Monday, January 12, 2009

Conservative Talk Radio vs. The Fairness Doctrine

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Yesterday, I wrote an entry ranting about Neal Boortz' elitist attitude toward people needing Section 8 housing. In the same broadcast where he made those comments, he asked a question that I wish to address in this entry.

In the segment previous to the one where he talked about Section 8, he talked about the Fairness Doctrine, a topic which strikes terror into the so-called hearts of right wing radio hosts everywhere. Boortz, along with many of his fellow ultra right wingnut pundits, believes -- or wants his readers to believe -- that liberals want the Fairness Doctrine in order to censor conservative talk radio and get them off the air.

I don't know where they get that idea from, as freedome of speech and hatred of censorship are beliefs that are central to liberalism. Rather than silencing conservative voices, liberals seek to see a broader representation of all opinions on talk radio. For us, it's not an either/or thing, it's a both/and thing.
Personally, I'd hate to see them leave the air, as listening to these wingnuts gives me a lot of rant-worthy blogging fodder, and it's a good way to monitor how the other side thinks.

I find much of what Boortz says to be reprehensible and repugnant, but I believe that to censor him and others of his ilk would be even more so. Freedom of speech is for everyone, not just for those with whom I agree. Americans still have the right to be wrong, just as long as they don't intefere with the rights of others to believe differently.

And this brings me to Boortz' question. I don't remember his exact words, but the gist was to the effect of wondering why liberal talk shows tend to end up as failures more times than not. This begs the question as to why conservative talk shows tend to have an easier time staying on the air and keeping listeners.

It's very simple. Unlike the average liberal talk show host, most conservative talk show hosts are not about civilized, reasoned debate; they specialize in low blows and ad hominem attacks. Boortz, in particular, takes great glee in being a jerk on air and rude to people with whom he disagrees, proudly referring to himself as an "equal opportunity offender".

In other words, they appeal to people's basest instincts, the lowest common denominator. They invite listeners to indulge their prejudices, justify their hate, and to blame "the Other" for their frustrations.

Conversely, most liberal pundits try to appeal to people's higher selves, to tolerate and learn to understand those who are different from ourselves, and challenge people to use complex reasoning when confronting complicated issues, and to rise above simplistic, dualistic, knee-jerk responses to troubling issues.

For many people, having to think and rise above isn't nearly as much fun as simply trashing people who are different from us and to make them the scapegoats for all the problems facing our world today.

Hence, conservative talk radio has a much easier time gaining and keeping listeners than does liberal talk radio.



Roger Bell said...

I don't know about liberal listeners in general, but I don't even turn on AM radio. I listen to American Left on XM Radio.

As for the Fairness Doctrine, here is a link to an article I wrote about it:

I know of no effort to reinstate this policy. It's just right wingnut crap as usual.

Our time is better spent on preventing media monopolies so that we can get more diverse views into the marketplace.

Roger Bell said...

I'm trying to keep my bottom drawer dry, so you are part of a meme: Sorry 'bout that.