A one-in-a-million and yet no different than any of us. A prophetic voice that speaks with a deep spiritual tone, yet proud of being an atheist. A man so well versed on so many topics with an encyclopedic mind and yet has the ability to admit without hesitation that he doesn’t have any of the answers.
Radio talk show host Mike Malloy is a contrast in many ways. A two-time national radio award winner, he has been bounced from numerous stations because of his refusal to back down on his telling of the political reality of today’s United States. If you’re not lucky enough to live in a city with a progressive radio station, chances are you listen to Mike via the Internet or podcasts.
His listeners are some of the most faithful of all “radio” audiences. For many, it was Malloy’s voice and commentary that held them together during what Mike always called them: the “Bush Crime Family” years. It was as if he was Radio Free Europe for many during the darkest days of the Iraq war, the warrantless wiretappings and the FEMA disaster of Hurricane Katrina. His desperate pleas in 2005-06 during the Senate confirmation hearings against John Roberts and Samuel Alito foreshadowed everything from Citizens United to the now anticipated decimation of the Voting Rights Act. His level of frustration would almost cause your radio or computer to vibrate.
Yet this past weekend, a much more philosophical Malloy was the guest of AM950 owner Janet Robert to talk to a sellout audience in Minneapolis. The tone was more subdued, and a message of hope started and ended his talk. Billed as an evening for truth seekers, Malloy delighted the crowd with his reflective yet powerful account of life today.
“An important part of being a truth seeker is understanding that you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Malloy said as to why he remains hopeful. “It’s what keeps us from totally freaking out. I suppose by definition, if we’re liberals, we’re supposed to raise hell. If we don’t who will?
“Sometimes I get tired of being a good liberal. I look around at the results and see what? I think about all the changes in this country over my life and I wonder how did we end up here? How did common sense get left out of the legislative process? Why today can’t we have the infrastructure projects that we need?” he asked of the crowd that witnessed the collapse of the I-35W bridge 4 years ago. “In Atlanta (where Malloy is based) we have Civil War-era sewers and we constantly have roads collapsing because the sewers underneath them are collapsing.”
He recounted his life growing up in Toledo, and his middle class existence. Of families sustained by livable wages, of Labor Day parades that featured UAW and IBEW members, of a public education system that educated the community. “Every kid I knew had a parent who was a member of union and they made a living wage,” Malloy said. “Now, what 7 percent of wage earners are in unions? It just can’t continue like this. And this is where hope can get difficult.
“What has to happen?” Malloy asked. He talked about the need for resistance and explaining to organized capitalism and corporatists that it’s OK if they want their CEOs to make 60 times what we’re making, but not 60,000 times. “How much do they need before they are satisfied?” he asked. All this talk about socialism, he said. “Of course we have socialism. Socialism for corporations. Too big to jail? Build a bigger jail.”
He readily admitted he couldn’t figure out President Barack Obama. Perhaps the most confusing for him was the Democrats’ refusal to bring impeachment proceedings against former President George W. Bush or the President’s refusal to explore criminal charges against the Bush administration for its invasion of Iraq. He quickly pointed to former Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson’s comments during the Nuremberg trials, which were held to prosecute Nazi officials after World War II.
“How do we tell our children that we are a nation of laws,” he asked, “when on one hand you have Judge Jackson saying at the Nuremberg trials that the worst war crime of all was to invade a country without provocation and then we do nothing to prosecute those who invaded Iraq? I can’t process that.”
His questions on what happened after September 11th left the room silent. “When I think of simple truths I have to ask myself, if I believe the official findings of what happened on 9/11 then I have to ask what did my country do to prompt 19 men to come to this country to do what they did on 9/11? Did we do anything to prompt that? And if I ask that question then I have to come up with an answer.
“That’s when I go back to War Is A Racket (War Is A Racket: The Profit Motive Behind War by Major General Smedley Butler), the United Fruit Company (and their role in Guatemala) and the nuns and priests who had bullets put through their head (San Salvador). Who does my government support? I know what I want the answer to be and then I look around, and…
“How can we expect the millennials, the next generation to live their lives with dignity and justice? If we’re not honest with ourselves, how do we raise our children to be honest? How do we save our souls? Look at me, talking about a soul.”
Much of the reflective Malloy comes from his relationship with his 9-year-old daughter Molly. “What are we giving our kids to make them understand justice, honor, truth or the concepts of community, responsibility and trust? Is it hopeless? I believe in hope. Without it, what have we really got? Not much.
“I’m willing to keep on keeping on, “ Malloy said of his nightly talk show. Malloy has also been arrested on multiple occasions for non-violent civil disobedience. “Civil disobedience is a good tool to use. It helps to remind yourself you still matter. Sure, I get frustrated, but not hopeless. If I were asked if I were an optimist, I would say, ‘yes.’ I’m not sure that always comes through on the show, but that’s why I continue on. And if you get that from my program, well, then it’s all worth it. We give ourselves a sense of community; that those of us who think differently on positions and feelings can connect. That’s what I hope happens when you listen to the show.”