The Reformation of Radio and TV Talk Shows — ATTN: George, Ed, Rush, David

By what line of reasoning do we liberals (progressives) claim the right to call the conservatives (regressives) “nut jobs”, “psychotalkers”, “crazies”, insane? By our line of reasoning out the issues, they certainly are our opposites. They do not fit the positions we take. By name-calling, we not only marginalize them, they become non-persons, objects of derision and hate. I know because I too have those feelings. I say to myself, how can “those” people of ordinary income and intelligence believe that the fat cat CEOs of health care insurance companies will have the commoner’s best interests at heart above the insurance mogul’s own bottom-line needs for maximized profits? That does not compute!

And so it was that all the rules were changed about pre-existing conditions, etc., to keep payouts low and “costs” that stay within the company high. It seems again that the ordinary people are voting against their own best interests. Now that’s insane, and the conservative advocates of that position are “nut-jobs” in a freak show.

But the name-calling is giving in to a simple, personal satisfaction and closing off debate. There! I feel better now. I’ve solved my personal problem with getting it off my chest. That’s all I really can do. I am powerless to change the minds of those ignoramuses. They are beyond help.

However, on second thought, there is something I can do: THINK CONSTRUCTIVELY! Aha!

The one public source of all the name-calling is talk radio and talking-heads television. Start there! So I have this blog, and I may reach somebody in those media with the power to act. I want to change the “talk” that is there into something that is more in the nature of the only “talk” that is the foundation of democracy.

Talk can be uni-lateral, bi-lateral, or multi-lateral. Democracy will only be manifest in, at least, bi-lateral talk (debate), and, at best, multilateral talk (discussion).

Radio or tv talk-show programs are mostly the host mouthing off, with an occasional guest to support the views being spewed. The unilateral talk that transpires in those media I call masturbatory, or self gratifying talk, investing only in the hosts personna. The name-calling flourishes. Ed Shultz and Rush Limbaugh are the prime suspects. (Rush sure looks to me like someone getting it off.) If they were to innovate the genre, they would think of finding ways to have bi-lateral and even multilateral talk.

For an example of bi-lateral talk, they might give a mike to each side, sitting in separate rooms, for three minutes to speak on a severely and cleanly delimited topic of the day. Three minutes on the right, and then the mike is cut off in the one room, and three minutes on the left, and then the mike cut off in the other room. (You have to cut the mike off, or they would start an undisciplined quibble with much overtalk, disastrous for the viewer and the program. This is for viewers’ benefit, not the speakers’.)

Then we could promote them! Bring them into the studio to sit side-by-side, but observing the same decorum of their separation. In this part of the discussion, the parties will have face-to-face interaction taking turns on the refining points of any consensus they may have achieved.

I know what you are thinking: you are treating them like children. It might easily be taken as an insult to them. True. One does sit up before crawling, crawl before walking, and walk before running. That’s the way maturation goes. So with learning to discuss; it’s not conversation. It is the rocket science of communication.

Organizing multilateral talk (discussion) takes more disciplining of the discussants, exacted by an astute moderator. I have yet to see a moderator on tv who has the ability to lead a discussion. George Stephanopoulos’s program is not the place to have a discussion of any issue with a few panelists. Many facets of the topic are blurred by a great number of tangents that take the discussion off target. The lines of the problem-issue are too numerous, major and minor. The panelists have favorite issues, each carrying in different directions None are cleared up.

If Stephanopoulos were to do it right (according to the demands of the discussion continuum), he would choose one main, important facet and stick with it. But of course he has his own agenda of covering many questions. His agenda is not one derived from the discussion so far, as it should be, but questions pre-ordained before the discussion started. He will not find the true discussion in the notes he keeps looking at. He, ever the moderator, must become “adaptable” in context.

Too many topics results in dispersion and thinning out of the issue, eventuating in the chitchat of conversation. Astute panelists should do their part, but they keep looking at the moderator for his iron hand. It is, after all, his show. The panelists as reputable pundits may be too ego-involved to act in a more humble role as a member of a group discussion, but being very knowledgeable people would have much to bring to the table if they were to rise above their self-esteem and apply self-discipline.

What the viewers get may easily become a series of quibbles; discussion is truncated. To get the discussion we should have, instead of a patchwork quilt of confusion and obfuscation, the whole idea of talk shows must be reformed.

The reformation begins with the moderator’s behavior. Such an enlightened host would put together panels that have been disciplined beforehand in the principles of the format and communication skills required. Is a pundit capable of such instruction in self discipline?

I have a separate blog on the whole subject, which see.



  1. Superior put up…

  2. Nice blogpost, good looking website, added it to my favs!!

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