On his personal blog Reepicheep, Tony Felich says he turned off Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and others after obsering:
- Too much certainty of opinion and uniformity of thought
- Political ideology is not sufficient to deal with the problem of sin
- A tone that can lead one toward’s negativity
Tony is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas. (He also coaches RPC-United, a mens indoor soccer squad, which I led to victory with two fantastic goals in last week’s match – my only two goals of the season.)
I certainly see where Tony’s coming from and even agree with him to some degree. However, I think even if one dismisses talk radio and cable news hosts as “Ideological Entertainers,” they still play an important role in the public discourse, and are positively influencing the direction of the country.
Here’s my response to “Ideological Entertainers…that’s all”
These pundits are essentially in the business of infotainment. Perhaps “ideological entertainers” is a fair moniker, then. You’ve got to recognize that these purveyors of political thought are popularly aimed.
While I certainly advocate turning off talk radio and picking up a book on political philosophy or even current events, the masses – by definition – are not consistently and continually going to do that. It’s not elitist to point that out.
So then, I believe these pundits serve a useful purpose in today’s body politic, and I shudder to think where we would be without them. A few thoughts on some of the ones you mentioned:
Rush Limbaugh is in a league of his own. He is a brilliant analyst and extraordinary communicator, enabling him to lead a serious intellectual movement. I listen because he provides genuinely original insight, and it is refreshing and comforting to hear a voice I agree with in a sea of media hostility towards many of my political and personal values.
Sean Hannity seems to be a younger, cooler, less intellectual version of Rush. He’s got a strong and generally likeable personality (at least on his radio show; I haven’t watched his TV show as much). He reaches a younger, broader (that is not to say larger) and probably less sophisticated audience than Rush.
Bill O’Reilly: I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “he’s an entertainer looking to strike a populist chord just a touch right of center.” That’s true. He seems to be quite calculated in his middle of the road, rightish-populism shtick. He is be abrasive at times. Other times, I’m glad somebody is willing to interrupt a politician feeding “the folks” a line of garbage while avoiding the question.
I like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, and admire Alan Keyes for his speaking ability. Yet, I have to wonder if Keyes doesn’t care more about making a great speech than about communicating in a manner that wins the day for his cause. Not that we don’t have room for eloquent rhetoric in our public discourse today – we do and I’d like to see more of it – but he is a man who has run for public office, and speaks on very contentious public issues (the key word in both cases being “public”). It just seems like he’s very impressed with himself when he gives speeches. Putting the cause ahead of himself might mean occasionally giving the less dazzling speech, and approaching things a bit more practically.
I listen to all these hosts to varying degrees, but Rush is the one I make a point to catch.
P.S. For those looking for someone positive and upbeat, try Glen Beck. He always injects humor into his commentary and seems to be a of a more light-hearted disposition than some of his colleagues. [UPDATE 10/13/09: In the last 9 months Beck has by any objective definition become less light-hearted. I was thinking mainly of his radio show circa a year or two ago when I wrote this].
Finally, there are studies indicating that reading the news is less stressful than watching or listening to the news. For this reason I do tend to listen less and read more. But I gotta listen to Rush!