John Moore on Talk show hosts (HuffPost)

Written by  //  May 19, 2008  //  John Moore, Media  //  No comments

Talking Themselves to Death

It hasn’t been a good year for talk radio. In spite of their blustering and arm flailing right wing talk radio hosts failed in their efforts to undo John McCain’s quest for the Republican nomination. Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos,” a mischievous effort to drive registered Republicans to Hilary Clinton in order to wreak havoc in the Democratic campaign also didn’t amount to much. Delve a little deeper than Limbaugh’s crowing and you find the 9% of Republicans who voted in the Texas primary actually favored Barack Obama.

And then we had the Kevin James meltdown. Last week on Chris Matthews’ Hardball James suffered one of the greatest live television humiliations since Senator Joe McCarthy was asked if he had no shame. On most cable shows the Los Angeles evening talker would have been in his element, lustily endorsing George W. Bush’s shameless speech before the Israeli Knesset in which he compared those who would negotiate with terrorists to Hitler appeasers. Matthews, sensing perhaps that exposing his guest as a fraud would be more interesting than the actual discussion asked Kevin James if he could explain what The Munich Accord was. In an instant it was clear James had no idea. Matthews persisted for three minutes, asking 22 times for James to show even a passing knowledge of the notorious historical incident finally prompting an exasperated James to shout “You’re not going to trap me!”

Trap you? By asking you to explain a seminal moment in history that you are referencing in your efforts to shape opinion in the present? Has there ever been a more telling reveal of what fatuous, ignorant, self-important, braying jackasses most talk radio hosts are then this? At least when Toto pulled back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz the old man turned out to have a modicum of charm.

But this is American talk radio and political cable. An empty show in which right wing talking points are shouted to the conservative base. It exists like a parallel universe in which the Iraq war is going swimmingly and the economy is fine. In this bizarro world evolution and global warming are hoaxes, Hilary Clinton is a murdering lesbian and Hollywood is an insidious plot against America. The courts are run by activist social-engineering judges, the media is a liberal conspiracy and the education system is a leftist indoctrination machine. Anyone who says otherwise is part of the problem.

This distorted and paranoid world view survives quite nicely in the bell jar of talk radio and friendly cable television shows. Debates are more like debriefings where outrageous contentions go unchallenged because everyone is on the same page. And the partisan lockstep of the radio gabbers cannot possibly be exaggerated. An hour by hour analysis conducted in 2007 found that at the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial owners 91% of the content was conservative. In some markets there’s not a single talk radio host who doesn’t think liberals are “plotting and scheming against America” (Bill O’Reilly).

The Kevin James takedown may prove to be a pivotal event in the history of talk radio. Conservative talkers have complained for years that the mainstream media ignore them. But almost every time one of these benighted morons is allowed into a real world debate they make a fool of themselves. Without the power of screeners who filter out intelligent adversaries and the hang up button to eliminate a caller who might be winning a point the majority of talk radio hosts are like overturned tortoises. Talk radio and cable have become a Barcalounger for the loony right causing it to grow intellectually fat and lazy. The movement exists in a hermetically sealed echo chamber where conservative truths are believed to be self evident. New information that might challenge this highly distorted world view burns up on re-entry into a self created and sustained universe. In a fair fight these yahoos simply don’t have a chance. Shouting, which most of them resort to doesn’t make demonstrably wrong things true.

James will no doubt return to his evening roost in Los Angeles and explain to his devoted fans that he was ambushed by a liberal in an orchestrated plot to eliminate a conservative who has become too big a threat to the mainstream media’s control of the truth. But any reasonable person knows Kevin James is a man so lacking in his knowledge of history and reason as to be unworthy of a microphone and an audience.

John Moore is host of the drive home show on Canada’s number one Talk Radio station NewsTalk 1010 CFRB. He can be heard at www.cfrb.com

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