A number of people have written to me to let me know Randi Rhodes is going to retire. According to their accounts, she has decided to move to Costa Rica, what a wonderful place to live, with a male friend. One writer claimed she had just signed a new three-year deal to do her show, but decided to pull the plug anyway. All who wrote expressed both sadness and dismay about her departure. I share those feelings. It also seemed to them Rhodes left feeling defeated and cynical and convinced America is going to hell in a hand basket.
I was jealous of Randi for a long time. She was tapped by Air America as one of their national "liberal" hosts and I thought I was as good, if not better, than Randi. (I thought I was better than all the Air America hosts, but then again I didn't get to where I am today due to a regular sized ego.) However, when I began to listen to Randi I saw what they saw and realized how good she was and how the information she relayed daily to her audience was solid and prescient. She did great research and uncovered facts and perspectives which put events into the proper context...a context you were not going to get from the corporate media. She was also funny and acerbic and summoned up outrage which revealed a passion for her work. It was clear she wasn't just getting a pay check...these issues were vitally important to her and she wanted her audience to care as much as she cared.
Perhaps in this way we see the essential difference between progressive and regressive talk shows. On the regressive side, whether it's Hanbaugh, O'Reiley, Coulter, Ingram, Beck et.al., it has always seemed clear that at the end of the day they were performers who figured out a good gig and milked it for all it's worth. Perhaps the best example of this is "the Weiner". The "Weiner" came to San Francisco as a Berkeley educated professor, sponsored and championed by the left of the left including people like Alan Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and fit in nicely with the beat generation. He was going nowhere until he got a shot on KSFO. He quickly discovered vitriol and hate and bigotry sold and it was a recipe for making allot of money. What gets ratings is extreme regressivism, anger and bombast. He never looked back and has been irate all the way to the bank. In this same vein, Glenn Beck has now admitted he was making up and faking the attacks and the propaganda he spewed forth and apologized for his performance.
In contrast, people like Randi and Rachel Maddow and Keith Oberman, Peter B. Collins and Stephanie Miller, Ray Taliaferro and even myself, did what we did because we looked out on a landscape dominated by corporate interests and a news environment where every debate started in the center and moved away from us. No one has or is in it for just a paycheck and no one shape shifted like their counterparts on regressive radio.
If you perceive a world in which the audience is misinformed or lied to or truth is covered up and obfuscated, it almost gets to feel prophetic. A prophet, in Hebrew scripture, acted as the conscience of the people reminding them what is true and valuable and calling them back to ethical and caring behavior. This is why a prophet is never accepted in his or her own country. People don't want to hear what they may be doing wrong or how they may have screwed up or that they need to clean up their act and governments and the 1% hate it even more. (there is nothing prophetic about regressive radio...it's a call to retrench and re-turn to a time of dominance by white males. It's why it goes down so easily for most ditto-heads. None of their values or prejudices are challenged.)
Since 2001, Randi watched a nation stampeded into two wars by the use of lies and faux patriotism and fought off criticism she was soft on terrorism or hated her country or was a commie or socialist and any other number of attacks. She railed against a Patriot Act which eviscerated the 4th amendment and a government which cut taxes for the rich, put two wars on a credit card and then used the excuse of the debt and deficit to gut the social safety net, crush the labor movement and increase the financial distance between most of America and its moneyed elite. While she was on the air, an entire generation went to college and graduated with debt equivalent to a first mortgage and no jobs. She watched as Bill Clinton and George Bush deregulated Wall Street leading to a depression surpassed only by 1929. Then she had to watch Obama bail out Wall Street and destroy Main Street. (have you read Geithner's book yet? It is an admission of exactly what Randi and so many said was really going on) The war on terrorism morphed into a war on civil liberties and privacy. (thank you Edward Snowden) Randi has a 2016 presidential race to look forward to between Clinton and Bush again?
Despite the first 14 years of this century, which would render any optimist moot, I do not share Randi's's cynicism, if that is accurately how she felt, about the direction of the country. All is not lost and knowledge is still power. The American people will respond when given the information. If it isn't going to be on terrestrial radio then it may be through pod-casts and Internet streaming, but there is a thirst which needs to be slaked.
I sit in a prison where I have experienced random acts of kindness convincing me of the goodness of so many people. It is also a system which begs for reform and when the average American finds out how their taxes are wasted and how this system just perpetuates itself, they will demand change. When they are informed about the need to change the college system...change the tax code so it treats the 1% the same way the other 99% are treated...resists the building pressure to export domestic oil and natural gas and the war drums beating again...is informed enough to resist the call for military force to replace diplomacy and demands a government who cares about the middle class more than the uber class, change will come.
There is still a need for prophetic talk and information, but being a prophet takes its toll. You paint a target on your back and you fight every day and lose more fights than you win. One day you wake up and long for someone else to come along and take up the cause and let you rest. Randi Rhodes gave her all and says she has had enough. She has served her nation and audience well. The thought of living in Costa Rica is very attractive. In her stead others will have to continue the fight...continue to entertain and inform...continue to inspire...continue to expose the truth about capitalism and the 1%...continue to call on the best of people rather than appealing to selfishness and greed...continue to progress into the future and not champion a regression into the past. You will have to support them and listen and rally to causes so cynicism does not triumph.
Please email or tweet or write to Randi and thank her and wish her well. She is a class act who deserves a "well done."
PS Would one of you be kind enough to email her, or whatever, and send her my best wishes.