February 9, 2010

Talking Heads

I've never been shy about the fact that I'm a liberal. Some of you who are not liberal don't hold that against me and read me anyway (thank you). But while this might start out sounding like an overtly political post, it's not. See, I'm annoyed. Specifically, I'm annoyed by Rush Limbaugh but hey, what else is new? Being annoyed by Rush Limbaugh motivated me to read a little more about Rush which led me to read up on other supposed political experts. What I found on both sides of the aisle was interesting.

Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh holds himself up as an authority on politics, specifically conservative politics. Do you know what he is, by trade? A DJ. In fact, Limbaugh sacrificed a college career to become a DJ. In fact about his academic talent, his mother commented, "he flunked everything, he just didn't seem interested in anything except radio."

Take Rush Limbaugh for instance. Here's a big loudmouthed guy who tries to convince everyone he's an authority on politics. Do you know what he is by trade? A DJ. In fact, Limbaugh sacrificed a college career to become a DJ. About his academic talent, his mother commented, "he flunked everything, he just didn't seem interested in radio." Or Glen Beck. Beck never had a political career, never spent any time in the hallowed halls of power. Never spent any time in college either. Like Limbaugh, he was a radio DJ, spinning records before attaining fame as an opinionated talking head. Of all the outspoken, obnoxious and opinionated conservative commentators, Bill O'Reilly (this hurts me to say this) is perhaps the most qualified, aside from a brief stint as a semi-professional baseball player. O'Reilly has a masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard. This doesn't make him any less annoying but at least his opinions are based on something other than asshattery.

The other side of the aisle is only slightly better. Keith Olberman went to school, a good one - Cornell. He graduated with a degree in communications which has served him well since he spends his days communicating. But his expertise is really in sports. And all sports/politics analogies aside, doing play-by-play in high school, acting as sports director for your college radio station and spending a decade as host of ESPN's SportCenter doesn't exactly give the the warm fuzzies about his political experience. Rachel Maddow is smart. She earned her degree in public policy from Stanford, received her doctorate from Oxford and was the first openly gay American to be awarded a Rhodes scholarship. Sure, the public policy degree is helpful but how does working morning radio shows and helming her own hour on Air America qualify her as a political expert? Jon Stewart's fantastic but his credentials are no more impressive than the rest. He received his psychology degree from William and Mary, played on the men's soccer team and claimed he was "miserable" during college.

I'm not saying you have to have a college degree to have a political opinion. I'm not saying you have to have a long, storied career in politics in order to weigh in on hot button political issues. What I am saying is that if you're going to hold yourself up as an expert - or if your network is going to - if you're going to speak authoritatively to schools and conferences, if you're going to publish multiple volumes of political tirades, you should have more experience than just being pissed off about abortion or healthcare or the current administration. The bottom line? These people are entertainers. We can't forget that.

Taking advice from these so-called experts is like being a woman and going to Larry Flint for a breast augmentation consultant. He likes big tits so chances are that's what he's going to urge you to do. But of course he doesn't have a single clue or practical experience how to actually do anything about the problem.

What I'm trying to say in a very long-winded sort of way is know where your information is coming from, especially the information on which important decisions are based.

Posted by Chris at February 9, 2010 6:41 AM

Hey, I am one of your conservative readers! I do agree with you that all these people are entertainers first. I don't listen to Limbaugh and I can't stand O'Reily so can't comment on them. But, I love Glen Beck, he has me in stitches most days. I am sure you have never sat through an hour of his program, and only know what HuffPo says about him, but he always makes the comments about himself you just did. It is no secret he never went to college, but he always makes sure to tell people not to listen to him, to do their own research. There are SO many people waking up now and actually reading the constitution or looking at what our founding fathers tried to set up compared to where government is today. Wheather or not you agree with his politics, the fact that he is encouraging people to study our history and getting them to really understand the founding principles is something that should be supported.
Now, there is a forrest full of things I would rather do than listen to more than 3 minutes of commentary from Maddow, so I don't expect you to watch Beck. But I thought I would give you a little perspective.
Have a nice day!

Posted by: Tess at February 9, 2010 7:45 AM

BRILLIANT! Too bad the masses don't realize this and think these bags of wind are experts.

Posted by: Lisa at February 9, 2010 7:54 AM

Thanks for the research. My husband will listen to Beck for the "entertainment value" during his lunch break. I'm always telling him to stop because although he doesn't agree with Beck just listening to him gives those in power reason to keep him on the radio!

Posted by: daisy at February 9, 2010 8:25 AM

I agree with you. They are just overpaid entertainers. Any idiot (well I suppose not all idiots can handle it) can read a teleprompter....
And even though you're a liberal, I love you anyway! LOL! {HUGS}

Posted by: Rose at February 9, 2010 8:27 AM

They did a story in Newsweek about Glen Beck and thats when I found out he is first and foremost a DJ/entertainer. All of these guys know how to cause turmoil and strife which then brings in listeners. Its what they do FOR A LIVING. They have everything to gain by being volatile and obnoxious.

I wish the Republican party would wake up and stop listening to the Palin/Limbaugh/Beck's. They appeal to a fringe and not the mainstream. At least I hope thats all they appeal to....

Posted by: Debbie at February 9, 2010 8:32 AM

I typically avoid TV news and stick to on-line print media (NYTimes, True/Slant, TPM, etc.), but I caught Rachel Maddow one day at my daughter's house and liked her smarts extremely. Her education shows. I was slightly distracted by her open flirt with the female guest on the show's segment, however...doesn't matter if it's a lesbian flirt or a hetero flirt, it doesn't fit with my idea of a news show.

Posted by: Nance at February 9, 2010 8:56 AM

Can I uhmmm, see your credentials, as an expert on media. To offer your opinion so publicly like this I believe requires some type of credentials?

