The Media Commodification of Hate-Mongering

The past year has been a banner one for hate-mongering.  We’ve had Proposition 8 in California and all the money and rhetoric on both sides of the issue of various gay rights in California and elsewhere.  We’ve had the vitriolic debate over healthcare, and the increasingly bitter strife and arguments over immigration and illegal aliens.  We’ve had the TEA Party explosion over taxation, which has been so irrational that at times [as I’ve noted] the TEA Partiers have sunk some of their strongest and most effective legislative allies. Lurking in the background remains the bitter and often violent controversy between “pro-choice” and “right-to-life” factions over abortion.

In all of these instances, parties on all sides assert that  they’re asserting their first amendment rights of freedom of speech.  Such assertions seem to be accepted without reservation, as if this right is unlimited.  In fact, it is not.  In 1919, in Schenck v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision affirming federal law limiting freedom of speech.  In that opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that in wartime, conditions are such that greater restrictions on free speech are indeed constitutional, and that:

“The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the  substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

Although the Congress has not declared war in the conflicts in either Iraq or Afghanistan, the United States is still engaged in the longest war in its history, and many other freedoms have been effectively curtailed.  Air travel requires in-depth search of self and belongings without any criminal intent on the part of the passenger and certainly no probable cause. Yet we not only allow, but actually support and pay for virtually unlimited hate-mongering by media personalities.  That hate-mongering stirs up civil unrest, state legislation that is most likely unconstitutional, uncivil behavior, and discrimination… and all in a time of war.

Why is this occurring? Because it’s profitable for the media outlets.  The more conflict that’s generated, the more the number of listeners increases, and the more advertising rates and revenues increase.  In effect, the media has succeeded in successfully turning hate into a paying commodity – and all too many Americans are buying it… and effectively working to destroy many of the very principles on which the nation was founded.

As I have stated before, every single person in the United States is either an immigrant or a descendent of immigrants.  Exactly what is the difference between those seeking to live in the United States and our forebears?  Some will claim that our ancestors came legally.  Some doubtless did, but many were convicts and criminals.  Others were fleeing chaos and war – just like the majority of those trying to reach the USA today.  The hate-mongers claim that the “illegal” immigrants bring more crime.  Statistics show that the rates of crime between “legal” Americans and “illegals” are almost identical.  Such facts tend to get buried in the hate-filled rhetoric.

Interestingly enough, given the magnitude of the financial melt-down and the subsequent Great Recession, we’ve had comparatively little hate-mongering against Wall Street and the financial types who perpetrated it.  Even Bernie Madoff got off comparatively lightly in the media.  Why might that be?  Could it just possibly be because the media pundits who stir up all this hate don’t want to bite [at least not too hard] the hands that pay them for all this hate-mongering?

But, of course, any suggestion that Congress consider restrictions on broadcasting hate and inciting civil unrest will immediately draw cries about how free speech can never be infringed.  Except that the Supreme Court already ruled that in times of war… it can.

We have laws against other toxic substances.  What about toxic speech?

12 thoughts on “The Media Commodification of Hate-Mongering”

  1. BrianMc says:

    All respect to you sir. I love your books, particularly the Imager series.

    I just Googled and found studies that go both ways Re: crime and illegal immigration. I think the most telling stats I found were from Arizona, where illegals commit much higher proportions of crime than do citizens. It should be no wonder that they are tired of waiting on the Federal Gov’t (under any political party leadership) to take action. (Did you know that Arizona leads the nation in kidnapping cases, by a wide margin? And they are almost exclusively committed by illegal aliens.)

    And to say that the media is the primary source/encourager of the frustration in this regard? I thought I was cynical till I read your post. Do they play a part? Sure. But I’m not cynical enough to believe that their supporters follow them blindly.

    Most importantly, give me a break with the ‘hatemonger’ call. Just because the majority of Americans are fed up with the government not enforcing the law, that doesn’t mean we hate illegal immigrants or anyone else. Considering the extraordinary cost of illegal immigration, and the state of our nation’s finances, and the security risk posed by a porous border, I frankly don’t see how anyone with a clear head can be anything but frustrated right now.

    I hate to see a post like the one above from someone whose work I love as much as yours. My 2 cents.

    1. I don’t have a problem with citizen frustration. I do have a problem with people blaming the symptoms and focusing on them, when dealing with the symptoms won’t solve the problem, will cost tens to hundreds of billions, and is fueled by hate and frustration. Our border has ALWAYS been porous, and, frankly, it likely always will be because it’s long and crosses some rather inhospitable territory. The cost of illegal immigration is nothing compared to the costs of the “solutions” proposed by those who wish to turn us into a “island nation,” not to mention the implications for civil liberties.

