Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Interesting Questions

Last week, Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams asked this about conservative radio personalities on his blog, and then answered his own question:

Talk show hosts have no legal or ethical obligation to do anything but entertain. And judging by their successes, [Rush] Limbaugh and [Glen] Beck are brilliant at their jobs. I find it mind boggling that anyone believes a TV talk host is expressing his own true views.

You could make a case that the things Limbaugh and Beck say influences the gullible masses in ways that are not helpful to society. But that's probably true of every pundit, left or right. It's a price of free speech.

Do you think that Limbaugh and Beck have the same views in private as they spray into the entertainmentsphere?


From the rest of his article, it's clear that Adams thinks the answer is "no", or at least, it would be no if they were speaking honestly.

Here's how conservative columnist, and former Bush speechwriter David Frum answered the question:

That question is easy: Yes of course Limbaugh and Beck express the same views in private as in public. Consistent hypocrisy demands exorbitant levels of imagination, energy, and cynicism. Much less exhausting over time simply to bring your private views into alignment with what you are paid to say in public.

Do Limbaugh and Beck Believe What They Say?

I find this answer a bit cynical, which probably explains something about the difference between progressive bloggers and conservative pundits. Still, I suspect he's mostly right. It's hard to believe that anyone who is smart enough to get where Limbaugh has gotten, or even someone like Bill O'Reilly (more on him in a moment), would believe all the nonsense they say week in and week out. Still, Stanislavski had a pretty good handle on how to be convincing, and that involves being at least somewhat convinced yourself. There's something in each of those guys that really is a right wing bigot, but how much is an open question.

Frum then upped the stakes, though, by asking this question, and then providing his own answers:

Let me put the thought experiment slightly differently however. Suppose an agent arrived in the offices of Limbaugh/Beck/Hannity/O’Reilly etc. with an offer. “I can guarantee you a deal that will pay you twice as much - bring you twice as much fame - and extend your career twice as long - if you’d say the exact opposite of what you are saying now.” Which of them would sign?

My nominations: O’Reilly accepts for sure. Beck likewise almost certainly says yes. Limbaugh would want to think it over, but would ultimately say no. Mark Levin: certainly not. Sean Hannity would need the offer explained a few times. Ann Coulter - that one puzzles me - but probably no. Roger Ailes? Do you even need to ask?

Do Limbaugh and Beck Believe What They Say?

Steve Benen answered this way:

I like this game -- and I laughed out loud at the Hannity analysis -- though I'm not sure about the conclusions. I agree that O'Reilly would gladly accept the offer. I'm less sure that Beck would take it; he seems more motivated by the voices in his head than financial rewards. I think Levin and Hannity would reject the offer, but I think the smart money is on Coulter accepting it. (Sometimes I think Coulter is actually a secret liberal doing some kind of performance art now, so the leap would be a short one.) Ailes, of course, wouldn't hesitate.

Thought Experiment Of The Day

I agree with both about O'Reilly, and I agree with Benen about Beck. The other folks I'm not so sure about. The problem is that they almost certainly know that being a lefty commentator isn't going to be profitable - Air America is a classic example of how that goes. With the possible exception of Beck and Hannity, they're all smart enough to realize that. In a way, they've all done this so long it's hard to see any of them changing. I doubt they would, but I think most would be tempted if they thought the offer was real.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Dana Hunter said...

Definitely agree with Steve on most of the points, but Coulter - no. My money's not on her making a switch. She's too much of a psychopath to enjoy being a liberal commentator, not for all the tea in China.

Actually not sure if China has all that much tea anymore, but y'know.