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.