I liked Rush.
As a matter of fact, I owe him one. Because Rush Limbaugh made the AM radio talk show so popular in the late 80s by helping recreate an industry almost single-handedly, after my 10 years as a broadcaster, I entertained an idea of entering the market specifically as a radio talk show host. I even went back to school to get some degrees so I would have more formal credentials to discursively address intelligent people who would interact with me on my future radio show, listeners who would call in.
Unfortunately — or fortunately — as fast as I got back onto Penn State’s main campus, the World Wide Web was unveiled. I remember attending a campus exhibit in 1994 where the main attraction was the MOSAIC browser. Of course, the rest is history.
And it was for me, career-wise, as I decided on the spot that the communication medium for me would be this computer setup of hypertext and image, leaving my motives behind. Not an easy task — my heart was in radio — but the limitless power and accessibility of the WWW at the time really reeled me in.
I began doing as much coursework as possible with intent to communicate over the Web and was involved in emerging technologies. When I attended University of Manchester in 1995, I was already putting up websites and learning HTML. When it came time to do my honors thesis as a McNair Scholar in 1996 at Penn State, I published quantitative empirical research on Internet addiction. My academic life became an immersion into Internet phenomena, to this day. My plans for talk radio, dead.
Now, here’s the thing. When I say I liked Rush Limbaugh, it is that entrepreneurial approach to my industry at the time; a bold and brazen ability to speak one’s mind while controlling argument. This is not a stupid man; but a clever, rhetorical whiz capable of extreme political provocation. And a loudmouth, to boot. So, while I admired the idea, I never really gave much credence to the message.
But my very close friend Jerry did. Jerry became a dittohead. He was a self-employed sort of chimney cleaner, blue-collar, though he had a degree from Penn State. A ‘family’ man all the way, though the work was rarely steady and the marriage was a perpetual rollercoaster on and off for years; the struggle for him to get rights to the children was often nullified by a wife who worked in the social services system alongside judges who would not consider it an option to release a child to a father. Despite a sure smile and spiritual strength, society had made my friend’s American dream — without being judgmental as I truly loved the man — something of a lost cause.
Rush and Jerry became best friends over the airwaves. Jerry took his lunch breaks around the AM radio talk show hours and played the show while working whenever possible. He was sold on the man, his politics, and his message — a huge wake-up call to an aimless America to, well:
I never felt asleep. While I was a Reagan conservative, Limbaugh’s bombasts got under my skin, not because of his message, but more of a tone. That tone added to AM radio static simply was not inviting enough for my FM background and tastes; though I was on AM radio myself for years, it was most often a neglected aside to my FM presence. Kinda like going to a romantic dinner with a sweetheart while the nice-but-noisy kid-next-door tags along. A lame analogy, but so be it.
Back to Jerry for a moment. As a dittohead, he was constantly parroting Limbaugh’s propaganda as ‘fact’ or, more curiously, ‘hidden knowledge’ since someone missing the message missed the logic or twist Rush would apply in his performance and had to be labeled as ‘ignorant’ by default of being outside the listening periphery of the broadcast. Jerry frequently felt an obligation to inform those around him of these important messages that had found a home within his psyche, hoping to find like minds and hearts to share in a daily, repetitive, angered message of ‘truth.’
The premise is simple: I listen to this smart man and believe what he has to say, so when I say what the smart man has to say to others who do not listen or have not heard the smart man, if they reject what I have to say they are rejecting intelligence and truth, and are either stupid or blind because the smart man knows and I see how much sense he makes with what he knows.
This is how truth may be realized and shared, passed on from one who possesses. Of course, it works for error, too. For error disguised as truth. And, yes, its application is converged across media, the Internet, and culmination of the banal in schlocky ‘expert’ pundits for
faux news TV.
Truth and error. One is a force for orderly heal, the other chaotically destroys. Or one is a force for chaotic heal, the other for orderly destruction. Extremes, yet it depends on the circumstance; still, one heals, one destroys. Truth hurts. Error soothes. Truth is comfort. Error divides. Truth divides. And I am not saying there is no truth in chaos.
There are people who have little to bring to the table regarding intellectual prowess in this world and there are intelligent people whose professional purpose is to manipulate them. Whether to listen, or watch, or, whatever the desired behavior, the rhetoric of persuasion is easily formulated for a niche audience. It serves the purpose of the propagandist best if that audience is naive, gullible, needy, or desperate. and we can expect a fear factor; also, what Chuck Swindoll (borrowing from Charles Hummel’s essay) called a ‘tyranny of the urgent.’
