Friday, May 16, 2008

How NOT to be a pundit

Give or take, there are roughly 4781 AM radio stations in the United States. Since music programming has, for the most part, departed for the higher-clarity FM band, that doesn't leave a whole lot for these stations to choose from. With so many AM stations lacking programming, sometimes they have to go the desperation route.

That's probably what happened in the case of KRLA in Los Angeles. The station, owned by Salem Communications, programs a typical Salem conservotalk format. Salem's talk roster is the low-hanging fruit of talk radio, with a lineup consisting of Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Bill Bennett and other third or fourth tier talkers. And KRLA also employs a local guy - Kevin James. Judging from James' embarrassing appearance yesterday on MSNBC's Hardball, perhaps they should dig a little deeper to come up with hosts that actually know what they're talking about.

Yesterday, James was a guest pundit (one of those guys stuffed in a little digital box on the screen), along with Air America Radio's Mark Green. Coming off as a screaming, shouting and, dare I say, unhinged lunatic (think Sean Hannity after four cans of Red Bull), he looked utterly ridiculous. He went through the typical wingnut pundit cliches, shouting talking points, not letting anyone else get their say, ignoring questions from the host, Chris Matthews, and above all, making very little sense. Here's an account from a blogger at the Houston Chronicle:

In a very funny, yet sad exchange on Hardball yesterday, host Chris Matthews humiliated right wingnut radio jabber Kevin James over the "appeasement" uproar stupidly started by GWB in Israel yesterday. This guy looks about 16 years old and is like a giant Chatty Kathy - just pull the string and he repeats the same talking points in order ad infinitum. Chris couldn't control the conversation, or this guy's mouth, so he tried to quizz him on appeasement by Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of Britain in the '30s, and the Munich Agreement where Britain ceded part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. This guy didn't even know who Chamberlain was, how he got tagged with the appeaser label, or what he did.

I'd put together a summary myself, but I've seen the video and still have no idea what James was talking about. Maybe I'm just tired. Suffice it to say, James got owned. Bad.

He got punked pretty thoroughly by Matthews, who, despite being a bit creepy and obnoxious himself, knows when to call 'bullshit.' Matthews shut him down with a question about a historical point, which James sidestepped by hammering the "Obama is linked to Hamas" nonsense. Mark Green, who was reduced to hardly saying anything without James screaming over him, nevertheless got in a rather humorous line, blurting out, "When you're in a hole, you stop digging."

Seemingly, James is typical of many right-wing media goons today. They follow the playbook written by former Senator Joe McCarthy back in the 1950s. McCarthy, as many historians know, wildly accused many of being covert Communists, particularly government officials. Now, it was mostly bullshit - he didn't have much proof of commies infiltrating the government, and made up for it via pure bluster. In other words, he just kept shouting as loud as he could, until his artificial world came crashing down live on television. And he fell pretty hard. Today's bloviators seem to be working from the same playbook. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

Here's the video of James, his foot and his mouth:

As you can see, James obviously has been reading "Right-Wing Cable News Punditry for Dummies." He almost had down all the steps, though his execution was rather poor. Let's go through the how-to list:

1. Wear a slick, conservative suit. Dark blue is preferred. Don't forget the power tie. If you are a self-styled 'man of the people,' look like a gritty Santa Claus or are basically just a slob, an open-collar oxford shirt or favorite biker gear is acceptable. For the ladies, whatever works. Avoid powder blue pantsuits. Don't be a Hillary.

2. Memorize your talking points. Stick to the list. Don't deviate.

3. When the host introduces you and gives you the cue, come out swinging. Hard. Pretend it's 1990 and you're fighting Mike Tyson. You can take a breath later.

4. Talk loud, talk fast, talk forceful and don't let anyone else interrupt you. This is your moment to shine. Andy Warhol gave you this fifteen minutes, and dammit, you have every right to it.

5. If you're paired with a lefty counterpart, don't let him/her talk. Whatever they have to say is pointless. They're misinformed, out of touch and unhinged. Just keep screaming your talking points. Nothing else matters.

6. Key words: Terrorist, traitor, liberal, Muslim, radical, hippie, unhinged, wild-eyed, socialist. Use them, dare I say, liberally. Don't forget them - this is the glue that holds your ideas together.

7. You can call your opponents any name you want, or affix any label. But don't violate Godwin's Law. If you refer to your enemies as "Nazis," even the friendly FOX News hosts will call you on it. That stuff belongs with 14 year-olds on video game message boards. And with George W. Bush.

8. If, by chance, the host calls you out on your misinformed talking points and rambling thought processes, just keep talking. Repeat step #4. Talk louder, talk faster, talk even more forceful and don't let anyone else interrupt you. Drown out both the host and counterpart(s).

9. Don't forget to plug your show, website, political organization and/or think tank!

10. If things wind up going south on the show, you can still save face. The next day, on your radio show or blog, don't accept that you did anything wrong. You were flawless! You took 'em to school! Blame it all on the 'liberal media' that's been out to get you from the beginning. It won't matter - your listeners think you're a god.


Here's the Radio Tranquilizer at his whiniest finiest. He invoked rule #10! Brian the insult comic dog thinks Matthews owes James an apology. Boo hoo! Pass the tissues. And if James was unfairly beat up on because he's on a shitty radio station, then why did he agree to go on MSNBC in the first place? And what about Maloney's good friend Michelle Malkin, who got her own bony ass handed to her by Matthews in 2004? Yeah, she's a lightweight too. Brian Baloney lives in his own fantasy world, where conservatives are allowed to say the most vile things about people they don't like, yet cry like babies and demand apologies whenever they get dissed. Grow a set and stop being such a pussy! Sheesh!

Click here for MediaBistro's take. No, it's not the fat guy from King of Queens.


Craig C Clarke said...

Funniest part was when he was asked if he has read a book, he responded by asking if the others had watched a fictionalized made-for-TV movie.

ltr said...

I caught that!

Referring to a fictionalized movie, and one that many have claimed had many falsities, to prove a point was just plain dumb.

It would be as if I cited the movie "Star Wars" as proof of the existence of life on other planets.

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