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Its not hate radio because you disagree

TWO VIEWS • Michael Savage's talk show spawns passionate debate

Pull out your dictionary and grab a pen. It's high time you updated the meaning of the word 'hate.'

Change the old entry to this:

Hate (n) Ñ Any thought, word, deed or political ideology with which the left disagrees.

Ever notice how instead of countering political discourse with a cogent rebuttal, those on the left now simply call it 'hate'? That's the case with the effort to remove Michael Savage from the airwaves. Calling his daily rants an 'unbroken stream of hate and chauvinism,' this movement seeks to shut down his opinions by targeting advertisers of his program on KXL (750 AM).

They were successful in Eugene (at KUGN 590 AM) and now bring their battle to the Rose City.

They say his tirades on illegal immigration and Muslims, among other topics, are 'vicious' insults that appeal to 'fringe, far-right' listeners.

This group is not the first to attack political speech they disagree with. They've learned a thing or two from the Southern Poverty Law Center's movement to stop 'hate radio,' which began years ago. The SPLC states on its Web site, 'all hate groups É attack an entire class of people É for their beliefs.'

Using that logic, stophateradio.org and the SPLC are premier hate groups themselves, because isn't this exactly what they're doing: attacking a person for his 'beliefs'?

A further look into this movement shows that among those considered hate groups are Baptist churches, the John Birch Society and the Constitution Party. Check it out for yourself; you'd be amazed at what's considered hateful these days.

As far as the far-right, fringe label they give to those with more conservative politics, look at the fact that Savage is now the No. 4-rated talker in the country, behind Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura and Sean Hannity. Savage is syndicated on more than 400 stations, and that number is growing. Apparently there are a lot of fringe listeners out there.

Overall, 90 percent of the talkers on radio are considered right-of-center on the political spectrum. Why is that? Well, since radio is, after all, a business, programmers would seem to be providing that which sells. What profit-minded business would deliberately aim to sell a product that nobody wants to buy? A radio show is a market-driven product like cars or shoes.

The question remains: Why are these talk-show hosts so hugely popular? I asked a number of people this question. The answer that made the most sense came from my younger brother Ñ himself a former radio talk host at KKGT (1150 AM). Kevin Starrett's take on this is, 'These programs aren't really far right. They're more like 'right-lite,' ' Ñ which we might define as a watered-down, wimpy version of genuine conservative thought.

He adds: 'People have been so beaten down by political correctness that they have nowhere else to turn.' Then along come talkers who give voice to those political frustrations and Ñ voila! Ñ you have enormous numbers of buyers for your product.

I believe that political correctness has been so burned into people's collective psyches that fear of being considered racist, homophobic or uncompassionate (or any of the other sins the PC crowd thinks you're guilty of if you express a divergent opinion) has people cowering.

Enter a guy like Savage. His rants on homeless people urinating in the streets resonated with those who'd been told not to belittle the 'disenfranchised.' Gollygeewhiz, Savage even referred to the vagrants as 'bums'! Now that won him some points with the right-of-center crowd, which had grown weary hearing the constant whining from all the victim groups out there. Here was somebody finally talking about personal responsibility and the welfare mentality Ñ and it was like music to their ears.

That's the kind of talk that had conservatives thinking Savage was their guy. His regular tirades on illegal immigration took on a life of their own. Savage would rail against our national immigration policy, arguing that it ignores the constitutional mandate that our borders be strong. Then in the same breath, he'd caterwaul that those who disagree with President Bush and his policies and war plans are terrorists who should be imprisoned for sedition without a trial! So much for the Constitution. It was about that time I stopped listening to Michael Savage.

If you're still not sure what constitutes a hate group, the SPLC says the criteria include organizations involved in 'marches, rallies, speeches (and) publishing.' By that definition, hate groups include Americans such as the colonists, civil rights workers, school children and that neighborhood group protesting the local porn shop.

The stophateradio.org folks credit conservative talk show hosts nationwide with 'stealing the election of 2000 and 2002.' How powerful these commentators must be!

This is all about free speech Ñ not the 'Fire!' in a crowded theater free speech, but honest disagreements on issues that ignite passion in people. Politics does that. What leftists don't get is that the political dissension they quash today will only pave the way for their voice to be silenced tomorrow.

While the left is, by and large, a humorless lot, we shouldn't join their ranks by failing to see the humor in their attempts to silence contrary opinion. Consider a guy named Chip Berlet, who spends his time studying ' far-right extremist' groups for something called Political Research Associates in Cambridge, Mass. He has this to say about conservative talk show hosts:

'A skillful hatemonger can speak to several audiences at a time, using coded rhetoric.'

Got to go grab my secret decoder ring and turn on the radio.

Mary Starrett is a former TV anchor, reporter and talk show host, a former (hate) radio talk host and currently the author of a weekly column for newswithviews.com. She stopped listening to Michael Savage a long time ago.