Scoot: Hate the politics or hate the person?

June 15, 2017 - 12:58 pm

On the day that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, (R) LA was shot by a man who expressed hate for President Trump and Republicans, I asked on my radio talk show if this was the tipping point for when America would understand the difference between hating the politics but not hating the person.

I was disappointed that many of the callers and texters did not see this as a moment when the political sides might unite.  On the contrary, many perpetrated the hate and blamed the “left” or “the right” for a Bernie Sanders supporter targeting Republicans with a gun.  This was also a moment when there was blame placed on the lack of gun control in America.

Saddest to me were the politicians, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among them, who were quick to use a tragic shooting to play politics.  But I was encouraged by the many Republicans and Democrats who were in shock, not only at the shooting of one of their own, but also of the rhetorical blaming from both sides.

Many Republicans and Democrats explained to the media that they are one and when one is attacked they are all attacked.  I saw teary-eyed camaraderie between politicians from both parties.  I heard Republicans and Democrats set the record straight that they can be bitter political rivals, but still respect each other; and many are close friends once they stop out of the political spotlight. 

While the politicians seem to understand and practice the idea of hating the politics but not hating the person, too many Americans practice hating the person as much as the politics.

In a video posted yesterday on the WWL Radio Facebook page, I talked about the passion behind political debate today and the instinct to blatantly blame the other political side for a tragedy, a tragedy that could have been so much worse.
Here are a few comments from the video post:

William:  Hey, Scoot, the media’s hands are dirty as well as you guys just cover the news you continually fan the flames.  This station during the monument’s removal everyday with multiple racial questions designed to stir up tensions between both sides.  You also did and continue to do the same politically.

Jim:  This hate violence and division is squarely in the hands of Democrats and the media promoting lies and hate with their propaganda.  SHAME ON YOU!!!

Kim:  Trump is the one that stirs up the hate, he puts it out their FOR the media…I’m tired of the media being blamed for something Trump starts.  The media just reports what he tweets….He needs to keep his big disgusting mouth shut, stop with all the tweets!!!!!!

Monroe:  Scoot, you may not realize it, but you play a small part in this as well.

Emmit:  The only one to blame is the guy pulling the trigger.  We should be able to listen to anything about anyone and not want to shoot them.

It is not always easy to read such harsh criticism, but I understand that the criticism is misdirected.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, their impression, of something.  It is true that every afternoon I ask questions and talk about some of the most controversial topics.  However, I am responding to the things in the news that people are talking about.  I have studied the relationship between mass media and society throughout my career.  I have always been interested in the theories of communications, and I honestly believe more people in my business should take time to better understand the power and purpose of the media.

Psychiatrists will tell you that talking about something that is bothering you is one of the best ways to deal with it and to reconcile thoughts and feelings.  My talk radio show provides an opportunity to talk about the issues that divide us.

Removing the Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans was the most controversial topic I have ever tackled in my years in talk radio.  The issue itself is rooted in the debate about race in America.  To ask questions, to seek audience reaction, to such an issue is not race-baiting; it is responsible talk radio allowing people to vent their anger or to talk about how the issue affects them.  The perception of “race-baiting” usually lies in the mind of the person who brings it up as a goal.  

I work every day to be a responsible talk show host, and I never take the position I hold in society casually.  My job is to talk about the issues, and sometimes those issues are very controversial.

When President Trump tweets an absurd thought or when he makes comments about controversies, it is my job to talk about it.  I have my opinions, but I have never set a goal of bashing a president or any politician.  I may disagree with what they say or do, but my intent is to talk about it and let those who agree and disagree to share their thoughts and opinions.

It’s easy to blame the media.  It’s easy to blame politicians and political views we vehemently disagree with.  But to place that blame says that individuals are not responsible for their decisions and their behavior.
After the show yesterday, I took time to think about the divisive comments; and I reminded myself that the callers and those who text do not always represent the majority of the audience.  

As I have said many times, the audience has more power over the stories that get attention in the news media than most believe.  Story selection is based on what the news media believes will get your attention.  Much of what is criticized in the news is the product of human DNA.

Our conversation continues on the show about whether this is a moment we focus more on hating the politics than hating the person behind the political views.

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