SPECIAL IDEAS REPORT

« "Ideas That Spread, Win" | Main | "Worst Idea Ever" »

17 June 2009 8:49 AM

On Discourse

When Talk Radio Rants Go Wrong

In an earlier post, I promised to grapple with the way political ideas spread. The medium that's interested me most lately is talk radio. Though every host is different, I've spent some time listening to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. It is verboten to criticize any of these men if you consider yourself to be on the right side of the political spectrum, as I do. I'll press on anyway, not only because I enjoy a lively argument, but because these men, though their talent as broadcasters varies widely in the order I've listed them, do similar violence to a healthy public discourse -- and do a particular disservice to the conservatives and libertarians most loyal to them.

In fact, I want to address this post to their listeners, for having grown up in Orange County, California, the admiring grandson of grandparents who are Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin fans respectively, I've met enough talk radio aficionados to know that many are intelligent, devoted citizens with kindly dispositions, and a far cry from the negative stereotypes that prevail in some quarters. Those folks should note that this isn't a thoughtless, knee-jerk condemnation of the programs that they enjoy, nor is it a call to kick Messieurs Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin off the radio. This is a carefully considered, honestly held, and pointed argument: though I maybe unable to persuade these men to take stock of specific shortcomings that do you a disservice, perhaps I can convince you to demand better. The quality of our political ideas are at stake.

Since so many others have argued over Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Hannity due to their larger platforms and wider fame, I am going to draw my examples from Mr. Levin's program, an approach that also allows me to keep a promise I made to address the substance of his show. Some weeks ago, having discovered it by chance, I transcribed an exchange in which he told a female caller that her husband would be better off putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger than staying married to her. I am not exaggerating.

My post precipitated a heated back-and-forth. A particularly noteworthy contribution came from David Frum, who argued that intemperate remarks of that kind coming from a man closely tied to the conservative movement does it damage. Mr. Frum is probably right that an average person stumbling upon a hateful, angry rant like that would be repelled. In Mr. Levin's defense, his radio program is heard largely by people who are already conservatives, and who are curiously inured to the rude treatment of callers.

That's why I want to move beyond a critique of Mr. Levin's tone and temper: the balance of this post and a couple follow-ups will show that specific flaws in the substance of what Mr. Levin says hurt public discourse, his most dedicated listeners, and the right's cause generally. Let's get right to example number one. It concerns Mr. Levin's unfortunate tendency to employ overwrought analysis that woefully misinforms his listeners. My transcription captures a short monologue on his May 18, 2009 program. It is not atypical in tone, substance, or the frame of mind it reveals.

MR LEVIN: Let me tell you what I think you're doing, Mr. President. You want this economy to crash. You want this currency to crash. Because what a magnificent opportunity to rearrange and remake society once its basic institutions have failed. That's what you're up to. I'm the only one with the guts to say it, because I know history. I know economics. I know your mentors. I know what you're doing. You have a huge chip on your shoulder. And a really sick philosophical point of view. That's where you're taking us.

As it happens, I am a fiscal conservative. I criticized President Bush for reckless spending, opposed the Obama Administration's auto-bailout actions, and regard President Obama's decision to plan long term spending that drastically increases our debt and deficits as deeply irresponsible. This opposition doesn't require me to question President Obama's motives. His critics on this matter need merely to argue that he is wrong on the merits.

Instead Mr. Levin tells his audience, against all logic and evidence, that our current course is owed to a President who wants the economy to fail. Never mind that lots of Democratic lawmakers, economists, and pundits share President Obama's policy prescriptions, that his response to the fiscal crisis garnered some support from Republicans, or that even unimpeachable fiscal conservatives like Megan McArdle and Jim Manzi reluctantly went along with major portions of his economic policy (precisely because they thought that inaction risked provoking a global economic meltdown). Do all these folks also desire economic meltdown?

Still, set all that evidence aside.

