Thursday, April 2, 2009

Adventures in AM Talk Radio

The past few days, I've had to spend a lot of time on the road. I've therefore had the opportunity to hear large amounts of conservative talk radio.

My point of comparison is Michael Smerconish, whom I frequently listen to during my morning commute. Smerconish's program, which at present is not widely syndicated, mixes in about equal measures commentary, interviews, and phone calls. Smerconish himself, a former civil litigator, comes across as a very reasonable man, trying to understand what is happening around him while maintaining values that seem to be moderately conservative and moderately libertarian. He is smart, entertaining, and always respectful to his guests and callers.

The others whom I've now had large doses of are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage.

Of the four, Beck is the only one I would be likely to listen to again. I did find his show entertaining. His jokes were funny more often than not, his satire was effective more often than not, and his outbursts had an overtone of amusement that kept him from sounding insane the way Savage, and to a lesser extent Levin, do. It helped that the things he was acting outraged about are things that, mostly, I also think are worthy of outrage.

After Beck, Limbaugh was a letdown. His humor seemed strained and labored rather than funny. The things he chose to ridicule were not particularly troubling, especially given the vast amount of material one would expect he could draw upon these days. I have trouble understanding his wide appeal -- Beck covers much the same territory in a more entertaining way.

Levin was interesting at first but quickly became boring. He seemed to be rambling on and on about the same handful of points, without anything other than glibness to set him apart from any decently educated and cranky old man. He also had a habit, similar to Savage's but not so extreme, of shouting down, muting, and insulting callers who disagreed with him.

Savage is the (current) nadir, as far as I can tell. Devoid of charm or humor, advocating an incoherent populist agenda, screaming like a crazy person, he was unbearable.

Others' views on Beck et al. can be found here.

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