January 14, 2011

What's Hiding Behind Chafee's Divisive Rhetoric?

Justin Katz

I'm beginning to worry about what the Chafee administration and its puppeteers might be trying to distract Rhode Islanders from with his assault on talk radio. As you've likely heard, yesterday RI Governor Lincoln Chafee called on advertisers to boycott talk radio. Apart from the petty activism indicated by his lambasting of an entire information medium (and a popular one, at that), the philosophical and direct assault on economic activity during the Great Recession and Rhode Island's continuing decline is bizarre, given the times. The more charitable explanation is that the governor has some sure-to-be-unpopular dealings going on in the background and wishes for everybody's eyes to be elsewhere.

In his partial defense (maybe), I will note that my impression from a more extended clip than Steve Klamkin provides in the above link was slightly different. It almost sounded as if, in response to some leading questions from the Pawtucket Times' Jim Baron, Chafee was bumbling his way to the point that private action should shut down divisive media, not government. Even if we make that stretch on the governor's behalf, however, his inarticulacy is reckless and damaging. As a press release from the RI Tea Party puts it:

The RI Tea Party finds the Governor's actions and words to be irresponsible and divisive. The Governor is the highest elected official in our state. By virtue of that Office, Governor Chafee carries a special responsibility to weigh the ramifications of his public messaging. He has failed to do so.

And the oddity extends beyond the governor's off-the-cuff remarks. Asked how Chafee's recent characterization of Sarah Palin as a "cocky wacko" fits into his call for tempered discourse, spokesman Michael Trainor says:

That remark was not made in a talk-radio format. We do not think it is an equivalent situationl

When Chafee's lips move, it's not what you say, but where you say it.

Less than a month into his term, the governor is way off message and is ensuring that political discord in the state will be greater during his reign than it was before... except perhaps to the extent that the public-sector unions quiet down. And that's where one suspects the origin of this initiative from the governor's office lies. No doubt, Linc is truly aghast at the tragedy in Arizona and, in his simplicity, has been led by national spinmeisters to blame talk radio and conservatives.

But then, perhaps he's also being led to weaken a medium that doesn't well serve his union backers. Talk radio has allowed reformers, notably Governor Carcieri and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, stretches of airtime to discuss their policies at greater length than is possible in other media. The live, extended format has also not been kind to defenders of the inexcusable status quo.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.


I think you are working to hard. The man is just incompetent.

This looks like an RI-scale version of Obama's (and Van Jones') war on Fox news a couple of years ago. Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

I suspect it will turn out just as well. I'm expecting WPRO to start with the ads on how they have "Talk news so important the government doesn't want you to know it!"


Posted by: Bri at January 14, 2011 7:13 AM

"What's hiding behind Chafee's decisive rhetoric?" you ask.

The answer, I suspect, is nothing.

To cut off a major communications medium as part of your communications strategy is, well, kinda dumb.

And weak.

"Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel," as H.L. Mencken (and a few others) have said.

Posted by: brassband at January 14, 2011 7:19 AM

"yesterday RI Governor Lincoln Chafee called on advertisers to boycott talk radio."

So wouldn't that essentially put them out of business? Is that what the Governor of RI wants, to put a productive, jobs-producing employer out of business because he disagrees with the product?

"Sarah Palin as a "cocky wacko" "

Isn't Chafee also the one who said he'd vote for Mickey Mouse or someone similar before he'd vote for George Bush. And now he's upset about vitriol and talk? He was right in the thick of it when Bush was president. Now that it's a president that he and the left likes, the tough talk is a problem?

Posted by: Patrick at January 14, 2011 7:59 AM

Talk radio in RI is an embarrassment because of Jon Depietro and Buddy Cianci. The good ones, Dan Yorke, Matt Allen and Helen Glover are not good enough to overcome the hurdles put in their way by their colleagues.

If I were governor I would simply ignore the medium and not make a big deal out of it. Chaffee's mistake, and one of his major flaws is his ego, which in this case got in the way of rational discourse.

