Friday, October 21, 2005

Hose on First?

I suppose there's no putting too fine a point on it: some folks make a very good living by acting like assholes. Case in point: Mr. Brit Hume of FOX News, whose misanthropic, lazy arrogance we have noted before.

Today I learned about his "somebody needs to hose you down" comment made to Juan Williams, during a discussion of the Libby debacle. The story is at Think Progress, and the video of the exchange is at Crooks and Liars. By the time I got to the TP story online, over 150 people had already posted comments, most of them in revulsion at Hume's behavior.

Now a fellow like me will tend to look for the psychological lesson in such a demonstration of purposive and showmanlike arrogance. Let's be very clear on one point: Brit Hume knows exactly what he is doing. He is an entertainer first, and a newsman...well, somewhere along after that.

So the intriguing question, to me, is not "why did Brit Hume say that?" or "what did he mean by that?"—but rather: "why do people turn on their TV sets to watch such spectacles of meanness and icy rancor?" After all, I suspect that many people who watch Brit Hume mindlessly abuse people spend their days getting similar treatment from their bosses or co-workers. Why would they want to come home to take in more of the same?

Perhaps for the same reason that they watch Donald Trump pile contempt on the contestants in The Apprentice, or the various levels of interpersonal degradation found on reality TV. Perhaps it makes them feel less isolated in their servitude, their subjection to the abuse that they receive in daily life. When you see people on TV being served the same flavor of shit-sandwich that you have to eat at the office each day, you somehow feel less alone; you feel like this is the way things are, after all. And maybe there's some feeling of vicarious superiority: someone is always getting it worse than you are, even if it's a performance put on to sell advertising.

So how can we deal with it—how can we express our revulsion at nationally televised arrogance such as Brit Hume delivers on a regular basis? Sure, we could let our media outlets know that we don't care for such garbage over the airwaves (you can use the FAIR link in the Blogroll at right). But what it really boils down to, the one message that will finally and definitively get through to the networks and their advertisers, is for you to turn it off and not turn it on again, until these people get the message.

You can let others know what you're doing, and encourage them to act (send the link to this post around, for starters). Talk about it with friends, co-workers, and especially your children. In particular, with this case in mind, ask an African-American friend of yours how he or she would feel if they were told, "someone needs to hose you down".

Those 150-plus comments at the TP post told me that we're in the midst of a turning-point moment in American politics and culture, where we've had more than enough of brutish showmen like Brit Hume debasing people for their opinions and delivering borderline racist trash-talk over national airspace. Every single one of us who turns away from this boorish bullshit and lets the mass media know about it is contributing to this transformation in American consciousness.

You're not just a cipher in a voting booth every first Tuesday in November. You can make a difference now.

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