December 09, 2014

There isn’t any real reason to read Howie Carr and less to listen to him, but as I was scrolling through tweets on Monday I noticed one from Carr. He tweeted "Official MA state stats: 80 percent of welfare leeches are English speakers."

The word “leech” recurs again and again from Know-Nothing Party references about the Irish up to the fired (I was about to write disgraced but how do you disgrace a right-wing talk radio host?) gabber Jay Severin, directly on to Carr. Let’s take a look.

As John R. Mulkern writes in The Know-Nothing Party in Massachusetts: The Rise and Fall of a People’s Movement, in the 1850s Governor Henry Gardner and other Know-Nothing leaders argued that we must “guard against citizenship becoming cheap” and “Americanize America.” Know-Nothing populists applauded the deportation of “these leeches upon our taxpayers.” They meant Irish Catholics.

In 2009 Severin was suspended for describing Mexican immigrants as “millions of leeches from a primitive country [who] come here to leech off you.” Severin was suspended again in 2011 and eventually fired for remarks directed at women.

Carr seems amazed that “80 percent of welfare leeches are English speakers.” What a disappointment! I would guess he was rooting for a higher number for Latinos, the “leeches” of the twenty-first century; or as I like to refer to them, the Irish of the twenty-first century.

I wouldn’t for a moment doubt Carr’s sincerity but the commercial value is shtick, drivel he has to pass along to the dwindling audience for conservative talk radio, as Jeff Berry and Sarah Sobieraj explain in The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility. The most important thing to remember is, this is a business. Carr’s job is to deliver listeners for the advertisers of WMEX radio. His listeners want to hear invective. It’s a formula.

(By the way, WMEX? Where has it been? Can we get Jerry Williams and Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg back?)

In other leech related news, Governor Patrick spoke yesterday of continuing to seek solutions for the problems that plague the homeless. Governor-elect Charlie Baker, reports the Boston Globe, “has made tackling family homelessness a top priority for his first few months in office.” It might seem that the outgoing and incoming governors both being pro-leech would marginalize the modern Know-Nothings, but it’s actually good for Carr. He can continue to complain about all the government is doing for leeches. It’s box office.

We usually think of the poor as dependent but Carr is actually leeching off the poor. He’s just following the business plan in two declining industries, newspapers and talk radio. Fear not though; there is always a market for bigotry.

Boston Herald, WMEX, Howie Carr

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