At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

“Conservative” Media

posted by Jack Kerwick

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have the two most highly rated talk shows in the country.  This has been the case for quite some time. 

But although Limbaugh and Hannity remain numbers one and two, respectively, their ratings have decreased precipitously during recent months: Limbaugh has lost about a third of his audience while Hannity has lost over a quarter of his. 

This phenomenon may be only temporary.  On the other hand, it’s possible that the very same fate that befell their leftist counterparts in the “mainstream” during the last few decades is now being visited upon self-avowed “conservatives” in the so-called “alternative” media.

In short, just as the left’s monopoly over the creation and dissemination of the news gave way to the rise of Fox News and talk radio, perhaps the monopoly that Limbaugh and company achieved over “the alternative media” is now giving way to the internet and satellite radio. 

This thesis is more than a bit plausible.

For a long enough period of time, the Republicans held control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.  Yet not only did Republicans fail to contract the federal government. They succeeded at expanding it: during their tenure the government assumed more domestic and foreign engagements than ever before.

With the exception of some episodic nods of disapproval here and there, however, “conservative” commentators offered nothing in the way of sustained, serious, substantive criticisms.  Instead, they continued to pummel the Democratic opposition while transforming every objection to the Republican Party’s aggressive Big Government agenda into an expression of “liberalism.

The problem is that Limbaugh, Hannity, and most of their colleagues persist in whistling the same tune today.

Admittedly, after Republicans suffered devastating losses at the voting booths in 2008, Republican commentators and politicians have expressed regret over how their party “lost its way” by “betraying” its “conservative principles.”  But beyond such generic issuances, no specific apologies or regrets are ever uttered. 

How exactly is it that the GOP “lost its way?” Who exactly “betrayed” its “conservative principles?”  What exactly did you do to contribute to your party’s reversal of fortunes? 

These are the questions to which the talking heads of the “alternative media” and the politicians for whom they apologize have never provided answers. 

It isn’t just that talk radio has lost droves of listeners that intrigues.  It is the time frame within which it is losing listeners that supplies much food for thought.

Barack Obama is a disastrous president.  His popularity among Americans fell more precipitously, and more rapidly, than that of any other president in our history.  Millions and millions of us believe, along with Rush Limbaugh, that Obama wants nothing more or less than to substitute for the historicalUnited Statesa socialist utopian of his own imagination.  So, Obama needs to be defeated as of yesterday.

Within less than a year, the goal of defeating this president could very well come to pass, for the Republicans are in the midst of nominating a candidate who will take the fight to Obama.

One would think that given the convergence of these two events, more people than ever before would be availing themselves of “the alternative media.”  Conservatives, neoconservatives, libertarians, independents, “moderates,” and even disenchanted Democratic liberals—of whom there are many—would regularly consume the latest from the “conservative” voices of the airwaves. 

So we would think.  

But such is not the case.

It isn’t, of course, that people have reconsidered their all too justified judgments of Obama and his Democrats.  Nor is it the case that millions from across the political spectrum aren’t concerned about the outcome of this next election. 

It is just that more and more people, eager to engage genuinely unfettered voices, are circumventing Big Corporate Media in both of its authorized rightist and leftist varieties in order to drink of the ocean of internet magazines and blogs.  There is a conservative or anti-leftist media:  but it is to be found on-line.  

One step toward regaining some of their lost credibility that Limbaugh, Hannity, and the others can take would be to start treating Ron Paul a bit more respectfully.  Paul, along with millions of the most demographically disparate Americans, is defying both the conventional wisdom as well as the two-party system that embodies it.

After that, they should consider abandoning the notion that George W. Bush, a man who, along with his Republican Congress, presided over the largest expansion of the federal government since Lyndon Banes Johnson’s “Great Society”, was a great “conservative” president.  

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

Institutional Paulophobia and Paul Deniers

posted by Jack Kerwick

The most recent CBS poll shows that among the Republican challengers to President Obama, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have the potential to defeat him.  This same poll shows that among all of the candidates, including Obama, Ron Paul does best when it comes to the much coveted “independent” voter.

Today, the morning after Ron Paul finished in second place in the New Hampshirecaucuses and this poll was released, the hosts of Fox and Friends, as if still in a state of disbelief, began to consider the possibility that Paul just might be a serious contender in this presidential race.

