It is very easy to mock or demonize contemporary talk radio and its fans. For those of us who do not listen to it, other than for a few laughs from time to time, it is little more than an eccentric oddity. Nonetheless, we should not paint with a broad brush when referring to hosts of a similar political stripe. For instance, agree or disagree with Michael Savage, the issues he raises on his show are far more intellectually challenging than the drivel that passes for content on the EIB Network. Likewise, Michael Medved outshines Mark Levin in terms of format and presentation by light years.
With America's increasingly polarized political atmosphere, pundits and public officeholders on the left and right alike have attacked partisan talk radio programs. Stating the obvious, such as that listeners only hear a single point of view and are therefore not fully informed about any given subject, a rational mind cannot seriously disagree with this analysis. However, it misses the mark by a country mile.
One man, though, is a bit more accurate in his commentary. Despite agreeing with him on essentially none of the issues, anarcho-socialist philosopher Noam Chomsky really did, in my opinion, get it right when describing the appeal of talk radio. Being interviewed at a forum conducted by the Commonwealth Club of California in 2009, he said the following:
If you listen, the message that comes across is....coherent....it gives answers to people who want....need....and deserve them. (These) are crazy answers, but (listeners) are not hearing any others....
....(Listeners) are people who've....done everything right....Christian, God fearing....take care of the families....and for thirty years they've been shafted. Somebody's got to give them an answer; why?
Enter Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, and the like.
Partisan talk radio is not popular due to the convincing charms of any given host. They are incidental figures; the reason for them being hosts in the first place is that an audience readily and reliably presents itself. From this, it can be deduced that the talk radio industry of today is a symptom, rather than cause, of the exponentially larger problem.