A hate-radio shockjock whose toilet rants have proved too deranged even for readers of the extreme right-wing Free Republic has received a massive career boost thanks to Microsoft here in the United States.
The self-styled "Michael Savage" debuted on the MSNBC TV channel last week, a station jointly owned by General Electric, which owns NBC, and Microsoft. Which owns the personal computer industry. Advertisers have voted with their feet, and lurched away from the controversial slot in droves.
Dell Computer told us today that no more ads for the computer company will air during the show, "Savage Nation".
And it's not hard to see why.
"[It's] like watching a train wreck," is how one freeper describes "Savage"'s toxic ramblings.
"The tendency to assign any real value to any of these guys is strange, let alone breathlessly hanging on their every word," writes another, more level-headed freep contributor.
But the poor chap, who fills his hate-radio slot with vile homophobic and racist diatribes against gays and brown-skinned people - or any flavor of "commies pinkos and perverts" - he doesn't discriminate - is right now on top of the New York Times bestseller list. And the middle-management drones who man these media outlets stations seem to be in awe of this opportunist trash-talker. They think his toilet contributions are "invigorating". Just like a good lynching.
He isn't funny, like PJ O'Rourke. He isn't iconoclastic, like the old Rush Limbaugh, He's just nasty, but he has made a success out of complaining about brown-skinned people, and he's commercialized his own pathologies and repressions (which are quite delicious, as we'll see) into a lucrative career.
So who is this "Michael Savage", and what makes him irresistible to blue-chip sponsors such as Microsoft?
The 60-year old "Savage" (who improbably insists that he's 39 years old) was born Michael Alan Weiner, and spent most of his life as a freewheeling beatnik bum - at one point befriending San Francisco beat legends such as poet Laurence Ferlinghetti. But the North Beach crowd found the tiny Weiner too needy for comfortable companionship. So, after several years of moderate success punting herbalist remedies the resourceful Weiner decided to reinvent himself, only this time, with a toilet mouth.
But his train-wreck rants - which impel a voyeuristic frisson even amongst the most devoted listeners - have brought in the dollars for Weiner. The tiny fellow with the Napoleon complex wants to go mad! Before your eyes!
His career path mirrors the trajectory of former woolly Carnegie Mellon liberal Declan McCullagh, now a lavishly-paid writer at CNET. Both realized the value of relentless self-publicity. And both - McCullagh, like Weiner - decided that principles are for fools.
You don't stay poor for very long if you can defend rich guys' their right to keep their money, each followed the dollar trail to arrive at their own, personal epiphany. Each advocates the gazillionaires' "freedom" to spend their gazillions. The knack to pulling off this stunt is in persuading us, dear readers, that it's our freedoms that are a stake. In all, it's a very simple equation, and one so alluring that it's never short of fresh McCullaghs or Weiners to heed the cry. There's one born every minute.
So what drives the tiny Weiner? In a fascinating profile at Salon written by David Gilson, we learn that Weiner, as a novelist, had some pretty interesting impulses:-
"Inner voice screaming at me for years, first rational, then crazy, telling me to do mad things. Every form of relief tried, painting, psychotherapy, running, diet, vitamins, etc., etc. Almost uncontrollable now. Impulses to stab children, strangers, wife, self with scissors."
Err, thank you. I think we have quite enough evidence. You don't need to be Wilhelm Reich to see the connection between personal sexual repression and fascism, but thanks for spelling it out so unambiguously for us, Professor Toilet.
The USA's fascination with vile-mouthed hatemongers causes dyed-in-the-wool Americanophiles (and I am one, so sue me) no end of difficulties. It's the safest, sweetest and most reasonable place in the world, then you realize that some people really get off on this, and the suburbs resonate to the sound of steering wheels being thumped in vigorous agreement with some toilet rant about the poor, or brown skinned people, or both.
But this vile phenomenon is only mainstream thanks to the corporate sponsorship of the USA's largest corporations, who bless it with their dollars. Now Dell Computer has followed Proctor and Gamble in promising to remove its advertising from "Savage Nation."
Good call, Dell.
A spokesman told The Register:-
"We never make judgement calls on the content - but based on the fact that it limited our ability to communicate with all our customers, we asked our agency to make sure our ads did not run in those programs in the future." ®