Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Hate Call-In Radio, But I Am Obviously Un-American

I absolutely despise call-in radio shows that try to tackle issues or inform about topics.  Without exception they are awful.

When I am trying to gather information about some topic I do not solicit the opinion of the man in the street.  Never.  The average American is invariably both uninformed and opinionated - the worst possible combination.  And those that call in to radio shows are the most extreme specimens of the breed.  I have no patience for their ranting.  And yes, I am ranting here.  Feel free to to read something else if you so desire.  I won't mind.  I hear the Internet is full of pictures of cute kittens, so go knock yourself out.

The alternative, of course, would be for news media to talk to people with actual expertise, those who have studied the topic at hand, or worked in the field.   Such people are sometimes present on call in shows, but they have to deal with the biases of the host(s) of the show and respond to the uninformed gibberish the callers spit out.  It's a waste of time for them and for the listeners who might be trying to learn something instead of just having their opinions validated.

Americans, of course, place very little value on knowledge and intelligence as a rule, so none of this should be a surprise.  We grow up on a diet of TV, video games, and associated crap.  We want our politicians and our corporate overlords to tell us that there is a simple answer to every problem, and we know that anyone who disagrees with our preferred answer is not only wrong, but actually evil and Un-American.    Frankly it's a wonder any of us can string together an understandable sentence, let alone spout an opinion on some complicated topic over which even experts may disagree.  (And we're expected to vote about those issues too... go figure.)

In any case, I avoid all commercially supported talk radio regardless of its point of view.  The combination of ads and blow-hards pontificating in response to grossly exaggerated controversy and the guttural grunts of those calling in would probably cause me to die of an aneurysm in short order.

Even NPR has succumbed, though, and there are many awful call-in shows on that network as well.  We have locally and nationally produced examples on our local NPR affiliates that cause me to run for the hills, but the worst has to be a show called On Point out of Boston.

Like the worst of the commercially funded call in shows, they drum up controversy in every topic I hear them cover.  They ask idiotic questions of their guests trying to manufacture argument and discord if needed.  And everything is VERY IMPORTANT!  You can hear the capital letters as they "discuss" whatever they are covering, and they do their level best to keep the pacing and tone right up there with the work of Rush Limbaugh and others of his ilk.  Into that mess come the callers, and though NPR supposedly has a more intelligent audience than that attracted to commercial radio, I am inevitably appalled.

Commercial TV is just as bad - if not worse - of course, but I am thankfully without a signal source for that in my life, so I am not exposed with any regularity.  When we wind up somewhere with a functional TV, though, I am always happy to leave.  Any time spent watching TV leaves me feeling like I desperately need a shower.

How did it come to this?  Why does all media seem to devolve to the lowest, slimiest form?