Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I listen to conservative talk radio about once a week: not only is it healthy to get one's blood in a boil, but I'm attracted to dogmatism even when it hides behind jargon like "worldview" and "agenda" -- especially so. It's one thing to be self-confident; it's another to act as if your philosophical convictions trump everyone else's. To quote Bill Murray in Tootsie, that's weird.

Anyway, Dan Shelley's account of his experiences working with Charlie Sykes confirm your worst fears. But it's nothing to get smug about; talk show listeners, as Shelley remarks, aren't stupid. Mom, a college-educated woman, listens to Rush Limbaugh, the best and brightest of them. Among the non-surprises confirmed: hosts receive talking points from the White House and Republican Party, and will on occasion challenge prevailing wisdom:
A smart talk show host will, from time to time, disagree publicly with a Republican president, the Republican Party, or some conservative doctrine. (President Bush’s disastrous choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court was one such example.) But these disagreements are strategically chosen to prove the host is an independent thinker, without appreciably harming the president or party. This is not to suggest that hosts don’t genuinely disagree with the conservative line at times. They do, more often than you might think. But they usually keep it to themselves.
Here's an explanation for the lukewarm defense of John McCain in the last presidential election cycle:
Except in presidential elections, when they will always carry water for the Republican nominee, conservative hosts won’t hurt their credibility by backing candidates they think can’t win. So if they’re uncharacteristically tepid, or even silent, about a particular race, that means the Democrat has a good chance of winning.

No comments: