I became somewhat of a talk radio junkie a couple of years ago. It started when I wanted to listen to something somewhat intelligent as I ate my lunch (I tend to eat lunch in my car). I was listening to NPR, but the extreme liberal slant – especially obvious during the beginnings of the Iraq thing – drove me nuts.
I listened to Christian talk radio for a short bit, but the extreme wacky right slant (I’m sorry, it’s not just extreme right, but there’s a definite “wacky” edge to a lot of it) drove me nuts, too. It’s terrible to feel weird being a Christian, because of Christians….
After a while I discovered Sean Hannity, who happened to be on when I was usually out for lunch. I appreciated hearing news that you can’t find on the mainstream media (again, there is a definite left bias, often in just choosing what stories to talk about). Hannity has some interesting guests on, and tries to let both liberals and conservatives express their opinions.
However – talk radio is inherently flawed. Talk radio host have absolutely no reason to resolve any issues. There is no incentive to bring together people in discussions that may actually produce any sort of reasonable solution to issues, or to serve as a mediator between contrasting opinions.
They make their money out of controversy. It is in the best interest of radio to create conflict. Without conflict, the show is downright boring. Who wants to listen to people agree with each other? What is entertaining about reasonable people talking about reasonable things? Certainly Hannity and the others are not shock-jocks, but the point is the same: if there is nothing provocative, they lose their audience.
It scares me, sometimes, when people call up these radio hosts and blabber on about how great they are, and what a great service they are doing to the country. Certainly, there is value in bringing issues and hidden news stories to light (such as the current “Able Danger” issue – try to find a story on that anywhere else…). However, don’t these people realize that the shows are to some extent manipulating thought and causing division?
Certainly a synthesis of ideas is not always the answer- that’s flawed, too. However, Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He also said he came to bring a sword – not all issues can be resolved.
I hope that people who listen to talk radio are thinking critically, and are picking out what is good, from what is just inflammatory rhetoric. But, considering the majority of the people calling in, I tend to doubt it.