Imagining that President Obama wants the economy to fail so that he might remake society fundamentally misunderstands the man and his agenda. We are agreed, I assume, that the President wants to implement a sweeping, expensive re-imagining of the health care system? That he wants to implement policies to reduce carbon emissions by taxing or limiting output? That he wants to increase spending on basically the entire progressive wish list? And that the sorry fiscal shape of the United States is a hindrance, not a help, even today?

So why would a President actively pursuing that ambitious, costly domestic agenda -- one that Mr. Levin himself acknowledges and rails against -- want to bring about a fiscal catastrophe that would guarantee its sidelining? There is also the elementary point that President Obama is going to fare much better in 2012 given a recovering economy that he can claim to have rescued than a flailing economy in an utterly collapsed society. As an amoral Republican campaign strategist, ignoring the misery fiscal collapses cause, it is obvious what you'd want to run against.

Should it surprise us that cursory inspection reveals this particular Mark Levin monologue to make no sense? Well, the evidence Mr. Levin offered for his claims afforded a clue. What leads him to his peculiar conclusions? "I know history. I know economics. I know your mentors. I know what you're doing." What does this possibly mean? Is there a historical example of an American president intentionally destroying the economy? (Or is there some foreign leader Mr. Levin has in mind?) Can knowledge of economics tell us anything about Barack Obama's motives? Do any of President Obama's mentors favor the crash of America's economy and currency? Every question heightens our doubt that Mr. Levin has any idea what President Obama is doing.

In debates, it is advisable to assume the most charitable things possible about your interlocutor's frame of mind. Here I cannot say whether the monologue above reflects Mr. Levin's true beliefs, or qualifies as an emotional outburst he didn't really mean, or is a calculated effort at propaganda--nor can I say which option would reflect best on his character and intelligence, though I urge the reader to decide for yourself and assume that most charitable explanation.

For my purposes, his motives are beside the point -- the effect of his words, insofar as they persuaded listeners who hadn't time for a close reading, is to misinform them about reality. And not just any reality. The average Mark Levin listener is powerfully invested in opposing President Obama's domestic agenda, and persuading fellow citizens to do the same. Effective opposition requires a clear-eyed, unsentimental assessment of reality, not paranoid, uncharitable rants. The right understood this very well when they talked about The Angry Left, and how its visceral hatred for George W. Bush distorted its judgment. Too many seem to have forgotten this lesson, and aren't the least bit skeptical at analysis offered by a man assuming of his opponent the most awful motivations imaginable. This is merely one small example from a radio show that traffics in rhetoric of this very kind five days each week. Listeners who object--politely and rationally, I hope--will be doing us all a favor.

So why should those who never listen to talk radio care about any of this? As I noted above, many who tune in to hosts like Mark Levin are engaged in a good faith effort to stay informed, to participate in their democracy, and to better their country. Insofar as these folks offer constructive, clear-eyed critiques of President Obama, they enrich public discourse. And if their host instead traffics in simplistic bombast, utterly ungrounded in fact, those listeners who are influenced by him inevitably degrade public discourse.

Alas, the flawed rhetoric above is not the only kind that makes regular appearances on the Mark Levin show. But further analysis must await a future post. (UPDATE: A sequel post is here.)

UPDATE 2: Though I'm unable to link directly to the excerpts I've transcribed, someone at Mr. Levin's fan site urges me to link the page where his 3 hour long shows can be downloaded should anyone want to do so. That's here. I've asked whether he is willing to provide an excerpt of what I've transcribed so that I can link it directly. I'll post it here should I be provided one. Absent that, I do urge readers to get a taste of Mr. Levin's voice. The angry tone is impossible to convey in print.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://ideas.theatlantic.com/mt-42/mt-tb.cgi/10146

Comments (42)

"many who tune in to hosts like Mark Levin are engaged in a good faith effort to stay informed, to participate in their democracy, and to better their country. Insofar as these folks offer constructive, clear-eyed critiques of President Obama, they enrich public discourse. And if their host instead traffics in simplistic bombast, utterly ungrounded in fact, those listeners who are influenced by him inevitably degrade public discourse."

