Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “This is the principle reason why I had to make a turn, and I urged all of you to make a turn. Don’t play their game. It’s easy to call names. It’s easy to hurl a label at someone. Heck, it even happens inside Christian circles. You have Christians calling each other names. You have Christians who think they’re holier than another.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
. . . are there some downsides to conservative talk radio? Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under the law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? All those good things are plainly off the table for the next four years at least, a prospect that conservatives can only view with anguish. Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?
Mike: This is John Derbyshire writing this back in 2009. I was conversing with Derb at that time. He did not include me in the number. I don’t know if that’s because I remain an insignificant nothing, nobody, or maybe he didn’t throw me in the number. Here’s his answer:
They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”
Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises. Thus a liberal like E.J. Dionne can write, “The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. … Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans.” Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development.
Mike: This is the principle reason why I had to make a turn, and I urged all of you to make a turn. Don’t play their game. It’s easy to call names. It’s easy to hurl a label at someone. Heck, it even happens inside Christian circles. You have Christians calling each other names. You have Christians who think they’re holier than another. Again, that last line from the litany of humility, “Others might become more [blank] than me insomuch as I become as [blank] as I can.” Talk about a beautiful inspiration. You could live the rest of your life trying to achieve that and probably not get there. Trust me, I’m trying. Of course, Cardinal Merry del Val wrote it as: Others may become more holy than me insomuch as I become as holy as I can. By the by, this is a magnificent book. Maggie O’Connell is trying to get this book called Christian Warfare. It’s put out by the Society of St. Pius X. A friend actually bought me this copy and sent it to me as a gift. I’m going to try to get it to sell in the Tradin’ Post. Stand by for that. Back to John Derbyshire:
It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominem—Feminazis instead of feminism—and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob. “Revolt against the masses?” asked Jeffrey Hart. “Limbaugh is the masses.”
In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar.
Mike: I tell you what else you get. You get Viagra conservatism. How many times have you been listening to Limbaugh or Hannity or me when I was on the Patriot Channel until I complained and said: You guys have to take these ED drugs off the channel. Conservatives might be a lot of frauds and fakes, but we can’t be that in your face with our insincerity. By the way, Mrs. Church was instrumental in that. I said: I can’t tell them that. She said: You better tell them that, your reputation is on the line, Mike. This is not a “We good, they bad.” This is reality and this is what we ought to do with said reality. I’m reacting to dozens of you, maybe hundreds of you, who yesterday cried into your muscle milk shakes that you were consuming to wash down your Cialis and Viagra tablets. If Debbie Schlussel was able to bring about the end of Sean Hannity, and that’s not going to happen, Hannity would bring it about. If that were to happen, and now that O’Reilly is gone, if there was a conservative movement, it would have little or no effect on it. The conservative movement has had little or no effect if not actually aiding and abetting the cause of Moloch. That’s the problem. They’ve always been in bed with and have catered to and have enunciated and have promoted and promulgated the wrong ideas.
Again, today, we know this as the ultimate truth. What’s the ultimate truth? The ultimate truth is that God created all of us. God created all the things that we get to use, that are so beneficial to man, that are so helpful, that are so beautiful, that are so tasty. For what purpose? For man. Why? Because he loves us. What do we do in return? [mocking] “Mitter God, please, I don’t have time to have another kid. I’ve got to go take advantage of all the other stuff you blessed me with.” Think about this. If this was all put here for us, you and me in this moment, that means, since it’s not going to end unless he ends it, that it’s all put here also for what, for who? Who comes after us?
What might our principle occupation be, fair listener? Is it to consume more talk radio and solve the budget deficit problem? Well, that’s an admirable goal. It’s to make more of that which Almighty God loves so and created this world, created souls, continues to create them, and after the fall even sent his only begotten son to hang on a cross to be persecuted, ridiculed, mocked, tortured, and then murdered by the same men he came to serve. I’d say that’s a God that’s filled with a lot more love than I am. I don’t want to digress here into – [mocking] “Mitter Church, please. My sister and brother don’t have time to make God happy. God’s happy enough. He’s got the Earth. Let him deal with it.” We don’t think permanent things anymore. The few of us that do are considered to be weirdos and whackos. Back in the ages of faith, those men and women would be considered to be saints. Not today, though.
In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right. But however much this dumbing down has damaged the conservative brand, it appeals to millions of Americans. McDonald’s profits rose 80 percent last year.
