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Finebaum Won’t Change His Show After Incident (But We Think He Should)

Syndicated radio host Paul Finebaum is taking some heat following the decision by one of his callers to poison the trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn.  Finebaum’s show is well-known for allowing Alabama and Auburn fans to dial up their rage and spew hateful comments at one another each afternoon. 

“I think we would be less than honest to say that we don’t play a role,” Finebaum told The Birmingham News yesterday.  “This is not a milquetoast, politically correct radio show.  A lot of things are said, and a lot of things are said with a lot of anger.  And I let it go.  So if someone wants to blame me for what happened, they are welcome to do that.  But I don’t think just because people engage on a radio show equates to what this guy is accused of doing.”

No one should blame Finebaum for the actions of “Al from Dadeville.”  Harvey Updyke will bear the responsibility — if found guilty — for killing Auburn’s 130-year-old oaks.  But Finebaum did contribute to the hateful environment that currently surrounds the Bama-Auburn rivalry.

Finebaum is an intelligent guy.  Over the years his newspaper columns have been some of the most interesting (and inflammatory) reads to come out of the SEC region.  He welcomes in good media guests on his radio show and his own points are usually well thought out… even when it’s clear he’s simply trying to stir a pot or two.

Too bad then that he believes in letting anything go on his show. 

Some will say that it’s elitist to believe that educated men and women should be on the radio rather than quacks, kooks and screamers.  But we at MrSEC.com would rather hear an intelligent discussion of sports than a verbal fistfight between a few Alabama and Auburn fans who sound as though they’ve never once stepped inside a classroom at either UA or AU.

Sadly, some greatly enjoy the entertainment value of listening to yutzes shout insults and conspiracy theories day after day.  Proof: Finebaum is a very rich man.  And he’s not about to change his money-making show.

“The easy thing to say is we are all going to pause for reflection and think about this, but this is what we do.  The callers are the show, and my feeling is we are going to continue it the same way.”

Yes, but we at MrSEC could have great success with a show called “The Racist Hour.”  Like Finebaum, we could just let the callers take over the show every day.  It would be great theater, you can be sure.  Most of the callers would sound like imbeciles, yes.  And many intelligent people would tune in to laugh at the dimwits sharing their hate speech.  On the other hand, some morons might tune in and actually be influenced by the racists and their diatribes.  Hearing a loon on the radio can make other loons feel downright mainstream.  So while we might make a lot of money by just turning our show over to racist callers, we would also be doing a pretty big disservice to society.

Finebaum’s situation is not altogether different.  He allows his callers to say anything they like.  Hate?  Anger?  Rage?  All are fine by him.  But just as hate speech on a show featuring racists might stir up more actual hatred, hate speech on a sports show can stir up more anger, too.  Isn’t Finebaum doing a disservice to the Iron Bowl rivalry by allowing people to say whatever ugly things they like about one another?

We aren’t saying that all callers are bad or that Finebaum needs to nix callers altogether.  Far from it.  But having some sort of filter might be appropriate.  Trying to keep callers civil — or actually challenging them — does not make a show “milquetoast” or “politically correct.”  It makes that show responsible.

Finebaum allows his callers free rein.  For much of his show he simply serves as the guy who says, “Let’s go to Buck in Dothan.”  Personally, we think he’s better than that.  He might make more money as a ringmaster — Jerry Springer got rich in that role — but we believe Finebaum would have a more entertaining and intelligent show if he’d share more of his own opinions and provide less airtime to the folks who call in to deliver their daily “I hate Bama” and “I hate Auburn” rants.

Finebaum believes its his job to get out of the way and let the callers run his show.  But we believe some nonsensical callers don’t deserve a nationwide megaphone.

Finebaum’s response to “Al from Dadetown” was to ask if poisoning trees is illegal.  Our response would have been, “What the hell do you mean you poisoned their trees?”  Finebaum doesn’t judge his callers.  We think he should.

So does that make us elitists?  Maybe so.  But at least no one is accusing of us of helping to take the already nasty Alabama-Auburn rivalry to new depths.

