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America has seen a growing popularity in radio talk shows and hate speech. Some of these radio shows are little more than outlets for violence and racism. These types of shows breed paranoia and are fueled by the bottom line. Critics seek to silence these outlets of prejudice and all others, but at what cost to our freedom of speech?
Talk radio has been described as hate radio. It stirs up controversial issues dealing with guns, homosexuals, and racial minorities. Talk show hosts have been accused of advocating violence. When a man shot at the White House in 1994, it was blamed on a radio talk show host's call to arms to protest gun control legislation. Some shows routinely make fun of how black people speak but talk show hosts quickly point out that black shows do the same of white people. These shows have also been accused of promoting the racism and hatred that exists in our society today (Egan 22).
President Clinton blames paranoia preached by hate radio as a possible contributing factor in the Oklahoma City bombing. The rhetoric put out by these talk show hosts leave the listener to believe that violence is an acceptable form of expression and some act on this belief. Talk show hosts counter back that individuals are responsible for their own actions and should be able to differentiate between what is right and wrong. Some argue as to why some are free to speak as they choose while others are persecuted for their words. Radio stations are quick to defend their hosts as long as they are up in the ratings. These stations seldom curb the actions of these hosts unless there is a threat of a lawsuit. The bottom line is as long as inflammatory talk continues to sell it will still be on the air (Alter 44, 46).
There are some who feel no one has a right to express their prejudices publicly. In the pursuit of trying to make things better for the oppressed, the oppressed have been adversely affected by their own regulations. For example, the first cases under the Michigan speech code were charges against blacks and the first case in the Supreme Court was a white man offended by a black man. Purists have defined hateful words as violence.
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The emergence of talk radio as a hate outlet has created a society of prejudice. These shows have fed on the fears and paranoia's of its listener's to separate our society even more. While it would be nice to control the rhetoric put out by others, it would only infringe on our other liberties. The cost of censorship is too great. The freedom of speech is priceless.
Alter, Jonathan "Toxic Speech: As Clinton Connects the Bombing to Right-Wing Hate Radio,
the Resurgence of America's Incendiary "Paranoid Style" Is Finally under Scrutiny." Newsweek 8 May 1995: 44+.
Egan, Timothy "Talk Radio or Hate Radio? Critics Assail Some Hosts."
New York Times 1 Jan. 1995, late ed: 22.
Rauch, Jonathan "In Defense of Prejudice: Why Incendiary Speech Must Be Protected."
Harper's May 1995: 37+.