Chicago Sun-Times

September 21, 2001 Friday

Falwell, Terkel fill air with nonsense


BYLINE: Steve Neal


LENGTH: 680 words

HIGHLIGHT: Two who have made careers out of running down our nation were in typical form

After the terrorist attack, Studs Terkel and the Rev. Jerry Falwell wasted little time in plugging their agendas.

Terkel, a noted tape recordist, and Falwell, a television evangelist, have comic-book visions of the world and are blissfully ignorant of history. They are simple-minded, melodramatic, and talk with pious certitude.

Both Terkel and Falwell, who talk with nostalgia about American values, have made careers running down our country. While most Americans pulled together last week, Terkel and Falwell were dumb and dumber. Both polluted the airwaves with their silly nonsense.

Falwell, appearing Sept. 13 on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," suggested that God had allowed the terrorist attack because America was a modern Sodom and Gomorrah.

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," Falwell said.

He went on: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "

Terkel was also quick to blame America. Though he condemned the terrorists Sept. 14 on WBEZ-AM's "8:48" show, he suggested that U.S. militarism had turned much of the world against this country. He also alleged that the United States is responsible for the slaughter of innocents.

With scorn in his voice, he described America as "the only country in the world that has been fighting a war since 1940."

Terkel went on: "Count the wars. Count the years. We've built up a body politic of old men who look upon military service as a noble adventure. It was the big excitement of their lives."

The United States has certainly made foreign policy mistakes, and in Vietnam fought a long and fruitless war. But America is hardly the evil empire portrayed by this silly old man.

Terkel asserted that the United States "knocked off a lot of women and kids" during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. According to more reliable sources, less than 2 percent of the casualties were civilian. He lamented that the Cold War "had a hell of an effect on us and it still does." While asserting that Americans "suffer from a national Alzheimer's disease," Terkel doesn't seem to remember atrocities committed by the old Soviet Union.

The Russian historian Roy A. Medvedev has written that 40 million people were slain during Stalin's purges. The Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a former political prisoner, believes the number is closer to 60 million. But Terkel suggests that it is the United States that has mistreated humanity.

Falwell and Terkel have been making their wild claims for years. In the 1980s, Falwell signed a "Declaration of War" against "the evils threatening America." More than 20 years ago, he wrote in a letter to his flock: "A massive homosexual revolution can bring the judgment of God upon this nation."

During former President Bill Clinton's administration, Falwell recklessly smeared Clinton by promoting a video that accused him of murder.

Terkel is just as goofy in suggesting that President Bush is nuts. "A declaration of war is the idea of loonies--lunatics that should be locked away," Terkel said when asked about Bush's response to the terrorist attack. Terkel also said the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon should be tracked down and "put away" because they, too, were dangerous.

Jacob Weisberg once wrote of Terkel in the New Republic: "He lives by a Progressive belief in the intrinsic goodness and decency of most people, which doesn't appear to unsettle his dogmatic insistence that American society is bigoted, ignorant, and greedy. Terkel loves Americans and loathes America." So does Falwell.

Copyright 2001 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.