[FoRK] America's Laziest Fascist? Or America's Most Traumatized Radiohead?

Contempt for Meatheads jbone at place.org
Thu May 20 10:24:04 PDT 2004

Commentary:  I listen to Savage on the drive home time every night, 
when I can stomach it.  The guy is a fascinating if infuriating study 
in constant ongoing cognitive damage.  I mean, he's obviously a 
well-educated guy --- but he makes *no sense* a lot of the time.  A few 
anecdotal bits:

* In his book he asks the question (re: Election 2000) "aren't all the 
states equal?"  NO THEY ARE NOT, OBVIOUSLY!  The populations are 
different.  Should Alaska as a whole have as much say in our national 
governance as, say, California?  Or Georgia?  Or Texas?  Or New York?  
Or...?  I mean, GMAFB.

* When Savage (to his credit) started jumping off the Bush bandwagon 
back in the fall (because Bush isn't conservative or belligerent enough 
for Savage, not enough "God, Guns, and Taking Out The Garbage" in his 
words) I thought --- okay, maybe he's getting clue enough to think 
independently of the Rove daily talking points.  I called in and 
dropped this line on him:  "Democrats and Republicans are like AIDS and 
Ebola.  They both kill you.  One just kills you  slowly by eroding your 
immune system away over years, while the other one kills quickly by 
turning you into a puddle of stinking goo."  He thought that was 
"dark."  The sick fuck who likes to play Nick Berg's scream on his show 
these days, who wants to indiscriminately nuke "Arab" capitols, who got 
booted from network TV because he told a homosexual that he hoped he 
got AIDS and died --- he thought my bit was "dark."  Whatever.

* If there's any question about Michael's state of mind, it's put to 
rest by a few of his characteristic behaviors.  His rants about Punchy 
Salzberger.  His "Jewish Mother" whiney tirades about how sick he is of 
politics.  His psuedo-intellectual Mixmaster riffs about world history. 
  His ultra-defensive stance re: his education.  (He's apparently got a 
Ph.D. in nutrition --- FROM BERKELEY.  Mmmhmm.  Arch conservative?  How 
about FUCKING CONFUSED? ;-)  And the one I like best:  his TRULY 
PSYCHOTIC-sounding songs he writes and sings over hardcore German 
industrial?  Seriously, this guy is a three-ring circus of pathos and 
questionable sanity.

Michael's not a fascist, not really.  He's a terrified, stressed, 
threatened, change-averse conservative suffering from post-9/11 post 
traumatic stress disorder --- as I now believe almost half of this 
country is.  I really, honestly believe this.  I think a vast portion 
of our population is suffering from mental illness induced by 9/11, and 
it's clouding our collective ability to think critically.  Savage is a 
great case study;  every night he illustrates this insanity in a 
marvelously overt fashion for anyone and everyone who has even a shred 
of critical thinking ability left.

Anway, onward:

America's laziest fascist
Infamous shock jock Michael Savage bombed in a bizarre, half-baked 
stage show this week, but his 6 million listeners just heard him call 
for the U.S. to murder millions of Arabs. Does the FCC care?

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Dave Gilson


May 20, 2004  |  Michael Savage doesn't get out much. The hardcore 
conservative radio host of "The Savage Nation" has always been a 
relatively reclusive figure. He doesn't do book tours or publicity 
stunts. He's not exactly approachable either: He claims to carry a gun 
with him at all times, and he doesn't like nosy journalists asking for 

Not that he's the shy, retiring type. Lately, as the Iraq torture 
scandal has dominated the headlines, he has taken to calling Arabs 
"non-humans" and has called for the U.S. to kill "thousands" of Iraqi 
prisoners and nuke a random Arab capital. Deciding whether to pay 
attention to Savage has always been tricky, though. It's never clear 
whether he really believes what he says in his tirades or if they are 
simply ploys for public outcry. His is currently the third-most-popular 
radio program in the nation. Nonetheless, it may be hard for Savage to 
sit by and watch the FCC's crackdown against fellow jock Howard Stern 
effectively lift Stern's profile even higher into the stratosphere. But 
Savage's outbursts are often so unhinged, so vicious, that ignoring 
them seems irresponsible, especially when so many Americans apparently 
are nodding in agreement. So when I learned that Savage would be making 
his first public appearance in three years Saturday night, it seemed 
worth checking out, if only to see who was paying attention to him and 

"Savage Uncensored," as the event was called, marked the end of what's 
been a crummy year for the once-hot Savage. Last March, MSNBC gave him 
a weekly program only to cancel it after four months when he labeled a 
caller a "sodomite" and told him to "get AIDS and die." Then the San 
Francisco radio station that gave him his first big break dumped him 
and rubbed salt into the wound with billboards that depicted Savage 
morphing into Sean Hannity, beneath the slogan "Out With the Old, In 
with the New." When a couple of anti-Savage Web sites started a boycott 
of his advertisers, his syndicator, Talk Radio Network, tried to revoke 
their domain names. When that failed, it tried to sue them for $1 
million. That failed too.