Posted by: michael at January 14, 2011 9:12 AM

That's an interesting point -- what Chafee might be trying to distract us from. It may simply be that Chafee is trying to distract himself from a really unpleasant reality that he has yet to fully understand -- the magnitude of the state's financial problems. Recall during the campaign when he complained to Dan Yorke of WPRO radio (talk radio!), strangely, that Yorke was being "unfair" to Chafee when Yorke pointed out accurately that Chafee's tax-increase proposal would solve only one-fourth of the budget shortfall and that Chafee had no suggestions for how to close the other three-fourths of the deficit. I get the sense that Chafee wanted to be Governor because he would be the center of attention in RI, but the reality of having to make hard and serious decisions that affect the state -- and being accountable -- now completely overwhelms him. I suspect now that he'd really rather have a television or radio talk show(!), which would let him pontificate without having any real responsibility for anything or anyone.

On the related note, now Chafee's "spokesperson" Trainor tells us that Chafee's previous public insult of Sarah Palin was different and okay, because Chafee didn't say it over talk radio? That's really persuasive. With that quality of logic, we're all in for a very strange four-year ride.

Lastly, I tend to disagree that Chafee is being led anywhere by anyone but himself. There are some grownups in his administration. He needs to find them, or let them find him, before he and Trainor dig themselves a hole that they can't climb out of.

Posted by: Bill at January 14, 2011 9:46 AM

Hear hear, governor. It's about time someone called the fringe-right on their reckless and often bigoted rhetoric (the sophmoric "humor" about Cicilline's sexual orientation comes to mind).

Posted by: Russ at January 14, 2011 10:46 AM

There really is no problem with Chafee boycotting talk radio nor is there a problem with organized sponsor boycotts.
The problem arises when the government promotes sponsor boycotts. This can only be interpreted as an attempt to suppress free speech.

Posted by: Max Diesel at January 14, 2011 10:47 AM

I'm sure we'll hear plenty about 1st Amendment rights from the fringe-right cult of victimization. It's a nonsense argument, made clear by how the right fell all over themselves just last year in support of cutting off all means of financial support for Wikileaks.

If only you guys cared as much for the rights of actual people as you do the "rights" of corporations!

Posted by: Russ at January 14, 2011 11:05 AM

hear,hear russ-take a look at your own people-pat Crowley for instance-right down in the gutter every time out of the box-following Alinskyite tactics to the letter-using the lie to denonce people for things they are not guilty of is worse by dfar than some gay joke.those haven't apparently had any effect on Cicilline's career.
My concern with Cicilline is that he lies straight faced-the mark of a sociopath.
I don't give one infinitesmal damn about what he does with another adult consensually.
Anyway,I thought you were opposed to government intimidation.
Refusing to go on talk radio and preventing department heads from doing so is just stupid.
Putting pressure on private entities to boycott a class of businesses is oppressive and extortionate-how can an advertiser be confident they won't be subjected to "special"enforcement tactics?Remember Nixon's use of the IRS to harrass members of an "enemies list"?
That kind of behavior is impeachable and possibly criminal.
You who are so incensed at government intrusions into private behavior-well,I guess it's all situational for activists like yourself.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 14, 2011 11:11 AM

Gotta love the stupid liberals. They really are better off just shutting up, because whenever they open their mouths they provide more fodder for us.
Their qualms with talk radio is that they just can't compete, a la Air America. And, rather than be shown as unable to defend their idiotic policies and positions, it's easier to just shut up those with opposing views.
It's tired, it's lame, and people can see right through it.
Whenever you have an opposing view on immigration, they call you a racist or bigot. When it's gay marriage, you're a bigot or a homophobe.
Never do you hear a logical and reasoned counter to the argument. It's right to the venomous hate mantra with the stupid liberals. Just like the unions, when you have any thoughts of reforming our ill-conceived public employee contracts, you are against working families. No defense, just the hate.
The truth behind the stupid liberals desire to end talk radio is that they want us to just shut up while they foist their failed liberal policies on us. Nice try.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at January 14, 2011 11:37 AM

Mike, how funny to see you both condemn and participate in the name calling. Perfect response.

