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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Friday, December 24, 2004


Why is AM talk radio so bad?

posted by Chris Karr at Friday, December 24, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
For the holidays, I drove my girlfriend home from Chicago to eastern Iowa. On my way out of Chicago, I turned on the AM dial to see what was going on in the talk radio world. Since I rarely listen to radio in my daily life, I always enjoy seeing what's on the AM dial. When younger, my uncle would listen to it as we went out on windmill jobs, so it's always interesting to me to listen to how much has has changed, and how much is still the same...

Listening on WIND 560, I managed to catch the tail end of the Michael Medved show, portions of Michael Savage, and the entire Michael Reagan show. Of the three, Medved was the most entertaining. He had some professor of communications on the show who he and his listeners hammered for his liberal views. Despite my sympathies for the professor's views, the prof poorly defended them and was easily manipulated into falling into the liberal professor stereotype.

The Michael Savage show was a "best of" show, where there were not any callers and the show was a collection of Savage's rants from his previous shows. I found Savage's rants poorly reasoned and more about Savage proving how angry he was rather than covering a topic. (I particularly tired of Savage's rants against the media and how Comcast was responsible for cop killing because it distributes rap videos.) In Savage's defense, this was a collage of some of his previous stuff, and his regular show may not be as angry all the time. However, I did find the montage grating and unpleasant, and I turned off the show after a while.

Finally, I listened to Michael Reagan. He wasn't as angry as Savage, but on many levels his show was worse. The man spent thirty minutes railing against Muslims on the basis of the existence of a Muslim brotherhood who has been advocating the creation of an Islamic state through legal democratic means. He was worried about the society's violent past and his belief that the brotherhood was advocating violence to create political change. Of course, in th article he was continually citing, he failed to mention the portions about the internal conflict in American Islam where moderate Muslims have distanced themselves from the brotherhood.

Now, I don't know what other listeners to talk radio feel, but in this short amount of time, and across shows, it became clear talk radio is less about "talk" and more about ranting about one topic or the other, reason and evidence be damned. That said, here are a couple ways that this is accomplished:

1. Picking poor people to defend the opposing views on the air. Medved had a terrible guest on his show defending the opposing liberal view. I was listening to the professor (Shepard Bliss, for those curious) try to defend his views and he was unable to. I realize that if you're not on the radio all the time, this may be difficult. However, it seemed absurd that the professor was so easily manipulated into making Medved's points. I looked to my girlfriend and just shook my head. Are there not any radio-savvy liberal guests out there?

2. Are there any radio hosts out there who can present the opposing side without twisting it or spinning it? In Reagan's case, he cherrypicks from the Chicago Tribune report to make a case for the existence of a violent Muslim Freemason-like society, but fails to mention any of conflict between moderate and conservative Muslims that is more prominent in the article than the group's violent past. After making the "case" that this group is violent and a threat to America, a Muslim calls him on it and Reagan went on the offensive, berating the caller for not denouncing the violent Muslims and insinuating that the caller was just as guilty of Muslims' crimes because of his silence on the issue.

Is there any conservative talk radio that does not rely on these gimmicks to make a strong case for conservative values? I consider myself in the moderate camp, and these shows did nothing but push me to sympathize with the opposing views because of the poor and dishonest handling of the topics by conservative talk show hosts.

(UPDATE: edited by Aziz for the xtended Entry...)


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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.