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The Four Horsemen of Propaganda



History has all but forgotten Nazi Germany’s most feared judge, Roland Freisler, the President of the Volksgericht (People’s Court). Known as the “hanging judge,” Freisler was known for yelling at and berating prisoners paraded before him. Newsreels of Freisler’s trials show an animated judge constantly playing up to German public opinion, already whipped into a fanatic frenzy by the intensive propaganda of Joseph Goebbels. Freisler was ultimately killed in an Allied bombing raid in 1945. Ironically, he was presiding over one of his kangaroo courts at the time his courtroom received a direct hit.

Today we are faced with the Freislers of the airwaves – those right-wing hate mongers who act as judges, juries, and character executioners. Chief among these are the typical promoters of neo-conservative (read that as extreme right-wing) policies. Among the most outrageous are Rush Limbaugh, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and G. Gordon Liddy.

One good joke about Rush Limbaugh goes like this — Question: What does the airship Hindenburg and Rush have in common? Answer: they are both flaming Nazi gasbags. But Limbaugh, beyond being a gasbag, is also a complete phony. Many have heard that Limbaugh avoided the draft by claiming a problem with rectal hairs and fissures (no pain in the ass jokes please). Not so well known is Limbaugh’s jaundiced opinion of his fans.

When Limbaugh hosted a short-lived television program, the executive producer of which was Roger Ailes — the current President of Fox News and former Ronald Reagan toady – the gasbag demonstrated what he really thinks about his beloved “ditto heads.” A technician who worked on the show’s set in New York City reported that a group of Ohio fans once arrived by bus to sit in as members of Limbaugh’s studio audience. After taping the show and after the audience left the studio, the technician overheard Limbaugh saying, “Can you believe these fucking ditto heads? They sit on a bus for eight hours to sit for a half hour show, what morons.” It’s about time for Limbaugh fans to face up to what their hero thinks about them. You are money making morons for Mr. “Excellence in Broadcasting.” Limbaugh – phony number one.

Then there is Bill O’Reilly. His favorite targets are all those anti-war liberals in Hollywood. O’Reilly would rather his fans not know about his own sycophantic Hollywood past. After having been a reporter for ABC and CBS News, O’Reilly opted for the Hollywood route, becoming the co-anchor of the tabloid program Inside Edition. From 1989 to 1995, O’Reilly fawned all over those nasty Hollywood lefties he now pretends to despise. There was O’Reilly, at his phony best, covering such Hollywood lefties as Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Ed Asner. Imagine O’Reilly working the phones in 1993 to get that big exclusive interview with the liberal environmental activist Ted Danson to ask him about the final episode of Cheers. “Hi Ted, it’s Bill O’Reilly from Inside Edition. I know you’re busy trying to save the oceans and all that stuff, but do you have time to come on my program to talk about doing the last Cheers? I’d be so ever grateful.” Right O’Reilly, grateful until you get your own political platform to beat up on environmentalists like Danson.

Having made his career, courtesy of left-wing Hollywood, O’Reilly was plucked from Los Angeles by Roger Ailes, who had just taken over the helm at Fox News after having blown it ratings-wise with Limbaugh’s ill-fated TV program. A few months ago, I had a discussion with one of O’Reilly’s Fox producers. She asked me what I would want to talk to O’Reilly about if I went on his program. I said, “that’s easy, let’s talk about Hollywood making O’Reilly’s career and how he now rants and raves about Hollywood’s lack of patriotism.” Never heard anything back. What a surprise! It seems O’Reilly is better at dishing out criticism than taking it. No spin? Really O’Reilly! O’Reilly – phony number two.

And what about Sean Hannity? Is this some experienced inside-the-beltway political sage who has always had his hand on the political pulse of Washington? No, alas Sean started out as a deejay in the radio mega-market of Huntsville, Alabama – a town that abounds with Wal Marts, fast food joints, and military employees and contractors but little full spectrum political discourse. Before ending up at WABC-AM in New York, Hannity honed his Freisler-like skills in Atlanta, where his audience, while larger than the one he had in Huntsville, was still demographically largely male, white, and red neck. Hannity, of course, was chosen by WABC to replace Bob Grant, who was fired for expressing glee over the death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in a plane crash in Croatia. Grant said that there were initial reports that there was one survivor of the crash, adding, “it’s probably Ron Brown, but then again I’m a pessimist.” Hannity, who now spins right-wing muck instead of America’s Top 40, was the perfect choice to replace Grant.

When I appeared on “Hannity & Colmes” to defend former Representative Cynthia McKinney’s statement about what George Bush might have known about the terrorist attacks in the months leading up to 9-11, I was pitted against Florida’s GOP Representative Mark Foley. During a commercial break, Hannity said he enjoyed his recent trip to Florida and his golf outing with Foley. Can anyone even spell “conflict of interests?” Hannity: phony number three.

Then there is G. Gordon Liddy. A former long-term guest of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Liddy was the team leader for the botched 1972 attempt by Richard Nixon’s “Plumbers Unit” to bug Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate. Libby now shills for the neo-conservatives and the Israeli right-wing. He constantly features Jerusalem Post publisher Tom Rose on his radio show. Rose is tied at the waist to Richard Perle, the neo-conservative’s Prince of Darkness. Liddy constantly makes racist comments about Arabs and parrots the Israeli expansionist line. He often mentions his parachute jumps with the Israeli Defense Forces. People have their price. If Liddy had been offered a chance to fly Russia’s latest MIG, perhaps he would be singing the praises of Vladimir Putin’s brutalizing the Chechens.

Liddy once said he would stand on a Washington street and take a bullet for Richard Nixon’s administration, if that’s all it took to save it. Apparently, in his zeal to defend Israeli expansionism, Liddy fails to remember that Nixon was one of America’s most anti-Semitic presidents – he always complained about Jews to people like Billy Graham and his German-descent gauleiters, John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman. And no one can forget where Nixon went for a ticker tape parade as his administration was crumbling in 1974: Damascus, Syria where he was hailed by one Hafez al Assad, whose son Bashir is routinely demonized by Liddy and his Israeli lobby guests. Liddy: phony number four.

Roland Freisler is gone but his ideological grand-standing descendants rule the airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission, which, under Colin Powell’s son Michael, is now bought and paid for by the corporate infotainment industry, should investigate America’s radio phonies and their connections to the GOP right-wing. In a perfect world, there would be such an investigation. But in a nation gone mad, the hate mongers of the airwaves continue to spew forth their venom. Freisler would have loved it.

WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.

Madsen can be reached at:


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