There is a lowbrow liberalism, too, but the Left hasn’t learned how to market it . . . [Mike: Then he gets more into what the liberals do.]
If liberals can’t do populism, the converse is also true: conservatives are not much good at gentility. We don’t do affectless voices, it seems. There are genteel conservative events—I’ve been to about a million of them and have the NoDoz pharmacy receipts to prove it—but they preach to the converted.
Mike: This is another part of the problem, preaching to the converted, preaching to those that are already with you, preaching to the choir. Let’s go back to Sunday’s sermon from Father Watney. What did Father explain to us about the apostles in the 16th chapter of St. John’s Gospel? Cowering in fear of the Jews coming to find them in a room on the second floor of a building with the doors boarded shut, cowering in fear. Our Lord appears to them and goes: What are you doing? Get out! You’ve got to leave here, man. You can’t stay in here. And, of course, they didn’t. What did they have to go do? They didn’t walk out into a world that went: Hey, Matthew, dude. Look, Delores, it’s Luke coming with Matthew. That’s awesome. Dude, can I get an autograph? Can I get a high-five? It’s just silly. That’s not the way it happened, obviously. [mocking] “Mitter Church, please, why don’t you stick your neck out on the line?” I try every day. Derbyshire was really onto something brilliant here. Of course, if you know Derb, he’s an Englishman. Some of this is Chestertonian sarcasm. It’s meant to be humorous at the same time he’s making his point.
If anything, they reinforce the ghettoization of conservatism, of which talk radio’s echo chamber is the major symptom. We don’t know how to speak to that vast segment of the American middle class that lives sensibly—indeed, conservatively—wishes to be thought generous and good, finds everyday politics boring, and has a horror of strong opinions. This untapped constituency might be receptive to interesting radio programs with a conservative slant . . .
You might object that the Right didn’t need talk radio to ruin it; it was quite capable of ruining itself. At sea for a uniting cause once the Soviet Union had fallen, buffaloed by master gamers in Congress, outfoxed by Bill Clinton, then seduced by the vapid “compassionate conservatism” of Rove and Bush, the post-Cold War Right cheerfully dug its own grave. And there was some valiant resistance from conservative talk radio to Bush’s crazier initiatives, like “comprehensive immigration reform” and the Medicare prescription-drug extravaganza.
But there was not much confrontation with other deep social and economic problems. The unholy marriage of social engineering and high finance that ended with our present ruin was left largely unanalyzed from reluctance to slight a Republican administration. Plenty of people saw what was coming. There was Ron Paul, for example: “Our present course … is not sustainable. … Our spendthrift ways are going to come to an end one way or another. Politicians won’t even mention the issue, much less face up to it.”
Neither will the GOP pep squad of conservative talk radio. And Ron Paul, you know, has a cousin whose best friend’s daughter was once dog-walker for a member of the John Birch Society. So much for him!
Why engage an opponent when an epithet is in easy reach? Some are crude: rather than debating Jimmy Carter’s views on Mideast peace, Michael Savage dismisses him as a “war criminal.” Others are juvenile: Mark Levin blasts the Washington Compost and New York Slimes.
But for all the bullying bluster of conservative talk-show hosts, their essential attitude is one of apology and submission—the dreary old conservative cringe. Their underlying metaphysic is the same as the liberals’: infinite human potential—Yes, we can!—if only we get society right. To the Left, getting society right involves shoveling us around like truckloads of concrete; to the Right, it means banging on about responsibility, God, and tax cuts while deficits balloon, Congress extrudes yet another social-engineering fiasco, and our armies guard the Fulda Gap. That human beings have limitations and that wise social policy ought to accept the fact—some problems insoluble, some Children Left Behind—is as unsayable on “Hannity” as it is on “All Things Considered.”
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I enjoy these radio bloviators (and their TV equivalents) and hope they can survive the coming assault from Left triumphalists. If conservatism is to have a future, though, it will need to listen to more than the looped tape of lowbrow talk radio. We could even tackle the matter of tone, bringing a sportsman’s respect for his opponents to the debate.
I repeat: There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. Ideas must be marketed, and right-wing talk radio captures a big and useful market segment. However, if there is no thoughtful, rigorous presentation of conservative ideas, then conservatism by default becomes the raucous parochialism of Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity, and company. That loses us a market segment at least as useful, if perhaps not as big.
Conservatives have never had, and never should have, a problem with elitism. Why have we allowed carny barkers to run away with the Right?
End Mike Church Show Transcript