Thanks to Big Chown Dog for passing along a baffling exchange Wednesday on Boston’s WEEI. WEEI is, to the best of my knowledge, the number one sports talk radio station in the country. According to the 2006 book, Sports Talk Radio in America, it’s the only sports talk station in the top fifteen markets in the United States that is among the top ten radio stations in that market. Like all sports talk radio stations, its target demographic is men, ages 25-54 (though WEEI does very well among women in that age range as well), and the audience is mostly White. WEEI also serves up, even by the standards of sports talk radio stations, a healthy dose of resentment and some of the bigotry that is a frequent off-shoot of such resentment (one of its popular shows, Dennis and Callahan, got into hot water in 2003 when the two hosts compared a gorilla who escaped from a local zoo to an African-American high school student).
In this case, Big Chown Dog reports on the outrage over Billy Packer’s comments, which I referred to the other day, but didn’t spell out. In a conversation with Charlie Rose that aired on PBS last Friday, the night before the Final Four, Rose offered to Packer that he would come help Packer cover the final four if Packer wished. Apparently, Rose has made this promise to Packer before, because Packer was playfully dismissive of Rose’s offer. How Packer was dismissive is what’s caused some controversy. Packer told Rose: “youalways fag out on that one for me…”
Bill Simmons predicted earlier this week that we’d be hearing all about this, especially after Jimmy Kimmel aired a clip of this on his show Monday night. That has not come to pass, and the WEEI guys were apparently agitated by the non-reaction to the exchange. This is where things get odd: the WEEI crew wasn’t upset about the comments, it would appear. Instead, they were upset that there’s been so little reaction to it by the national “liberal elite” media. And, they have a novel theory for why there’s been so little reaction from that liberal elite media: that they’ve chosen to ignore the comments because Packer uttered them on that bastion of liberalism, PBS.
This is the very essence of the kind of resentment so prevalent on talk radio in general, including sports talk radio: inverting the realities of power in this country in a way that always confirms that the common sense, working white guy is on the bottom. Whether it’s the supposed coddling of the Black athlete (including guys like Stephon Marbury and OJ Mayo, each of whom grew up in utterly uncoddled circumstances) or, in this case, imagining that a liberal elite media out there essentially controls discourse in this country despite a six-year run in which a right-wing administration has lied about almost every conceivable important issue with only token resistance from that “liberal” media, it’s a standard of such discourse to view minorities and their defenders as the ones with all the power in America.
Now, normally, that liberal elite is accused of the sin of “political correctness” which is what makes this particular take on Packer’s comments so noteworthy – that same liberal elite is apparently more concerned about somehow protecting PBS than pressing its tireless agenda to enforce political correctness. Of course, why the liberal elite would fear a backlash against PBS because of a thoughtless comment by a CBS basketball announcer is not entirely clear. But, it’s a staple of the culture of talk radio resentment not to delve too deeply into the nuances of this liberal elite. That’s because the narrative of resentment works best at a level of generality sufficient to obscure how incoherent the underlying arguments really are (for a classic example, see Rush Limbaugh’s comments about why the media likes Donovan McNabb and the ridiculous claim that Limbaugh was making a “media” comment rather than a racial one).
According to the principle of Occam’s razor, whereby all things being equal the simplest solution tends to be the best one, there’s a pretty straightforward explanation for the relative indifference to Packer’s comments: namely that thoughtless homophobia is still alive and well in America in 2007 and only stirs controversy when it’s expressed in its most extreme and direct form (“I hate gay people.”) But, according to the active imaginations of the purveyors of talk radio resentment, it’s proof that a liberal elite has the power that the right has always ascribed to it and the fact that the same liberal elite that normally would make a ruckus about homophobia didn’t in this case – well, that’s a smoking gun.
Big Chown Dog notes that the WEEI discussion did consider a default position – that if the relative lack of attention to Packer’s comments wasn’t due to a liberal elite conspiracy to protect PBS from criticism (again, as opposed to the more obvious conclusion that thoughtless homophobia is still alive and well in America) – it must mean that no one is paying attention to PBS. And, if that’s true, well, then PBS shouldn’t exist. Just like Newt Gingrich argued for when the Republicans first took control of Congress back in 1995. Either way, of course, liberalism (as opposed to homophobia) is triumphant in the national indifference to Packer’s comments.