Savage's star may have faded, but it's still too early to write him 
off, with "The Savage Nation" pulling in 6 million listeners a week. 
His latest screed against fifth columnists such as liberals, gays and 
atheists, "The Enemy Within," debuted at No. 8 on the New York Times 
nonfiction list. But when it comes to the true measure of a talker's 
cachet -- buzz -- Savage has slipped several notches in the past year. 
The anti-Savage sites are now dormant, their owners apparently 
satisfied that he would never make it back on TV. Fans and foes who 
once duked it out in Internet chat rooms appear to have moved on. These 
days, it seems the only people paying attention to Savage are diehard 
fans and perhaps a few incorrigible rubber-necking journalists.

Savage was scheduled to appear at the Concord Pavilion, an outdoor 
amphitheater in the suburban hills east of San Francisco. As a 
Metallica cover band called Creeping Death wailed, 5,000 or so people 
filed in to see him in the flesh. A quick look around made the 
demographics of the Savage Nation quickly apparent: Ninety percent were 
men and a good 95 percent were white. During the next three-and-a-half 
hours, there would be clear affirmation that they like gay jokes, Arab 
bashing and mass displays of patriotism. They will offer to share their 
freedom fries with a complete stranger. And when that stranger fails to 
boo liberals, holler the phrase "under God" during the Pledge of 
Allegiance or show sufficient enthusiasm for torturing Iraqis, they are 
polite enough not to drag him out to the parking lot and pummel him.

The crowd at Concord had paid as much as $100 for an evening of 
rhetorical red meat for the right-wing faithful. At first, we weren't 
disappointed. But by the end of the night, I wasn't the only one 
checking my watch.

Savage's son, Russ Weiner, kicked off the show. With his spiky, 
dyed-orange hair and calculated scruffiness, he was reminiscent of Dr. 
Evil's son Scott from the Austin Powers movies. The resemblance was 
confirmed when Weiner proclaimed, "I'm proud to be the son of Savage!" 
The 30-something Weiner is the founder of RockStar, an energy drink 
that he developed with his dad, drawing on Savage's previous career as 
a Marin County herbalist and ethnobotanist named Michael Weiner. 
RockStar's herbal liver-cleansing formula is supposed to enable 
drinkers to "party like a rock star," which presumably means drinking 
and doping. Generous free samples had been passed out to the crowd on 
the way in. It lived up to its hype: The antifreeze-colored, 
cough-syrup-flavored beverage can only be enjoyed if you're taking 

But while Weiner has cashed in on other people's bad behavior, he made 
it clear that he's a family-values kind of guy. "Who's heterosexual and 
proud?" he asked, prompting manly cheers. "If you're not, hopefully you 
will be soon!" Before handing the stage over to the man he called "our 
leader," he advised the audience how to handle his hot-tempered dad: 
"Let him know you love him!"

Love -- or an acceptably heterosexual version of it -- filled the air 
as Savage drove onto the stage in a classic red Cadillac convertible. 
He warmed up the audience by riffing on the day's news, joking that 
"Shiite" should be spelled with one "I" and calling Muqtada al-Sadr "a 
fat bastard in a burka." Dressed in a calfskin jacket, slouch hat and 
blue jeans, Savage was at ease, swearing freely and peppering his 
speech with "Hey, mans" that evoked his days as a North Beach beatnik 
wannabe. Whatever was in his coffee cup was certainly helping. When it 
ran dry, he called out, "I need a drink!" and a young woman sauntered 
over and poured champagne into the mug.

Like everyone else these days, Savage was fixated on Iraq and the Abu 
Ghraib prison abuse scandal. He managed to combine the two dominant 
conservative takes: The first being Rush Limbaugh's insistence that 
what happened in Abu Ghraib was a harmless prank; the other being 
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe's assertion that the prisoners got what they 

"These are tough interrogations?" Savage asked. "My father put me 
through tougher interrogations when I was 16!" He portrayed 
now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison guard Lynndie England as a poster girl 
for the war on terrorism -- an embodiment of the idea that kicking 
Muslim ass can be fun. "Let's hear it for Laurie [sic] England!" he 
cheered. "The leash chick! Hey man, she had a great time over there!" 
He couldn't understand why liberals were so outraged. After all, he 
said, the acts of sexual humiliation and degradation that took place in 
Abu Ghraib were no more perverted than typical homosexual behavior. Try 
to follow his tortured logic: Savage was saying he didn't mind the Abu 
Ghraib abuses because they were good clean fun, like gay sex, which he 
openly abhors.

Savage moved on to another of his favorite topics: bombing the bejeezus 
out of Iraq. Just a few days before the Uncensored event, he'd been 
ranting on the radio about dropping fiery death on civilians throughout 
Iraq and the Middle East. "I don't give a damn if they hide behind 
their women's skirts," he foamed. "Wipe the women out with them! 
Because it's our women who got killed on 9/11! And it's our women who 
are gonna get killed tomorrow unless we get rid of the bugs who are 
destroying us!" Tonight, Savage continued to elaborate on this 
disturbing vision of how to win the war in Iraq. He said he fantasized 
of being woken up by the sound of B-1 and B-52 bombers flying over his 
house on their way to the Middle East. Imagining bombers overhead at 4 
a.m., he gushed about these nocturnal missions, "It's better than an 
orgasm -- it is an orgasm!"

