One of my favorite comedy movies of the past ten years is Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. It is a hilarious send-up of America, stupidity and the combination thereof. The premise is that, starting in 2005, smart people stopped reproducing and stupid people reproduced too much. The result, in 2505, when most of the movie takes place, is that the entire nation is incredibly stupid. You have to see how Judge (Beavis & Butthead, Office Space) sets it all up, but it is a very funny movie.
In the America of 2505, the top TV show – maybe the only TV show, except for porn – is "Ow, My Balls". In the show, a small and very fearful man is repeatedly hit in the groin by baseball bats, wrecking balls, and everything in between. At home, the citizens of the future howl with laughter at every painful thud. It is the perfect entertainment for the deliriously clueless populace.
"Ow, My Balls" is the ultimate result of a heartless corporation giving the people what they want, without regard to moral standards or the effect of electronic garbage on society in general. Are the ratings good? Fine, let’s do that.
People are not nearly as universally stupid as the characters in Idiocracy (however, according to Judge, we still have 497 years to go), but there are apparently enough stupid people in the Milwaukee radio market to make Mark Belling’s talk show the highest rated afternoon show. Belling’s frequently racist poison is broadcast by WISN, a formerly respectable radio station, now part of the notorious and mammoth Clear Channel radio chain. Clear Channel has been allowed to purchase 6 stations in the Milwaukee market, including, remarkably, a soul station (V-100.7). Do they work in the same building? Does Belling ever leave work with a bloody nose?
There used to be a sense of corporate citizenship, even for out-of-town companies with big local footprints. Companies might be able to make more money doing things that might have been more destructive to the community, but they didn’t. For one thing, they didn’t want to incur the wrath of other corporate citizens and other local leaders. For another, they had a moral compass and knew the lines they didn't want to cross in any event.
Not Clear Channel. They keep Belling on the air because of his ratings and couldn’t care less what racist tripe he spins into the air and the effect on the community. And Belling is transparently arrogant about his position with the company and his power to poison the city he inexplicably lives in.
The latest outrage from Belling was his show yesterday, in which he bloviated for an hour about how black people in the bars on Water Street are a danger to the area. He called for bars to stop playing hip-hop music and suggested the city may have to require bars to install metal detectors. "The more places you have on Water Street that play that kind of music, the more trouble there’s going to be." he said. "Now, nobody else will say that other than me." Fine. I’m sure Bull Connor felt equally brave.
The spark for Belling latest racist fear-mongering was, as usual, a tragedy that he chose to capitalize on. An incident between three Marquette students resulted in two of the young women being stabbed (one in the face, one in the shoulder) with a knife, allegedly by the third. All three students were African-American and underage. "There is a racial implication to the story," announced Belling, ominously. "I’m the guy that tell you what’s going on and doesn’t try to cover things up because of political correctness." You always know that, when Belling and other racists pull out the PC defense that simple incorrectness is coming. Sure enough: "Water Street...is far more racially mixed than it used to be...Water Street appears to be getting more violent."
There is a way to quantify this – Belling at least says he used to be a reporter and he could check with the District 1 police station and he’d have the information he pretends to know. But, like all good racists, he doesn’t want to be confused with the facts. Or, he just makes some stuff up. "There is a perception on the part of some bar owners [I’ll bet he can’t name one] that young black people tend to act far more aggressively than young white people."
This is all utter nonsense. But it goes on because it makes Belling’s angry-white-male demographic feel more comfortable in their own racist skin. I hear some of this stuff and think, jeez, is the program manager of the station (fill-in wing-nut Jerry Bott) or anyone in the corporate offices in San Antonio concerned that they have someone poisoning the community airwaves every day?
Nope. They like it. And, if they thought a radio version of "Ow, My Balls" would get big ratings they’d do that too. Maybe they could get Mark Belling to be the host; he could do it in blackface.
Interestingly, during his racist diatribe, Belling blamed some of Water Street’s imaginary problems on some owners of bars that don’t live in the area. "They’re pigs....They make a lot of money real, real fast, and then they walk away." Sounds like Clear Channel to me. Except they are not going anywhere, unfortunately.