Everybody seems infected with the virus of argument and the need for triumph. Leaders of tiny sects are granted huge television audiences, provided their messages are sufficiently drastic, violent, or stupid; more people know about Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, than know about Octavio Paz or Isaiah Berlin. Hour after hour, across the day and deep into the night, talk radio spews forth a relentless message of contempt for democratic institutions, from the presidency, the Congress, and the Supreme Court to the governors, state legislators, and mayors. Rush Limbaugh is the master of this electronic genre, but his imitators make him sound like Henry Adams. They have none of Limbaugh’s gift for brittle humor and venomous sarcasm. Anyone with compassion is a target. Anyone with a sense of complexity is scorned. Callers with accents are jeered. Complicated issues are reduced to cartoons. Maybe it’s an act. Maybe it’s just cashing in on Limbaugh’s success. But the drumbeat from these electronic kraals is ominous; Hate Washington, hate the media, hate the liberals, hate the blacks, hate the dark-skinned and their babies, hate democracy. All disguised, of course, as a love for America.
- Pete Hamill, Esquire Magazine