November 13, 2008 — Provocative language from the political extremes has a long history in America, but changes in the media landscape over the last 20 years have given such voices great power and reach. Rory O’Connor, Fall 2008 Sagan Fellow at the Shorenstein Center, gave a tour of the talk-radio landscape, and it was anything but reassuring. As detailed in his recent book, Shock Jocks: Hate Speech & Talk Radio, conservative voices dominate the AM airwaves, and civil discourse generally isn’t on the menu.
The hosts’ blurring of factual content and opinion can be dangerous, said O’Connor, a journalist, blogger and filmmaker whose previous book was Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology in America. He noted that as a journalist, he’s an ardent defender of First Amendment rights, but felt that hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Don Imus frequently stepped over the line. “This is really not a free-speech issue, it is a hate-speech issue,” said O’Connor.
This article was written by and the photos taken by Leighton Walter Kille of the Shorenstein Center.