Sean Hannity is not just a loud-mouthed blow-hard. He’s evil. And I don’t say that lightly. I don’t think he’s evil because I disagree with him about almost everything. That would be stupid. I think he’s evil because he is an artist in the worst sense of the word devoted to making hateful, destructive ideas seem plausible and logical to a certain cross-section of incurious Americans. He’s not a crafty debater. He is, however, crafty in his daily TV and radio show at assembling often weak opponents for his programs. If participating in a real, legitimate debate, with rules and someone else controlling the microphone, he’s toast. That’s why he rarely puts himself in that position. I also like the strategy of stacking his right-wing side with talking heads who are well-spoken, if nuts, and finding weak-kneed stammerers for the other side. It all works to great effect.
That brings me to the nutballs at General Motors who decided Hannity would be the ideal sales vehicle for a GM giveaway themed, “You’re a Great American Car Giveaway.” G.M. is awarding a free car every week through Nov. 6.
Hannity does not discuss politics and American culture on his show. He trashes Democrats and anyone who takes the opposing view of his own or Karl Rove’s. He has said awful, hateful things about Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan. He has compared a vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton to support for Hamas or Hezbollah. He gave extraordinary aid, comfort and air-time to the lying Swift Boaters who attacked John Kerry and made them seem legitimate to incurious voters.
GM officials say Hannity does not speak for G.M. They say the promotion just makes use of Hannity’s large audience. Hannity’s ad rates are cheap too. Do you know why? Because so few advertisers want to be associated with his brand of vitriol. Yet, on Insanity Hannity’s website, the program is hailed as “The Sean Hannity You’re a Great American Car Giveaway.” Sure sounds like h’s kind of speaking for GM.
Maybe it’s a coincidence. But Chevy just launched an ad campaign for its Silverado pickup truck, entitled “Our Country. Our Truck.” That seems right up Hannity’s jingoistic street. Hey GM, don’t forget to advertise the truck on his show too. Insanity Hannity’s audience is probably strongest in rural and semi-rural red-state areas where the pickup truck wars are being fought. So, from a raw media buying standpoint, the buy makes sense. From a human standpoint, though, it is shameful.
Chrysler, not to be outdone on the weird front is about to kickoff a series of ride and drive events at so called “mega-churches.” The idea is to reach more African-Americans by taking vehicles to giant Baptist, African-Methodist Episcopal and non-denominational churches. Look, I wasn’t in on the negotiations to use churches as staging areas for test drives. Even if the church pastors were happy to host them, if I’m Chrysler’s marketing chief, I might have rejected this on the basis of taste and good judgement. The driving events precede a gospel concert in each market by Patti LaBelle. But I can tell you that if I was on a committee at my church to decide whether or not to host an automaker’s test drive event, I’d be the guy in the room suggesting that’s not what churches are for.