I'm for free speech and I certainly don't think anyone should restrict Savage's right to bloviate on the air, but what puzzles me is the people who actually believe the things he says. To me conservative radio is a lot like pro-wrestling. You've got a bunch of guys being loud and obnoxious and sweaty and manly, and people who get off on that. I enjoy both from time to time. On the other hand it's important to separate fantasy from reality. Both pro-wrestling and shock radio plays it real, but that's part of the entertainment value. It's not as fun if people are winking for the camera. Despite that they AREN'T real and shouldn't be treated as such. People who hear Michael Savage say that tolerance will get us killed are no different from those who think they can perform pile drivers without seriously endangering whoever it is that's being pile driven.
This is the same opinion I have of people who start believing that they're vampires, or play at practicing magic and stuff like that. It can be great fun and an interesting experience, but when you start believing in it you have a problem. The truth is that the people who started the 'religion' or movement or whatever you want to call it probably didn't believe it fully themselves. The clearest evidence of this is Scientology, where L. Ron Hubbard publicly said that if one wanted to get rich the best way to do so would be to start your own religion, and then proceeded to start one based on cognitive dissonance, where the more money you spend the more emotionally invested you become in the religion so that by the end, when you learn the grand and ridiculous secret, you're in too deep to pull out.
I think that this is what happens with the shock jocks as well. Somewhere along the line they realized that by being bombastic and loud and expressing that part of everyone's id that does get pissed when you see a black guy walking down the street with a pretty white girl on his arm (or a white guy with an Asian girl if you're a slant-eye) they could make money. Bill O'Reilly was a reported for Inside Edition. He realized he could make big money offering simplistic solutions to complicated problems and decided to do that. If there was more cash in stories about J-Lo's ass I'm sure he'd be producing those. People tuned into these shows for the same reason they tune in to listen to Howard Stern spank models, because they represent parts of them that they can't express in every day life for whatever reason. That's what entertainment's supposed to do. The thing is when you spank a model she's the only one who gets hurt (and is compensated for the experience in terms of sexual arousal or money or exposure or whatever) When you spew hateful words there are a whole lot of non-consensual victims.
I think eventually these people will be unmasked like pro-wrestling was. People believed that wrestling was real for many years even though anyone who cared to think about it or do some research could learn that it was not. Likewise there are many televangelists who have been unmasked as hypocrites and liars to the point where televangelism is assumed to be a for profit enterprise at this point. Rush Limbaugh already admits that his #1 goal as a radio host is to make money, and after the Oxycontin scandal and with knowledge of the things he said about drug abusers it's clear that his bombast is either hypocricy or insincere. The others will be outed given time.
Until then, though, the damage they do is real, and they are a large part of why the country is becoming regressive. The conservative media has managed to make heroes out of Oliver North and G. Gorden Liddy. It's great showmanship and one day it will be seen as that. P.T. Barnum was many things, but he was inaccurate in the quote most often attributed to him. The birthrate of suckers is much much higher.