Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Politics as Entertainment.

As you might already know from reading this blog, I often ask myself why it is impossible for me to find any talk radio that hasn't been hijacked by conservative wingnuts. Is it simply because all the liberals and progressives are out whoopin' it up and getting laid? Or are they too busy listening to public radio? Why is it that the only enjoyment a non-Republican can get on the AM band is a somewhat masochistic exposure to the massive blunders of these pundits? I know that there is plenty of left-leaning commentary online, but not all of the potential audience for that is tech savvy. Believe it or not folks would rather be entertained than deal with all the issues in a substantial way. Why does the right have the monopoly on amusement-driven political analysis?

OK.. ok... there is Comedy Central with Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. But that doesn't make up for the 24-7 laugh-fest that is Fox News. I feel shortchanged and (like I said) my sense of loss is heightened whenever I'm in my car. I can choose national media featuring Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Reagan, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, etc, or I can localize my listening with Fred Honsberger, Kevin Miller or Jim Quinn. There's not a single moderate voice available, let alone a liberal. I remember being promised a dose of Air America, but the closest we get is WPTT 1360 AM, which mixes in Alan Colmes and Thom Hartmann with the usual conservative subjects. Plus their signal is so damned weak that I can only get it from certain high-altitude spots on a cloudless day. It's simply not an option on my long commute.

Sure... I could buy Sirius radio or some other pay-to-play service. But the AM and FM bands are free. Why does the extreme right-wing dominate the airwaves? Perhaps because it is corporately funded with advertising. Still I believe that there is a market demographic that is not being served in our area. Either way, it would behoove the Democratic Party to invest more money into radio. Because when the shit hits the fan, people turn on their radio. If all they can access if Republican propaganda, then the battle for the minds of the citizens is over. When I can't get home to my computer to find out the truth, I have to rely on right-wing radio for information. I am at a loss.

In the meantime I have discovered YouTube. For years I have screamed responses at my car radio (in complete futility) because I knew that the lies being presented would remain unchallenged by logic or reason. These shows aren't about debate- they are about programming. But now I can catch the highlights, just by typing the name of my "favorite" blowhard into the search window. I realize now that there is plenty of documentation of these folks sabotaging themselves, or otherwise being savaged by the few intelligent guests that they bring on their shows. Partially the problem has been one of style. Many progressives are too serious, and lack humor or stage presence. No matter what else you think about the crew that currently occupies the mediasphere, you have to concede that the most successful among them are competent attack dogs. And you have to ask yourself why the other side hasn't bred some of their own.

Almost without exception the celebrities that have fought the good fight on the left have been former comedians. Al Franken, Bill Maher, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, David Cross, Stewart and Colbert... those are the guys challenging what has become the conventional perspective. One might guess that is because comedy is the only thing that can defuse the invective of the right. Even Howard Stern and David Letterman (neither of whom could ever be accused of catering to a "liberal" audience) have been more effective than the commentators the left-leaning establishment has produced. Watch this video to see how easily the latter dispatches O'Reilly. He says the exact things I've been wanting to say for years. If progressives (or even Democrats) ever want to popularize their agenda, they better start taking notes.

Keith Olbermann does a great job.

Here's another guy (Ellis Henican) I just found out about who's a pretty good role model.

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Anonymous jefg said...

Thanks for pointing out the Letterman-O'Reilly clip. It's one that the rest of us, those who don't tune into political discussions (did I say discussions?) on AM radio on the way to work can watch and get something from. My favorite Letterman line is where Bill asks him a question, looking for a yes or no answer to set up his point, and Dave basically says 'Can't answer it yes or no because I'm thoughtful'. There is no simple solution, and no light at the end of the tunnel we started digging in this situation. (Actually, there can only be light if you at least dig horizontally and not constantly downward.) Getting O'Reilly to say to a wide national audience that it's all about oil is a job well done.

Now, Bill Maher, whose simplistic positions and rah-rah attacks I didn't like at first, has started and continues to grow on me. He does let people with opposite points of view express them, and it can be a thinking person's show for certain.

Speaking of Maher, yesterday I watched Robin Williams play a Maher-like comedian who runs for the presidency in Man of the Year. Lots of good commentary on the current political situation in there, but I thought the most poignant was when they talked about the general public not believing anything because you believe everything. That is, these news shows that put a political )or other topic) scholar on a split screen with equal space with a nobody with a single and limited viewpoint, tend to equalize the persons, and hence the viewpoints. They're on tv, so they must be right (or at least valid.) Not everyone can discern that there is a disparity of knowledge and hence validity to the argument. So, you (not YOU, them) believe everything (or was that nothing...hmmm). Just a thought.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


That Letterman quote was also my favorite moment of the interview. It encapsulates so much of what I think about those particular pundits. Like the president, they "don't do nuance".

I don't get to see Maher because I don't have cable.

5:59 PM  

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