Transcript: The politics of division...who is to blame? - Thom confronts conservative Craig Shirley, 28 September 2009

Thom Hartmann: “I have been mulling the switch for months,” writes future_of_the_party, one of the diarists over at “There hasn't been any room for a moderate voice, like my own - since Obama has been elected.” Any room where? In his Republican party. He said “The anger on the right since the President has been elected is not like anything I've seen in my life and it's not for me, not in any way. ... Today I left the Republican Party.”

Ann Coulter, “Liberals don’t drop a heinous idea, they just change the name. ... "Nikita Khrushchev" becomes "Barack Obama."

Laura Ingraham, “Oh the Obama White House wants a "PC speech code" applied to Americans "so we can’t really speak out". ” I mean it just goes on and on and on and on.

Bernie Goldberg, "Liberals "love the fact" Obama is black because if "you criticize his policies, you run the risk of being called ... a racist" ".

Limbaugh, "Just as he is ACORN, just as he is Van Jones, he is racism". He being the President of the United States.

Lou Dobbs, "if we can't criticize the public policies of a black president, can we have a black president?"

Glenn Beck, he’s "exposed himself as a guy ..." with "a deep seeded hatred for white people". Like his mother and his grandparents who raised him I guess. "This guy, I believe, is a racist.”

Limbaugh, “We need segregated buses, this is Obama’s America.” Limbaugh, “I believe Obama is an angry black guy.”

Glenn Beck, “The Obama agenda is driven by reparations and a desire to settle old racial scores.”

And Bill Cunningham, “Barack Hussein Obama,” that’s the racist obviously. He says of Section 8 housing, Cunningham says, “I like keeping all these degenerates", this is support low income housing, "I like keeping all these degenerates in one location so we can keep an eye on them. They sit around and fornicate and defecate.”

Craig Shirley is with Shirley and Banister Public Affairs,, a conservative PR firm. And uh, you know, represents a lot of these folks, or some of these folks. And Craig, and Craig, you yourself have written a…

Craig Shirley: I appreciate it, let me just say, thanks Thom thanks for teeing it up for me.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. You yourself have written an op ed going after Jimmy Carter.

Craig Shirley: Yeah. Go ahead.

Thom Hartmann: And pointing out that there were times in Jimmy Carter’s career when he was far from being a liberal and he was not unwilling to play the race card when it benefited him. Catering to racists, 20, 30 years ago. Which I guess probably most all southern politicians, well the Democratic Party was basically, until LBJ came along, was the party of southern racists.

Craig Shirley: Ever since the Civil War.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, from the Civil War until LBJ.

Craig Shirley: Well actually past LBJ because you had southern dixiecrats…

Thom Hartmann: To this day.

Craig Shirley: Well uh, up until the last generation, obviously.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah but I mean there’s still a few leftover. But by and large, you know, Nixon’s southern strategy turned into a Republican thing. But my question…

Craig Shirley: No actually Carter’s southern strategy came after the Nixon southern strategy.

Thom Hartmann: Okay, well whatever. I mean we’re still playing with race in this country.

Craig Shirley: I agree.

Thom Hartmann: And here’s my question. And Craig, you’re on the other side of this thing and right in the middle of the maelstrom, as the head of a pr firm that represents a lot of the more outspoken spokespeople on the right.

Craig Shirley: I’m just a lonely little writer.

Thom Hartmann: There you go. And how do we, and I mean this as a serious question, there’s no gotcha to this at all.

Craig Shirley: Right.

Thom Hartmann: How do we, you on your side and me on my side, in the face of things like you know the launch of now which is clearly biased to the right, Huffington Post, Think Progress, clearly biased to the left. More and more people getting their news from narrow little slices of the media that only cater to their ideological perspective and fewer and fewer of us reading newspapers that at least provide some broad overview.

Craig Shirley: Right.

Thom Hartmann: How do we bring back some sort of rational dialog or discourse to America? Because it seems to me like this nation is very radically, very rapidly becoming balkanized.

Craig Shirley: You know, that’s a question I’ve thought about that myself Thom, and then I’m reminded that this has happened many times before, you know, in our past. At the turn of the century, not this century but the 20th century, there were thousands of newspapers in this country and you had the Rochester Democrat and the Springfield Republican. New York City had, somewhere around I think 17 daily newspapers, some were put out by labor unions. We had…

Thom Hartmann: The communist workers party…

Craig Shirley: Yeah sure, that’s right. We had a very balkanized press in this country and that’s where the phrase of course, Yellow Journalism, came from.

Thom Hartmann: Well I would say it was a very diverse press, and the Yellow Journalism came form Hearst and a few others using the cheapest paper that they could get which had a yellow tint to it, and for the tabloids…

Craig Shirley: Well. it was also associated with Polium [ph] and others before Hearst. But yeah.

