Springer would exploit people, issues in Senate race

Posted: Jul 16, 2003 12:00 AM

In a new 30-minute fundraising infomercial Jerry Springer informally announced his intention to run for the Senate from Ohio. In the video, he makes it clear he has a big problem with - of all people - me. But before we get into that, let me explain my problem with him.

Jerry Springer has made a fortune exploiting people. He invites prostitutes, pimps, Klansmen, incestuous freaks, every kind of fool and malcontent onto his show. He gets terribly fat people to strip, just so the audience can laugh at them. Just a few show titles: "Our Brother is Our Pimp," "KKK Moms," "I Stole My 12-year-old's Boyfriend," "My Wife is Sleeping With My Aunt."

He's even exploited dying children. He invited them to have fake weddings on his show because they will in all likelihood die before they can get married for real. Who knows why these poor kids agreed to come on. But we know why Springer did it. He wanted the ratings.

He even added some "final thoughts" at the end of each show in which he'd try, in a minute, to put lipstick on the pig he'd spent the last hour riding. After everyone got a good laugh at some fat man who didn't know that his wife had been sleeping with his brother, Springer would come on and say something like, "Can't we all get along?" and, according to him, that would make the whole thing socially redeeming.

Sure, I've watched the show plenty of times. I've laughed at some of the episodes. I've turned off others in disgust. In fact, turning it off was what Springer and his defenders, and defenders of others who debase the culture, always said we should do if we objected to what Springer was spewing into the airwaves.

Don't like watching freaks and perverts humiliate themselves? Well, turn it off. Jerry Springer has every right to say whatever he wants, they'd insist. Nobody's forcing anyone to watch. If you don't approve, that's your business.

Fair enough. I'm not a prude or a Comstock. If people want to indulge their guilty pleasures, so be it. I think his show has made America a worse place, but I wouldn't advocate banning it.

But now Springer wants to be a senator. In other words, he not only wants to get rich and famous exploiting the hardships of the damaged and the deranged, he thinks there should be no negative consequences for the decisions he's made, including his decision to pay a hooker with a check while he was mayor of Cincinnati. Like a former and unapologetic porn star who's shocked anyone would dare object to her as a baby sitter, Springer says his infamy should be rewarded.

And, if you think he's wrong, or if you think the people who feel Springer is a good role model don't take their citizenship seriously, well then you're a priggish elitist.

That's where I come in. In January while appearing on CNN, I expressed precisely this view: "To me this proves that voter turnout is not this glorious thing ... because if Jerry Springer shows up, he'll bring all these new people to the polls, they will be slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdoes, pervs and whatnot."

I stand by that. I don't think voter turnout is always a good thing. If you don't care enough to vote except when a movie star or stunt candidate is running, maybe your perspective is less valuable than that of someone who takes his civic obligations seriously.

Anyway, in his new infomercial Springer uses that quote to assert I represent not merely the "elite media" but the entire U.S. government. And that all of us - Republicans, Democrats, journalists, etc. - normal citizens are nothing but hicks, yokels and perverts.

This is staggeringly idiotic. I promise you, when it comes to people willing to say voter turnout isn't an unmitigated good, I'm a minority of one. Indeed, in appearances on CNN and MSNBC, Springer's interviewers have all taken his side, calling me arrogant and no better than a contestant on his show. So much for the monolithic elite media.

But Springer's spin is worse than dumb, it's dishonest and feeds the cynicism he claims to be fighting. First of all, his positions - to the extent he has any - are indistinguishable from any other liberal politician's. But he can't admit that because if he did he would have to concede that he brings nothing special to the table except lots of money and name ID.

More to the point, he knows that my comment was directed at the guests on his show and not the average citizens of Ohio. He's the multimillionaire who's selling pictures of himself in front of sign reading "Welcome to Hicksville, Ohio" for $100 a pop.

According to Springer, there's no difference between incestuous freaks and average citizens because they're both the "little guy." He doesn't understand that most little guys are honest, decent hardworking people who don't want to be lumped in with pimps and Klansmen. Worse, he says that Washington doesn't see the difference either.

That's a not only a demagogic lie, it's the best proof of all that Mr. Springer shouldn't go to Washington.