Thursday, February 26, 2009
Conservative John Derbyshire critiques right wing radio:
You'll disagree with his stance on policies, but he did write these observations
: (excerpts, minor resequencing of text for clarity)
Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? [The conservative project is now clearly off the table.] Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?
They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”
Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises.
It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominem—Feminazis instead of feminism—and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob. ... rather than debating Jimmy Carter’s views on Mideast peace, Michael Savage dismisses him as a “war criminal.” Others are juvenile: Mark Levin blasts the Washington Compost and New York Slimes.
... we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right. But however much this dumbing down has damaged the conservative brand, it appeals to millions of Americans.
There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. Ideas must be marketed, and right-wing talk radio captures a big and useful market segment. However, if there is no thoughtful, rigorous presentation of conservative ideas, then conservatism by default becomes the raucous parochialism of Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity, and company. That loses us a market segment at least as useful, if perhaps not as big.
Conservatives have never had, and never should have, a problem with elitism. Why have we allowed carny barkers to run away with the Right?
It's been very interesting to listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, Medved, Levin, et al these recent weeks. They have gone absolutely ballistic of Obama's speeches, policies, and passed and pending legislation. It's the end of capitalism! We're all going to be slaves to the government! An insurrection is perhaps only months away!
One thing that is curious. The Republican stronghold is in the southeast (former states of the Confederacy), yet the radio hosts are based in New York or non-south for the most part. It's strange to listen to the politicians that frequently are guests on right wing radio. Their southern drawl (McConnell,Cornynm, Graham, Sanford, Jindal) is quite a contrast to the mainline speech of the hosts. Sure, there's Pence and Cantor, but the Republican strength is found in the south. Why are there no major southern-accented right wing radio hosts?
There is such a thing as the "broadcaster's accent" -- a midwest accent -- that all national broadcasters have and is perceived as "normal." Any other accent stands out and marks the speaker as "regional."
Been that way for a long time.
Speaking of accents, I have a dread suspicion.
Even though Ed Schultz is on our team, his talk is so superficial and content-light that I suspect his popularity is partly due to his close resemblance, aurally, to Rush.
I think some people may mistake him for Rush when they first twirl the dial.
The revolt talk on RR radio is alarming. It may well inspire another Oklahoma City.
If not a Dallas. God, I hope not.