  2. Shae says:

    It is indeed true that we form opinions on what we hear. We do not, much as we like to beleive we do, take much time to double-check the source of the facts being related. What the television news-reader speaks we often credit with being true.

    Truth comes in all shades of the facts. Even the order in which the facts are related can shape what is the resulting perception of the truth -not to mention what is carefully omitted.

    The point in illustration is that we are in fact being deliberately encouraged to focus on the “symptoms”, as Mr Modessit put it. Our frustration and attention is being stirred into a froth about the occurences and situations that result from drug culture and use, from “Credit” culture and use, and a host of other issues that need not be here related. But rather than throwing wet sand at the base of the fire, to put it out once and for all, we are upset and want action about the smoke.

    In my own homeland, fully two thirds of our native people have either been incarcerated, or someone in their immediate family has. Our prisons are overflowing. There has even been a suggestion of building emergency prisons from modified ship containers.
    And yet our native people represent less than a sixteenth of our total populaton. They simply do not have the population to be responsible for our overflowing prisons… but what I want to ilustrate is that our news never fails to comment on even the most minor crime carried out by the natives.
    My grandfather lived in simpler times, but could see what was happening in the world. He told me his concerns about the world -and always with one clause: he would say he was clever enough to see the problems, but not clever enough, or brave enough to address the answers to them. Perhaps this is true of us all. And in this generation of “Instant-Gratification” the fact that we feel a daily twinge of frustration (when we hear, see, or read from the media about the issues of our world) I suggest it is being suggested to us that “We’ve done our part feeling frustrated.” To feel that daily twinge is ownership of the problem, and our act of stewardship. or more sinister yet:”The fact you’ve felt frstrated and expressed yourself through your vote is enough.”

    I put it to you, in support of Mr Modessit’s comment, that this is exactly what the media is trying to suggest.

  3. I realize that this does not directly target your frustration, but it occurred to me that I would like to see a state/government constitutional amendment along the following lines:

    “Access to valid information being fundamental to a free society, the right to presentation of and education about scientific fact as determined by independent scientific consensus shall not be abridged on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or economic or political ideology.”

  4. hob says:

    Instead of laws concerning ‘toxic speech’, perhaps a new tax based on the problems generated by such speech, targeted at multimedia companies would solve some of the issues.

    In effect, allow freedom of expression and demand the responsibility of damage that goes with it.

    1. Swainson says:


      is that not the definition of libel?

  5. hob says:

    Yes but in the case of Libel you are asking that the persons or groups that feel defamed prove that it has occurred by going to court and asking for compensation.
    I’m proposing an overall tax by the federal Government on media outlets when the content is divisive in nature. The tax should be calculated to charge all profit over operating costs for producing and showing such material. The intent would be to show that in a democracy it is important to discuss divisive issues, but that people should not profit from such discussions. It would also help a little to filter out hype from fact.

  6. Nathan says:

    The only problem with using Schenck vs. the United States is the context of that trial. Schenck actively agitated against the draft and was a socialist, so he was already an unpopular political outsider to begin with. Telling young men that they could resist the draft to fight a ridiculously mismanaged war that left lots of young men on all sides of the trenches dead for no REAL reason certainly didn’t constitute a clear and present danger then, and that legislation was weakened over time, so much so that by the 60s it was no longer exactly illegal to protest against the Vietnam War drafts by using speech.

    But I agree with the main thrust of your argument and with your question regarding the relative absence of malice towards Wall Street and financial profiteers. How many conservative talking heads are multimillionaires? Glenn Beck made close to $18 million last year. Sean Hannity’s net worth is between $15 and $20 million, as is Michael Savage’s. Yet somehow they consistently claim they speak for the “average” American and claim to take the moral high ground when they protest issues that are funded by taxation…it doesn’t take a economist to understand that they have a lot of money tied up in questions of increased taxation. Nevertheless they speak a good game and have a lot of people eating out of their hands, in spite of the clear class and material differences between them and their audiences…

    …so what we need is a good clean class war again, with real honest intelligent agitation, not the Tea Party kind, where the wrong people are made political, economic, and ideological scapegoats. Probably not going to happen, though…

  7. David Sims says:

    You’re pulling all the right threads, Mr. Modesitt. Let me stitch them together for you.

    First, both the media and the financial moguls on Wall Street, as well as the major banks and the Federal Reserve, are all run by people who are practically each other’s cousins. At least, they are of the same tribe: Ashkenazi Jews. When one of them retires, he is replaced by another Jew or by someone who can be relied on to serve as a Jew’s proxy.

    For example, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner was replaced, on his retirement, by Robert Iger. Both men are Jews. Another example: there are eight major motion picture production companies in Hollywood. How many are run by Jews? Eight. How many are run by someone who is not Jewish? Zero.