It seems people who feel helpless and powerless and ignorant and desperate need a voice in all that deprivation because they are coping with their own voice not being heard or taken seriously. We have all been there. We all have different ways we cope with this phenomenon. I keep a blog.
So we are supposed to wake up, but to what?
The AM radio TV tabloid model for political consumerism has grown in the past 20 years, perhaps matured. From the shock jock days of the late last century to the current schlock jock fever erupting this election year, there is no denying the immediacy, the fear, the anger and bitterness permeating the American broadcast airwaves. Limbaugh is still on, more powerful and celebratory than ever, but joined in his conservatism by a sea of formulaic imitators and wannabees, all with a loyal, steady following of ‘truth seekers’ who believe they have become truth finders thanks to their messianic radio and television hosts.
Ah, truth. The spiritual or religious tenet of quest. The most elusive of virtues, the supreme objective. Of course, there is much humanistic or secular interest and investment in truth, too. And one thing about truth is that it begs to be shared.
Certainly hoarding truth seems unconscionable. But can any one person produce a volume of truth enough to warrant a serious following? As Christians, we believe Jesus Christ exemplifies that model. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We also believe the Bible is a blueprint for living; full of warnings and inspiration, often from the lives of those who have gone before us, including evident possessors of large measures of truth. Though not all.
There is no truth without there being deceit. And the ultimate deceit? That would be posing as truth. Hypocrisy. Illusion. Facade. The list goes on. Even levels of propaganda and persuasion at times. Which times?
Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. Proverbs 25:16
We can tire of truth, as too much honey. We can also think we have enough, no need to gain more, we’re good to go. Either mindset may lead to problematic ideology or behavior since open season is offered to deceit. It is how some people end up in cults. They may be well-intentioned, but the right vehicle with the right message, no matter how wrong, will easily sway the one who we said before feels like s/he needs a voice in the clamor of the vanity of life.
Corpiticians and media personalities are more than happy to be that vehicle. Perhaps, even destined.
“A day with the Lord is as a thousand years.” Well, you and I don’t have a thousand years. We don’t have tomorrow. We want the truth and we want it now. If the proverbs aren’t speaking loud enough, we’ll look elsewhere. And if the preacher is helping things, if things overall are okay, if all the immediate connections can convince us we are on the path to truth, then we seek to seal the deal. How? Like my friend Jerry. Trusting in the source of all power, all wisdom, all knowledge:
There, across ubiquitous media channels, we find our relative truth. Where journalists are conscience-bound to industry ethics and the voice we desire radiates in echoes across the invisible chasm. Where the message sounds good — good enough to believe as we believe — and we obediently pass it on. We believe…
….The Media. It doesn’t matter that a media message is rooted in fear. In distress. In anger. In bitterness. In dishonesty. In reactionism. We never stop to question whether we might be part of some dynamic scheme where the initial ‘truth-sharer’ profits in finance and fame, and an entire global industry thrives because it feeds our desires to coddle our fears
of the Other at all costs.
We must protect our money, our family, our home and well-being, our childrens’ future. And we think the best way to do that is to blame another for wanting to take those securities away. Demonize whomever and whatever is different. Support the demonizer. And the best way to do that is to flame the message and its opponent as far and wide as our virtual echoes will carry.
Evidence that fear is at the core of how we live our lives of rapt ignorance is the pretentious parroting of what we learn from our media idols: the vicious, vaccuous spin from the paid personalities that consider it a job well done when their numbers have been off the grid because their story pulled us in and we obediently spread it as gospel, like a giant oil spill we will never have to clean up and can never reel in. Like a self-induced poison pouring over our dreams, coating our hearts, blocking out the light, sequestering us from our deepest yearnings for truth.
Got constant anger…? Fear…? Resentment…? Bitterness…? Hopelessness…? Emptiness…?
Then your TV or your radio is ON. Turn it OFF. Now. Keep it off. You owe yourself an antidote, a huge dose of peace. Think tea, chamomile or St. John’s Wort, real lavender wafting toward you in the cool night air, and all the time in the world you need to recover your senses to hear – for Truth.
That’s a wrap.