If ever we needed proof that the pundits of the so-called “conservative” media—Fox News, talk radio, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, Newsmax, etc.—are nothing more or less than Republican Party propagandists, their treatment of Congressman Paul provides it in spades. 

Paul has been a serious, “viable” candidate since this primary contest began.  And, unlike every other “anti-Romney” flavor that, like the proverbial flash in the pan, has come and gone—Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and, now, Rick Santorum—Paul’s viability has only become solider.  This is a remarkable achievement when it is considered that all of the other candidates could rely upon the GOP’s apologists in the “alternative” media to fuel, and in most instances, actually create, their momentum.  Paul, in sharp contrast, has managed to steadily become ever more popular in spite of overwhelming media resistance to his campaign.

Paul is indeed a serious presidential contender. Not only can he pick up more independents than Obama, legions of young people draw to Paul like moths to a light, and they draw to him with energy, with passion, that no other candidate has succeeded in tapping.  As far as non-white voters are concerned, Paul is more appealing than every other GOP candidate—including Mitt Romney.

Whether we are discussing the Republican or Democratic Parties, there is but one “anti-Romney” candidate: that candidate is Congressman Paul.

How, we can’t but wonder, could so many otherwise presumably astute observers in the media fail to notice this? 

Well, perhaps many of us do not wonder about this at all.  Moreover, there may even be, and probably are, a number of people who would eagerly take exception to my premise that the chattering class is composed of “astute observers.”  But for those who do not react incredulously to my question, there is an answer in the coming.

In a word, it is Paulophobia that accounts for the media’s reckless coverage of Ron Paul’s feats. 

What makes this Paulophobia intractable, though, is that it is institutional or structural or systemic.  Even those media pundits who don’t consider themselves Paulophobic nevertheless suffer from the same condition as those of their colleagues who are chronic Paul haters.   

Institutional Paulophobia is actually more invidious than overt Paulophobia because, being undetected, it is more difficult to discern and weed out.  It is like the air that the media, especially the Republican controlled media, breathes: ubiquitous and, thus, invisible.  

This, of course, isn’t to say that those Paulophobes who are unconsciously Paulophobic are more vicious than those for whom Paulophobia has come to define their very essence.  Fox News contributor and former Democratic fixer Dick Morris, for instance, is a full throated, doctrinaire Paulophobe.  So virulent is Morris’s Paulophobia that he has resorted to spewing outright lies regarding Paul.  The most recent lie—and that it was indeed a lie, and not an honest mistake, is easily gotten from Paul’s recent poll numbers alone—is that Paul routinely does far worse than all of the other Republican candidates against Obama.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Morris said on Fox that Rasmussen shows Obama beating Paul by 20 points

Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Michael Medved is another dogmatic Paulophobe.  Medved is obsessed with not just discrediting Paul as a candidate, but with demonizing him as a person.  According to Medved, Paul is a “neo-Nazi,” a “9/11 Truther,” a “racist,” a “leftist,” a “kook,” and an “extremist.”  Medved irresponsibly refers to Paul as “Dr. Demento” and his supporters as “Paulastinians.”   Irresponsibly repeating Morris’s lie on his show, he insists that Paul is “unelectable.”  Medved’s Paulophobia is fueled by a zealotry for which the constraints of reason and morality are no match.

Unconscious Paulophobes, on the other hand, by virtue of inhabiting the same circles of such rabid Paulophobes as Morris and Medved, essentially just imbibe the party line.  They don’t give much thought to what they have been conditioned to think.  Their intimate, daily association with Paul Deniers prevents them from realizing Paul Denial for what it is—the function of Paulophobia, but another species of raw, undifferentiated irrationality. 

Ron Paul has already scored some amazing achievements.  Perhaps he will, eventually, succeed in weakening institutional Paulophobia.    

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 

 

Santorum “The Social Conservative”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Prior to the outcome of the Iowa caucus when it appeared that Ron Paul would be the victor, Republican media pundits were doing their best to marginalize this contest.  Some commentators even went so far as to declare theIowacaucus as virtually worthless. 