    Most of the “local” newspapers in the United States aren’t really independent. They are part of a chain owned by Samuel and Donald Newhouse, Jewish men who like to keep the business in the family. Who runs the media conglomerate Viacom? Sumner Redstone does. When he was born, his name was Murray Rothstein.

    As an author, you probably do business with Jewish-owned publishing companies and major book vendors, whose favor you would probably like to keep.

    As it is with the media, so is it with the banking business. The Federal Reserve system, which creates our money in the form of interest-bearing loans, is a gigantic Jewish scam that was imposed on Americans in 1913 by a conspiracy between Jewish bankers and corrupt members of Congress.

    When one of these Jewish bankers commits a crime, and gets caught (by no means certain), and doesn’t immediately fast-talk or buy his way out of trouble, his co-ethnics in the media cover for him. Bernie Madoff is Jewish.

    The Jews have, through both the media and the banks, and by direct infiltration, a great deal of influence over the federal government. And the only “hate speech” the Jews care about are statements, true or not, whose expression is contrary to some interest or project of theirs. Other speech, which anyone else might recognize as “hateful” doesn’t get the recognition of the Jewish media, and so it doesn’t get official status as Hate Speech.

    The issue with immigration is race. Whites came to possess North America north of the Rio Grande. We’d like to keep it, and even whites who aren’t racially aware would like to keep the part of it that they own or live on. We call them “Mexicans,” but the real significance for us is that they are Mestizos, members of a race not our own. And, whether WE decide that the difference is important, THEY CERTAINLY HAVE. You can refuse to ARGUE. But you can’t always refuse to FIGHT.

    Races do not often get along in social mixtures. The unnatural multiculturalism of the present is maintained by police power and welfare payouts. When fossil fuels decline, as shortly they will, the means to continue these controls on racial strife will dry up. Naturally, the pent up violence will explode, and all the liberals will see, after it is too late to do anything about it, why immigration from Mexico (and from Africa) was a bad idea.

  8. Caitlin says:

    I live in Australia and we face much the same frenzy over people who arrive on boats. What makes the frenzy “interesting” is that the majority of Australian’s arrived here by boat and relatively recently after the Second World War. In total since July 1949 we’ve had 5,640,638 immigrants only 1,780,989 come from the UK or Ireland the rest came from Italy, Germany, Greece and Vietnam. Keep in mind that Australia’s population is only 21 million. All these different races get along fine together because people adopt the country they move to. They don’t go around thinking “I’m Italian” unless someone goes up to them and says “You’re not Australian”. A proportion of Australians along with people who arrived previous to July 1949 do not want to accept asylum seekers or “boat people” not because of race but because they simply don’t want to share. A large part of this greediness is because the infrastructure is simply lacking in major cities. So it’s less an issue of race and more an issue of “Australian” and “illegal person” or if you’re one of the major news corporations here: “pieces of human cargo”.
    I should note here that this is not an issue for most Australians and people in the country towns are asking for migrants from all over the world. The issues of overcrowding on public transport and high rental prices on properties are due to poor governmental planning not because of immigration. The media would have you believe that “boat people” are the cause of every problem.
    We have some laws here against toxic speech, such as the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 where: “A person must not, on the ground of the religious belief or activity of another person or class of persons, engage in conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons.” The problem is the media stays just off the line by not saying anything directly but by making statements that are exaggerated or blatantly untrue.
    Media outlets used to base their business model on reliability and journalists and editors would work hard to get information that was accurate and trustworthy. Now instead of a 24hour cycle they work on a 24second cycle and they’ll use anything that will catch the eye or cause controversy. This appears to be a reaction to the availability of news on the internet so they get in fast but at the cost of accuracy.
    The point is that the media doesn’t offer solutions they tell you all the scary stuff but wash their hands of the consequences. The problem is if both sides always have an “us and them” mentality people will never get along. America doesn’t have the luxury of an ocean on all four sides and arresting and kicking out people who come seeking a better life isn’t going to stop more people from coming. You’ve got to go right back to the start of the problem and fix the reasons why people move in the first place. Unless of course you think building some sort of fence would be helpful and effective.

    Also: I thought a large proportion of American media/news servives are owned by Rupert Murdoch?

  9. On a related subject, the thought of Rupert Murdoch taking over Sky, in particular Sky News, is a very disturbing concept – I hear Fox News is banned in Canada where its dishonesty and bias are known and understood. We don’t need any more Rupert Murdoch in the UK!

  10. seo tutorial says:

    And more, Twitter’s action in giving up posters’ details regarding libelling the officers of a British local council has been described as being “a warning shot to people that they cannot post things online with impunity”. Seeing as it cost 75 grand in court costs to get Twitter to release the names, I’d say it illustrates more that you can post what you want to about poor people, but not about wealthy people who can pay for court action. One law for the rich and one for the poor, same as always.

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