Friday night, I went to Powell's City of Books for a lecture / booksigning by Bill Press, whom I have actually never heard of before. Apparently, he's a bigtime progressive journalist and talkshow pundit / host / personality. Shows how much I know. His latest book, Toxic Talk, is about how rightwing radio is poisoning our airwaves, which has devastating consequences in our public sphere. This is a topic of great interest to me, due partially to the numerous "debates" I've had with conservatives on Facebook, whom often credit their source of information as Fox News or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. Whenever I call them up on the skewed ideology of these infotainers and how they are being lied to, they often get defensive and accuse me getting my news from "liberal" sources, like Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, or Rachel Maddow. Which is a laugh. I don't even have cable. Yes, I have seen Michael Moore's documentaries...but I'm also smart enough to know how he often manipulates information to get his points across. He's not my "ultimate authority" on political news. The fact that the Glenn Beck drones and Rush dittoheads think that I'm like them in wanting to be fed propaganda instead of facts shows just how different our thinking is. Besides, they have no idea how to check credibility. They're arguing with a guy who got his degree in International POLITICS from a CONSERVATIVE university!
Who are my go-to political pundits that I respect? Easy: Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, and David Brooks. Whenever I mention this to the rightwingers, they seem to have no clue who those three individuals are, which proves my point. They base their political opinions on uncredentialed entertainers who never completed college (if they bothered to go at all). If I'm not mistaken, Krugman has a Nobel Prize in economics, and Friedman has a Pulitzer Prize...but don't quote me on it. Whether you read their articles or books, or listen to them on political talk shows, its obvious to anyone that they know what they are talking about. They are serious in their study of the issues, and I don't always agree with their opinions. In fact, I don't agree with David Brooks on much, but I love hearing what he thinks, because he is an intelligent and pretty fairminded conservative. Besides that, he said the best thing anyone has ever said about Sarah Palin: "She represents a fatal cancer on the Republican Party."
So, Bill Press gave some tasty quotes from various rightwing personality types: Neal Boortz on the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans (Boortz is of the opinion that anyone receiving Section 8 housing should be stripped of their right to vote!), Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. I don't know how those conservative talkshow hosts sleep at night, but it honestly doesn't surprise me to hear that Rush is addicted to OxyContin and pops Viagra pills like they were Mentos. I have a belief that Rush knows that he's lying to his listeners all the time and can't believe how easy it is to con his very loyal supporters. It has to weigh on one's conscience to get away with the lies because not one of his followers will ever call him out on his bullshit. I'd say that he's a ripe candidate for a major mental illness someday. He reminds me of the character in American Psycho, who tells people that he's a serial killer but no one will believe him, yet desperately wanting someone to stop him and hold him accountable for his actions.
Press is not the only person who seems to hint at Glenn Beck's mental instability. Just recently, Beck had to apologize for attacking President Obama's tweenage daughter, since he violated his own rules that children of politicians were off limits. I guess they are only off limits if they happen to be children of the Bush or Palin families. In my opinion, I think a politician's child should be off limits UNLESS they do things that warrant media attention (such as Albert Gore III getting busted for marijuana possession, or the Bush twins' underage drinking, or Jeb Bush's daughter's drug stealing, or Bristol Palin having an unwed pregnancy as a teenager while her mother preaches "abstinence only" as an effective means of solving the birth control issue). So far, the Obama daughters have been as quiet and dutiful as Chelsea Clinton has been. Its funny how conservative talkshow infotainers see nothing wrong with rude jokes about Chelsea's supposed "ugliness" or Malia's "peace sign" T-shirt, but its hands off if the children of the Bush families are busted for underage drinking or trying to steal drugs. What's worse than that, though, is that the loyal and brainless listeners eat it all up without thinking how inconsistent those criteria are.
On Wednesday, I went to the World Affairs Council Oregon discussion group for the first time in a month. One of the members happens to be an FBI agent, which is cool. I had a lot of good questions for him. Mostly, I was interested to know if there has been an increase in white supremacists activity since Obama became president. He said that there has been and that they have a criteria about how to monitor such activities. Sounds like a job I'd enjoy. Anyhow, he's a moderate, though I suspect a Republican. However, when I interned in D.C., I got along just fine with moderate Republicans who weren't into Rush Limbaugh or who weren't ideologues. I don't get along with ideologues of any stripe (this includes radical liberals who think that Dennis Kucinich is the only "pure" politician, which I know personally to be a sham). Anyhow, what most fascinated me about the FBI agent's comment was that he said it's not the really crazy folk that we need to be most worried about (the super-paranoids who rant about Blackhawk helicopters and government controlling their brains with a remote control device), because they tend to be mostly talk rather than action. What scares him more is the only "mildly crazy", which are the people who listen to Beck and Fox News every day. He believes (as I do) that Fox is irresponsible in its journalism. I personally believe that Glenn Beck's daily rants are practically a dare towards a mentally unstable listener of his show to pick up a gun and take action against the people he consider to be "an enemy." We saw how this turned out during the Clinton years, when the heated rightwing rhetoric inspired anti-government loners to take action with deadly results.