I'm not sure how the right can defend ridiculing an elected official about their sexuality (done with some frequency on WPRO - I'm not planning to quote them here). That's the point where I've called advertisers in the past asking if they're comfortable being associated with that type of "humor." I wouldn't be, but that's for them to decide.

Posted by: Russ at January 14, 2011 12:25 PM

"Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel," as H.L. Mencken (and a few others) have said.

Posted by brassband at January 14, 2011 7:19 AM


They're using public airwaves to drive a narrow political ideology that is out of step with the public sentiment. Why should the Governor hand this group a club with which to be beaten. They have demonstrated their willingness to engage in the cultivation of fringe political expression and have in the recent past come as close to straying into slander and libel. Also troubling is the blending of news with opinion. Sadly there is more and more of this with the cable news channels. News blended with entertainment is now the norm with the TV networks. It is hard to break free of these corporately produced "shows" and does not bode well for us receiving information.

Posted by: Phil at January 14, 2011 12:32 PM

Tthe news/opinion blend has become more pronounced in all media,and not just conservative media.
talk radio IS opinion driven-no one on there claims different.
Air America failed and some liberals can't deal with that.
Mike Malloy might be the most hateful and venemous person on radio.
To be fair,Michael Savage isn't far behind,if at all,and he's a miserable little huckster and money grubber in the bargain.
This dispute is about one thing:the Governor using his office to interfere with the freedom of sponsors to spend their money as they see fit.
That is loaded with implied threats and is just rotten and against American principles.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 14, 2011 12:49 PM

"Air America failed and some liberals can't deal with that."

I can't think of anyone other than conservatives who even bring that up. Liberals are concerned with the problem of corporate media. Air America didn't solve that problem and the absence if it just means that I have to listen to NPR or tween pop instead on car trips.

Synicated shows are one thing, but in RI the total absence of liberal voices on commercial stations should give you a clear picture of just how much corporate control skews the range of opinion available over certain media.

Posted by: Russ at January 14, 2011 1:44 PM


It's not about the message or that Chafee won't go on talk radio. It's about the Governor promoting a sponsor boycott which is just an underhand suppression of free speech. If he wasn't the governor it wouldn't matter.

Posted by: Max Diesel at January 14, 2011 2:31 PM

What is funny is how this week the Gov is calling for a boycott of talk radio and talk radio is saying how this is so horrible! Next week talk radio will probably be calling for a boycott of (a movie/ rapper/ artist/ you fill in the blank) because they need to protect "the children".

Posted by: Swazool at January 14, 2011 2:43 PM

I must have missed that "right to advertisers" part of the 1st Amendment.

It's a good thing you folks took such a principled stand in support of the Dixie Chicks during the Bush administration or I might be tempted to call you hypocrites!

*** quote ***
According to a story from americannewsreel.com sent to RRC by former Reprise president Howie Klein, "Phone calls originating from Republican Party headquarters in Washington went out to country stations, urging them to remove the Chicks from their playlists.The 'alternative concert' [to the Dixie Chicks' tour opener] is actually the work of the South Carolina Republican Party and party officials are helping promote the concert.We received a call from 'Gallagher's Army,' urging us to support the alternative concert. Caller ID backtraced the call to South Carolina GOP headquarters."

Chain radio stations were quick to dump the Chicks because their parent companies (Clear Channel, Viacom, et al) have pressing business in the nation's capitol and they want help from the Republican Party.
*** end quote ***

Posted by: Russ at January 14, 2011 2:56 PM

swazool-please give a citation for your assertion that local talk radio has tried to boycott a movie/rapper/artist.
I honestly can't recall a controversy about such an issue in recent memory.
BTW would you want your kids(assuming you are a parent)looking at a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition?I'm speaking of minor children here,not the over 18 crowd.
I don't like bluenoses,but some stuff just isn't for kids.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 14, 2011 3:00 PM

Reread it. I don't condemn it. I'm merely pointing out how liberals condemn it, yet are quick to engage in it. More often than not, it is their first defense.
I have no problem with any of it. Bring it on. I'm happy to debate in any way, shape or form. It's you stupid liberals that can't.

