Saturday, April 10, 2010

Talk Radio Primer and Tom Coburn

Yes, I listen to conservative talk radio. Not often, since I'm a busy mom and it's just not a top priority. But I do like to listen to something political while driving. It's one of my little indulgences.

Am I a wacko? I certainly don't think so. Nor do I think most of the talk show hosts are wackos or as they are called these days in the Main Stream Media, wingnuts. You know, nuts from the right wing.

But I admit the various hosts can be abrasive and they may even seem mean spirited. But it is a shtick. You know, like Saturday Night Live or Conan O'Brien. They have this thing they do to entertain the listeners or viewers.

I started listening to Rush Limbaugh about 20 years ago already. Never regularly, but often enough to both appreciate his unique style and also to get irritated when he goes beyond my idea of good taste or propriety.

I also read the two books he wrote in the 90s and so I understand why he does what he does. Two points stuck with me that I think can apply to most conservative talk radio. His show must entertain. If it didn't, he would not gain the following he needs to get the advertisers who pay for his show to continue.

In other words, if there were more people in his listening areas who would listen to an academic lecture each afternoon for three hours, that is what he'd have to do. But truth be told, the typical American listening audience likes a bit of abrasiveness and the acerbic host.

The second thing that I remember him writing about, and that he periodically restates during his show, is that he tries to illustrate the absurd by being absurd. So a listener must take the things he says with a grain of salt and use what some might call his extremism to understand the point he's trying to make.

Each host has their own style and personality quirks that lead to varying degrees of success. And for each, the longer one listens, the more enjoyable the hosts is. Because they each have their personal shtick, the show is more enjoyable as one understands the style. I can't claim to know all the nationally syndicated hosts, but here are some strong and weak points of the hosts with which I am most familiar.

Laura Ingraham's show is often more societal than political. She has made a focus of discussing things of concern to families and people of faith, particularly her Catholic faith. Her pop culture references are closer to my experience than the other hosts. She can be acerbic. She is very knowledgeable. She has a wide variety of guests. And some fun little themes throughout her show. She worked in the Reagan administration as, I believe, a speechwriter. Later she was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Rush Limbaugh I've talked about.

Glenn Beck, I'm not sure of yet. He is sometimes very, very funny. I enjoy the video clips I've seen from his TV show. Like Laura Ingraham, he has a co-host who pipes in now and then and often these interchanges are pretty humorous. But I haven't quite gotten my brain around what he tries to do with his radio show.

Sean Hannity, like Laura Ingraham, is also a practicing Catholic and that comes through in his show. Although less focused on society than politics compared to Laura Ingraham, he does tend to be a bit more interested in the moral character of our nation.

For instance, he has talked quite a bit about Tiger Woods and his infidelities. But he always tries to put the focus on the fact that Mr. Woods is a cultural hero. Our nation's children look up to Mr. Woods and therefor his mistakes and their consequences for all involved also need to be made clear.

Mr. Hannity is often more compassionate with those callers he might get irritated at than some of the other hosts. But not always.

As far as Sean Hannity's political commentary, it is a bit less informative than some of the other hosts. I don't seem to get as many fresh insights or ideas from him. But his show is fun none the less.

Michael Savage I just can't take. I don't know why. He is very knowledgeable. He is a former microbiologist and dietitian or some such, and that interest comes through. But his shtick is just over the edge of my taste.

Lars Larson I really enjoy, but don't get to listen too often. Most of the year, because of limited daylight hours, reception of our local AM station does not reach our home during his broadcast time. I don't have a quantifiable description of his style, but he seems pleasant and well informed and polite to callers.

Now onto Mark Levin. I really love Mark Levin's writing. He is so methodical in how he presents information. He clearly articulates his points and helpfully references his sources.

Mr. Levin is really a genius. If I recall correctly, he was a child prodigy who spent his youth at museums studying constitutional history. He finished law school at a somewhat young age. He held several advisory positions in the Reagan administration, eventually serving as Chief of Staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese. At this time, he was still at an age when many are finishing up their education, but he was already a respected constitutional scholar.

But on his radio show I get so angry at the way he carries on and on and on. I know. It is just his shtick. But it is tiresome, and I can't help thinking that more people would read his wonderful books and listen to his show and therefore benefit from his immense knowledge and insight if he was not such a ranter on the radio.

That said, of all the nationally syndicated hosts I listen to, he probably offers the freshest takes and most informative political analysis. If one can wait through the tirades.

Which brings me to the second point of this blog post. I have made a habit of highlighting the generally excellent work Senator Tom Coburn has done on behalf of America. So I was understandably chagrined when I flipped on my radio the other day and heard Mark Levin lambasting Senator Coburn. What on earth?

So here's the scoop for those who might also be curious.

Apparently, last weekend, at a town hall meeting, Senator Coburn encouraged TEA party goers and others to be civil in their discourse. To offer thoughtful and well articulated arguments and not stoop to emotional attacks. Senator Coburn alleged FOX news engaged in some fallacious reporting. He encouraged everyone to listen to several news sources in order to be more ready to give our conservative answers.

Some people felt several of his comments were not within the proper stand for a true conservative to take. Some people felt he was unfairly ripping FOX news. Some people took his words as a insult to TEA party and town hall attendees as as if they were too dumb to figure this out themselves. Hear the audio clips and read a collection of his allegedly questionable comments here.

Mark Levin's concerns are here in a short audio clip. The full audio is available at his website. I don't have the exact minutes, but I think the part I heard was probably close to 5:15 (CST) on Thursday.

Tom Coburn's response can be found at The Daily Caller and also at Random Political Thoughts and News. Although these two takes are very similar, they have different but complimentary commentary.

(Update 4/11: I'm a little embarrassed as the above two links are to the exact same article. I must have lost in cyberworld the one I intended to link, because it's nowhere to be found this evening.)

So what is my take on this whole thing? I suppose were I to choose a side in this one, I would go with Senator Coburn. I think he's just a nice guy trying to be fair minded and encourage others to do their homework.

Here in Minnesota we are blessed with (or suffer from) what is known as Minnesota nice. And I don't think that phenomenon is exclusive to Minnesota. It is a heartland thing. I don't believe that people on either coast, but especially the East Coast truly understand that concept. We're polite. We don't like to yell. We allow others to go ahead of us in the check out line. We don't honk at intersections or yell service workers.

I think Senator Coburn was just showing some Oklahoma nice.

I can't find any information on whether FOX truly misrepresented the parts of the healthcare bill that Senator Coburn alleged. I'd like to read an analysis of that if anyone knows of it. I know any news agency can make errors, but twisting truth is an ugly thing on either side of the political isle. When it happens, it ought to be addressed and admitted and the truth told. And those who point it out ought not to be accused of joining the enemy or being weak spirited.


Lars said...

thanks very much for the nice comment...and for listening


theMom said...

Wow, Lars, I'm honored you found my humble little post. I wish I had more opportunity to listen.