I was driving into town a few weeks ago, fiddling with the radio stations, when a voice came over the airwaves that was so full of hate and spite that it shocked me into listening.
President Trump, infected with coronavirus, had just walked to the helicopter to be transported to the hospital, and the radio host was railing at CNN journalist Jim Acosta for tweeting, “Trump did not stop for questions.”
You can take a tweet like that a variety of ways, if you care to notice it at all. It really doesn’t seem like a tweet worth noticing. However, Acosta has become a favorite punching bag of Trump supporters who believe Trump should not be subjected to hardball questions. And so this radio host — whose name was still unknown to me — made that tweet a big deal.
“I just want you to understand what we’re dealing with here,” the radio host said. “These truly are loathsome, loathsome people. They are so invested in the failure of this president. They so hate him that even at a time like this, Jim Acosta tweets out, ‘Trump did not stop for questions.’”
I pulled into the local grocery store while the radio host continued to rampage. He savaged Democrats and journalists for daring to talk about what would happen if Trump got really sick and couldn’t fulfill the duties of his office. It’s a fair question. People do, after all, die of COVID. More than 226,000 have died so far in the United States in the 235 days since the first documented death in our country on Feb. 29. That’s a hair under 962 deaths a day, the equivalent of a 9/11 attack about every three days.
But apparently this particular radio guy didn’t think people had the right to talk about these things. OK.
He was especially worked up by public discussion that the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could be in line to the White House if Trump became incapacitated. An interesting bit of trivia, given the animosity between Trump and Pelosi. The House speaker does become president if both the president and vice president simultaneously become unable to govern. Not that it would ever happen, but OK. The radio host has the right to lash out at people he disagrees with.
What he said next, though, was vile.
“These are truly despicable human beings,” he said. “They really are. And I use the word human beings very loosely.”
Dehumanizing people is a tactic that has been used to justify genocide, war and slavery.
The radio host continued: “Look how they continue with the coup stuff. … They are desperate to install Nancy Pelosi as president. That’s one of the reasons you’re going to see what takes place on election night and thereafter, they are desperate to put Nancy Pelosi in the presidency. They talk about dictatorships, (Trump) not leaving the White House. They want to install her. If they can’t install Biden, they’ll install her. That’s the goal.”
Way to go, guy. Way to instill fear, suspicion, even hatred, setting the stage where violence can happen. In fact, violence has already happened. People have died in clashes between right wing and left wing groups. Journalists have been badly injured. Once I got home, I looked up the radio host. It wasn’t difficult.
His name is Mark Levin. He has written books. He's got 2.5 million Twitter followers and a show on FOX "News."
I was even able to find the recording of the exact broadcast I was listening to, which is how I was able to gather these quotes.
Every weekday, his poison drips into our part of rural Minnesota. And he’s not even from here. Why does he get to take up space on our airwaves? Is that the kind of influence we want here? We’re all Minnesotans, right? Northern lights and hockey, powwows and potlucks, lutefisk and Lake Wobegon? (Speaking of, wouldn’t we rather have Garrison Keillor’s musings than Mark Levin’s rantings?)
I mean, shoot. You can have problems with journalism. There are many things journalists can do better. Disagreements with policy, with political parties, sure. That’s all fair game.
But don’t dehumanize your opponent.
Don’t throw fuel on an already simmering election season.
That is not who we are in Minnesota.
We won’t let you change us.
“It’s My Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.