Thursday, July 12, 2007
  Fairness, part II

Excellent rant by the 2nd-string talk host Jerry Doyle tonight.

His point: Republican talk radio has done more to ruin the Republican party than anything else.

His basic argument: When was the last time the R brand won in a landslide? Reagan in 1984. When did the current model of talk radio start? Roughly 1988. And what's happened since then? Talk radio and talk cable TV have turned into a sporting event rather than a discussion, with two teams. Team R cheers for everything the Republican party does; Team D cheers for everything the Democrats do. There is no flow of advice or information; nothing to guide the politicians. Just cheering for the mere existence of each team. So the teams have deteriorated, lost their principles, until both sides are just playing to waste time and money.

Reagan won because he had no automatic cheering section. He couldn't count on loyal courtiers to take his side no matter what he did, as e.g. Michael Medved does for Bush. Reagan had to craft a solid message that could break through the filters, so that's exactly what he did.

Picasso said "There is no great art without a resistant medium." True of any craft or discipline. If you want to create a meaningful product, you need to fight your way through obstacles, thus learning new facts and techniques.

This ties with my recent essay on the Fairness Doctrine. I was mainly talking about cultural matters, but it applies equally to politics. When every station has to devote a certain amount of time to covering public affairs in a factual way, competition leads to quality. When that requirement is gone, political coverage depends purely on ratings, which leads to bottom-feeding and triviality. When serious commentary is required by license, stations will offer serious commentary.

I think the Web also contributes to the team effect. For reasons I've never plumbed, all discussion on the Web is crammed into a two-team template. Whether the subject is software, sex, spirituality or spam, every online forum splits into Team A and Team B, with precise lists of permitted statements on each side. Woe betide the discussant who tries to speak between or outside the bounds. If you try to show that a third position exists, or that A and B are both false, or A is right for B's reasons, you'll be beaten with four-letter sticks and stones until you leave.
 


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