Air America failed because there is no market for the failed liberal ideology they espoused. Don't you get get that, Russ? In other words, there aren't enough people buying into their crap - your crap; liberal crap. It's called the free market. And your product sucks and nobody is buying it, while your competitor is thriving. That is precisely the problem you stupid liberals have with all of this. And, rather than compete in the marketplace of ideas, like the fascists you really are, you'd rather shut your competition up. People can see right through you frauds.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at January 14, 2011 3:48 PM

Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller were never part of Air America. AA was built on a faulty business plan of trying to syndicate a whole network lineup of shows instead of slowly building an audience for each.Liberal hosts who didn't go AA did better on their own in large markets with more stations and more diverse ownership than the Providence market.
And we'll never know how Randi Rhodes would've fared here - HJJ ran Arlene Violet during her show.

Posted by: bella at January 14, 2011 5:26 PM

Mike if liberalism is such a failure then why do you raise such a stink about it and why did so many people vote for a liberal like Obama and many others. Is it just that you are smarter than so many people( as displayed by your deep thinking and advance techniques of persuasion and name calling, or were millions of people tricked and duped by the mass media.

Posted by: triplerichard at January 14, 2011 5:36 PM

Mike if liberalism is such a failure then why do you raise such a stink about it and why did so many people vote for a liberal like Obama and many others. Is it just that you are smarter than so many people( as displayed by your deep thinking and advance techniques of persuasion and name calling, or were millions of people tricked and duped by the mass media.

Posted by: triplerichard at January 14, 2011 5:37 PM

I believe in freedom of speech, and parents should be the ones who censor what children watch.
I do remember John D. Going off on Janet Jackson after the Superbowl, and just a few weeks ago buddy saying how he shut down a James Brown concert because he thought it was going to be dangerous.

Nationally they do boycotts all the time,ni remember Ludacris loosing a Pepsi endorsement because of one boycott.

Posted by: Swazool at January 14, 2011 6:32 PM

Russ & Swazool,
No matter what stories you dig up from history, it is still inappropriate for government to attempt to suppress speech by promoting a boycott of radio sponsors. This is clearly inciting retaliation for speech whether it be hate or not.

Posted by: Max Diesel at January 14, 2011 7:04 PM


Please explain the Anchor Rising policy that banned Rhody and others from commenting here.

Posted by: Phil at January 14, 2011 7:46 PM

We maintain general rules of discourse that depend upon such factors as the history of the commenter on the site and the thoughtfulness/intelligence of his or her comments, even if gruff. Anonymity also makes a difference, as does whether a commenter under attack has played a role in escalating the exchanges and whether.

For the most part, though, banning occurs when insults are turned against the contributors.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 14, 2011 8:08 PM

Yes, millions were duped by the liberal media that was totally in the tank for their annointed one. As well, Obama lied about his left wing ideology to get elected.
But, as the recent election has shown us, people don't like the left wing lurch he has done to this country.
Do you really not understand this, or are you just in denial?

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at January 14, 2011 8:21 PM

btw, why do you stupid liberals have your panties in such a knot over talk radio?

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at January 14, 2011 8:51 PM

I don't listen to Depetro because I don't like his style-I do like Helen Glover and she's on in the same time slot,more or less.Helen Glover has her attitudes,but she isn't nasty to callers or guests-she doesn't talk over people.She absoultely believes what she says.She doesn't make caustic jokes about people-she calls them out on the facts.
Occasionally there will be advance warning of trouble at a concert,often no fault of the performer.If the police know there's a high probability of serious trouble,it's better to cancel something than explain one or more dead kids to parents.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 14, 2011 8:53 PM

"Synicated shows are one thing, but in RI the total absence of liberal voices on commercial stations should give you a clear picture of just how much corporate control skews the range of opinion available over certain media."

HA HA HA HA HA! So you're telling us that there is a huge customer demand for liberal talk radio, thousands upon millions of people want to hear it, but the only problem is corporate America would never buy commercial time on such a thing, so it doesn't exist? Yeah, you're probably right. Businesses have no interest in getting their message out to millions of people.


