Talk Radio, Emotion and Logic

Talk Radio, Emotion and Logic August 1, 2007

I read this column by Star Parker at the Worldnutdaily in disbelief. It’s one of those arguments that is so absurdly contrary to reality that you simply can’t believe any sentient being could say it with a straight face. The whole column is about the Fairness Doctrine and I fully agree with her that this is a ridiculous idea that deserves a proper burial, never to rear its ugly head again. But in the middle of the column she tries to explain why conservatives do well on talk radio and liberals don’t. And you’re gonna love this argument:

Conservatives have not flourished in the talk-radio medium because of some anti-competitive stranglehold on this marketplace. Lots of attention has been given to the failure of the left-wing Air America. It was well-financed and had plenty of opportunity to make it. This was pure marketplace failure.

Conservative talk radio works because talk radio is a medium of the mind and of thinking and discourse. This works well for conservative and free-market ideas, which get sold on thought and logic.

Liberals will resent this assertion, but the liberal message is emotional, not logical. This is why it doesn’t work on talk radio. Liberalism operates by provoking emotions such as guilt, fear and envy. This works in sound bites and visual media, but not on talk radio.

Not even a hint of irony. Could she possibly believe this? Has she never actually listened to talk radio? It’s a vast cerebral wasteland, a virtually intellect-free zone, and the primary currency of the medium is the cheap appeal to emotion. Where do rants against flag burning, for example, play best? On talk radio, where the simpleminded listeners can easily be whooped into an emotional frenzy over perceived slights to America that counter their bumper sticker patriotism.

How about the furor over gay marriage, a huge topic on conservative talk radio. Let’s take a look at a few gems of logical reasoning from conservative radio hosts on that issue. Here’s that noted logician Michael Savage:

There is a direct correlation between the homosexualization of the media, the homosexual mafia that controls virtually everything that you read, everything that you see, everything that you hear, everything that you wear, and the behavior of our boys and girls and the fact that they will not have children, and they simply want to party until 3 a.m., and spend their money on designer items so they look good, and they have good abs, and good butts, and good lats, and good delts. After all, isn’t a good ab better than a good son? Isn’t a good butt better than a good daughter? I’ll let you figure out how we have descended to a level below that of the apes, lower than the chimpanzee, my friend — all a result of the demons who rule the media, and have ruled the media to the point of extinction.

Gosh, what a logical, well-reasoned, non-emotional statement. Much like this one:

“But the question is what’s good enough for you? You wanna live in a country like this? Where a gang of liberal judges hijack any law they don’t like? And hold you hostage to it? They make homosexual wedding the law of the land, when 90% of the American people find it repugnant! And sickening! And disgusting! And don’t wanna accept it! And don’t wanna live in a degenerate nation!”

No, that’s not an appeal to naked bigotry and irrationality, is it? Or how about this Savage statement, about the ACLU:

“…these big-mouthed, phony scum of the ACLU, who should be rounded up, arrested for sedition. Their property seized, and they should be put into Abu Ghraib prison as far as I’m concerned. That wouldn’t be enough of what I’d like to see done to the ACLU. They’re the worst vermin America has ever tolerated. The worst vermin in the history of America are the vermin in the ACLU.”

Wittgenstein himself could not have constructed a more rigorous and logical argument. Bill O’Reilly? Sean Hannity? Rush Limbaugh? These are hardly voices for reason and rationality. They are carnival barkers on the political midway, selling cheap self-righteousness and prepackaged outrage to their credulous followers. And that is why they are popular, because they appeal not to man’s capacity for logic but to his capacity for turning off his brain and running with the mob. Anyone who thinks otherwise just isn’t listening.

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