In Which Juvienation Confronts a Right-Wing Nutball

Boy, talk about a backlash! Last night I got roped into a twenty-minute on-air shouting match with Steve Malzberg, a rabid right-winger who hosts a talk show on an AM radio station in New Jersey. I’m still quaking.

I came on at 9:30, right after Malzberg wrapped up a rant about global warming. (Apparently, it’s a hoax.) I had done a little bit of homework on the guy–I had seen that the station he works for also features Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage in its daily lineup, and I knew that if I wanted to read Malzberg’s opinions, I could check them out at the fringe-news website newsmax.com. But rather than steel myself for a run-in with a bully, which in hindsight I should have done, I spent the half-hour before the call brushing up on the Jena case. I had my facts straight, I had national statistics to back up my claims, and I had checked the wires to make sure I was up on the latest development. No need for any of that, as it turned out. Ronald Reagan (a hero to Malzberg, I’m sure) famously said, “facts are stupid things.” And in this case it was quite true.

I didn’t get a word in edgewise for the first two minutes. Instead I listened as Malzberg set me up for his listeners as a biased, thug-loving liberal whose sloppy reporting on Jena so distorted the picture as to leave readers with the impression that Mychal Bell and his “gang” were innocent. When he finally stopped yammering and it became clear that it was my turn to speak, I tried calmly to reframe the story so that it started where it begins; that is, with the nooses. I don’t give a damn about the nooses, he screamed. All he wanted to talk about was the beating. OK, so we talked about the beating on his terms, although talking isn’t quite the right way to describe what Malzberg does. He interrupts, he yells, he fulminates, he fumes–but he doesn’t talk. And he sure as hell doesn’t listen.

It didn’t matter what I said, in fact, because I was hardly given a chance to make a point, and whenever I did he dismissed it out of hand, or redirected the conversation elsewhere, or twisted my words, or fixed on one word, or held up my point as a reflection of “liberal” madness. By virtue of representing the left I was a priori wrong. And not just wrong but WRONG! At that level of discourse, facts are irrelevant.  It was an ideological slugfest, plain and simple. We may as well have been talking about tax policy, or healthcare, or Iraq.

I gotta hand it to him, though. He’s good at what he does. He brought me on to tear me down–and by extension anyone who, like me, has deigned to speak out against the Jena brand of justice. In a way I’m glad I went on, despite the abuse. I think it’s important in such situations to punch back, so to speak, and I did.

So did the Jena Six.

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2 responses to “In Which Juvienation Confronts a Right-Wing Nutball

  1. I listened to this segment on the Steve Malzberg show and I have also read several transcripts from debates that he has had with people who hold opinions that differed from his own. He is good at some things, but he accomplishes little more than rallying the select group of far-right listeners who embody his choir. Malzberg is consistently good at changing the subject, twisting the meaning of words, raising his voice, pointing his finger, and personally tearing down the person he is debating in order to gain power and control in the debate. These are the same tactics employed by individuals who need to have power and control and who also lack the means to obtain this control through civil and decent means. These are the same tactics employed by school-yard bullies and domestic abusers to gain control. As a psychological consultant to elementary schools, I usually advocate for students to diffuse bullies’ pursuit of power by not allowing them access to the fight that they crave. Attempting to have a constructive dialogue with someone like Malzberg will enable him to build himself (or his viewpoints) up by tearing you down in the process. Debates with Malzberg will also expose him as a “nutball” to the vast majority of people (democrat, republican, or independent) who would come to that same conclusion on their own. Save your energy and intellect for fora that allow for debates that have the potential to lead to a synthesis of ideas. Engaging with the Malzbergs of the world on either side of the spectrum only serves to replicate some of the same problems related to power and control that exist in the Jena school-yard. This is a land of free speech and free press and Malzberg is entitled to profess his views, but I would suggest that you steer yourself towards progressive debates that can help resolve the problems of this society. Keep up the good work!

  2. Aside from the pathetic and frustrating part of the story, it’s actually a bit funny. I love doing Fox news because of their Gonzo attack tactics. It allows me to shed my calm, thoughtful demeanor in favor of my happy, playful, way of turning their manipulative approach back at them.

    The one thing that never happens is the dissemintation of actual information or meaningful debate. If that’s what you want, you’re in the wrong place. It’s a game, so you can either play and enjoy it or lose, because they make up the rules.

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