An anti-government friend of mine on Facebook (and in the church) may hate all government employees, but I am one person who always had the greatest respect for FBI agents since elementary school. The ones I've met in the past decade have been nothing short of professional and I credit a lot of it to the former FBI Director, Louis Freeh, who is a man of integrity and one I wish would run for political office someday (people I've met who knew him personally have all said the same thing: Freeh has no political bone in his body. He's pure cop).
It is my sincerest wish that conservatives in our country wise up to the manipulations of the people they give too much attention to. I'll never forget the reasoned debate I had with a conservative British guy at the Green Tortoise hostel in San Francisco in 2004. It reminded me of the conversations I've had with Europeans. Despite our political differences, the debate always stayed on facts and never got heated or personal. This rarely happens in America because people don't know how to respectfully disagree. Its also an indication just how influential rightwing radio hosts have been. They rarely educate their listeners on actual facts. Its all fear-mongering and emotional appeals. The fact that the average Glenn Beck listener doesn't know or care who David Brooks is tells us everything we need to know about the way they think. They aren't interested in learning the truth. They want validation for their opinions, which are rooted in a willful pride in being ignorant since education turns people into "elite snobs."
Here's a difference between the Glenn Beck / Fox Propaganda zombies and me: When news broke about Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, I became obsessed with every detail in that scandal in 1998. I WANTED to know the truth about the affair, because I couldn't believe it at first. Doubts about Clinton's honesty crept in when I watched his reaction and by the time he gave his poorly advised national address to the nation in August 1998, I was so mad that I wanted him to resign and that November was the only election I actually did not vote in since I reached voting age. I sat it out. On the flip side, during the entire Bush administration, even after his presidency hit rock bottom in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I did not hear a single Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox Propaganda zombie show any interest in the truth about why Bush went to war in Iraq. They were defensive about his agenda to the very end. Many of them still believe that there were WMDs in Iraq! If you're interested in knowing the truth, this means you have to be willing to look deeper at the politician you support when the spin does not make sense.
The book signing / lecture is awesome, because Portland is such a liberal town. The audience was on the larger side of Powell's lectures and it was a bit like church, with people whooping and hollering and clapping when Bill Press said something especially pleasing to the progressives' ears. Its amazing that there still remains today few progressive talk radio stations and hosts across the country. Many of my liberal friends from college are big fans of NPR and don't understand why I'm not a listener. Honestly, I'm not much into talk radio because I love music way too much. I'd rather hear a great 80s song than hear talk talk talk on the radio. Music is my drug of choice, I guess you could say. I have a feeling that many liberal-minded folks prefer to listen to music than talk...but conservatives are looking to have their opinions validated because they feel like they are constantly under attack (even when Republicans controlled all three branches of our government from 2001 through 2006, its amazing the amount of books by rightwing infotainers claiming that liberals had all the power and were responsible for everything that was wrong in America! Ann Coulter is the perfect example of this, as every one of her books were about the evils of liberals. Its like she wrote one book and kept repackaging it with new titles).
My message to conservative listeners of talkradio is: YOU ARE BEING LIED TO! Find out the truth on your own. Its actually not a difficult thing to learn the truth. It takes some practice, but eventually, you'll learn. If you don't know where to start, well, start with Jesus. He said "By their fruits, ye shall know them." I don't know how conservative people can tolerate being lied to by their favourite talkradio personalities, though. You'd think that they'd learn. I know for me that I hate being played the fool. If someone tells me something that doesn't make sense, I always fact check on my own. When a person gets their facts wrong time and time again, they lose credibility and once credibility is lost, its very difficult to regain. We need to hold each other accountable if we want a more civil society.
It saddens me that so many of my fellow church members in Atlanta are under the spell of Beck, Rush, and Fox. The blind conservative ideological worldview at the Atlanta North congregation nearly pushed me out of the church altogether. I figured that moving to the liberal Pacific Northwest would be the best thing to keep me faithful to the church I was raised in. Some day in the heavenly realm, I will ask these church members why they preferred to be lied to than to learn the truth on their own. What is it about being a conservative that requires such validation not based on reason, facts, and knowledge? Clinging to ideology is not evolution. We're here to progress...to be smarter and better than we were yesterday. Change is the only constant in our world.