Why can’t the right come up with a likable talk show host or pundit? Sensible folks generally do their best to avoid loud, boorish and obnoxious people, but in the world of Fox News and the imbroglio we call talk radio, it is exactly those types who live in ratings rapture.
Being an ACLU card-carrying, “public option”-supporting liberal makes me a bit biased, of course, but it also compels me to try and find at least a spark of goodness in everyone–that’s what we good Libs do. Believe me, this is no easy task when confronted with such raging dysfunction as:
- Bill O’Reilly (bullying, loud-mouthed narcissist)
- Grover Norquist, (aura of self-importance and nastiness that would make Il Duce blush)
- William Bennett (classic “do as I say, not as I do” moralist)
- Anne Coulter (psycho-sexual mess / borderline sociopath)
- Sarah Palin (chronic synaptic misfire / finds reality to be optional)
- Rush Limbaugh (same problems as O’Reilly–only less subtle)
[For propriety’s sake, I am purposely leaving Glenn Beck out of this because his disorders appear to be far more serious than the garden-variety personality problems suffered by his colleagues]
Any one of these six listed blowhards could clear out a dinner party before the entree was served. And, if they all happened to be guests at the party, something akin to The Lord of the Flies would surely break out — the entree ultimately consisting of each other.
Where are the Loons of the Left?
To be fair, I’m sure we have a few famous progressives with personality problems, as well. But, they must do a better job at keeping them in check because, try as I might, I can’t come up with a left-leaning host or pundit with a temperament even approaching the bad-natured, mean spirit of O’Reilly, Coulter and Limbaugh. Even when Michael Moore goes predator, there is almost always an underlying decency and good humor about him–the Charlton Heston interview notwithstanding.
Imagine Rachel Maddow doing Bill O’Reilly’s “Fuck it, we’ll do it liiive!” song and dance. Doesn’t compute, does it? Or, how about Ed Schultz urging all good Democrats to begin roughing up Republicans, as Coulter once suggested – in the reverse, of course – on the Lou Dobbs Show. Or, imagine Keith Olbermann displaying the astonishing insensitivity to suggest that a tax hike is comparable to the Holocaust, as Grover Norquist did in an NPR interview.
This may be why the Left has such a hard time competing with the Right on talk radio. Like trout and babies, American audiences love things that wiggle. And nothing wiggles more than mindless, incendiary statements like Limbaugh’s “I hope Obama fails,” or the endless list of 50,000-watt Neanderthals shouting, “The ‘Democrat’ Party [check out “How the ‘Democrat’ Party Lost its ‘ic'”] is a bunch of America-hating, communist-Nazi-sissies!”
We demand our wiggles, and because Jerry Springer can’t be on twenty-four hours a day, we look for them elsewhere.
The Genesis of Jerkdom
What exactly is it about the Right that gives them such a leg-up on the Left in the jerk department? Sure, some of the loud, obnoxious stuff is phony, P.T. Barnum-style pimping for ratings and book sales, but a lot of it seems to be genuine, heartfelt ugliness.
If Freud was right, the Limbaughs and Coulters of the world were doomed to be jerks by the age of six. What sent them down the rightward path is anybody’s guess — their parents, perhaps. Maybe they were poisoned by an influential teacher or classmate during high school or by reading “The Fountainhead” one too many times.
Or could it be that a worldview based on militarism, nativism and the marginalization of the poor and minorities just feels like home to a bullying, narcissistic loudmouth?