Joe Elliot is being replaced on the radio by syndicated talk show host Michael Savage. A congenial and kind man is going to be replaced by Michael Savage’s savage rants. Aren’t we lucky.
I do not listen to the radio and intentionally will not listen to the radio. I know that the CD player in my car works, but, to be quite honest, I do not know if my radio works and I do not know how to set stations on it or what stations there are to listen to. I will not listen to the radio.
Talk radio has polluted the airwaves. Obviously Rush Limbaugh has been the leader of talk radio and has, in his own right, become a very influential voice in American society. Much of my focus is on him, but I will not listen to anyone any longer, right wing, left wing, or wing nut. To this end, much of what I have to say about Rush Limbaugh is something that has permeated the rest of talk radio.
Here’s what is wrong.
First, talk radio has lowered the level of discourse in the nation. The age of civil conversation is dead. The era of thoughtful Lincoln/Douglas debates is over. The era of people of unlike minds sitting and having long, respectful, and intelligent conversations has gone the way of the Model T. It’s a great relic of the past, but no longer functioning.
What has replaced civil discourse is the prevailing usage of ad hominem attacks.
Ad hominem, in Latin, means “to the man.” An ad hominem attack is this. A person places an issue before you. Instead of discussing or debating the issue, you simply attack the person placing the issue before you. Ultimately you attempt to humiliate the person making the proposal and you are making the argument that this person is too dreadful to even make such a proposal. Meanwhile, the proposition that ought to be debated is never really discussed.
Rush Limbaugh is quite adept at this. If you recall, years ago, during the first term of Bill Clinton, Hillary was in charge of the health care plan. The health care plan never really got discussed. Bill and Hillary were attacked repeatedly and called every name in the book and the premise that they were going to make us all socialists was the level of the debate. Rush helped lead the charge and it was effective. The health care plan never really even got discussed or debated. Whether or not his plan had merit is not the issue. The issue is that nothing of substance was ever discussed and we still have a broken system. Anything Hillary would bring forward now will still be tarnished because she was so successfully vilified.
This particular approach is vile. Right wing people use it and left wing people use it. Character assassination is an effective ploy and talk radio has helped lead the way. Our level of discourse has been greatly diminished because people no longer know how to interact with one another with civility. It has become increasingly distressing to recognize that people with unlike views choose not to interact with those with whom they do not agree. Talk radio, in my mind, has had a devastating impact on the level of civil discourse in our contemporary society.
The second issue I have with talk radio is that it attempts to simplify that which is complex. We have become a society that places labels on everyone and every issue and we have become fixated with clichés.
People are now either liberal or conservative. You must be one or the other. If you aren’t one or the other you are a person with no convictions on anything. Moderation is a myth. These labels are a standard world view.
The great cliché and myth is, “there are two sides to every story.” Huh? Who said that there are two sides to every story? In fact, most issues that I have encountered to not have two sides to them....
Now, here is a digression. If you are a person who spends a great deal of time listening to talk radio and have bought this way of viewing the world, you are thinking that what I am driving at is that stories really only have one side and there is only one true answer...If this is what you think, please do read on.
Most issues that I have encountered do not have two sides to them. Most issues have lots of sides to them, lots of angles to them, lots of approaches to them. The fact that these people on the radio are preaching that there are two sides does not make this so. For better or worse, most issues are incredibly complex and have a lot of variables.
The latest cliché on complexity is to label it post-modern relativism. A philosophy professor of mine, years ago, made the prediction that society was leaning away from seeing things from many angles and would be gravitating towards over simplifying that which was complex. His feeling was that people were too lazy to really think.
Clichés and labels are popular because they over simplify things. They have become the great tools of talk radio hosts.
Lastly, many talk radio show hosts do something Rush Limbaugh does. They use anecdotal arguments to make their points. The ‘war against Christmas’ got its start like this. There was/is a war against Christmas, thus making it a war against Christianity because some people in some places would not allow Christmas trees or said “Happy Holidays.” There is usually a laundry list of anecdotes to make this point.
There is a war against Christianity because Reverend Such and Such from this church someplace was not allowed to pray at a gathering of car dealers.
The list can go on and on and on. Whatever issue one has on any given subject, there is certainly a story from some place by some person which is a marvelous example of the point.
The problem is that anecdotes do not necessarily validate points. The only thing that they do is speak for themselves in the situation in which it occurred.
There is not a war against Christianity if several clergy are stopped from doing certain things at certain times. It may be a fact if we see this happening in mostly all the churches all the time.
Years ago a hospital in Pennsylvania mandated that the clergy sign a ‘code of conduct’ policy before visiting the hospital with a list of rules. There was a hue and cry that clergy were being persecuted.
But not so fast. Some of the rules had interesting roots.
Please do not enter the operating room during surgery. Some fool member of the clergy did not get to the hospital early enough to pray with that person before surgery, so he decided to pop in and say a prayer in the operating room.
If a patient is restrained, please do not remove the restraints. While it is difficult to see a person suffering from the restraints, one fool member of the clergy untied the restraints and the person removed their IV and catheter.
The joy of having freedom of religion is that we can Worship in churches of our choices and choose our own doctrines. The bad news is that there is no uniform training for clergy. The standard educational process for clergy was four years of college followed by three or four years of graduate school/seminary. Most denominations still mandate this. In the process of education and training one learns proper protocol.
The dilemma is that clergy in many churches that are of the more independent variety may or may not have much education. Some require college, some require college and seminary, and some require neither. Rev. Al Sharpton was ordained at the age of nine. Unless he was a prodigy, I strongly doubt he did four years of college and three years of seminary...
I’m actually not being critical of this. I am merely trying to point out that often what appears to be anti-Christian may not be. And I am, admittedly, being anecdotal. Anecdotes are great to illustrate points but they cannot be used to validate or verify large sweeping issues. Sadly, they are often used in this manner. I’m merely making an observation that what was used as an anecdote about religious persecution in a specific time and place could not be validated as the reasons behind the policies.
Talk radio hosts are entitled to their opinions and entitled to share their opinions. Whether we agree or disagree with him is not a huge issue. What is a huge issue, in my mind, is that we have allowed people to lead us in lowering our level of discourse, in trying to oversimplify complexities, and create an environment where well stated arguments nicely illustrated with anecdotes are taken as fact as opposed to hypothesis.
In my mind we are rapidly becoming, or have become coarser and less respectful of one another, and significantly less insightful and knowledgeable of the world around us. It’s not the fault of talk radio hosts. They are making a bunch of money doing what they are doing. It’s not their fault. It’s our fault for buying the nonsense.
That’s why I’m not turning my radio back on.