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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
21 Oct 2023
https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/john-howell


NextImg:I’m not surprised today’s corrosive talk radio allegedly led to murder of Palestinian American boy

I was saddened, but not surprised, by the news of the stabbing death of Palestinian American Wadea Al-Fayoume. An innocent 6-year-old victim of a racial, hateful and utterly inexplicable murderous rampage. Wait, maybe not inexplicable. 

Prosecutors said in court Mondaythat the alleged killer had listened to conservative talk radio about the situation in the Middle East before the attack. 

I don’t know if this is true, nor do I know any details on what programs might have prompted the attack. We’ll learn more regarding this in the future. I’m wondering if we’ll hear some familiar names? 

I do know this: Radio companies, stations and especially hosts have to stop peddling lies, fables, conspiracies and corrosive content under the guise of “It’s just business.” I’ve said this a hundred times: If you break the stupid, you own the stupid. The excuse “I didn’t think they’d believe me” doesn’t wash in this environment. Too many crazies waiting for their marching orders. 

Opinion bug

Opinion

I’m a 40-year veteran of the radio business, including the last 17 years as a prime time host on two of Chicago’s most conservative talk stations. I’m intimately familiar with techniques in how to influence an audience. 

It’s one thing to exaggerate, embellish and utilize satire to make a point about pop culture and politics. It’s entirely different, and far more dangerous, to intentionally mislead and misinform an audience. Over the past few years, I’ve heard far too much of the latter. Extreme rhetoric from both sides is on the rise. 

Radio hosts (and companies) have to exercise self control and discretion when presenting and discussing serious, incendiary, life and death topics. Don’t pander to the…(and I’m being kind here) under-informed. You’ll regret it. Those hosts who do so should be held accountable, and so should their enablers and sponsors. 

I’m not concerned with the vast, overwhelming majority of talk radio listeners. They’re smart consumers of news and opinion. They know the difference between chicken salad and chicken excrement. Many are far more intelligent and better informed than the hosts. 

It’s the small minority of clearly disturbed, paranoid, fearful and highly motivated nut jobs that have always concerned me. They’re easily excited and triggered, and to radio’s everlasting delight, addicted to the product. 

Radio hosts (and companies) who are purveyors of political porn and poison shouldn’t be allowed to stand behind the rationalization “it’s just business”. The cartels use the same excuse, and kids die from their product too. 

John Howell is a former AM drive host at WIND from 2006 to 2015 and a WLS AM/PM host from 2015 to 2023.  

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