty words on the right, where GOP lawmakers who attempt to govern by working together with the other party to get laws passed and direct the government, you know, their jobs?, are routinely thrown out of office during primary season in favor of a hardline, pure conservative who would rather shut down the government than dare compromise.  It is forging a Republican party that is on the verge of being unelectable on the national level because of the extremism, at the very time locally elected Republicans are becoming more extremist than ever.

Like I said, it is a very thought provoking question.

Can we stop dividing ourselves? Do racists exist? Yes. Do bigots exist? Yes. But most of us are not. Most Americans just want to get along. Why can’t we do that? What has happened to us?

Have you been able to guess what political commentator asked this vital question?  Are you ready to find out?

Glenn Beck.

Hey Pot?  I got a Kettle you would love to meet.  I am sure you can both discuss for hours how you share the same shade of black.

h/t to Dispatches From the Culture Wars for this one

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