NEIL ROGERS : MOUTHPIECE FOR OUR HATRED
Miami Herald, The (FL) – Sunday, July 26, 1987
Author: CHARLES WHITED Herald Columnist
Rogers isn’t to blame. He merely profits from hate by bringing it to the surface. It’s the sick mentality of this town that’s to blame. And not even entirely of this town. Many of Neil Rogers ‘ listeners, like himself, don’t even live in Dade County; they live in Broward and had to call their threats to the Metro-Dade Commission last week long distance.
The appeal of virulent radio talk hosts like Rogers is to the frustration of listeners, not to their intellect. Who tunes in expecting a mild, balanced discussion? Rogers would starve without wrath. And thus his soaring ratings are not a mark of community distinction.
Even by writing this column, I add grist to the mill.
Rogers will have the stuff of a fresh tirade this week, urging listeners to call The Herald, heap abuse and cancel their subscriptions. The anonymous, manipulated legions will do as they’re told, mindlessly hypnotized by The Voice. (I can almost hear him: “So now you’re ‘mindlessly hypnotized’! Do you believe that? Do you think you’re ‘mindlessly hypnotized’ for speaking out against the big, powerful Herald? Unbelievable! Absolutely unbelievable, the trash this Whited writes . . .”)
Sure, I listen sometimes. He might make you mad as hell, but Neil Rogers is never dull.
He doesn’t do it alone, though. The radio talk man tells people what they want to hear. Otherwise, who would listen? He appeals to dark underlying rages with the skill of a surgeon excising a cancer. In the process, he serves as a startling messenger.
Last week it was the bilingual issue, and the efforts of Metro Commissioner Jorge Valdes to rid the county of that ugly English-only ordinance that Hispanic Dade Countians find so offensive. The result of Rogers’ radio harangues — at one point he hung up on Valdes on the air and called him an “idiot” — was a torrent of telephoned abuse to the commission. The ugliness ranged widely, with Commissioner Sherman Winn even hearing himself called a “Jew bastard.”
Thus, South Florida’s inner sickness came vomiting out, goaded by the voice on the radio, in a torrent that the well- meaning Valdes never anticipated.
But if ever there was a message to the commission to leave the damned ordinance alone, lying on the shelf like a dirty but toothless dog, I’d say this was it. Rage on such a scale only begets more, and it serves no purpose in a city divided against itself.
But I repeat, it’s not the creation of Neil Rogers , or any other clever manipulator who fills the airwaves with whatever prompts folks to tune in, get mad, sound off.
The thing that a radio hate merchant thrives on is already there, eating at South Florida like an ulcer. And it’s really nothing new, being as endemic to these subtropics as mosquitoes and mildew.
It’s the nature of a troubled town.
This place, you see, is a city of rootless runaways, people who’ve left Jersey City or Evansville or Havana or, yes, West Virginia in search of an idyll, a place in the sun. Many merely bring their troubles with them because we can’t run away from ourselves. So in the strange subtropic light of South Florida, where the sun cooks your brains and the traffic is terrible and people speak Spanish and Creole and the paper’s full of mayhem, one is just as miserable as before, or even more so for being older and lonelier.
They came as strangers and remain as strangers, in a metropolis of strangers; bitter, angry, frustrated strangers with no roots. After 20 years, “home” is still someplace else.
And one day, on the air, a voice comes ranting and raging at what a rotten town this is, and what stinking politicians we have and lousy traffic and Haitians and Cubans. It’s a nagging, assertive kind of voice, an “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more!” kind of voice.
And a light comes on. And the listener says, “He’s saying what I feel!”
And the ratings of Neil Rogers take another uptick.
Scary, isn’t it?
Record Number: 8702240951
Copyright (c) 1987 The Miami Herald