Friday, March 03, 2006

Concerning Talk Show Hosts

I often use my car's satellite radio to listen to political talk shows. The experience is not encouraging. Most of the content, left and right, amounts to "our side is wise and virtuous, hooray, their side is stupid and evil, boo."

Many years ago, when I was the guest on a show whose host I knew, I was struck by how much less pleasant a person he was on the air than off. I concluded that he was doing the job he had been hired to do. Being nice is less dramatic than being nasty. Treating people you disagree with honestly and sympathetically, conceding the parts of their argument that are correct while disputing the parts that are not, is less effective theater than telling them what idiots they are—especially if most of your listeners are already on your side.

The situation is not, however, entirely hopeless; there are still a few shows I enjoy. On the right, there is G. Gordon Liddy. The political content is not terribly interesting, but he comes across as the sort of odd, quirky, interesting guy it would be fun to sit around talking with. I have a feeling that the same might be true of Michael Savage if he ever stopped trying so hard to live up to his name.

On the left, my current favorites are the Young Turks. They don't take themselves too seriously, their ads are funny, they not uncommonly say positive things about people on the other side and they mention arguments against the positions they support.

It's amazing that they are still on the air.


Gabriel M said...

This could be a great niche for you. If you find it easier to podcast than blog I'm sure you'd get a considerable audience. And since podcasts are featured on iTunes, there might be something to going audio.

Zach said...

You might enjoy Bill Bennett's "Morning in America", as well--if only for its civil tone. I'm afraid it's not yet broadcast via satellite, though, and most of its California affiliates broadcast it live at 3AM.

By the way, Dr. Friedman, I'm thrilled to find that you have a blog. I've long been an admirer of yours, and I look forward to visiting here often.

Chris said...

I think you are right in that they are selling entertainment and not necessarily news or information, so it is much better when they are obnoxious or down right mean to their callers on the opposite side.

mark said...

Crossfire, the CNN show that was one of the grandfathers of this format was initially harmless when it was just Tom Braden hooting at Robert Novak. Unfortunately, having spread far and wide, the
"political infotainment" meme has been terribly damaging to both news and politics in terms of dumbing down the national discussion.

Anonymous said...

You should check out Dennis Prager. His motto is 'clarity is more important than agreement.'

- Sean

Anonymous said...

About Michael Savage living up to his name: the man's name is Michael Alan Weiner, and no, I'm not making this up.

So, I guess you're right anyway. He is trying hard to live up to his name.


The Sanity Inspector said...

I second Bill Bennett's show. It's civil and informative.

Hugh Hewitt frequently has guests on of opposite opinions. He gives them a rough ride, but he does let them talk. That's more than someone like Neal Boortz or Sean Hannity does. Hannity especially is mostly concerned with getting the conservative talking points out there.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Burt Prelutsky had a good column about talk radio last year.

Anonymous said...

I second the Dennis Prager suggestion. Avuncular is the operative term with Dennis. Not sure what he is like off the air.

Anonymous said...

Check out Glenn Beck, if you haven't already. Definitely conservative, but even-handed and introspective in almost every regard.

Also, his show is about the funniest I've ever heard. His site is