Jared Loughner's murderous attack in Arizona last weekend has prompted soul searching among assorted media types, who wonder if the polarized political climate somehow made such an act not just likelier but inevitable.
That includes columnist and AM 760 radio host David Sirota, who has changed the name of his week-ending "Fight Club Friday" feature to "Festivus Friday."
Sirota dealt with some of these issues last year, after publicly criticizing KOA's Mike Rosen for a crack about crashing a plane near a proposed NYC Islamic center -- a quip that led to Rosen being named worst person in the world by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. Rosen insisted that the line was misinterpreted satire, and while Sirota didn't buy that, he did apologize for going after Rosen personally during broadcast comments.
"The Forgotten Majority Seeks a Higher Way," a Sirota column published today, doesn't mention this incident in specific, but it grapples with repercussions of sniping between right and left. Sirota writes:
Media can set societal norms and, thus, can help create conditions for violence - whether a mass murder in Tucson, an IRS bombing in Austin or any other future massacre. Another less obvious truth is that the new media economy encourages ever-more violent vitriol because that's now become the most reliable way to build a following and, thus, generate profit.
Later in the piece, Sirota notes that he's tried to avoid falling prey to this temptation during his radio show -- and he echoes this tone in e-mail comments to Westword.
"I've spent a lot of the week on the air apologizing if I ever inadvertently said anything that could be construed as supporting any kind of political violence," he notes. "I've certainly worked hard to avoid doing that, especially since one of my show's themes is pointing out just how unfortunately violent so much of our politics and public discourse has become. But nobody's perfect, least of all me. We need more media figures -- and particularly those on the radical anti-government right -- to acknowledge their own powerful role in this problem. And if they don't acknowledge that role and change their ways, their silence and inaction will suggest that they believe violent rhetoric is actually good for America.
"So in the spirit of trying to walk the talk, we are changing our usual 'Fight Club Friday' segment into 'Festivus Friday.' It's the same content, of course, because Festivus is all about the 'airing of grievances' and Fight Club Friday was about letting listeners criticize me or criticize anyone or debate any issue they like. But in the spirit of my column and what I've been saying all week on the radio, I hope the change will show that we are serious about trying to create a genuinely different, more respectful kind of program in a media world that has far too little of that."
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That's not all. At 9:20 a.m. this morning, Sirota will talk with a conservative KOA host; he says they will "jointly discuss and debate the issue of violent political rhetoric and its effects."
By the way, said host is Michael Brown, not Mike Rosen. Because progress can only be made one step at a time.
More from our Media archive: "Mike Rosen's use of racial slurs during KOA show appropriate, says Clear Channel exec."