Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sad Billionaire Returns; AM Radio slumming

Hello everybody!

Back from holidayz! I went back to the institution to which I am academically affiliated today, a task I had been avoiding for a few months, and the first thing I heard was "I thought you were dead!" Fantastic. Soon I will have washed my hands of that dark satanic brain mill, and be an official Master. Watch out, Kasparov!

Props to FF for an eye-opening post on the hidden racial politics of teen lit.

We had a holiday in the midatlantic pleasure zones. America seems pretty exhausted.

On the way to skool today, I sampled the rightwing radio all-you-can-eat buffet, something I do whenever I drive to the Uni. First of all, it is unique to be living in central Texas, with so much access to the latter day Father Coughlins. Second, it prepares me to interact with people who agree with the sentiments expressed on these shows.

Over the past year (I am just now celebrating a year as a licensed driver! I am also now exactly double the age I was when I could first legally obtain a learner's permit) I have developed a sense of the cartography of the right-wing hate-chat landscape. Liberals and radicals should not think that just because the enterprise is hideous and vile (to take a classic barometer of normative ethics, right wing radio is basically always on the side of killing babies), it is simple and one-dimensional. No no no. The right wing talkers marshall a number of rhetorical techniques and styles of argument, many from non-conservative sources, and forge novel syntheses. I will write, in the coming days, about the cast of goons who pollute my ears on a daily basis.

First up: Rush Limbaugh. I know , Franken wrote the "big fat idiot" book years ago. I am not really breaking a story here. But: A) Franken is a patronizing blowhard, whose speech drips with northeast elitism. His liberalism is inscrutable; his politics constantly compromised by cheap sarcasm. We really can't rely on him for the final word. B) Rush continues to rant, and his listeners are devoted and fervent. We can't assume that just because we know he is a doofus we can ignore him.

Rush's politics are all about anger, intimidation and paternalism. The turgid artery, the clenched tooth, the engorged prostate. Contrast this with the soft-spoken, baptist minister speech of a Joe Simpson, or the technocratic/wonk obfuscations of a Fred Barnes or Dick Cheney. Rush comes on like a Preston Sturges stock screwball character, chest puffed, linen napkin shoved in his shirt collar, banging his cutlery on the china so the maid will bring more roast. Rush's fans call themselves "dittoheads" and call in to be patted on their heads for agreeing with the toastmaster or ridiculed for their stupidity.

Today Rush was talking about the protests in Crawford. He quickly moved from basically calling Cindy Sheehan Rosa Luxemborg's BFF to yelling about how conservatives should be praised for not having politicized Clinton's warmongering during the 90s and, by way of contrast, how treasonous liberals are for now daring to question the war in Iraq, 2000 bodybags in. Those who know a little history recall how humanitarian intervention in the Balkans was consistently stymied by isolationist, puritanical Republicans, who first drummed up the Lewisnky scandal and then claimed that Clinton was trying to "wag the dog" when he tried (lamely, belatedly) to intervene.

I am no big fan of the way that all went down, but to say that conservatives happily cooperated with Clinton's commanding-in-chief is like saying that the hyperactive bunny rabbit on the cereal box is sanguine, if not indifferent, about Cocoa Puffs.


ehl said...

Hi SB,
Susan J. Douglas' book, Listening In, has an interesting chapter on Rush, Stern, et al. Might want to check it out.

Elka said...

your writing is splendiferic. I think you should apply for a job as the tonic to AM radio conservative death rattles.