When have Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity et al ever enriched public discourse with constructive, clear eyed critiques? Their audience (at least those who call in) doesn't want such discourse. They are looking for confirmation of their preconceptions. Simplistic bombast does that for them, and that's all anyone will ever hear from talk radio.

Five minutes of listening to Levin's show is all it takes to confirm that it is simplistic bombast. And I say this as a fellow right-leaning, CA-raised (LA County, although I was born in the OC) kid. I really doubt anyone is fooled, or listening "in a good faith effort to stay informed."

Contrast these obvious opinion talk shows with a major news media figure, passing off forged documents as gospel truth with shockingly little due diligence, in an effort to make a political point - all wrapped in the supposed "professionalism" and "objectivity" of an independent news organization.

No contest where the true danger lies.

nicholas (Replying to: TakeFlight)

Point well taken.

theoz (Replying to: TakeFlight)

What?...........You live in california? ......And your so smat with all these big statments you can't see the bottm line? Think buseness here..........enron did what Obama is doing and so did your state!..........so y can't u and I do it?..........CAUSE IT"S AGAINT THE LAW!........Wake up Mr. smart guy.

somethingelse214 (Replying to: theoz)

An excellent point theoz, if only we were all so articulate in our arguments.

The problem is the IQ gradient of the rightside base.
Levin, Rush, Beck, et al are selling plausible outrage, but only for those with insufficient intellectual substrate to recognize the inherent cognitive dissonance in their arguments.
For example, abortion doctors have "blood on their hands" while the women planning and paying for abortions dont.
That the GOP is the party of individual liberty and freedom while it actually the party of legislating penises and uteruses.
That the GOP is the party of small government when it has consistantly grown the size of government.
Like you said...

So why would a President actively pursuing that ambitious, costly domestic agenda -- one that Mr. Levin himself acknowledges and rails against -- want to bring about a fiscal catastrophe that would guarantee its sidelining?

It is plausible outrage.
They are mad, really, really mad, and they just aren't going to take it anymore.
So the talktv/talkradio cohort (who probably do have the substrate to recognize the cognitive dissonance inherent in their arguments) just take the cheap route, and validate the bases anger with "plausible" outrage, instead of trying to educate the base or form rational reform mechanisms that would appeal to other parts of the electorate.

Serr8d (Replying to: matoko_chan)

What, "Matoko", would you do with these poor 'wrong side of the bell curve' peoples, those you have so much obvious disdain for? From your comments as "Nishi" on Protein Wisdom, I know you favor a return to eugenics; a final 'scientific solution' to the problem of people you can't stand.

Srry, childe, your ideas were refuted in the '40's. There's no easy way to slice away the bell curve's majorities to your satisfaction, unless science is empowered as a religion.

Wait...

Convincing argument Conor. I get most of my news from print, and I get none of it from talk radio, but I'm wondering how much more infected you think the right is by this kind of dishonest bombast than the left. Not just in talk radio, but in general. Is it more a matter of quantity or influence or the importance of the media in question (i.e. the leftist blogosphere versus talk radio) that makes Levinism more of a problem from the right than the left?

Geoff in DFW (Replying to: corcoran25)

I'd say it's more a matter of % of misinformation and bombast as part of a general communications pie that makes Levin et al. more irksome for the right than any similar hosts (or blogs) on the left.

Popular conservative outlets are pretty much Fox News, talk radio and a small portion of the blogosphere, right? Because there are few popular options, you're left with a bigger affect on the conservative base. Conversely, you'd be hard pressed to find an outlet that hugely affects the "left" because you'd be left with so many options.

Some would argue this is because of evil liberal MSM control. I'd argue the problem is more foundational than conspiracy, with conservative outlets historically becoming more and more arranged around a certain portion of viewers/readers/listeners, and slowly pushing out the median peeps.

