Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Right Winger Bemoans the Dumbing Down of the GOP

John Derbyshire is a contributing editor of National Review and the majority of the time I disagree with everything he writes. He's generally reactionary, bigoted and not what one would call LGBT friendly. On rare occasions, however, he shocks and comes out with something most observant. In a column in The American Conservative he has a great column that looks at the dumbing down of the GOP and conservatism by those like Rush Limbaugh the of which he describes as "carny barkers." The article is worth a read and it describes one of the reasons I left the GOP - not to mention its inability to recognize the separation of church and state. Increasingly, one either must become a Democrat or get a lobotomy to remain a Republican. Here are some highlights:
Now the loudest Republican voice belongs to Rush Limbaugh.” Upon discovering that Limbaugh had anointed himself the successor to William F. Buckley Jr., WFB’s son Christopher retorted, “Rush, I knew William F. Buckley, Jr. William F. Buckley, Jr. was a father of mine. Rush, you’re no William F. Buckley, Jr.” The more po-faced conservative intellectuals have long winced at Limbaugh’s quips, parodies, slogans, and impatience with the starched-collar respectability of the official Right.
Now the airwaves are full of conservative chat. Talkers magazine’s list of the top ten radio talk shows by number of weekly listeners also features Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, and Mark Levin.
Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs? They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”
Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises.
Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans.” Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development. It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominemFeminazis instead of feminism—and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob. . . . In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right.
[I]n fact liberals are very successful at talk radio. They are just no good at the lowbrow sort. The “Rush Limbaugh Show” may be first in those current Talkers magazine rankings, but second and third are National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” with 13 million weekly listeners each. It is easy to mock the studied gentility, affectless voices, and reflexive liberalism of NPR, but these are very successful radio programs.
I repeat: There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. Ideas must be marketed, and right-wing talk radio captures a big and useful market segment. However, if there is no thoughtful, rigorous presentation of conservative ideas, then conservatism by default becomes the raucous parochialism of Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity, and company. . . . Conservatives have never had, and never should have, a problem with elitism. Why have we allowed carny barkers to run away with the Right?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, "Conservative Talk Radio" often times plays to the lowest denominator in society.

And as long as they keep reaching the all important demographics that advertisers want ... they'll be on the air for many years to come.

If non-conservative radio wants to make a mark and get it's center to left issues in the public ear they have to stop being high-brow.

One that could do it is Rachel Maddow if Westwood One would pick up her show instead of Air America.

Having worked for CBS (primary owner of Westwood One) I know she would do well and more stations would pickup her program.

She most likely would appeal to the key demos and advertisers.

To be honest why they haven't is beyond me. She's an untapped Gold Mine in my opinion.

And for myself, I can't stand listening to the more liberal talkers that won't cross that line to a lower brow.

For me it's like watching a BBC "reader" ... ZZzzzzzz