Thom Hartmann: But my point, I’m not sure that that was a bad thing, Craig Shirley, because although people could, you’re right, they could just read the you, know the, communist people’s daily or if you lived in Dearborn Michigan you could just read Henry Ford’s anti-black anti-Jew anti-Catholic Dearborn Daily News or whatever it was called. But those…

Craig Shirley: Or you could read the anti-corruption Annenberg papers in Philadelphia.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. But it was not it was not at a national level. It was not marching in lockstep or well…

Craig Shirley: Well, that’s where we can draw solace from this is that there’s so much disinformation out there that people will work to sort through the disinformation to find the facts and then arrive at their own conclusions.

Thom Hartmann: But they don’t. You have more than 70% of Fox viewers believing, today, you have more than 2/3 of them believing that there were weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq.

Craig Shirley: And I just saw a poll that over 30% of New Jersey Democrats believe that 9/11 was a plot by the Bush Administration.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah.

Craig Shirley: So it’s on both sides.

Thom Hartmann: I’m not disagreeing with you. And I, it seems to me, you know, one of the reasons that on this show I’ve always reached out to you and to people on the right, in part is to you know, model how to have reasonable discussions, in part is to show all sides of the story. I mean I like to win.

Craig Shirley: Good on you.

Thom Hartmann: But if I’m wrong I’ll lose. But how do we do this in this age of media consolidation? Here’s the thing that concerns me the most, Craig. I’m seeing right now an entire television network that represents itself as a news network basically being nothing more than shills for the Republican Party. And on the other side, on MSNBC, well at least there’s some balance. You’ve got Joe Scarborough in the morning and you’ve got kind of middle of the road news during the day and then you’ve got left wing stuff in the evening. It concerns me that, well, I’m not…

Craig Shirley: Really the only solution is what the marketplace decides.

Thom Hartmann: But see, this is the thing. There’s no more marketplace. You have these… a handful of large corporations…

Craig Shirley: But if Fox doesn’t get advertisers, if they don’t attract advertisers, then eventually it will fold as a corporation.

Thom Hartmann: No but it’s, but they’re so big. They’re essentially monopolies. And you had you know, this morning Michael Moore, after when he was on, I guess he was on CBS and he picked on them for having temp workers and not paying them benefits and so ABC, I may be mixing up my networks, I’m doing this from memory. One of the other networks this morning cancelled him from their show. And he’s like okay, guess you can’t criticize them on their own network. Which at a certain level makes sense you know. But on the other hand, you know how can you have discourse…

Craig Shirley: Well but that’s the danger that we have in this country. Because there is a collusion. I mean maybe you and I can break some ground here. I happen to be a populist and I despise bigness. I don’t even trust megachurches. Any concentration of power I think is inherently dangerous to people’s individual privacy and liberties. And so you have in this country, ironically, a collusion between big government republicanism and big government, you know, liberal philosophy. Then at the end of the day…

Thom Hartmann: And big corporations.

Craig Shirley: And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether ACORN is corrupt or Enron is corrupt, they’re all part of the same corruption.

Thom Hartmann: Well but the difference is that ACORN does not control enough resources to change anybody's vote in Congress. And Enron can carpet bomb the United States with 300, 400 million dollars worth of advertising, which is…

Craig Shirley: But that was just a choice, that Enron wanted to do one thing and ACORN wanted to do the other. But they still were on the take from the government and still both engaged in corrupt behavior.

Thom Hartmann: But aren’t you more concerned about the corporate corrupt behavior?

Craig Shirley: I’m concerned about corruption on the part of both parties.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Well I…

Craig Shirley: I’ll tell you a perfect example of when I really realized how really lousy Washington was as a town, was back in ’95, the whole issue came up about the new broadcast spectrum, which ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX all wanted for free.

Thom Hartmann: Right, we have about 10 seconds, Craig.

Craig Shirley: OK. And it should have gone to public auction because it was worth billions, it should have gone to the Treasury for the American tax payer and instead they colluded, the broadcasters colluded with Congress to get it for free and the American tax payer got nothing.

Thom Hartmann: Right and thus the Telecommunications Act in ’96, that Bill Clinton enthusiastically signed.

Craig Shirley: Exactly. Which was supported by Republican Congress.

Thom Hartmann: Oh yeah. Yeah. And we are all horrified by it. Well, this has been an interesting conversation, Craig. Usually we’re beating each other about the head and shoulders. Craig Shirley, the website. Thanks Craig.

Craig Shirley: Thank you Thom, I enjoyed it.

Thom Hartmann: Good talking with you.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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