JohnJay60 (Replying to: Geoff in DFW)

Also worth noting is the 'tone from the top'. Very senior people in the Republican leadership, such as Governor Palin, Karl Rove, and Michael Steele say amazing things that are worthy of talk radio rants. You may hear such things from an Air America talk jockey or Michael Moore, but you will not find comparable hysterical histrionics coming from Bill Clinton, President Obama, or Howard Dean.

If we line up Anne Coulter with some left-leaning nut, that's one thing. But there are no Democratic spokespeople saying comparable nutty things to what senior in-the-public Republicans are saying.

James GW (Replying to: JohnJay60)

Did Michael Moore and President Carter sit next to each other preferred seating at the 2004 Democratic Party Convention?

nicholas (Replying to: JohnJay60)

Yes they did, and the notion that the left constrains the irresponsible members of their political movement is rather hard to accept when the man leading the charge to dismantle the industrialization of the Western world ran for president at the head of their party just a short eight years ago. The left seems quite at home with their voices from the wilderness.

I agree that much of the hyperbole is not rational, and many of the over-the-top statements break down when logically analyzed, but it appears, from listening to the ones listed, except Levin, that the underlying understanding between host and listener is that this type of hyperbole is used as a device to dramatically makes points and distinctions. The art of hyperbole is not mastered by all -- hyperbole has to maintain a tension between believability and outlandishness -- if outlandishness destroys believability, then the host has gone too far and is in irrational propaganda land -- but just as Chomsky wrote after 9/11 -- (and I'm paraphrasing) "America is the greatest terrorist country" -- it requires the reader knowing what Chomsky meant (a slam at our own misguided foreign policies), although, if construed as a literal moral equivalence with the 9/11 terrorists, could be said to be dangerous to public discourse.

Adagio (Replying to: Mike Farmer)

Excellent point. It seems that the rhtetoric always borders on the plausable to those willing to accept that as being so. As a liberal listener of these shows, I'm astounded at how anybody could be so gullable as to believe any of it, and yet it's always mixed with something that borders on making sense in a bizarre way. The commentary is always peppered with anecdotal incidents which are used to supposedly prove their point. I'm often amused and outraged over what I hear from these guys. The Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin triumvarite always fuze their outlandish commentary with patriotism and a challenge to anybody that would disagree with their point of view as being less than patriotic. It strikes me as pandering to the hostility that people harbor for the president or the government or whoever is deemed the enemy by their definition. In that way, they define patriotism for everyone. Even when their arguments are illogical or based on lies, or misinformation, it seems rational to accept them as real and very threatening. The thing that sets Levin apart from the others is the personal ad hominum attacks, the name calling, the commentary on somebodys looks. He reaches down to a grade school level when he does this. It destroys his credibility completely when he ties his argument to what a person looks like or how they might dress. Einstein had a rather dishevled appearance too. Was that a reason to dismiss his mind?

Well, Levin is just a lot of fun to listen to. He's the uncle at the family reunion whose table the kids try to sit near so they can listen to his conversation with Uncle Homer.

Rush and Hannity are different issues. Without Hannity we might never have heard about the nuttiness of Sen Obama's pastor, the man who coined the phrase "The Audacity of Hope". We would definitely not have learned of his long-time political alliance with Ayers and Dohrn.

Since the President's election, Rush has served as the megaphone in advocating the principles that would otherwise only be discussed in blogs like Powerline or the National Review Online (in other words, few would see them).

What I'm saying is that Rush and Hannity are key to ANY genuine discussion in an environment of giddy hero-worship for the President as exists in the print and network media. There can't be a discussion if everyone is saying the same thing (e.g. "Obama is sooo cool!").

So "dittos Rush".

James GW (Replying to: James GW)

It just occurred to me that Rush, Hannity, and Levin are to the counter-ideas of President Obama, what Wonder was to sliced bread.
As you said, "Ideas that spread win." If you agree with IDEAS Rush & co. it doesn't matter if you agree with the packaging. Just as one can see the benefits of sliced bread even if he thinks Wonder bread sucks.

