I joined a panel yesterday on "World Have Your Say", a BBC Radio show that focuses on hot topics from around the world, to try to answer the question "if it’s not racism, why do some Americans hate President Obama so much?"
The online article touting yesterday's show actually featured a link to a piece here at Brown Man Thinking Hard from last year, titled "Obama Hate: "Obama Loves America Like O.J. Loved Nicole". Even though I'd never done a group discussion via phone on live radio, it seemed to be right up my alley.
Now I've got an idea of what a rookie must feel like when he hits the floor for the first time in a big time Division I basketball program.
The producers or production assistants over in England were very nice and unfailingly polite. It was so interesting hearing the tart, lilting way their tongues herded each word in a sentence along, with an extra lash for the final word if they were asking a question, that it was a struggle to pay attention to what they were saying to me at first.
The guests were a mixed bag - a reverend/political activist from Louisiana, a radio host from Cincinnati, a reporter/columnist from L.A., and a newspaper person whose title I can't remember. The host was pretty good, keeping the show moving by alternating between our comments, real time emails that he read on the air if they illuminated a point someone had made, or took the conversation in a more interesting direction, and call-in listeners from around the world, although most of ours were from the States.
But back to this rookie thing.
I have a new level of respect for the amount of time Sean Yoes gives me twice a month on the AFRO/First Edition at WEAA to basically say what I want to say, at a pace with which I'm comfortable. My fellow panelists yesterday were old hands at this, experienced enough to know how to use their "radio" voices to elbow their way into the ring to say something. So I didn't get to say much. And they all seemed to lead with their standard talking points, which got me hot under the collar after awhile.
It was as if I was listening to a chorus of Baghdad Bob's, each of them valiantly pursuing their line of patter as if the host had simply gotten bad information about the racial overtones that are becoming more distinct in the criticism of President Obama by certain Americans.
It's moments like these when I feel a little guilty for falling down on the job sometimes, for not coming up with more posts on more topics, for not hitting the bricks here each and every day to try to counter some of the misinformation that so often becomes the dominant discussion by the media.
When I asserted that FOX News was unprecedented in its nightly vitriol against Obama, a chorus of voices raised to denounce MSNBC's treatment of President Bush, as if Keith Olbermann's rants were the equivalent of FOX's entire lineup, hour after hour, yelling about our "Muslim, radical" president.
The guy from L.A., Ben Shapiro, used the phrase "radical policies" so many times I thought the topic had changed and we were talking about another country. As I sat there, phone to my ear, I pictured a computer server somewhere, silently tallying all the on-air uses of these kind of key phrases and relaying the running totals via Blackberries or IPhones to the army (and it IS an army) of right wing political zealots across the country in front of TV cameras and on radio shows, helping them to calibrate their patter accordingly in order for the group to hit their daily target.
Later in the show, when I actually tried to talk about some of the research on race and politics I'd done for a blog series last year, the Cincinnati radio jock jumped in to agree with my assessment that the number of actual racists were small before quickly adding dismissively "that these are people who have no power."
I countered "but when the people in power let these people speak unfettered in this country, that's a problem." I was a statement Mr.Cinncinati took personally.
I actually wasn't talking about anyone down at his level, though. When Mr. Cincinnati calmed down, I told him "It's not you, but the people who run our media companies." When the executive suite allows this kind of ridiculous behavior to typify their networks, THAT is a real problem, one all of us should be up in arms about.
But I was glad to hear Mr. Cincinnati get all huffy for a moment or two before he segued back into his stock speech for someone with a different point of view.
It was the moment that made the whole hour worthwhile.
I'll be back.