Sunday, November 13, 2011

Look who's talking

My indictment of talk radio for its lack of independent critical thought is a recurring theme here on KintlaLake Blog. Each and every day, crackling AM frequencies serve up a toxic brew of fear mongering and disinformation to support positions that don't require that kind of nonsense, credible conservative positions that stand on their own.

It annoys the hell out of me.

Then, every once in a while, I hear something that annoys me even more. That happened on Friday when "Adam," a high-schooler from Illinois, called Rush Limbaugh asking for advice. I've edited the transcript a bit here for brevity's sake, but I believe I've preserved its essence. Here's how the exchange began:
ADAM: "I have an economics teacher, Mr. McCoy. He's a screaming liberal, and I challenge him in his class, so he plans his lesson around me, and he tries to set little traps for me. Is there anything you can help me say just to shut him up and put him in his place?"

"He says, 'Like Adam, all conservatives hate public good. They want the lower class to suffer because they don't have enough money.'"

"He actually is a really good teacher and I do learn things from him, but his classes --"

LIMBAUGH: "Okay, wait a minute, now, why is he a good teacher, then?"

ADAM: "I've learned things in his class."
If you're even the least bit familiar with Limbaugh's modus operandi, you think you know what's coming next -- but read on:
LIMBAUGH: "You know, it sounds to me like you're doing pretty well in this class, because what's happening here -- I know you've called me and asked for assistance, and I know millions would like to get that from me, but you're out there, you're thinking that whatever this guy is doing, whatever he's teaching he's still inspiring you to think critically and that's the most important thing.
Excuse me?
LIMBAUGH: "I don't care what else you get out of school with, whatever grades you get in classes and so forth, but if you get out of there with the ability to think critically and challenge things that don't make sense to you off the top, that's good. Critical thinking is what is not taught anymore."
Ok, now that just pisses me off.

Limbaugh is pompous, self-absorbed and (arguably) megalomaniacal, ideologically hamstrung and shamefully dismissive of facts. He cranks out bogeys faster than Hershey churns out chocolate bars.

And yet, in this case, he's absolutely correct. So what's my problem?

If caller "Adam" takes Limbaugh's counsel -- and again, on its own it's excellent advice -- he'll learn to think critically about everything he encounters. Naturally, that'd include what he hears on conservative talk radio, which probably isn't what the host had in mind.

Case-in-point, the "Four Corners of Deceit." Limbaugh warns his listeners that government, academia, the media and science are in the business of lying to the People, hopelessly co-opted by liberal ideology. Anything attributed to these sources should be presumed false (at best) or sinister (at worst) until proven otherwise.

That's reactionary cynicism, not critical thought. It's anchored in political ideology, an approach which makes independent critical thought quite impossible.

If Rush Limbaugh truly subscribed to independent critical thought, Dittohead Nation would cease to exist. He'd never again utter the words, "Don't doubt me!"

So what makes me cranky, ultimately, is that he encouraged "Adam" to "think critically and challenge things that don't make sense" -- that is, as long as it's not applied to him.