Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

The Bi-polar Extremes of Talk Radio

I like to listen to talk radio, just about any kind. Whenever I am driving in the car (if it is not a long trip) I am much more likely to have on NPR, or Air America, or even one of the many Conservative talk radio stations around this country. I have even spent hours driving on long trips listening to farming reports from rural radio stations, to some young woman with a pirate radio station somewhere near Hope Arkansas, and even to High School Football games from towns I do not even drive through, but can pick up from the interstate.

When I can get BBC World News, I’m in heaven. I can get it on the web, but it’s a little more difficult in the car. My wife has prevented me from getting XM radio just to limit my talk radio access… She much prefers music in the car.

Recently, as I was driving around Chicago, I had a few 45+ minute trips. BBC News was over on the local NPR station, and instead of switching over to Air America or the News and Traffic station, I did my occasional duty and I turned on Rush Limbaugh on a local station.

I remember that for years I listened to Rush Limbaugh every day. I’m not certain I was ever a “dittohead” because I’ve always known he was a showman, not a serious political thinker… but he is addictive to listen to. I think that addictive quality is because, in a world as complex as this one, his simplistic worldview is attractive and comforting. Hatred is often attractive and comforting. When I was living in anxiety and fear of a complex world, Rush was often a palliative… kind of like taking prescription painkillers without a prescription, come to think of it.

I used to have Rush on in the office when I was a Sergeant in the Army, and I had a Commanding Officer who was an avowed liberal. I asked him why he allowed us to listen to Rush buy imitrex uk (followed by Ollie North and preceded by G. Gordon Liddy), and he said “Sergeant, the first rule of military strategy… know your enemy.”

So I think of that former CO every time I turn on Rush now… not that I view him as an enemy, but rather that if I want to know what is happening on the Right Pole of our society, he is a good barometer. I am rarely surprised, but I was this time.

It sounded as if Rush was warning “Conservatives” to prepare to be arrested and taken off to concentration camps. It sounded as if Rush thought that there would be places where conservatives would be locked up, and that if you wanted to “see a conservative” you would have to go to these places, almost like going to the zoo.

I later heard Michael Savage calling President Obama a fascist, and seeming to warn of the same thing. As I listened to his diatribe, a thought struck me.

Back in 2004, living south of Houston, I regularly listened to the ultra-left wing “Pacifica” radio. Now, if you are not familiar with it, Pacifica makes Air America look moderate, and NPR seem conservative. I distinctly remember many Pacifica shows about “Liberals” needing to prepare for being arrested and sent to concentration camps, about the then President being a “fascist”, and about the fear that liberals would be wiped out, about liberals needing “Endangered Species” protections…

Listening to Rush, thinking about listening to Pacifica, it was just one more sign that it is not about politics, not about society, not about culture. Talk radio shows at the far right and the far left are not about principles or current events… they are about inflaming hatred and passions for ratings. And sometimes, someone takes them seriously and goes out and starts killing people.

I then turned back to NPR, where I think I will stay for awhile.

Yours in Faith,


2 Thoughts on “The Bi-polar Extremes of Talk Radio

  1. It’s funny David but when I got to the part about Rush Limbaugh warning conservatives to prepare to be arrested and taken off to concentration camps I was thinking –

    I had better tell David that “liberals”, including some U*Us, were saying very much the same thing, except the alleged concentration camps were intended for “liberals”, during the Bush administration. One does have to wonder where this rumor arises from. The version I heard was that FEMA was building concentration camps. There is a version of this rumor that says these alleged concentration camps are intended to hold illegal aliens. Maybe there is some grain of truth to them if things resembling concentration camps are in fact being built by the U.S. government. Of course your typical military base could stand in far a concentration camp in a pinch couldn’t it?

    BTW If your parting shot is a veiled reference to U*Us Know Who I blogged about him again today on The Blog That Cannot Be Named and on the Hopelessness and Patriotism post of the UUbuntu blog. If one is going to point to anti-liberal hate speech on right wing talk radio as being a or indeed *the* motivation for his attack on U*Us Know Where, one cannot ignore the fact that he claimed to be subjected to capital ‘H’ Hate in his suicide letter cum “manifesto”. Well actually you can ignore that and most U*Us blaming right wing talk radio for motivating the attack do just that. Which I why I feel obliged to point out the fact that he felt Hated by U*Us. Who is to say that anti-conservative hate speech directed *at* him and other conservatives by U*Us was not a motivating factor as well?

  2. Charlie Talbert on Friday March 27, 2009 at 16:28 +0000 said:

    I also prefer NPR and BBC for content.

    But I hear what you’re saying about Rush’s style. It can be seductive if you can tone out what he’s actually saying. In the same vein, I used to be enormously enthralled by Jimmy Swaggart’s delivery – the best televangelist there’s ever been IMO – even though, shall we say, there was little overlap in our religious views.

    Ronald Reagan’s radio addresses in the late 1970s were outstanding, in style AND content. He helped me see that conservatives have important values and outlooks that need to be considered.

    Back to Rush, I look at it this way: People like him are always around, on the right and the left, just as harmful bacteria are always in our bodies. As long as our democracy stays healthy, though, it remains immune to their poisonous infections. Fair and competent radio programming like NPR’s and BBC’s strengthens our commonweal. I wish more people listened.

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