JohnJay60 (Replying to: James GW)

And what role did Rush and Hannity serve when President Bush was "sooo cool" and Democrats had no major public voice?

James GW (Replying to: JohnJay60)

You mean 3 years ago?

As I recall, Rush was saying at that time that the domestic policies of Bush and the Republicans were worse than anything Pres Clinton accomplished.

The Democrats had "no voice" 3 years ago?

What do you think NPR is? NBC/MSNBC News? CBS News? ABC News? All the network dramas? The steady stream of anti-Iraq war and anti-WOT movies? I presume that the reason leftists and Democrats can't get traction in Talk Radio is because their message is glutted elsewhere. Or assuming Rush/Hannity/Levin are conservative "Wonder Bread", maybe leftists just don't have a good idea to sell?

Mr. Levin is not arguing that Mr. Obama’s policies make sense economically. They do not make sense economically. That is his point. The sense they make is political in nature. The fact that the nation cannot pay for a national healthcare program does not enter into the calculus when President Obama proposes it. The fact that the economy is in tatters is the selling point by which the Federal government inserts itself into control over one seventh of the nations economy, despite all evidence that such efforts will limit individual choice and freedom, and decrease the quality of medical care that is available to the public.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is famously quoted as saying “You never want a serious crisis go to waste” in reference to the opportunity it presented the Administration to implement things it could not otherwise accomplish politically. This was a rare moment of transparency on the part of the administration, and a mistake not since repeated.

Mr. Levin is saying that the unspoken goals of this administration are ruinous for the nation, and he is prepared to call him on it.

Geoff in DFW (Replying to: nicholas)

But Conor's point lies in your rebuttal. Conor's interested in throwing aside bombast and hyperbole which is trafficked by talk radio. He wants nuanced discourse from the right so they can bring good economic arguments to bear when we need them most. But that's not happening.

Forgive me, but the same hyperbole is evident in your rebuttal. "They do not make sense economically."--"Federal government inserts itself into control over one seventh of the nations economy"--"will limit individual choice and freedom".

I know anything can happen, and some of what you mention could come to pass. But all of it is debatable, and much of it is easy to poke holes through. It's tough to find an average American who thinks that the government is going to control all of healthcare. It's really easy to find Americans in need of some form of solution, a change from the status quo and the healthcare situation.

If the right keeps trafficking in such rhetoric, policy will suffer as a result, and they'll keep losing the public battle. That is Conor's point.

nicholas (Replying to: Geoff in DFW)

Thanks for your response.

I have been following this question for about a month now, and find myself conflicted in how to respond. I greatly enjoy the clear arguments that Conor crafts, but have a sense that the rough and tumble of political discourse is not the ideal place for it. Politics is about gaining power through winning elections. As you want to give the public reasons to vote for you and not your opponent, that requires both presenting yourself well and challenging the capabilities of your opponent. A second problem is that Conor is critiquing another man’s field. It is a pleasure for me to read well reasoned arguments presented clearly and succinctly, but I am not sure that they would quite fit the bill for someone doing a radio show. Radio show hosts have different objectives than Mr. Friedersdorf. This being said, my inclination is to allow the talk show hosts to attend to their business and ask the political pundits to attend to theirs. The issue has come into focus of more practical political relevance because there has been a lack of conservative leadership in the Republican Party, and thus radio talk show hosts have assumed a leadership role in espousing the conservative position.

Regarding my answer, I would contend I have inserted no hyperbole into the healthcare issue. We had a small taste of the idea of government controlled healthcare back in the Hillary Care debacle of the 1990’s. In the version she promoted, people were required to sign up for (and pay for) the healthcare program whether they wanted to or not. Mrs. Clinton opined that this was necessary to help cover the costs of the older, sicker members of society. Sub-specialty training of physicians was to be restricted, as was their practice location choices. The development of new treatments and procedures was to be curtailed. Now you can say this would not necessarily happen under Obama Care, but the fact of the matter is you will have precious little influence on the question.

