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Sanjay Sanghoee Headshot

The Merchants of Bigotry

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Ted Nugent and Rush Limbaugh make the perfect couple. No, I am not implying a homosexual relationship between them (although it is entirely possible) but a true meeting of the minds and hearts. Ted and Rush are not just both conservatives, but conservatives who love to hate, and have made a successful career out of it. You might think they are entertainers but in reality, they are just businessmen living out a highly dysfunctional version of the American dream that would make our founding fathers turn in their graves.

Rush's rants and bigoted comments have become so common that we barely notice them anymore, but Ted's recent threat of violence against President Obama elevated their art-form to a whole new high, or rather sunk it to a whole new low. At an NRA event, Ted talked about chopping off heads and winding up in jail if Obama was elected for a second term. Even though he was cleared by the authorities of any criminal wrongdoing, the circumstances in which he made his remarks (a gun lobby event) coupled with his militant statements should have been a crime. Any way you cut it, Ted spewed hatred towards our leader and advocated violence against him; and he made it even more profane by equating it to the American way.

The only thing remotely American about Ted and Rush's bigotry is the runaway capitalism that it represents.

Over the last few decades, the U.S. has become a country of extremes -- extreme politics, extreme ideology, extreme rhetoric, and extreme capitalism. The new mantra is "profit at any cost," which was clearly exemplified in the sub-prime mortgage debacle of 2008. From Wall Street to Main Street, the dollar has become king and to hell with responsibility, decency or even sanity.

Ted and Rush make a lot of money by throwing Molotov cocktails into the public discourse, and the organizations and companies who give them the platform to do so enjoy the benefits as well. Like Glenn Beck's daily rants that made Fox News millions, Rush keeps Clear Channel in the gravy and Ted -- well, Ted still performs his trashy songs somewhere (after all, he is the musical genius behind Thunder Thighs and Cat Scratch Fever). The bottom line is that hatred sells and the more overt it is, the bigger the audience. Like the evangelicals in the heartland who preach intolerance on the radio and invoke a vengeful God, people like Ted, Rush and Glenn do about the same on a big national stage with political messages.

Ostensibly, those who provide them with the outlet to spew their hatred do it to protect "freedom of speech" but that is utter nonsense. Freedom of speech is a guy in his basement posting his views on the Internet without being censored, or an activist picketing Capitol Hill without being arrested. Giving someone like Ted, Rush or Glenn a national megaphone to advocate bigotry, while making a massive profit out of it, has nothing to do with protecting the First Amendment, but with making lots of money. It is big business, pure and simple. When Fox News allows Glenn to spin wild conspiracy theories about the U.S. government, when Clear Channel enables Rush to call a woman a "slut" over birth control on air and when the NRA and Republican party applaud Ted when he insults and threatens the president, they are not fighting for Americans' right to free speech, but pandering to the basest human instincts for the sake of profits.

Why is this important? Because by promoting extremists like Ted, Rush or Glenn, these companies (and they are not alone) are lowering the standards of our national debate and encouraging Americans to consume garbage rather than substantive thought. Since it is unlikely that these organizations will stop doing that, it is up to the public to remove the demand side of the equation. By consuming their filth, no matter how entertaining, we are simply providing them with motivation to continue selling it.

Right about now I can see smoke coming out of the ears of my conservative readers since they imagine that I am targeting them in this column. That is absolutely not true. To the best of my knowledge, conservative values do not embrace racism, sexism or hatred -- and certainly not violence. Those things are just the spice that politicians and the media add to the stew in order to make it more potent and to win elections or sell advertising. I may have used conservative commentators for my analysis, but my opinion is the same for all merchants of bigotry regardless of their ideology.

As I discussed above, selling hatred is big business and as long as we continue to buy, it will remain that. And if you think it is fine to consume trash as long as you are just a passive observer, think again. When you provide the audience for Ted Nugent to abuse the president, Rush Limbaugh to attack a young woman over contraception, Glenn Beck to incite violent revolution or Don Imus to call an African-American girl a "nappy-haired ho," you are a bit like the accessory to a crime -- just because you are not committing the crime yourself doesn't mean you are not responsible for it.

The fire of intolerance cannot endure without the oxygen of public consumption and profits, so let's do ourselves a big favor, tune out and starve people like Rush of that fuel. You might be surprised how quickly the insanity flames out. As for Ted... nothing wrong with enjoying his bad music as long as you leave it at that... and just be thankful that you are not a deer.