Essay / Art

The evangelical outpost

the evangelical outpost: “Is talk radio really better than I give it credit for? If so, who is the second best talk radio host in America? (We all know that Hugh takes the first honor.) Who is the worst? And is Rush Limbaugh past his prime or is he still a force to be reckoned with?”NPR has more intellectual content. Even when it is from the wrong point of view, it frequently makes you think. That is a good thing. Our tax money should not be used to support it (though this is a close call). I wish they had more conservative intellectuals, but they have virtues.First, they play great music (jazz and classical) that would otherwise be unavailable to people without means. Call me a snob, or just a Platonist, but I think music that requires skill and training to play is superior to music that does not. If you believe that “pop” music is equal in skill required, watch the wonderful British show “Faking It.” This show allows folk to try “faking” a job they do not understand.In one episode a classically trained musician masters the club scene’s “dj” job, including mixing, in about one month. Show me a pop star who could do the same with the classically trained musician’s cello and I will buy land from you in Florida. If great music elevates the soul, then NPR often serves the same role as a public library. I am for more funding for public libraries, so even my tax money used for NPR does not disturb me too much. Congress (the Republican Congress) can waste more money in a minute on much less interesting projects. (Do we need another Robert Byrd anything in West Virginia?)Second, NPR is a window into right-of-center thinking in grad schools across America. We may find NPR liberal, but most folks I know in academia find it “corporate” and almost fascist. It is good to know what folk are thinking and NPR is a good bridge to what the left is up to in our colleges. Multiply what they say by a left wing factor of ten and you have the picture.Third, NPR will discuss topics no one else is covering. Some are silly, but often they will take the time to do more indepth analysis. Time is a good thing and commercials, too many commercials, can cut into the ability to make an argument. The discussion on NPR is often deeper, even when wrong headed.Now don’t get me wrong. NPR is often howlingly bad. It contains a bias against evangelical and traditional religion that is criminal. It has a world view so narrow at times that it makes Rush look broad. Rush will at least consider the range of conservative opinion. NPR is a consistent “safe-liberalism.”NPR reflects all the strengths (and they are many) and weaknesses (and in my opinion these are fatal) of the modern American academy. Still it is good for conservatives to remember the strengths. I teach bright students, really bright students, and little on conservative media reaches them. Lose the thoughtful people, particularly ones otherwise inclined to agree with us, and we lose a generation.We need a conservative, thoughtful alternative. Fortunately, there are a few good shows out there. However, no one has really replaced Bill Buckley in being a middle brow intellectual with the excitement of his old “Firing Line.” The Reagan/Buckley debates on the Panama Canal look almost quaint and Lincoln-like compared to most of our present “entertainment.”Talk radio is often an intellectual waste land. It repeats the same ideas over and over. It rarely argues for them. There is a rarely a true education on talk radio. It often consists of slogans repeated over and over. If you are looking for someone to agree with you (which is a good thing at times), then it is comforting. Ideas wear well and too often talk radio is devoid of ideas.Talk radio is seldom varied. There is too much politics! Most of us think about politics at times, especially near elections. The rest of the time we go to plays, movies, church, raise a family. Talk Radio acts like it is election eve every night. It seems odd to me that conservatives would be fixed on politics to the exclusion of almost all else.The best talk radio comes from smart people with a consistent world view. Hewitt? Of course. Long ago he surpassed Rush as the thinking man’s talk radio host. LA has Frank Pastore, funny and very bright. His show is a jewel and rising fast. (Ritual disclaimer: I have appeared on both shows. This simply confirms their good judgment. Yes?) Michael Medved is good, especially as he deals with cultural issues including film. (There is too much politics on talk radio.)Savage is the worst. He is a litmus test for conservatives. If you cannot say he does bad things, then you are too far in the tank.As for Rush, I feel of him the way some people in Israel must of thought of King Saul. He is a fallen man who had a chance at greatness. He once was funny. He does not seem to try that anymore. He hardly ever makes an argument. Still, with all the wear and tear, at his best, Rush is still the best. I cannot be the only one to think that he rarely is at his best anymore. I pity Rush. Without knowing anything about his personal life, one could guess that wealth and hard living were wearing down great talent. It is an old story, with Newt as another prime example. Rush is a habit for many people and I still listen at times for the community experience, but the days of “Dan’s Bake Sale” when you never knew what would happen are long over. Pastore’s show is actually funny at times and deals with more topics. Hewitt gives a real education, and despite massively eccentric tastes in football (Go Pack! Go!), he has an unfailing instinct for the main story. Rush? He is like an aging tenor who can still hit the notes, sometimes, but too frequently is mailing in his performance.

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