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March 13, 2005 - How to Argue Like a Conservative Radio Talk Show Host (for fun and profit?)

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World’s Laziest Journalist

March 14. 2005

By Bob Patterson


Conservative talk show hosts make a bundle of money, so more and more folks are wondering how does one argue like one of them, because if you can do that, then, according to their logic, you can become just as rich and successful as they are and wouldn’t that be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?


A German writer laid out the basics, of how to do mind manipulation, some time ago, and the rookie conservative talk show host would do well to immerse themselves in the basics. 


The material “must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses.”  Sounds like a Democrat, because who wants to sound like a fuddy-duddy member of an exclusive country club like a Republican, eh?


“The function… does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.”  Wow, with a mission statement like that you could call yourself an unschooled journalist.


The material you present “must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to.  Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.”  Another way of putting that would be: “Get down!”  He elaborates:  “… we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution can not be exerted in this direction.”  Dang!  It seems you won’t get much chance to quote Sartre doing this.


Later he points out: “The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous.”  Whew!  Sounds like we don’t have to work too hard on getting the facts straight.


The material for your radio show “is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for.”  Me right, you wrong.  Show over. 


If the material you spout “admits so much as a glimmer of right on the other side, the foundation for doubt in our own right has been laid.”  (Heh, heh, he said “laid,” Bevis.)


When in doubt just remember that your material “must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”  Nixon has a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam.  Like that?  After 9-11, the president must be resolute and not become a flip-flopper, like the jerk with the war medals.  Like that?


When dealing with the public the conservative talk show hosts should remember:  “the masses are slow-moving and they always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.”


Recently in the Los Angeles area, the conservative radio folks have been competing with the attempts of Air America to present the other point of view.  The choice for listeners is a tough call because it is like giving students a choice: for the next hour, they can either: A. watch re-runs of Laugh In, or B. attend a lecture on “Introduction to Advanced Calculus.” 


If you think that is an oversimplification (did I learn the basics, huh?) I’ll give an example for those of you who are still tempted to choose a peripatetic pedantic rather than the Jeff Spicoli level of academics.


Lets see how the conservatives and an imaginary Air America spokesperson might assess the recent elections in Iraq.


The conservative talk show host could cover the subject this way:  “Weren’t the pictures of the Iraqi’s holding up their purple fingers heartwarming?”


The fictional personality on Air America might have to go over the ethnic array of the Iraqi voters.  There are members of the Baath party, there are Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.


Then you might want to go over how the Sunni minority had been the group providing brutal leadership over the Shiite majority.  Then you would have to explain how and why America can expect the abused majority to forget past transgressions (“Can’t we all get along?”) and just let bygones be bygones.  You might also, to be thorough and comprehensive touch quickly on the fact that in the past the Kurds have been screwed by being encouraged to rebel and then ignored when the got stomped (by the ruling Sunni minority ruling junta) for their impudence.  Next, you might want to present some material that explains how the Shiite group has strong ties to the folks who are in charge of ruling the neighboring country of Iran.  Whoops!  You’ve just opened a big can of worms because now you have to explain why the folks, who have links religious and emotional with the rulers of Iran, should give continued support to the USA if the Americans go to war with Iran.  Try to gloss over that by saying that they will be so grateful for their opportunity to participate in the democratic process, that they will not be motivated by their old fashioned methodology of the past which requires them to maintain allegiance with their “brothers,” but must embrace “democracy” and all its ramifications, which includes strong new alliances with other democracies.   OK, you’ve gotten this far, that’s good, because now comes the hard part, the folks who support the conservative talk shows, will call in and ask you to prove each and everyone of the preceding points completely as if you were presenting a doctoral thesis on the air and get all that done before the next commercial break.  Think you can do that? 


You saw the photos of the pictures of the Arabs with their fingers in the air (No, the recent ones of the purple fingered voters, not the earlier ones), so there’s no need to respond to requests to document that point of view.  You saw the pictures, folks, they speak for themselves.


Conservative talk show hosts are also very good at using an ad hominem maneuver to deflect attention away from a valid point.  A former rock disk jockey may blithely dismiss something Janeane Garofalo says because she is an actress.  It’s as if an actress cannot dispense any facts, and only former DJ’s can. 


Let’s make a hypothetical case to illustrate the flaw of the ad hominem retort.  Suppose that Charlie Manson were to make the assertion and provide extensive documented proof that Roosevelt knew the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor.  Would the fact that Manson was in jail for various crimes have any bearing on the matter of historical importance?   He might not be a sterling example of academic historical research, but if the evidence he presented were authentic, then his personal conduct would not really be relevant to the subject of the implications of the revised look at the pre-war events.


On the evening news broadcast for Saturday evening, March 5, 2005, ABC promoted the program’s content by asking if a convicted felon can be relied upon for accurate interesting household tips.  Specifically they were referring to Martha Stewart who had been in the news recently.  They were reverting to the faulty ad hominem strategy by intimating that if you go to prison, you lose your household skills.  If their fact checking team had considered that particular question, they might (if they are really earning their keep) have found in Jerry Capeci’s book Wiseguys Say The Darndest Things (on page 184) that Joseph Valachi was such a good cook that prison guards would ask him to write tips for their wives.  Just think of what the ratings a cooking show featuring Joe Valachi would be. 