As a lover of freedom and free societies, I reject Mr. Obama’s further incursions into the private sector and in general am supportive of the precious few willing to speak out and challenge him and his vision for the nation.

I think a clear distinction must be made between someone proposing to do the same things we do now, only more efficiently, and proposing new spending on new projects.

Health Care is already subsidizing the uninsured, although in an unplanned and uncoordinated fashion. While it is true that some tax somewhere may rise to cover the costs of health care enjoyed by other indsutrial nations, this would lead to reduced costs in other areas. What business would want to fund its own education of its employees' children because they oppose raising taxes for public schools? What business would say 'no' to a plan to offload the crushing costs of medical insurance in exchange for a tax paid by a broader base- including competitors who had tried to avoid paying health insurance.

Now, if someone proposes raising taxes to pay for a manned mission to Alpha Centauri or the Iraq War or some other situation, then we can ask if that is truly worth the 'extra cost'.

Potlatch is an economy based around waste. Check out The Potlatch Papers by Christopher Bracken. The circumstances are vaguely analagous - a type of behavior that celebrated excess through destruction, in the wake of a terrible disaster that presaged the end of a way of life. You can at least imagine a parallel mindset.

James GW said

'Without Hannity we might never have heard about the nuttiness of Sen Obama's pastor, the man who coined the phrase "The Audacity of Hope"'

Anyone who read Obama's first book would have heard of Wright. No one who had read the book should have been surprised by his sermons.

Steve Sailor had also written extensively of them. I think Sailor understands Obama far better then the Hannity, Levin or Rush.

nicholas (Replying to: Mercer)

Perhaps Sailor does, but what kind of exposure did Sailor bring to the issue?

The point I believe James was making was that these radio personalities whom Conor has placed on the dock have given voice to a silent conservative constituancy and have highlighted questionable aspects of Mr. Obama's past relationships and associations that the major media outlets were either unwilling or afraid to bring under scrutiny, to their considerable discredit.

As an informed public is better prepared to accept the responsibilities of choosing their leadership, I should think Mr. Friedersdorf would consider that a public good. I certainly do.

Mercer (Replying to: nicholas)

Wright was mentioned prominently by Obama in his own book. His sermons were readily available. If none of the media had checked out his sermons Clinton and McCain would have and would have brought them to the media and the voters attention.

If people like JamesGW think that Ayers is a long term close adviser to Obama, in any way comparable to Wright, I don't think they are getting good information from talk radio.

nicholas (Replying to: Mercer)

McCain was aware but declined to make it an issue. Clinton certainly was game to muddy President Obama but I do not recall her attacking the longtime association he has had with Reverend Wright.

The fact is that Barrack Obama was elected without much actually being known about him or his background. There was a decidedly curious lack of curiosity among the major media. I do not pretend this was conspiratorial. I simply state what was the case. James correctly points to Hannity as being responsible for bringing some of the more outrageous Wright statements to light. This type of information should have been well known from the usual vetting process of the press. It did not happen that way in this case.

The fact that the information was readily available only goes to implicate the lack of scrutiny President Obama was exposed to from the press, and though it is possible James may not be getting good information from talk radio sources, there can be no question James is not getting good information from the major media.

For my purposes, his motives are beside the point -- the effect of his words, insofar as they persuaded listeners who hadn't time for a close reading, is to misinform them about reality.

This is the key point. The conservatives have so few facts in their favor that they have to create an alternative reality, as Charles Krauthammer correctly observed:

"What Fox did is not just create a venue for alternative opinion. It created an alternate reality."

This explains why Limbaugh claimed that "credentials are elitist."

nicholas (Replying to: Steve J.)

Steve, I can accept your view, but am compelled to point out that conservatives have essentially the same view of the left, that they have few facts in their favor and thus make decisions on emotion rather than reason, and to keep that functional they have created an alternative perception of reality.