There is one respect—the most crucial respect as far as substance, not perception, is concerned—in which Ron Paul did as well as anyone else: he received the same number of delegates as did Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. That is, theIowarace, from this perspective, was a three way tie.  Of course, you wouldn’t expect to hear that on Fox News or “conservative” talk radio.  But it is true all of the same.

There is, however, another respect in which the establishment Republican’s worst nightmare did not come to pass.  Paul, though finishing with an exceptionally impressive showing, did not succeed in eliciting as many votes as either Santorum or Romney.  He received 22% of the vote compared to the 25% that they each garnered. 

Now, all of a sudden, the outcome of the Iowa caucus is a major game changer.  Until this week, Santorum didn’t come close to getting beyond single digits in any poll.  He hadn’t been much more popular than Jon Huntsman, who, until recently, most people forgot is still in the race.  Yet now, establishment Republican commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are bending over backwards to fuel Santorum’s momentum.  So far, it would appear that their efforts have been fruitful, for Santorum is already the new frontrunner.

Santorum, in truth, is the candidate for whom Limbaugh, Hannity, and many of their colleagues have been aching all along.  The conventional wisdom within the establishment Republican class is that Santorum is a “true conservative.”  Why?  Santorum is a “true conservative,” a conservative’s conservative, if you will, not just because of his positions on issues related to national security, but especially because of his positions on “the social issues”—i.e. “the moral issues.” 

A few remarks are here in order.

First, there isn’t a single piece of legislation, or even a single activity, that is devoid of moral import.  Thus, to speak of “the social issues,” meaning moral issues, as if they could be separated out from “economic issues” and “foreign policy issues” and whatever other issues that concern us is to speak confusedly.   The very association—the civil association—that the United States of America itself was originally intended to be is a moral association.

Second, there is neither a single politician nor even a single American voter who isn’t as concerned as is Santorum with “the social issues.”  The latter, however, has been quite successful at recruiting the media in the service of reinforcing his self-conception as the lone “social conservative” in this race.  This, no doubt, has something to do with the frequency and loudness with which he speaks about “the social issues.”  But, more importantly, it is due, not so much to his desire to use the federal government to advance his vision of morality—with the exception of Ron Paul, every other politician lusts after federal power—but the unabashed expression that he gives to that desire.   

And this brings us to the third point.

In The Fatal Conceit, F.A. Hayek notes the numerous ways in which socialist thought has infected our vocabulary.  The most prominent and common method by which this transformation has occurred has been by way of the attachment of “social” to all manner of things. 

In light of Hayek’s perceptive account, it is eminently appropriate that Santorum should be crowned our “social conservative.”  Santorum may not be a “socialist” according to the standard textbook definition of that term.  Yet inasmuch as he favors an ever expansive government by which to coerce citizens both here and abroad into endorsing his understanding of “the common good,” he indeed advocates a morality that is much more socialist than anything else.  As Ron Paul correctly noted during the debate in New Hampshire this past weekend, Santorum is as tireless an advocate of Big Government as anyone.

Leftist Democrats want to redistribute income from those who have earned it to those who have not.  To this end, they exploit the voter’s Christian sensibilities, specifically, his sympathy for the needy.  Republicans rightly (even if hypocritically) observe that Christian charity, real charity, is voluntary: there is no virtue where agents are compelled to act. 

When it comes to the “social issues,” Republicans like Rick Santorum would be well served to practice what they preach.  

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

also published in The Moral Liberal and American Daily Herald 

 

 

Michael Medved Unhinged

posted by Jack Kerwick

I have been a long time listener of Michael Medved’s nationally syndicated talk radio show. 

But now, all of that has changed.

Medved had been one of my favorite talk show hosts.  I found him to be quick-witted, articulate, and perceptive. Unlike those of his colleagues who routinely demonize their political rivals while heaping abuse upon callers to their shows, Medved could generally be relied upon to treat his opponents and interlocutors with civility and respect. 

But now, all of that has changed.

Just today alone, two people—one a close friend, the other a facebook “friend”—made comments to me regarding Medved’s peculiar, and dramatic, shift in temperament.  My close friend, who hadn’t listened to Medved in quite some time, happened to tune in just as the latter was berating a caller who challenged the constitutionality of the Iraq War.  Moments later, my friend contacted me: “What’s up with Medved?” he asked in shock.  “He sounded like a total whack job just a minute ago!” 

