Monday, April 14, 2008

Schadenfreude Across the Political Spectrum

Four years ago on this date, the new liberal radio network Air America is went dark in two of its six markets because the owner of stations in Chicago and Los Angeles, Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, claimed the left-leaning broadcasters owed the firm more than $1 million.

I'd like to thank Failure Magazine's "This Day in Failure" feature for reminding me of this item, which brings up an interesting point about how subjective Schadenfreude is. Did this item give you a chuckle and a feeling of glee? You probably voted for George W. Bush.

If you shook your head and said, "what's funny about that?" Would you feel different if "Air America" were replaced by "Fox News"?

All of this ties in quite nicely to an item I covered in Schadenfreude, Baby! I give you a small preview here. This tale is unique because it has something for people on both sides of the political spectrum. The only question is whether you feel joy in the first part of the story, or when the man who engaged in Scahdenfreude gets his own comeuppance.

It began in Baltimore in early 2007 with a vandalized billboard. This is not the kind of thing that normally makes national headlines. But then this billboard featured Rush Limbaugh. When the guy responsible for cleaning up graffiti saw someone had done an imitation of Jackson Pollock over the radio ranter’s chin, he chuckled with glee.

Robrt Murrow of the Department of Public Works called up the Baltimore Sun. “It looks like they took globs of paint and threw it on his face,” he reported. “It looks great. It did my heart good.”

Murrow, who was described by the Sun as “a soft-spoken man who is usually in the limelight only when a water main breaks,” saw his quote splashed onto the online version of the newspaper in less than 30 minutes. With a few cuts and pastes, the story started to spread. People who hated Limbaugh gleefully sent it to friends and dittoheads sent it to complain about Murrow’s inappropriate comments.

It was inevitable that Limbaugh himself would get wind of the story and make a joke out of it. “What’s happening to the civility of our society?” he asked.

“I don’t care if it’s Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore or Britney Spears,” said Kurt Kocher, a department spokesman. “You don’t deface anything—period. And you don’t endorse defacing anything—period.”

Murrow “deeply apologized.”