I believe Mr. Krauthammer’s statement was meant chiefly as an indictment of the media establishment of the early 1990s, that there was little opportunity for conservative opinion to be advanced in the media culture, as such opinion was considered so far off the confining media templates as to be considered unreasonable.

nicholas said

"outrageous Wright statements to light. This type of information should have been well known from the usual vetting process of the press. It did not happen that way in this case."

Wrights statements didn't become well known? Then why did Obama leave his church in May 2008?

Obama left Wright's church because they were widely reported in the mainstream media. If McCain declined to repeat the info it was probably because he thought if would not make any difference to most voters.

nicholas (Replying to: Mercer)

Well, the story was broke on March 13th, 2008 as you say by ABC News. However, the amplification and attention it received was significantly driven by Mr. Hannity, who was quoted that same day saying:

"First of all, I will not let up on this issue...we will continue to expose this until somebody in the mainstream media has the courage to take this on.”

His initial television program devoted to this topic on March 13th can be reviewed here.

The controversy died down following Mr. Obama’s "A More Perfect Union" speech, but resurfaced in late April after a series of public speeches given by the Reverend Wright. By the end of May Mr. Obama elected to withdraw his membership at the Trinity United Church of Christ.

In my opinion, it was the conservative critics, chief among which was Mr. Hannity, who brought national attention to the story and refused to allow the story to fade away. It is hard to imagine how the story would have played out without the conservative reaction, as the mainstream media has been so consistenetly supportive and uncritical of Mr. Obama.

I suppose we must resign ourselves to disagree on this one.

Thank you for a largely intelligent debate about this article. It is refreshing to see a discussion that does not degenerate into flaming trollish behavior.

There are pieces of most of these arguments I agree with. I think that the problem with political discourse on the right and left is a flawed notion that the argument is a zero sum game, that someone has to win in a manner that utterly humiliates or defames the other side. So we are left with a Mass Media that thrives on controversy and sensationalism, not on substance. And for the most part the micro media has gone the other way to finger pointing and name calling.

By design or by-product the political discourse of this country has created a situation of gridlock and inaction. And the majority of Americans would rather watch pseudo celebutants eat bugs in the jungle than pay attention to the larger policy choices. The scale of the problems we face as a nation do not lend them selves to 15 min talk show segments, 2 min news stories, or 30 campaign ads. To critique the mode of delivery be it talk show or "news" program ignores the larger issue that the understanding of political discourse and decision making in the US may be fundamentally broken.

If journalism were geography, only the poles would be inhabited. With instant, constant access to critics, every day is a Roman holiday (and I don't mean the movie).
Thomas Hardy spoke of a time "when cheerfulness and May-time were synonyms - days before the habit of taking long views had reduced emotions to a monotonous average."
Laying out arguments is boring. Even Mr. Friedersdorf understands this, so even though his tone is level, he adds tension to his piece by admitting to differences of opinion between himself and other conservatives. Fortunately for us, he does not abuse the privilege, even though we may secretly enjoy it if he would.

Number 1 Conor,you claim "he told a female caller that her husband would be better off putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger than staying married to her." which is different than what Mark actually said. He said "I don't know how he hasn't put a gun to his head" You twisted it into Levin suggesting he do that. Small twist of words...totally different meaning. Nice Try...

Your example of misinformation is also a stretch on your part. When you look at Obama's past acquaintances and have learned from history and see what he's doing...I don't know how you don't draw the same conclusion Mark did. Rahm Emmanuel was even quoted saying you never let a good crisis go to waste.

If all of you are so blind to read this middle of the road fellow... the why don't we run our gov't like california or maybe michigan................hum ...........y........... cause every thing he say is true......... yes he did say that ........because what ever points he put to this woman she said that
Obamma was god......(not the sharpest tool in the shed) but our host seemed to leave that part out. Y u ask?...........Cause he didn't really listen to it he heard it off of anther blog. U wanna know what this man says go to
http://www.marklevinshow.com/home.asp

and listen
its free and you don't hav to listen to cherry picked statments

shame on you for doing what the dems do and taking a statment out of context


am I reading a lib Blog in diguise?