Posted by: Patrick at January 15, 2011 1:15 AM

Mike Capelli-liberals get so pissed at talk radio because it often upsets their plans or at least publicizes them.
The defeat of the putrid McCain-Kennedy Bill for another massive amnesty can be credited in some significant degree to talk radio.
You have to listen critically-even someone whose show you may admire can be on the wrong track sometimes.
One reason i like Helen Glover is that she gets interesting guests who interact with the listeners-I got to speak with Carl Bernstein and Richard Holbrooke on her show just for example.
Neither can remotely be called icons of the right,but she had them on because they are certainly worth listening to.
Both were very pleasant to speak with and not the least condescending like some local hacks one could mention.
Correction to swazool(I think)-I certainly did hear Randi Rhodes in this market.It was on WHJJ.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 15, 2011 1:58 AM

Russ sez "I can't think of anyone other than conservatives who even bring that up. Liberals are concerned with the problem of corporate media. Air America didn't solve that problem and the absence if it just means that I have to listen to NPR or tween pop instead on car trips.
Synicated shows are one thing, but in RI the total absence of liberal voices on commercial stations should give you a clear picture of just how much corporate control skews the range of opinion available over certain media."

For liberals like Russ "corporate" means evil, money grubbing thieves (of course this does not apply to liberals in business) who steal money from the unwashed masses....the ONLY thing "corporate" cares about is profits.
YET the same twisted liberal minds now want you to believe that "corporate" talk radio is not about those evil profits but about controlling the message hence the absence of liberal talk radio. lol
The lack of intellectual or emotional honesty from the left is quite sad and quite tedious. It's why liberal talk radio bombs. Who wants to listen to whining, hypocritical nonsense by folks overtly jealous of anyone/everyone elses successes in life??

Posted by: Tim at January 15, 2011 7:54 AM


Thanks for that answer. You have rules of conduct on your blog. You decide where you think the line has been crossed by some of the comments posted and remove the comment and remove it's author from actively continuing to post comments. I know this firsthand. We reached agreement about what was acceptable and I try to abide by that understanding. How is it that different from the Chaffee administration deciding that the talk show format does not fit their idea of communicating with the public and that they would be subjected to insult and innuendo. There is no ban placed on the news gathering part of the affected stations. Their legitimate reporters will still be given the same access as reporters from other media. You decide to exclude those comments and authors who offend your idea of as you put it "general rules of discourse" and you decide what is and what is not an insult. If you do not wish to put up with insults then why is it so surprising that Chaffee does not want to submit himself to the same and worse. Criticize him for being human then. By the way I know of no restriction placed on talk radio by the Chaffee people in what is said by any of the talkers there including the fatuous felon.

Posted by: Phil at January 15, 2011 10:18 AM


You are stretching so far that it's difficult to respond comprehensively. For one thing, you've switched the origin of the ban. AR banning commenters would be equivalent to talk radio banning Chafee, not the other way around. For another thing, you're eliminating the consideration of responsibilities. Neither AR nor its commenters are government officials with a responsibility to communicate a message to a civic unit whom we've been elected to serve.

And then we can layer on those two points the facts that Chafee's ban applies not only to himself, but to other officials in his control, and that he's expanded his ban to include rhetoric about private entities' shutting down talk radio.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 15, 2011 11:19 AM

It would have been difficult for Anchor Rising to comment on that Dixie Chicks story when it was current, Russ, inasmuch as the site didn't yet exist way back then. On Dust in the Light, I did comment on the Dixie Chicks' singer's objectionable comments, but I don't recall hearing this angle. I would have stated that government officials should not try to squelch free speech, in that way, although a quick skim of the article suggests that Chafee's case differs in that he is the chief executive of the state, whereas the article that you cite is based on a phone call traced back to somebody in local party headquarters.