Savage continued the psychological striptease, peeling off more layers 
of mainstream conservatism to expose his raging right-wing id. Though 
he has long billed himself as the original "compassionate 
conservative," his brand of conservatism does not share George W. 
Bush's pretense of caring about Muslim hearts and minds, much less 
lives. It appears that for Savage, the war in Iraq has nothing to do 
with spreading democracy or respecting human rights. It is about 
asserting American power by any means necessary, and screw what anyone 
else thinks. Predictably, and sadly, this notion went over well with 
the audience. When Savage blurted out, "Does anyone in this crowd give 
a shit about the Iraqis?" he was answered with a deafening "NO!"

But if the first half of the event showcased Savage's ability to stir 
the faithful, the second half was an object lesson in how a performer 
can take his audience -- and his talent -- for granted. Basically, he 
bombed. He spent nearly 20 minutes sitting in a stuffed chair in front 
of a television set, free-associating as he channel surfed. Seeing 
footage of Jordan's King Abdullah, he screamed, "Kiss my ass! Shut the 
hell up!" To a soccer match in Spanish, he quipped, "Reminds me of my 
gardener." It was about as entertaining as watching a middle-aged man 
yelling at his living room TV. Savage eventually realized things 
weren't going well. "You don't like this shit," he said. "It's a bad 

Some fans -- mostly older people and parents with small children -- 
started to leave. If this were radio, they would probably already have 
changed stations. Most of the audience stuck around as Savage went into 
freefall, flailing wildly for something to catch his fans' attention. 
He read from the Bible, played with his new puppy, moaned about his 
"mother issues" and asked for more booze. The evening's low point came 
when he played the audiotape of Nicholas Berg's beheading over the P.A. 
system. Berg's pitiful, frenzied screaming filled the amphitheater. 
Having not heard or seen the gruesome tape before, I covered my ears in 
shock. I was not alone. If Savage was trying to incite the audience, it 
didn't work. Playing the tape only revealed his desperation for a 
reaction, any reaction.

"What made you come out on this night?" he asked. "You see the vultures 
circling this great nation. We feel the vultures flying over the 
Concord Pavilion." And perhaps they could smell Savage dying on the 
stage below.

In a last-ditch attempt to rouse the listless crowd, Savage tried to 
root out some closet liberals. "Is there any asshole here who hates me, 
who's gonna try and rush the stage?" he asked. It was a long way 
between the cheap seats and the stage, but I was getting tired and 
bored. Rushing the stage might have prolonged the evening by a few more 
minutes, so I stayed put. Hurrying off stage, Savage promised, "Wait 
till you see the close."

Luckily, the finale lasted all of 15 seconds. From the wings, Savage, 
obviously thinking he was off-mic, barked, "Play the Arab music!" A 
Middle Eastern tune blared as his red Cadillac lurched onto the stage. 
Savage was perched on the back seat, dressed in white robes and 
sunglasses, looking like a costume-party sheik. As the car disappeared 
off stage, he waved to the crowd, "Goodbye, infidels! I'll see you in 
hell!" And with that, "Savage Uncensored" slouched to its perplexing 
though somehow fitting conclusion.

The house lights came on, revealing a few thousand blinking and 
bewildered fans -- Savage had just resoundingly bombed on his home 
turf. "That's it?" wondered one woman behind me, with real 
disappointment in her voice. "He said he was going to do Dr. UnSavage," 
she said, referring to one of the jock's longtime on-air characters. A 
couple of young guys shook their heads. "He misread his audience," one 
said. His friend added, "He got into the champagne too much." Maybe 
some RockStar would have helped.

His poor performance was not entirely surprising. Unlike his 
compatriots Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Dr. Laura, Savage often 
comes off as a remarkably amateurish and lazy showman. None of his 
colleagues -- no matter how big their egos -- would dare adlib their 
way through a two-hour live performance.

Savage's unprofessionalism makes it easy for liberals to dismiss him as 
a crank. But that's an easy way to overlook his ever-more xenophobic, 
homophobic and authoritarian political message. Ultimately, his 
invective may be what keeps his listeners coming back for more. Savage 
says what many mainstream conservatives can't or won't. As frustration 
with the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq adventure and the 
war on terror grows, his message holds appeal for those who believe 
nothing but desperate measures will work against an increasingly 
hostile world. And so, Savage will keep calling for Iraqi prisoners to 
be sodomized with dynamite. If he's lucky, such antics may score him a 
public showdown with the FCC. Or perhaps he will finally rant his way 
into oblivion. Considering the recent developments in Iraq, even if 
Savage waits another three years to emerge from his veil of heavily 
armed privacy, there may be no shortage of fodder for his bizarre stage 
spectacle and the audience it attracts.

More information about the FoRK mailing list