I have one thing to say to you people here... well, most of you... Are your heads so high in the clouds with the “civil discourse” propaganda that has been propagated in our schools and in our country for tens of decades by evil usurpers who have one thing in mind, which is POWER, that you cannot see how we Americans, as the last bastion of freedom in the world, have all been duped over many generations into thinking that “all will be well” if we just maintain a civil discourse? and all the while THEY plot and plan on how to remove our liberty and freedoms, one lethal cut at a time, to turn us all into commodities ie slaves just like the rest of the world? Wake up, people! get your heads out of the clouds and see the world for what it really is! It’s THEM or US! SLAVERY or FREEDOM! And I vote for US and for FREEDOM! As well do many other Americans who have enough sense to come in out of the rain. Can you not see how far this country has fallen from what the founding fathers intended and what most Americans think it is supposed to be? Wake up and FIGHT for your Republic! for your freedom! before it’s too late! Have you not learned anything from history? Did you not see how the bloody tides of revolution washed over the so-called educated elite upper classes, nearly wiping them out, in revolutions such as that in Russia? France? other countries? What on God’s green earth makes you think YOU will be IMMUNE? Better open your eyes, people! Before you can’t! along with millions of others in this country, as well as the rest of the world! Mark Levin is dead on in everything he says! Are you so steeped in government controlled schooling that you cannot see the obvious? MW

I got to this article by clicking "Most Deranged Bloggers" link. I found the above article to be anything but deranged. I am a conservative and a fan of talk radio. It's a shame Mark Levin is so angry and vitriolic, because he could be so much more persuasive to people on the left without the boiling over anger, or being so insulting to people he differs with. He is extremely intelligent, knows the Constitution forwards and backwards, and makes very arguments for the conservative side in calmer moments. I would recommend liberals listen to Dennis Prager, also an extremely intelligent conservative talk show host, who is always polite to liberals and people on the left who call in and never resorts to name calling, or lashing out in anger.

Good points...

But I wonder...if these people are so "engaged in a good faith effort to stay informed, to participate in their democracy, and to better their country," why do they listen to the Limbaughs and Levins of the world?

I consider myself to be have a fiscal conservative, social moderate politic lean. What Ihave noticed in discussing politics with a good number of "conservative" is the inability to have respectful debates on issues. The problem with the republican party is the conservative movement.

Conor, I think this is about the most insightful article I've seen on the mind of Levin. I'm a liberal, but I do listen to these people every day in the car. There really isn't an alternative so I check them out to hear what they have to say. Your analysis is exactly the same as what I've come up with. Levin makes absolute statements of having direct knowledge into the motivations of people which of course is impossible.It undermines any credibility that he might hope to achieve. There are certainly people with a similar mindset that will dote on his every word, but any thinking person can see right through it. All he does is present himself as a fool in the process. I've heard him repeatedly toss out the disparaging remark of Obama being an ideologue. Obviously he means it in the most derogatory sense of the word. Yet this is coming from a guy that writes a "manifesto for conservatism", which is probably the most dogmatically ideological thing he can come up with. It's clear that a person writing such a manifesto is himself a dogmatic ideologue. He's fond of citing people like Hayek. But Hayek was not a conservative. He actually wrote a lengthy essay entitled "Why I'm not a Conservative" totally dismantling the conservative mindset that Levin worships. Levin opposes "change" and favors gradual reformation citing Burke. Radical change as opposed to reformation of an existing institution is more preferable to Levin. That leads me ask, who's side would he have been in during our own revolution. We didn't opt for some kind of reformation. We went for complete and total change. Revolutionary change. He admires our founders, but there's no doubt about who's side he would have taken.

Comments on this entry have been closed.