There's a world of difference, there. But it does relate to something that you guys love about having "talk radio" as a villain. If anybody, anywhere in the talk radio world says something, then you can declare, "See!" It gives you a very broad field in which to look for evidence that you're right.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 15, 2011 11:46 AM

And by the way, Russ, I can't believe you would link to a Web site called "CounterPunch." Contributing to that violent rhetoric... you should be ashamed.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 15, 2011 11:48 AM


I get your point. Consider it just communication between two parties and the concept of establishing some rules of discourse. WPRO owns all the comment that goes out over the air and has sole proprietary rights to the audio. I don't know the deal you have with them. Why would Chaffee willingly allow a privately funded for profit company to use his and his administration's audio to make their money while controlling the content,
editing to their heart's delight and generally abusing him and his administration. They will anyway with or without his appearances on air. As I said before there's a troubling blurring between their so called talent and their news to begin with. From what I understand the Governor will communicate with the news media including WPRO.

Posted by: Phil at January 15, 2011 12:01 PM

Phil-Chafee's refusal to go on talk radio and his orders to department not to in the course of their duties is policy.It's not over the edge.
Chafee bringing the power of the state's chief executive to bear on private sponsors to withdraw their ads is an abuse of governmental power.
There are subtleties to power-things needn't be spelled out to be understood.
maybe a sponsor starts to think,"am I gonna get audited this year"?
It stinks and if you are so blindly partisan not to see that,shame on you.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 15, 2011 4:59 PM

If anything, Chafee's mention of an advertiser boycott put more money in WPRO's pocket. Any enemy of Chafee will advertise there as their way of saying F-you to him.
Most efforts at an advertiser boycott backfire, as the experience of the American Family Association will tell you.

Posted by: bella at January 15, 2011 5:08 PM

Rats, lost another comment to the spam filter. Justin, can you release it?

Posted by: Russ at January 19, 2011 10:40 AM

"For liberals like Russ 'corporate' means evil, money grubbing thieves..."

You got anything but stawman arguments to put up and knock down? I work for a corporation and have even started a couple others.

I recommend you read "The Problem of the Media" (sorry, no links for you Anchor Rising readers)! It's fascinating stuff and would at least provide you with a realistic view of how liberals view corporate media.

*** quote ***
The more democratic a society, the more likely the decisions about how best to regulate social life will be the result of widespread informed debate. The less democratic a society, the more likely those decisions will be made by powerful self-interested parties with a minimum of popular participation.

This dispute, then, is not about whether the market is the natural manner to organize media-and all of social life for that matter. It is about whether the market is the superior means, or a superior means among others, to regulate media. Just as capitalism is not the "natural" social system for humanity, so commercial media are not Nature's creation either. Our social system and our media system both require aggressive and explicit government activity to exist. Media policy, then, is a far broader and more significant historical phenomenon than that found in the conventional wisdom, which depicts it as something inherently tedious drawn up by bespectacled policy wonks and government bureaucrats addressing obscure technical issues. To the contrary, the U.S. media system-even its most "free market" sectors-is the direct result of explicit government policies and in fact would not exist without those policies. Most dominant media firms exist because of government-granted and government-enforced monopoly broadcasting licenses, telecommunication franchises, and rights to content (a.k.a. copyright). Competitive markets in the classic sense are rare; they were established or strongly shaped by the government.

So the real struggle is over whose interests the regulation will represent ...
*** end quote ***

Posted by: Russ at January 19, 2011 10:49 AM

First time I met Chafee he was looking down at his shoes when he and his wife came to our fire station on thanksgiving. He was mayor of Warwick and they came with cake to express their thanks to us for working on this most American holiday. We invited them in for coffee. At the time, Linc was no friend of the unions. He had just a few years before actually advocated for a full volunteer fire department for Warwick. Crazy, no?
A few years later, I meet Linc at the bar in Rhodes on the Pawtuxet ( Warwick Firefighters Ball). Linc belts down two double Scotch whiskeys before facing a hostile crowd. Yes, I bought him one. He spoke at that event and he earned some respect. He never became a friend to firefighters but he held his own.

Posted by: David S at January 20, 2011 6:23 PM
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