Monday, June 16, 2014

Walker, Milwaukee talk radio skewered for their racism

This is an absolute must-read. The New Republic's Alec MacGillis went in-depth on "The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker." Click here to see the whole thing, and it shows just how connected Walker and his supporters are to race-baiting, and the toxic atmosphere that festers on Milwaukee talk radio. It also shows that this is a model that has zero chance of winning in a nationwide election that features much more racial and media diversity than we get in Wisconsin.

Here's a brief example:
Walker’s growing profile served him well as he advanced through the political ranks. In 2002, the Democratic executive of Milwaukee County, which encompasses the 600,000-person city and 355,000 in its inner suburbs, resigned amid a pension scandal. Walker won the special election and proceeded to spend the next eight years tussling with the Democratic-led county board over taxes and spending. He succeeded in making deep cuts to county parks and public transit; once, he sent layoff notices to county workers so they would pressure the council to buckle to his budget demands. So often did he call in to Belling’s show—to chat on air or to spin the host during a commercial break—that he had access to an emergency-only phone line to the studio that was off- limits to station employees, even for calls to family. “It was essentially the ‘zombies are rising’ line,” says [Christopher] Terry, the former WISN employee.

During this period, the WOW counties continued to expand. But unlike suburbs elsewhere, they had not grown more diverse. Today, less than 2 percent of the WOW counties’ population is African American and less than 5 percent is Hispanic. According to studies by the Brookings Institution and Brown University, the Milwaukee metro area is one of the top two most racially segregated regions in the country. The WOW counties were voting Republican at levels unseen in other Northern suburbs; one needed to look as far as the white suburbs around Atlanta and Birmingham for similar numbers. The partisan gulf between Milwaukee and its suburbs in presidential elections has now grown wider than in any of the nation’s 50 largest cities, except for New Orleans, according to the Journal Sentinel series.
And here's another, which shows just how outsized the influence Milwaukee talk radio has on GOP politics in Wisconsin, as well as the high level of cynicism of a certain WTMJ morning talker.
Christopher Terry, who worked with Belling at WISN and now teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says that Belling is more of a “true believer,” whereas “if Sykes thought there was money on the other side of the street, he would sell out in a second.”

Over time, the two shows became known by a single name: “SykesBelling.” In the halls of the statehouse, Milwaukee City Hall, and area county governments, elected officials, particularly insufficiently conservative Republicans, lived in dread of denunciations by the hosts and the tsunami of angry calls from listeners that would follow. Sykes is credited with, among other accomplishments, having blocked public funding for needle-exchange programs and having helped drive into bankruptcy an urban mall after harping on security issues there. In April 2013, he played a clip of “It’s Free (Swipe Yo EBT),” a viral video produced by a right-wing activist in which an African American woman raps about liquor stores where one can allegedly use a food-stamp card. Returning to the same theme later in the year, Sykes declared, “The number of Americans who receive means-tested government benefits— welfare—now outnumbers those who are year-round full-time workers.” No other midsize city has this kind of sustained and energized conservative forum for discussion of local politics. The only counterweights on the left are Wisconsin Public Radio, with its implicit but restrained liberalism, a lefty F.M. talk show in Madison with limited reach, and two African American talk-radio stations in Milwaukee, one of which recently went out of business.
Now here's my question- where's the rest of the media stepping up to do something about it? This toxic, divisive brand of Milwaukee talk radio has helped cause an environment that has the Milwaukee area lagging in terms of competing for talent and quality of life. And that "divide and conquer" mentality in the Governor's office since 2010 has led Wisconsin towards the bottom in Midwest job creation and other economic measures.

Does the prospect of more ad money trump all when it comes to Journal Communications, Lee Enterprises, Gannett, and other media companies, even if it means the state and its democracy goes down the drain? So far, that answer has been yes, and those organizations should be held every bit as responsible as Scott Walker for the damage they have inflicted onto this once-great state.

And here's another question. Since the article makes it clear that SykesBelling are working in tandem with Walker, doesn't that mean Walker should be associated with every race-baiting and inflammatory comment made during their daily hate-a-thons? I say yes.

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