Charlie Sykes, Recently Himself Offended Over Religious Imagery Misused, Hits Back Hypocritically At "The Perpetually Offended"
WTMJ 620-AM talker Charlie Sykes is devoting much air time today to his battle with Milwaukee's prestigious and influential Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee over his posting, along with other conservative bloggers, of religious symbols in ways that could be construed as offending Muslims, Jews, and anyone with an ecumenical or religiously-tolerant outlook.
A link to Charlie's website and the uproar is here, so you judge for yourselves.
Since the controversial posting's imagery was meant to inflame passions about Islam in the context of today's growing and dangerous religious strife, and had nothing to do with, say, religious understanding or reconciliation - - which is pretty much the entire purpose of the Interfaith mission - - there's little wonder that the organization inserted itself into what had been up to a few days ago an Internet, bloggers' and talk-show debate.
Charlie is framing the issue as one of free speech. His free speech. And I've got no complaint with that. I want him to have free speech, but to exercise caution, like we all do, so we do not commit libel, slander, or needlessly poison the public debate.
And he mischaracterizes this post in a follow-up.
What's the point, even if it's profitable, wins ratings, notoriety, celebrity? It's a drag on the community. What's wrong with a little effort to be uplifting? To be a real uniter, not a 50,000-watt divider.
Charlie says he's drawing a line in the sand, that he will not back down.
This is the line he wants to establish and defend?
Set Charlie aside for a moment, though he mischaracterizes this post in a follow-up to his original:
Is it worth it, for WTMJ station management, and the larger community, too, to establish this as the battlefield where issues, debate, rules and outcomes are defined?
And while we mull that over, you and I and institutions ranging from Journal Communications to Interfaith, let's point out two relevant things, too:
WTMJ radio goes out of its way to stir the pot in this community from a hard, angry rightist perspective, intentionally- - from Sykes in the morning through afternoons with Jeff Wagner and now James Harris, to the much farther-right homophobic, Muslim-baiting Michael Savage at night.
The station increasingly defines itself as a right-wing megaphone, kissing off a large portion of its audience everyday, who, once the affable Gene Mueller is gone by 8:30 AM, or when the ballgame is over at night finds an alternative.
So let's not shed tears that WTMJ is under fire. It's the station's choice to go far-right, and in this case, bring flak from an organization as mainstream as Interfaith. Take a look at Interfaith's board membership.
It includes leaders from all the mainstream churches, synagogues, mosques, along with powerhouses like the Milwaukee archdiocese.
Sykes and WTMJ and Journal Communications want that fight?
Charlie says he's drawing the line in the sand. Is management really willing to stand there with him? Over a stupid bumper sticker and the loyalty of a few righty bloggers, and a fake fight over political correctness, which is as subjective as you can get?
Secondly, in case it gets forgotten, Charlie was among those leading the recent charge against Miller Brewing for its use of Last Supper imagery in ad for a Gay Rights celebration that people like Charlie found offensive.
You know what? I thought it was offensive, too. I was surprised at Miller's foolishness. It was not carefully thought out. People in those positions need to think beyond the dollar sign.
So the company, under pressure, apologized. I thought that was the right thing to do.
I think the company agreed to remove its affiliation, or its logo, from the ad, or in similar future ads.
My point is that even Charlie gets offended, and uses his power to rally the like-minded to put pressure on an organization - - in this case, Miller Brewing, successfully - - to make a change with regard to its use of imagery that means important things to a religious community.
That is exactly what Interfaith is doing, and WTMJ should do what Charlie helped Miller do. Apologize, and be more mindful and consistent in the future when using or debating religion, its symbolism or imagery.
Station management tells Journal Sentinel columnist Tim Cuprisin that it backs Charlie. Credit Cuprisin with asking and posting it on his blog; that advances the discussion and informs everyone on an important aspect of the story.
Secondly: I corrected a misspelling in my original posting. Dumb errors are acknowledged, and corrected.