By Phil Valentine
Talk Show Host
NASHVILLE — We hear a lot about free speech, but what does free speech actually look like? In talk radio, there is no clear definition. At the end of the day, we work at the pleasure of the companies that hire us. We’re in a unique situation, we talk show hosts, in that we serve two clients. There’s the audience and then there’s the advertiser. Without either or both we don’t have a job.
Recently Sean Hannity has come under fire for covering the Seth Rich murder and Rich’s possible link to Wikileaks. Some have called it a wild conspiracy theory. Personally, I believe there are enough issues surrounding his mysterious death that should warrant further examination. Julian Assange has offered a $20,000 reward for anyone who can lead authorities to a conviction of the murderer. That alone makes this a legitimate story. There’s certainly much more circumstantial evidence that Rich may have been the Wikileaks leaker than there is evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians, yet The New York Times and the Washington Post and their sycophants in cable news beat that drum daily.
There are those on both sides of the political spectrum who would rather not hear anything that challenges their opinion. We call these people radicals. The radical left has mobilized against Hannity. They aim to have him removed from the airways. This is certainly their right, but it’s curious that they’re so worked up over what they call some silly conspiracy theory. Would they be calling for Hannity’s removal were he exploring the mysteries of Area 51 or the chupacabra? Obviously not.
If this is just another conspiracy theory, why are they launching a massive boycott against Hannity’s sponsors?
These are the times when the lines of free speech are drawn. Do those who sign Hannity’s paycheck have the right to dismiss him? Yes. The question is does forcing a dissenting opinion off the air broaden or restrict free speech? I think you know the answer.
Too many of us in broadcasting stand idly by while our colleagues are destroyed by people who claim to love diversity except when it comes to diversity of thought. We stand on the sidelines while colleges cancel speeches by speakers who a violent, vocal minority don’t want to hear. We climb back into the cozy confines of what’s acceptable speech instead of standing on the battlefield of free speech, shoulder-to-shoulder with our brethren who endure these withering attacks.
There’s not a talk show host alive with whom I agree 100 percent. Yet there’s not a talk show host alive for whom I will not go to the mat to protect their freedom to express their opinions.
Corporations tend to react when cowardly sponsors pull their money at the first sign of trouble. Why these sponsors signed on to an opinion show in the first place is puzzling. But if there’s not pressure pushing back from the other side, those who wish to force their agenda through intimidation will always win.
And the complicit media take a spark from a handful of malcontents and turn it into a raging forest fire. Fortune Magazine wrote, “Hannity has been spreading a theory that the Clintons ordered Rich’s killing.” I asked Hannity about this point blank. It never happened.
The radical left loves to call conservatives fascists, yet there is nothing more fascist than shutting down people who dare utter something counter to your world view. That goes for both sides of the aisle. It’s one thing to simply stop patronizing a business because of the causes or people they support. It’s another thing altogether to launch a vicious e-mail campaign of threats and intimidation.
They’re coming for Hannity today. If they succeed, you may very well be next.
Phil Valentine is syndicated on the Westwood One Radio Network. His website is PhilValentine.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.