How I Learned to Love Hate Radio

KSFO Radio's anti-fans

An hour or two of right-wing dirty talk puts him in touch with his nasty, insensitive, self-interested, tribal, misogynistic side. In our establishment, he can relieve the pressure, and yet remain aloof. In the light of day, he can face the neighbors, squeaky clean, appropriately PC, devoid of the sin of hate.

He commits a thousand acts of hate each day, according to the standard-bearers of behavior. A careless word, an ill-considered joke, a preference or a principle, a personal goal ... all wave the red flag of incipient hate. The citizen proceeds through life with extreme caution. Should the citizen heed the race or gender of every person, or instead find some wordless way to assert that we are all the same? In honoring the differences between us, will he forget to discount their importance? Should he elevate group identity above individual identity? Or not? One slip from the behavioral high-wire brings social reproach at best, career or financial disaster at worst.

The citizen, no matter his politics, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, is squeezed in a clamp of political correctness, and faced with public castigation if he departs from the acceptable line of thought or speech, even to point out an obvious truth.

Free speech, like the sex trade, raises eyebrows. Its practitioners can be targets of scorn. What do real pornographers say, I wonder, when a new acquaintance asks what they do for a living?

Do they try, case by case and person by person, to anticipate the likely reaction? Are they ever too tired, or not in the mood, to project confidence about the value of their work? Do they fear rebuff, even those who are satisfied in their work? Do they hesitate momentarily, then offer a generic answer?

"I'm, uh, I'm in video distribution."

My work is important and meaningful. My work is the living manifestation of the very founding principle of this country. I have been broadened, and smartened, and strengthened by my work.

I, uh, I work at a radio station.

Designer Hate

"You are bigoted garbage," the caller tells Barbara.

"Why?" She is curious, rather than defensive. I have my finger on the button already, prepared to bounce him if he gets obscene. Barbara is more relaxed.

"Because you are. You're a bigot."

"Why?" Barbara asks again.

"You made very hateful remarks."

"What did I say that was hateful?" She had questioned Supervisor Tom Ammiano's qualifications to be mayor of San Francisco. Ammiano's political rise was fueled with gay issues, she'd said. He is unable, possibly unwilling, to move beyond identity politics in order to take on the larger task of running a city.

They go back and forth for several minutes. Barbara knows exactly what she said. She repeats her words and prods the caller to identify the offensive portions. Although he is unable to do so, he clings to his charges of bigotry. His focus, interestingly, is less on Ammiano's qualifications than on whether Barbara's intent was to injure with her words.

"Your remarks are quite vicious. They're quite mean-spirited," he says. "And this is not the first time you've made cruel remarks about gay people. You meant to offend."

"No, I didn't. You're being overly sensitive."

"And you're bigoted garbage."

It's becoming clear to me that hate as a political concept is a diversion, calculated to keep the citizens engaged in brainless squabbles, while politicians from both parties raid the pantry unnoticed.

This brand of hate, largely nonthreatening and rather nonspecific in nature, is not hate at all, but a political byproduct manufactured from scraps of uncensored thought and opinion; let's call it "designer hate." It's a favorite core component of post-civil rights era political machinery. Designer hate offers an efficient method to divide and conquer. What could be more divisive than encouraging ordinary people to believe that they are either hated, or full of hate?

Designer hate is a powerful tool for expanding taxes and regulation. Who could argue with a policy to protect, a program to educate, legislation to compensate, the victims of hate? They all carry significant price tags, of course, and significant opportunities to energize constituencies, pass laws, and reward cronies. They all make the government larger, and the citizen smaller. And almost always, they are ineffective, or miserably corrupt, or both.

Here in the city that hates hate, we were given a textbook example last year when a scandal surfaced at City Hall. San Francisco uses an affirmative action program while awarding city building contracts. Administered by the benignly named Human Rights Commission, the program ostensibly corrects for the inequities resulting from hate. Whether through ineptitude, or outright corruption, city contracts have been handed, under extremely questionable circumstances, to one of the mayor's friends, a minority individual who had previously been convicted for abusing the city's minority contracting program. The program, now under investigation by the FBI, is a testament to the value of designer hate as an instrument of power and profit for political insiders.

Occasionally, the political elite pull their hands from the cookie jar just long enough to stir the hate pot anew. The word is redefined yet again to suit the opportunity of the moment. Another cycle of hate-news keeps the word on our lips, and the thought uppermost in our minds. It resonates at our deepest level, it echoes the earliest and simplest training we were able to grasp -- be nice. The niceness imperative occupies a large piece of moral real estate in most of us, having been the first and most basic social lesson of toddlerhood.

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