How would a conservative talk show cover the shooting incident that involved Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrene?  A good conservative talk show host would probably love to blurt out: “They should have killed the bitch, because now, for the rest of her life, she will spread her lies about that accident.”  On the other hand, the liberal media would probably be thinking: “My wife will bean me with a frying pan if I break Eason Jordon’s record for getting canned after talking about journalists getting killed.”


On the morning of Monday, March 7, 2005, for his talk show, Bill O’Reilly summarized the events that led to the death of Nicola Calipari in his best “No Spin” mode.  He stressed that she was a reporter for a Communist newspaper (there you go again with the ad hominem stuff) and asked, “How does she know what happened.”  “She was there” could be a good answer that didn’t seem to occur to him.


O’Reilly stressed that her assertion that the Americans shot at the car that wasn’t speeding and he stated that her viewpoint was based on the supposition that the troops “shot at them for no reason.”  If O’Reilly had made the smallest attempt to find out the details of her version, he would have learned (this columnist heard it on the radio) that Ms. Sgrene alleges that her captors told her when they released her that the Americans disapproved of paying a ransom for her release and the Americans would try to kill her.  Does that mean O’Reilly couldn’t find out that aspect of the story, or does it mean he closely adheres to the principle that he must not admit “so much as a glimmer of right on the other side”?  Either way he is either a poor journalist, or he is spinning the part about “no spin.”


He did make a reference to the fact that toward the end of WWII, the US bombed civilians in Germany and Japan and killed as many as 50,000 civilians in one night. 


If 50,000 casualties in one night is an acceptable number, why then would anyone care about one Communist journalist who may wind up causing Italy to fall out of the Coalition? 


Hugh Hewitt on his blog on Tuesday, March 8, 2005, wrote:  “I didn’t cover the story on yesterday’s radio program because the available accounts are jumbled.”  He adds: “The particulars of Giuliana Sgrene’s captivity, release, and wounding are interesting, but not nearly as important as the debate underway in Great Britain over the new anti-terror law.”


Two weeks ago he was all over the Main Stream Media (MSM) because they wouldn’t cover the Eason Jordon story and he had bloggers ganging up on the major media outlets to get them to cover it.  Do you think that if the New York Times ran a lead editorial urging Hewitt to cover the story that was an item on many network newscasts over the weekend (March 4 - 6) he would cave to pressure or would he start carping about editorial freedom for himself and his blog?  You will note that with conservative radio talk show hosts it’s often a case of “Don’t do as I do; do as I say.”  Would you call that hypocrisy?  It’s your call.


Quite often a conservative talk show host will squelch a topic that makes them nervous.  You could call it “topic bullying,” but if you watch carefully you will see it happening quite often.  Could it be he (or in Laura Ingram’s case: she) keeps hearing the German’s advice and knows that if he “admits so much as a glimmer of right on the other side, the foundation for doubt in our own right has been laid,” so they avoid such a topic completely?


The conservative talk show hosts have a special attitude that looks to be a subtle blend of arrogance and impudence.  The effect is that in a war of words they consider themselves the ammunition bearers.


The conservative talk show host can also act like the class clown.  A comedian or a person who can draw great caricatures knows that making fun of someone is easy.  You just exaggerate.  You take the victim’s good or bad points and over-emphasis them. 


A cartoonist can knock out a great drawing in a flash.  How long did it take Norman Rockwell to do a painting in the photo-realism style?  Which would you rather watch - the cartoonist for a few seconds or the famed painter for a couple of days?  Which product would your rather own?  Yeah, an original Hershfeld drawing would be cool, but just think what a Rockwell painting that had been a Saturday Evening Post cover would be worth.  Which would be more fun to display on your living room wall?


It’s easier to incite selfishness and greed with a glib bumper sticker one-liner than it is to inspire people to think things through or join in an effort for the common good with an extended homily. 


In his book, The Way Things Ought to Be, Rush Limbaugh wrote (hardback edition page 146) about getting a new national symbol: “We need to replace the eagle with a huge sow that has a lot of nipples and a bunch of fat little piglets hanging on them all trying to suckle as much nourishment from them as possible.”  You know, if Limbaugh were to make a sign with those words and parade back and forth in front of Halliburton, I’ll bet Al Franken and Jon Stewart would applaud wildly and heartily endorse the sentiment.  I’ll even bet that Michael Moore would offer his documentary film making services for free to get access to the event.


Now, if the disk jockey will play Street Fightin’ Man, we’ll demonstrate the way to evacuate this week’s meeting.  Come back again next week, we’ll explain what happens when a few bad apples screw up and are given “the Rommel option.”  Until then, have a . . . Whoops!  One last item of business:  The fact checker wants to know where he can verify the advice quotes about being a conservative talk show host.  If you know what the pen name that Herr Schicklgruber used was, look up his most famous book and read Chapter VI.  Have a well-regimented week, verstehen, Sie mir?  Auf wiedersehen.

Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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