Over the past few weeks since I’ve been back from traveling I’ve been forcing myself to listen to a little conservative talk radio. As anyone who might read this blog on a regular basis will know that this comes as a bit of a stretch for me due to my liberal/progressive political tendencies. Now, for the record, I must admit that I generally dislike any kind of political talk radio, both conservative and liberal. I get a similar case of willies listening to Air America as I do listening to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
The most glaring problem with these kinds of commentators is that they inherently refuse to tell the whole story. The radio personality skillfully presents a partial truth and then dresses up that partial, incomplete truth as the whole truth. In doing so, they diligently assume the absolute worst of the person or group whom they oppose. It’s a worldview supported by the non-stop, crippling duality of us and them, good and evil, liberal and conservative, God and secular humanism. Never does anyone consider the perspective or circumstances of the other. And why should they? “Evil” people don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.
This kind of approach is displayed in this clip is a perfect example of duality in it’s purest form:
Here we have the issue of two men, John Edwards and John McCain, who’ve admitted to having an affair. Both men committed unfortunate mistakes and both have lived with the consequences of their actions. But Hannity cannot bring himself to consider any kind of circumstances in Edwards’ case, but freely gives McCain a pass because of McCain’s circumstances. The point here isn’t to point out which man committed the bigger sin, but to consider that we are all fallible and that we all contend with circumstances that contribute to failures as well as failing to be personally responsible. In Hannity’s view, only the guy on his team can have the benefit of “extenuating circumstances.” When it comes to Edwards, because he is the “enemy”, the circumstances in his situation have no place in the debate because the “evildoers” don’t deserve any subtly or nuance.
And this isn’t to pick on Hannity. He’s simply one spoke in the very large wheel of propaganda in this country, coming from both the right and left. And sadly, this kind of punditry is big business and telling people what they want to hear will always keep ad revenue high and the pockets full.
I think this is precisely why Barack Obama has not surged ahead in the polls like many, including me, thought he would. He represents an attempt to transcend the dualistic political landscape that George Bush, Karl Rove, and now John McCain thrive on. We’ve been conditioned to expect leaders to have an either/or approach that makes their base happy while annoying their political counterparts. Obama doesn’t necessarily fit into the either/or worldview and that tends to make everyone unhappy. John McCain used to be this type of leader but has decided to adopt the Rovian world view where dualism reigns supreme.