The degeneration of citizens' mental faculties- including loss of critical thinking and inability to discern fake news from facts- lies at the heart of the current political divide. Thus, more than 2 in 5 Americans currently believe codswallop and baseless conspiracy claptrap - while the remaining 3 in 5 at least strive to inhabit reality. It is also no surprise that the former faction are overwhelmingly aligned with Donald Trump - perhaps the most mendacious president in American history - and certainly the most malignant conspiracy fabulist leader on planet Earth.
The ongoing degeneration of mental acuity as well as lowered mean I.Q. has been generally attributed to overexposure to the likes of FOX News and its propagandists. But this take is superficial given it doesn't also reckon in the long term degradation of brains owing to over -exposure to conservative talk radio.
Talk radio, like Rush Limbaugh's 3 hour long daily whine fests against the "libs", derives its power from the sheer volume of content produced each week. That content also likely erodes relative I.Q. by ten points for each week's worth of arrant babble listened to. Consider: the typical talk radio show is produced every weekday and runs three hours. So just the top 15 shows are putting out around 45 hours of content every day. That is a lot of content to weaken brains, lower critical thinking -- as well as I.Q. Just listen to a typical Limbaugh caller. E.g. from one memorable show eight years ago I happened to check on: "Mr. Limbaugh, I receive Social Security as a 69 year old retiree and heard on one of your shows I ought to be ashamed. Why is it wrong to get my Social Security? After all I paid into it."
Ans. "Of course it is wrong, sir! And look, what you paid in is a pittance compared to what you are receiving! So yeah, that's a handout! Being dependent on a government handout - any handout, even a VA benefit - is beneath a patriotic American who will always find the means for independent support!"
The caller left with tail between his legs unable to muster a forceful counter argument. Still, one suspected he at least bought in partly to Rush's palaver and might even consider stopping his S.S. payments. After all, who among dittoheads wanted to be only one rung up from one of those dreadful liberal "welfare queens."
We should note that talk radio only partly overlaps with institutional conservatism, i.e. that of right-wing Washington think tanks, and the Republican Party itself. By the early 2000s, for example, it had embraced a version of conservatism far less focused on free markets and small government. Instead, shows like Limbaugh's became more focused on ethno-nationalism ('Who are the real Americans?') and populism. It is, in short, these shows became the core of Trumpism as we now recognize it in his delirious zombies - drooling at his every rally- hanging on every lie issuing from his piehole
This elicits the question of why talk radio still somehow manages to fly below the national media radar. One theory holds that it's because media consumption patterns vary by class. If you should happen into an auto repair shop or onto a factory floor, odds are that talk radio - likely Limbaugh's show- will be blaring. My late brother Mike, an ex-cop - also fancied Limbaugh - even to the extent of putting a Limbaugh -like, cigar-puffing image of himself up on his blog, e.g.
Alas, many white-collar workers - professors, physicians, journalists included - struggle to understand the reach or power of talk radio because they don’t listen to it. Moreover, they don’t know anyone who does because such people would not be members of their socio-economic class. Why? Because only the lower socio-economic classes carry and cultivate grievance - which is basically what all the talk shows are about - to a greater or lesser extent. Just listen to Limbaugh for an hour and you will get an idea of the white grievance in this country.
There's another aspect which impedes the capacity to listen to Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin or anyone else in that corrosive conservo ilk. That is, anyone who wants to make an effort to understand talk radio runs into a barrier of superfluous grievance content mostly delivered with bombast. Hence, to seek to separate any wheat from chaff requires vast capacity to absorb hours of bullshit and endless whining. Most sensible, educated people with even a moderate attention span can't do it - well, unless they are already sympathetic with some of the host’s conservative views.
Jim Derych, the author of “Confessions of a Former Dittohead,” put it this way: Rush Limbaugh “makes you feel like an insider — like you know what’s going on politically, and everyone else is an idiot.” When I queried my psychology post doc niece Shayl on this she had a ready answer. "These people feel they're at the bottom of the totem pole, and made fun of by the elites as deplorables. So any thing, like red meat from Limbaugh, say that puts them on top in the superior class position- is welcome."
Makes sense to me. Also that there is power inherent in the feeling of finally being 'in the know' about something the elites don't get and never will. Thus, Limbaugh's 12 million ditto heads can rejoice that they know the real way the world works while the rest of the American “sheeple” slumber.
Here's another worrisome stat: Talk radio listeners make up a group at least three times larger than the N.R.A. and are just as committed to a particular vision of America. To take one example, since the mid-2000s, talk radio listeners have played a big part in steering Republicans toward the virulent anti-immigration stance of Trump. Limbaugh once even proposed a set of “Limbaugh Laws” requiring immigrants to speak English. Also barring them from holding government office or having access to government services, and excluding unskilled workers from the country.
The incipient danger of spreading malignant memes and mind viruses is amplified because talk radio is not bounded by physical space. It can follow listeners wherever they go, from the car radio while commuting to the radio resting on the workbench to a radio app on a smartphone. It has the potential to dominate the construction of a person’s worldview in a way that other media simply cannot.
No surprise then that a majority of Trump's drooling zombies - like the idiots shouting 'Fire Fauci!" at a Florida rally yesterday - have totally had their brains parasitized. You can also expect them to go batshit nuts on the day after the election should Dotard lose by a landslide. Their brains have simply been plundered to the point they can't grok losing, so in their febrile brains the only reason for a Trump loss would have to be if the Biden side cheats.
Talk radio has such a grip on listeners and the only way to curb the influence is to bring back the Fairness Doctrine - which I hope a President Biden does - at some point. No surprise, btw, that since 2003, Limbaugh has mentioned the Fairness Doctrine on nearly 150 episodes. He credits the rise of talk radio to the lifting of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 by the Reagan administration. And he is spot on correct on that score.
He also worries that the left could at any moment use a revived Fairness Doctrine to silence conservative radio. As Limbaugh put it in January, “They’ve been trying to nullify or negate me for three decades."
Not quite, El Rushbo. We just want to ensure after each three hours of your blovations there is another side presented, as we'd like for all other talk radio programs. You get your say, no infringement on free speech. We just get our say as counterpoint right after it!
There's a need for this balancing of viewpoint given talk radio’s role not only in spreading Covid denialism, but also fanning "socialist takeover" hysteria and Trump's lies about a "rigged" mail ballot election. This is the sort of toxic brain rot that seeds civil unrest and riots, violence, even if maybe not a full civil war.
It's also why conservative talk radio marches to Trump’s drum, and also echoes it with every vile beat. But look, no matter what happens tomorrow - or next week - it will also outlast him. Talk radio emits much too powerful and corrosive a signal to fade silently into the ether. Particularly when so many millions are already infested by corrosive memes and have become addicted to it.
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