Incidentally, my friend agreed with the substance of Medved’s position. 

My facebook friend remarked upon what he perceived to be the raw “hatred” and “bitterness” that now routinely spewed from Medved’s lips.  Yet he also noted something else: Medved sounded most angry, most “bitter,” and most “hateful” when he spoke of Ron Paul.   

This is a crucial insight. 

I have written some articles in which I speak of “Paulophobia.”  My analysis of Paulophobia was, largely, satirical in nature.  Obviously, I never really believed that I had struck upon a heretofore undiscovered cognitive disorder.  But, I must say, if Paulophobia was a real mental disease, Michael Medved would be a classic textbook case of it.

This is no exaggeration.  Like a Pavlovian dog, Medved instinctively turns hostile at the mere mention of Paul’s name.  Paul is a “kook,” a “nut,” a “crackpot,” and an “extremist.”  And although, as far as I can gather, he never explicitly called Paul a “racist,” a “neo-Nazi,” an “anti-Semite,” and a “9/11 Truther,” Medved has spared no occasion to implicitly convict Paul of such charges.

During his coverage of the GOP presidential primary race, Medved has never given Paul the slightest bit of credit for any of the Texas Congressman’s many achievements. Paul routinely runs away with straw polls, nearly prevails in theIowa caucus, and steadily remains within the top-tier of candidates.  Yet the Paulophobia from which Medved has been suffering for years renders him from even begrudgingly acknowledging any of this. Paul’s campaign is as well organized and effective as any candidate’s, and it is supported, not by the kinds of special interest groups and zillionaires that pour resources into the coffers of the other candidates, but by millions of working class Americans composing a real “grassroots” movement.  On this phenomenon, however, Medved is silent.

Medved’s Paulophobia is so virulent that he adamantly refuses to entertain a hypothetical scenario in which Paul becomes the GOP’s nominee. Recently, when a caller started to ask him a question regarding just the possibility of Paul’s receiving the nomination, Medved quickly interrupted him: “He won’t be the nominee!” he retorted.  Ron Paul is completely “unelectable,” Medved repeated.  He is unelectable!  Unelectable! 

Such is Medved’s desperation to purge Ron Paul, not just from the primary contest and the Republican Party, but from “polite society,” that he has taken to spreading outright lies about Paul.  Just a couple of days ago, Medved said on the air that a “poll” shows Ron Paul losing to Barack Obama in a general election by 20 points

There is one very good reason why Medved never specified the poll to which he referred: no such poll exists.

Medved, I believe, probably first heard of this “poll” when another raging Paulophobe, Dick Morris, referenced it.  Interestingly, though, Morris did mention Rasmussen as the source of this statistic. There are only two problems, however. 

First, the Rasmussen poll in question shows Ron Paul down by roughly seven points in a head-to-head match up with President Obama—not 20 points.  Second, even this isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds when we see that the very same poll shows that among the other candidates, only Mitt Romney does better than Paul when pitted against Obama.  In other words, the idea that Morris and Medved try to convey when they cite this fiction—the idea that Paul will do worse in a general election than any other Republican candidate—is another big lie.   

There is one other charge that Medved has leveled against Paul. 

Paul is not a real “conservative,” he has emphatically declared.  This is ironic, coming from Medved, for it is he who is not a real conservative. 

Medved has never been a conservative.  He is a neoconservative—which is to say a pseudo-conservative. To put this point another way, Medved remains attached to the leftism of his youth, for neoconservatism or pseudo-conservatism is really just another variant of leftism.  It is a lighter or softer version, yes, but it is an expression of leftism all of the same.  We needn’t even consult his policy prescriptions to see that this is true. For this purpose, a simple consideration of the fact that Medved regularly embraces the ad hominem attack generally and Politically Correct attacks specifically is more than sufficient.  Real conservatives have neither the desire nor the need for such vicious and baseless non-arguments.

Medved is a sad figure.  He has become a mean-spirited and irrational little man.

If only he would have sought help for his Paulophobia a long time ago, he may have been able to prevent his present condition from coming to pass.       

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 

 

 

  

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