Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday talk radio update

A caller tried to make what sounded like a perfectly reasonable point on Hannity's show, but Hannity cut him off.

I say that "sounded like" because it is usually hard to tell on Hannity's program. Anytime a caller starts to make an argument that he can't answer, he immediately begins to bully and interrupt, making it hard to know for sure what the caller wanted to say. But this caller seemed to be saying that whatever one may think of Sotomayor's decision in the Ricci case, it could hardly be called an example of judicial activism, as Hannity was claiming (a good non-lawyer's discussion of the case is here). The appeals court ruling that Sotomayor supported not only upheld the lower court, it also followed existing precedents. Those may be bad precedents, or they might be good precedents based on a bad law, but there was no sign of judicial activism in her ruling.

That's not good enough for Hannity, of course, so he cut the caller off. To him, Sotomayor not only has to be a bad choice (because she was picked by a Democrat), she has to be a bad choice because of judicial activism. Those are the accepted code words. Her actual record has very little to do with it. At least Limbaugh had enough intellectual honesty to admit that he would oppose Sotomayor if for no other reason than to try to make Obama look bad. Hannity is never that straightforward.

When another caller suggested that Hannity shouldn't place so much weight in opposing her on essentially two sentences she has spoken in her life, Hannity replied that he had examined her record thoroughly and had found five cases demonstrating her legal ineptitude. When pressed, he named only one: Ricci.

Hannity made this same claim throughout the last election campaign. He always claimed that he had examined the context of Jeremiah Wright's controversial half-dozen sentences thoroughly. But I never once heard him cite any context or give any indication that he had understood, read or even thought about what the context might have been. I eventually became convinced that he was just lying about having examined the context, and I suspect that he is lying about Sotomayor, too.

But if Hannity walked around the edge of the abyss, Glenn Beck plunged right in. In the few minutes that I listened, he accused Sotomayor of being both a "racist" and a "Marxist." The racist label apparently was based solely on this statement: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Say what you will about the merits of that statement (and don't ignore the fact that she used the subjunctive voice), it is a long, long way from saying that certain cultural experiences may better prepare one to make certain kinds of decisions to saying that certain races are genetically superior to other races and that this justifies subjugation of the inferior race.

The Marxist claim appeared to rest solely on the fact that in a yearbook entry she quoted Norman Thomas (the incendiary quote: "I am not a champion of lost causes, but of causes not yet won"). Thomas was, of course, a Socialist, which means that Sotomayor must be a Marxist.

Hannity makes this sort of claim, too: If you agree with anything a Marxist or socialist ever said, then you must be a Marxist or socialist, too. In his "man on the street" interviews, he frequently asks ordinary people if they agree with this classic Marxist statement: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Most of those interviewed agree with the statement and have no idea where it came from. Hannity then pounces: So you must be a Marxist.

What the heck? When I was in the Army I had an old Chinese proverb tacked to the barracks wall. What does that make me, an old Chinese? (The proverb: "Just as one does not use good metal to make nails, one does not use good men to make soldiers.")

At least Hannity has an excuse for his absurdities. He is an unreflective and ill-informed man. Beck seems much smarter than Hannity. He just sounds crazy.


Ken & Carol said...

David, are you saying that SeƱora Sotomayor's use of the subjunctive makes this a non-racist statement? That seems a stretch.

David said...

No, I don't think it would be racist in any case. The subjunctive just removes it one step closer to speculation than to an assertion of fact.