Know Your Right Wingers
SOURCE: August Pollak
Michael Savage, as much as any other radio host, represents the id of the angry white male. Surprisingly, Savage spent most of his adult life as a West Coast herbal medicine guru before changing his name in 1994 and transforming into the egocentric blowhard he is today. After MSNBC gave Savage his own show in March 2003, the former radio host was suddenly everywhere, with a multitude of articles profiling his rise to stardom. But Savage’s star soon fell. Four months into his MSNBC run, “The Savage Nation” was cancelled after its host slurred one of his callers as a “sodomite,” saying, “You should only get AIDS and die, you pig.” After the buzz wore off, Savage returned to churning out books and preaching to the choir on his radio show, syndicated by Talk Radio Network to over 350 stations nationwide. Savage’s talk show is currently the third-highest rated in the country, with more than 8.25 million listeners per week. His hateful rhetoric resonates for a disturbingly large portion of the population.
Born Michael Weiner in the Bronx in 1942, the future Savage graduated from Queens College with a degree in biology, after which he attended the University of Hawaii for master’s degrees in anthropology and botany. He spent the rest of the late 1960s and early 1970s traveling the South Seas. Weiner received his doctorate from the University of California in epidemiology and nutrition science. He became an expert on herbal remedies, penning more than 15 books while still known as Michael Weiner, including such classics as Earth Medicine, Earth Food, Getting off Cocaine: 30 Days to Freedom, and The Complete Book of Homeopathy. While his knowledge base in herbal medicine was vast, he was more of a snake oil salesman than anything else. In Getting off Cocaine, he gave addicts “an alternative plan for getting ‘high’” that consisted of a daily dose of Sudafed, vitamins C and E, amino acids, and the occasional coffee enema. No word on the effectiveness of this treatment. His turn to the far right coincided with the rise of gay activism, as he linked homosexuality to the spread of not only AIDS, but the general spread of disease.
Savage is a prime purveyor of the slanderous liberal-bashing that passes for “humor” on talk radio. He describes his style as a mix of “Plato, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Moses, Jesus, and Frankenstein,” although a comparison to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would also be appropriate, given his frequent mood swings. Savage is juvenile and defensive in his insults, resorting to lazy and trite grasps at “humor” as well as frequent comparisons of prominent progressives to Nazi leaders. In reference to Jimmy Carter’s criticism of Israel’s West Bank policy, Savage called him an “anti-Semitic bastard,” “Jew-hater,” and “war criminal” who is “like Hitler.” Yes, Michael Savage compares a celebrated humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner to the man responsible for one of the worst genocides in history. He has referred to Brokeback Mountain as Bareback Mounting, making him as original as the guy who comes up with puns for pornographic movie titles.
Savage is also convinced that affirmative action is a conspiracy to hold back all white males. After the Duke lacrosse scandal broke, he declared that “the cards are stacked against white males in America; and that is the case in North Carolina where a Durham dirt-bag made false accusations against members of a lacrosse team.” He makes a good point. The structure of society is biased against white males, so much so that, for the first time ever, a major political party may not make one their nominee in the next presidential election.
Savage’s most vile vitriol, however, is reserved for the LGBT community. He frequently associates homosexuality with pedophilia. After the San Francisco Human Rights Commission condemned the San Francisco Police Officers association for promoting tickets to an event featuring Savage, the talk show host responded by equating gay rights activists with neo-fascists, communists, and Nazis, saying, “When you hear ‘human rights,’ think gays. When you hear ‘human rights,’ think only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son.”
It’s curious that a man with such an intense hatred of homosexuals has spent most of his adult life in Northern California, never moving to a less tolerant place where he could be more comfortable. Gay rights organization GLAAD launched a letter-writing campaign to get Savage off the television airwaves before his MSNBC show even begun to air. Savage responded that he would do everything possible to cut GLAAD’s funding, as well as go to the Justice Department to shut them down. Of course, he never followed through on his posturing. Savage went on the air in March 2003 amidst a great deal of media attention, with MSNBC asking their critics to “wait and watch the show before jumping to conclusions.” They got their conclusion in July, when he was fired after the infamous “Get AIDS and die” incident. Yet in spite of all this, Savage has actually said in the past that his is a “gay-friendly show.” With friends like Savage…
On Hillary Clinton’s possible campaign for president: “The race baiting, oh, it’s going to be a horrible campaign when Hillary starts it. Oh my God. We’re liable to have outright race war in America when she starts running. They’re crazy. They’d stir up a race war, a civil war in the country to get that hag, that harridan elected. There’s no question we’re going to have race war, race riots in America. … Her campaign will be one long hate crime against white people.” (6/13/06)
On the difference between “South Asians” and “terrorists”: “Whenever you see the word ‘South Asian,’ substitute the word for ‘terrorist,’ or reference to ‘terrorist.’ That’s the new code word, ‘South Asian community.’”(6/5/06)
On what would happen if John Kerry won the election in 2004: “You can expect home schooling to be eliminated if Kerry wins. … You can expect the Bible to be declared a hate book if Kerry wins. … You can expect the mandatory application of Ritalin to any child with spunk if Kerry wins. … You can expect the complete and total elimination of [a] border with Mexico if Kerry wins.” (9/24/04)
On what women want: “But women in America don’t really like anger. They don’t even like the news, I don’t know if you know that. They just want it to be calm, and safe — and they want girl talk all the time.” (6/22/04)
Illustration: August J. Pollak