 


8 comments
Darriel
Darriel

i agree..if you dont like our show then find something else to do with your time...and quit hating on fbaum or "OUR" show...and quit hiding behind your loser of a website..you got something to say, come on the show and say it and if you aint got the balls to do it, then keep your mouth shut..."Darriel from Columbus"

David
David

Words matter. Images matter. If the media had no impact on the way we think and feel about things, no advertiser would ever spend the cash. And yet they do, by the billions - for the stuff that causes most of us to tune out or change the channel. How much more powerful is the stuff that actually grabs our attention?

I don't get the radio and TV freak shows, but the audience undeniably is there. Paul's the price we pay for a free media. But the 1st Amendment doesn't say a word about calling out bozos. Only censoring them.

mike pemberton
mike pemberton

John, I think you are exactly correct as to Mr. Finebaum, but I fear you are fighting a lost battle. Certainly no one show is to blame for the obvious degeneration of discourse in this country to the level of a couple of 3 year olds arguing over a toy. The profitability of reality TV/radio has succeeded in reducing a whole bunch of people to the lowest common denominator, Also, the ability to post anonymously on web sites and call in radio shows without giving your name results in people saying things without any (or much) responsibility for what they say. The bottom line is that it is a cowardly act. From my perspective, anyone posting on a blog, web site calling in a TV show, radio show, etc. ought to be required to give their name and hometown, a a minimum. I would imagine if that was required, we would have a lot less of the defamation, bravado and, ultimately, cowardly acts like damaging Auburn's trees. Mike Pemberton, Rockwood, Tennessee.

Jeff
Jeff

John,
I agree with your opinion in the article. I quit listening to Paul several years ago because I felt like I was listening to the Jerry Springer show. But Jerry is a very rich man also. I will be glad when the national media starts taking Paul for what he is and quit showing up on ESPN. You do not see Jerry on a news show giving economic advice. Anything Paul says can not be taken as truth. He only says what he needs to for ratings...Bottom Line.

andy
andy

I have a brilliant suggestion for you if you don't like what is being said on PF's show or any other, CHANGE THE CHANNEL. Personally, it's not my cup of tea either, so I find alternatives that suit my tastes more. No one has to listen, no one has to call, no one has to respond to something negative. If as you say "we at MrSEC.com would rather hear an intelligent discussion of sports than a verbal fistfight between a few Alabama and Auburn fans" then don't listen to PB, because you won't find it there. But please don't try and tell others what they should or not listen too, some people actually find that to be entertaining, hence the huge ratings and popularity of the show.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

andy...

At no point in the piece did we attempt to tell others what they should or should not listen to. In fact, we pointed out several times in the piece just how successful Paul Finebaum's show is. Your last line is almost a verbatim re-write of what we actually said in the piece. (So, yes, I guess your point really IS brilliant.)

Our focus was on the role of the media -- Finebaum in particular -- in the current culture of hate that's growing in Alabama (and across the SEC). I personally have been in the media -- TV, radio, print, internet -- for about 20 years. There are no black and white answers when it comes to the issue of responsibility. I just stated my opinion that I feel folks like Finebaum (and many internet bloggers out there) make a living trying to inflame rather than inform. Finebaum is a sharp, sharp guy. He doesn't have to be Jerry Springer and turn his show over to nitwits. And -- again, this is just my opinion -- I think those of us in the media have some responsibility to try and create civil, intelligent debate rather than just yelling, screaming and name-calling for the sake of making a buck.

If you disagree, however, you can go to another website.

John

andy
andy

John, I can disagree w/out having to take my ball and go home, very sensitive of you. Your comment that "we at MrSEC.com would rather hear an intelligent discussion of sports than a verbal fistfight between a few Alabama and Auburn fans" was what I was addressing. My point was that if you at Mr. SEC, along w/ anyone else, don't like what you're hearing, or feel that it's inappropriate, then go somewhere else. His resposibility is to his station/sponsors to generate ratings, not to "create civil, intelligent debate". Again, not my style of sports talk, and I can't beleive I'm sort-of defending him, just don't like it when people decide to appoint themselves the morality police.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

andy...

I wasn't being sensitive. I was mimicking your "change the channel" message... prompting you to do the same (albeit in internet terms) if you so desired.

Johnl

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