hertzbergThe New Yorker‘s editorial director Hendrik Hertzberg updates us this week on the Drobnys’ plan to start a network of liberal talk radio stations to counter the thirteen hundred ‘relentlessly’ right-wing conservative talk radio stations that blanket the American airwaves. He then goes on to brilliantly explain why the plan is doomed:

The main obstacle, probably, is neither financial nor ideological but temperamental. Remember the old joke about politics being show business for ugly people? Well, right-wing radio is niche entertainment for the spiritually unattractive. It succeeds because a substantial segment of the right-wing rank and file enjoys listening, hour after hour, as smug, angry, disdainful middle-aged men spew raw contempt at reified enemies, named and unnamed. The radiocons seldom offer analysis or argument. To the chronically resentful, they offer thr sadistic consolation of an endless sneer — at weaklings, victim-group whiners, cultural snobs, Hollywood hypocrites whose hearts bleed for the downtrodden though they themselves are rich and privileged, feminists, environmentalists, and, of course, “liberals”, defined as the Clintons, other members of the “Democrat Party”, and persons suspected of thinking that the state ought to help correct for various kinds of unfairness or calamities (economic, racial, climatic, medical) or of attaching themselves to some identity other than or in addition to “American” (black, gay, foreign, all humanity).

By contrast, most noncons — most people, for that matter — do not regard politics as entertainment. They regard it as politics. They wouldn’t think it was fun to listen to expressions of raw contempt for conservatives — oh, maybe for a little while now and then, but not long enough and often enough to sustain an industry.

And, you know, when we do occasionally think it’s fun to entertain expressions of raw contempt for conservatives, we prefer to read them from articulate journalists in quality periodicals like The New Yorker, rather than listening to hate-mongering radio stations that pander to the insatiably angry and semi-literate. Perhaps that’s because the written word can be re-read and its eloquence savoured, while with few exceptions the throw-away ramblings of talk radio neither lend themselves to a second listen, nor warrant even a first.

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  1. You’re just jealous because Canadians are too polite to spawn a phalanx of bile spewing fascist wannabes with radio programs. You keep them locked up in Parliament where they belong.Did I mention that I only have Canadian stations preset on my car radio?

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Not sure I’d know if there were radiocons here or not. I only listen to the CBC, and a lot of the stations, especially on AM, are not in English.

  3. Doug Alder says:

    His argument breaks down if the liberal talk radsio doesn’t follow the model of the conservative hate mongers. What if instead they take the high road and try and translate the quality of those New Yorker columnists to the airwaves? What if they try and educaste their listeners to the underlaying – a la lakoff – causes for why each side believes what the do? Sounds like that repoter took to narrow a vision of the possibilities to me.

  4. Doug Alder says:

    Actually to add to that – his attitude, at least as experessed in your exerpt – really strikes me as a typical us vs them dichotomy that really seems to permeate their society more so than others.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Maybe – or maybe in Canada the ‘us’ outnumber the ‘them’ (neocons) so much that it isn’t as big an issue. If you look at the top Canadian blogs some of them are very right wing (3 of the most popular 10) and the rest are either apolitical or moderate. That may because the Canadian neocons feel so outnumbered they need to stick together and help each other out. As for Lakoff and other political education on the radio, that’s what PBS/NPR does, and quite well IMO. I’m not sure even a die-hard liberal like me would listen to liberal (or any) talk radio if I were an American. Better things to do with my time. Like learning stuff.

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