Most of the people you listed here have more experience in politics than Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Swarzenegger etc. etc.

Posted by: William at February 9, 2010 9:04 AM

Like Tess, I like Beck and his TV show. I like the entertainment, but I also like the fact that he admits he is not an expert, and that he does one thing a lot of people don't. He reads!
I like the trend right now to get some of the old stalwarts in the Senate and Congress out! They've been there too long, and they are no longer working for you and me. They're working for the power they get from being in office most of their lives.
Out with the old...in with the new. Let's take our country back!

Posted by: Maribeth at February 9, 2010 9:24 AM

So, what you're saying is... think for yourself?

That's just crazy enough to work! ;-)

(skittering back up to Canada where the politics is rational and sane. AHAHAHAHA!! Oh, mercy. I think I just sprained something)

Posted by: harmzie at February 9, 2010 9:38 AM

I think I solve this by never listening to anything. I get my news from you. Remember? I found out that Obama won by visiting your blog the next morning. See? YOU ARE MY EXPERT CHRIS!

Posted by: k8 at February 9, 2010 9:49 AM

Consider that Palin, in her stump speech at the Lipton tea party criticized Obama for anaylzing things too much. Yes, because analyzing complex issues such as foreign policy, domestic policy and nonesuch is soooooo last century.

Posted by: greenie at February 9, 2010 10:31 AM

Dave Thomas had a fifth grade education but that doesn't stop people from eating at Wendys! The truth is everything in the news is about entertainment. News isn't about the truth because more often than not the truth is boring.
Hey, what's going on in Iraq right now? Who cares, we're bored with that and yet the military is still getting shipped over there everyday. All anyone cares about today is their Toyota Prius. Tomorrow that will be old news.
The point is that you can have all the degrees, awards and the reclaimed blood of Abe Lincoln injected into you butt, if no one listens to what you have to say (if you cannot entertain) you might as well be talking to the wall.
That's reality.

Posted by: nosmo king at February 9, 2010 10:39 AM

you do know that jon stewart says early and often that his show IS entertainment, that he knows not enough, and those viewers of his that depend on his show for news horrify him, right?

Posted by: alektra at February 9, 2010 10:41 AM

But don't you think (sadly) that this is what we've come to, as America? We're ruled by media and entertainment. Who wants to listen to someone who knows his/her stuff but is dry? We're Americans! We want Sound Bites! Doesn't this support the 'anti-intellectual' wave of the "common sense, average person" movement?

Posted by: Aimee at February 9, 2010 11:23 AM

I agree with everything everyone has said about Glenn Beck. He encourages us to be well read and know what happened in the past to help inform current decisions.

As for the rest of what you had to say, I believe that people can self-educate. No one thinks less of you in your career even though you do not have a degree in Information Technology or a related field. I know you have achieved certifications to show you have skills but there aren't certifications in politics.

There are well educated people on both the right and the left. I am a fan of Charles Krauthammer who is a doctor by training but has been writing about politics for over 20 years. I also enjoy James Carville even if I don't agree with him and he is a lawyer by training.

To conclude, people should just check their sources and not blindly follow the flavor of the month even if he is currently the President of the United States.

Posted by: goodsnake at February 9, 2010 11:55 AM

I agree, though I must admit my first thought was "don't lump Jon Stewart into this category!" Like alektra said above, he points out all the time that his show is strictly for entertainment purposes. Actually, I'm sort of surprised you don't watch his show... it's hilarious. Hilarious entertainment.

Though, I will admit to having learned some things from the intelligent people he interviews.

Posted by: Erin at February 9, 2010 12:24 PM

I just watched "V is for Vendetta"; a constructed case study on how government, media, and talking head manipulation can be taken to an extreme.

Posted by: Lisa at February 9, 2010 12:24 PM

It would be nice, wouldn't it, if people actually knew what they were talking about ;)

Posted by: Heather at February 9, 2010 1:03 PM

Come on Cactus, you have to give credit where it's due - Rush has one amazing talent - even at his size/stature, he has found a way to permanently walk around with his head up his ass!!! ;)

Posted by: laineyDid at February 9, 2010 2:13 PM

I don't know. I think we tend to get a little sidetracked by looking for credentials for everything nowadays. Hairdressers in my state, for instance, have to study for 1,000 hours. To cut hair. In the old days, you just put a stool on the front porch, got a comb and some scissors, and boom, you're a hair dresser. Now you have to pay a bunch of money to some school.

Also in the old days, journalism school didn't exist. That doesn't mean that none of the journalists from that era were competent at what they did.

Also, one of my favorite speakers is Joyce Meyer. She runs a huge ministry, serving the poor all over the world. She's a bestselling author of many many books. Do I think less of her opinion because she didn't go to college or seminary, or because she's not the same religion as me? No, I don't. Because I've read her work, heard her speak, and she has proven her intelligence to me.

People such as Rush Limbaugh and all of the others you mentioned don't need credentials to do what they do. They just do it, and their work speaks for itself, good or bad. I do agree the "good ones" are entertainers. But they also make us think. I care more about the validity of what comes out of their mouths today than I do about some degree from 20 or 30 years ago.

Posted by: Kris at February 9, 2010 3:44 PM

do you ever listen to the bugle podcast.

like jon stewart, highly entertaining, at the same time very informative.

do try!


Posted by: tineke at February 9, 2010 4:27 PM

I am a conservative Republican and I got in trouble at work when I worked at BDalton because I shelved Rush's book in the humor section. The customer wanted me fired but I only got a very stern look from my homosexual liberal manager:-)

Posted by: Dee at February 9, 2010 5:57 PM

Love this post. Love it.

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