Notes from Underground


Pursuing truth with the Two Minutes Hate
The mugging of Mark Weber



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I have never understood the popularity of radio talk-show host Sean Hannity. He isn't terribly smart or insightful. He doesn't have witty or clever schtick to make listening to him an entertaining experience. His on-air persona is thoroughly grating; he takes on a brazenly sycophantic manner whenever speaking with a high-ranking Republican or Likudnik, and becomes childishly petulant (and usually hapless) when attempting to "grill" an ideological opponent. Even his voice, an incessant, high-pitched whine, lacks any aesthetic appeal. One would think that if even your voice were unpleasant, you wouldn't have much to offer as a radio host. But Hannity has proven that lacking talent, personality, and intelligence need not bar the way to success. I suppose I should find that inspiring in a way (since I am far from leading the pack in any of those qualities myself), but I don't. Perhaps if I considered Hannity more likable, I'd be more inclined to feel happy for the fame, fortune, and status he has won, against all reasonable odds.

Nevertheless, Hannity doesn't usually get too far under my skin, smarmy and irritating as he may be. After all, I suppose I agree with him on a lot of things, as I do with most conservative talk-radio hosts. I oppose most of the same things he opposes; I don't like liberalism any more than he does. Now, I dislike Establishment "conservatism," too. Ordinarily I dislike it a bit less than I dislike liberalism, but on occasion the antics of Establishment conservative Hannity just become too vicious to bear — and his December 14 show, when he hosted Mark Weber of the Institute for Historical Review, was one of those occasions.

Hannity sometimes stages "debates" on his show, in which he and one of his buddies gang up tag-team style on some seemingly unsuspecting, and usually unprepared, liberal. Often Hannity's co-host is the buffoonish, and even more annoying-voiced, F. Lee Levin, who regularly interrupts his interlocutor in mid sentence with some low-brow insult ("Hey, you sound like a loser!" "How long have you been working at McDonald's?" "Put down the crack pipe, you dope!"), prompting a cascade of giggles from Hannity. But on the 14th, Hannity's partner in abuse was frontpagemag.com founder and neocon pundit David Horowitz, and the sacrificial lamb dragged to the slaughter was Weber, who had just attended the conference of Holocaust revisionists in Tehran.

I am not an apologist for Weber or others of his orientation, and I believe the mainstream account of the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany to be true. However, I am always appalled at seeing people scapegoated, shouted down, or persecuted because they hold unpopular beliefs. Of course Weber was not allowed to get a word in edgewise. Virtually every word that left his mouth enraged Horowitz, a man so seething with venom that it seems to be eating him up from the inside even as he spews it on others; and he responded with the frightening vehemence of one possessed by a legion of demons.

Ad hominem invective exploded out of both "interviewers." Horowitz called Weber an "anti-Semitic son of a bitch," leaving me to wonder how quickly Weber would have lasted if he had called Horowitz an "anti-Arab SOB." Hannity, for his part, added, "You hate Jews, don't you, Weber?" The latter reasonably responded that he liked some and didn't like others, but the other two men scoffed at that answer, though it was very likely true. Hannity then asked Weber whether he thought "former Klansman David Duke" — another attender of the Tehran confab — had anything of value to offer on any subject. Weber said it depended on what the subject was, indicating that he opposed Duke's racism but thought the man might have something valuable to say in disputing the mainstream account of the Holocaust. He might just as reasonably have asked, "Am I my brother's keeper? Why am I responsible for this guy's views, just because he and I went to the same conference?"

The "debate" was sickeningly brutal, resembling a rhetorical gang rape. Very little of substance was said. Weber couldn't say much, because he kept getting cut off, insulted, and asked slimy, insinuating questions about his own alleged pathological prejudices. Ironically, the gruesome twosome of Hannity and Horowitz didn't wind up saying much about the Holocaust, either, or any other issue because they were too busy with their Two Minutes Hate against Weber.

By the end of the segment, their treatment of their guest had angered me; witnessing anyone get bullied angers me. Of course, Hannity and his ilk probably wouldn't care much about my response; I, after all, am a paleocon, and to their minds there's probably not a dime's worth of difference between me and the anti-war far Left on the one hand, or between me and David Duke on the other. But I couldn't help wondering about something: Is the mainstream account of the Holocaust fortified by such uncivil spectacles? By such mindless pummeling of critics? Did all of Hannity's audience, listening to the sordid proceedings of this Two Minutes Hate, during which a man was called names and otherwise verbally mugged, really side with the victimizers? Isn't it possible that a great many, thanks to an inherent sense of decency that hasn't been marred or twisted by ideology, actually sympathized with the victim? And if that were so, then was Hannity's and Horowitz's neocon cause, or their defense of established historical accounts, really helped by such behavior?

Or is it just that cruelty comes too naturally to such people, and they find themselves unable to resist indulging in it, even with the knowledge that in the end it will harm their cause?

December 22, 2006

© 2006 WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

Mr. Nowicki's personal blog is Dyspeptic Myopic, at www.andynowicki.blogspot.com.

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