With Hope in the Air, Will Hate Radio Suffer?
February 19, 2009
By Ahmed Rehab
Clearly, Barack Obama’s ascension to power marks a dramatic departure from the last eight years in terms of presidential political philosophy and outlook. But the question is, will the Obama revolution bring about a significant change in America’s political culture on the ground, from divisiveness and negativity, to constructive dialogue and reasonable debate? Will the air of hope and unity, for example, knock the wind out of the sails of hate radio?
The greatest legacy of the Bush administration was to greatly exacerbate a cultural divide at home, and a civilization divide globally. It mastered the art of how to lose friends and win enemies, wondrously managing to squander world sympathy in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and gradually amass universal disdain in its stead. It failed to identify and focus on the real enemy at hand, Al Qaeda and its imitation groups. Instead, it set its sights on a wholly unrelated objective: a far-fetched and ill-conceived ideological war against both liberalism and Islam.
Its motivational tactic of choice was fear, overplaying the “terrorism” card at every occasion, conjuring images of an “evil empire” crouching at the gates of Western Civilization, ready to topple our way of life at any moment. With this sense of horror and urgency, the Bush advisors were able to scare people into accepting what they deemed necessary to “keep us safe,” including – well – toppling the foundations of our democracy.
Of course, the Bush administration’s misguided pursuits could not have been possible without the cacophony of cheerleaders: talking heads and intellectual mercenaries who swarmed America’s newspapers and airwaves day in and day out, fanning the flames of fear and sensationalism with concocted historical revisionism and propaganda. With wide eyes, they crept out of obliviousness into the limelight, savoring every minute of their new found fame and fortune. For eight years, we had to live with the screeching noise that is Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and others, and the divisive venom of Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, Charles Krauthammer and others.
But now that America has opted for a drastic change of course, for hope and inspiration, instead of fear and intimidation, what will become of America’s peddlers of divisiveness? Now that we have a president who champions common sense for common solutions, who reaches across the aisle and seeks to unite Americans, who seeks mutually respectful engagement with the Muslim world, and who seeks to enlist the help of “liberal” Europe in dealing with climate change and the global economic meltdown, will they remain in business? Will they remain in demand, or will they be left behind by the American hope train, weighed down by their excess baggage?
Only time will tell. More likely than not, they will be relegated from front and center to background noise, but will not wholly disappear. They will lie low and wait for a slip up only to seek a market for their commodity once again. However, if opinion shapers on the ground opt to follow the lead of our president and persist in uniting Americans and seeking solutions to common problems rather than obsessing with petty differences - then chances are their glory days are behind them.