I don’t write much about politics these days – too stressful – but for those of you that are new around here, I’m a pretty liberal guy. In fact, I’m a committed socialist – and proud of it. One of the reasons that I can’t imagine moving back to the States in the near future is that I don’t fancy going into debt to pay hospital bills or college tuition. I’m firm in my belief that the State has an obligation to offer a helping hand to its citizens in times of need – I don’t believe that any other organization can do so without prejudice. Equally, I believe that as a fairly well-off citizen it is my obligation to pay taxes in order to fund this safety net.
Now, this will seem like a pretty drastic topical change, but bear with me. I’m pretty selective about the source of my news. I can’t stand most television news – it’s all just a bit artificial and saccharine – and as far as I can tell there is not a decent newspaper to be had in all of Australia. Fortunately, in the internet era, I can chose my favorite media sources – newspaper websites, blogs, podcasts and The Daily Show.
The risk with acknowledging only selected, pre-screened media sources is that I’ll get a quite insular perspective on the world. That I’ll only hear the liberal voices. That I’ll have a skewed perspective on what’s going on in the world and why. To try to ensure that I hear both sides of a story, I try to find centrist and right wing voices. KCRW’s “Left, Right and Center” is a nicely balanced radio program. Dan Carlin gives a type of libertarian perspective in his “Common Sense” podcast. The right-leaning Politico is a decent political blog.
But even these moderate voices don’t cover the political gamut. I really want to hear from people with whom I disagree – I need some ‘real conservatives’. Until recently, I had a bit of a thing for the podcast of Bill O’Reilly‘s radio program. Sure, O’Reilly claims to be a ‘moderate’ or an ‘Independent’ but I always thought that there was a nudge and a wink implied. Either that or the man is insane. He makes most congressional Republicans look like pinkos. Moderate compared to what? O’Reilly can go on wingnut rants that would make most liberals faint. I lapped it up. And every once in a while, O’Reilly can make a pretty good argument. So much so that rarely, and disturbingly, I agree with him.
But O’Reilly recently got the sack from the world of talk radio, leaving a deafening media silence from my right. Since then, I’ve been trying to find a podcast or two from the far right to fill that void. In the last couple of weeks two talk radio jocks – Michael Savage and Mark Levin – have been taking up space on my iPod. Listening to these two fellows I’ve come to realize that I owe Bill O’Reilly an apology – he’s most definitely a moderate.
Savage and Levin are the kind of conservatives that I thought only existed in the imagination of hard left bloggers – the bogeymen of the Clintons’ ‘vast right-wing conservative’. They are angry ranters, tiny balls of fury yelling hate down their microphones. They hate Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, ‘liberals’, homosexuals, foreigners, Europe, and on and on. They see the world in black and white terms. Their world view is conveniently free of subtlety or delicacy. Things are right or wrong and anyone who disagrees with them is the enemy. These hosts will latch on to a piece of minutiae and, regardless of facts, weave an elaborate angry rant to discredit their ‘enemies’.
Most of their callers are also angry men (and less frequently women) who agree with them and sing their prasies – feed their narcissism – referring to the hosts as ‘Dr.’ Savage and ‘The Great One’. When an occasional caller who disagrees with the host slips through, they are abused. In fact, there’s a formula. The caller speaks. When the host realizes that they are a hated ‘liberal’, the caller’s audio is cut off while the host rants. Then, briefly, the caller’s audio is brought up usually in mid-sentence and then quickly cut again. Repeat. The effect is that the caller appears to be spouting random, inane phrases. The host then calls them names – ‘schmuck’, ‘idiot’, ‘dummy’ – and hangs up. Further evidence of the ‘idiocy’ of the enemy.
This name calling is a theme. It reminds me of grade school. Savage has hateful nicknames for fellow hosts – who he seems to despise as much as liberals. He refers to women in misogynistic terms – ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’. Levin calls Barack Obama ‘Milhouse’ and constantly refers to him as ‘dummy’. Media outlets with whom they disagree are the New York Slimes, the Washington Compost and National Pubic Radio. There’s a nasty nickname for anyone with whom the host disagrees. The host is a ‘thinker’, an ‘intellectual’. Those who disagree – even true intellectuals – are ‘morons’, ‘idiots’ or ‘dummies’.
But above all is the anger. These men dine on rage, have scraps of outrage stuck in between their teeth. They seethe, they stew, they shout and they encourage their listeners to do the same. They consume ire and excrete fear. These droppings of fear are what they leave with their legions of furious fans.
They’re angry little men, screaming vitriol out into the ether and to be honest, they both frighten and disgust me. Is this really the loyal opposition? Is this what the right is about – xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, racism? Hatred, anger and fear?
I feel a little dirty after listening to these guys.
Maybe I’m a naive optimist, but I have to believe that there’s a sane and intelligent conservative commentator out there. Someone with whom I disagree, but can argue without name calling and shouting Someone intelligent, subtle and entertaining.
Or are there any?
Dave Allen and the Elastic Purejoy’s “The Clutter of Pop” is available from .