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Talking for a Living -- Writer's Poke #256

Yes, I used to listen to AM talk radio. Why? Well, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I lived within range of WLS, the "50,000 Watt Flamethrower" out of Chicago. In addition to syndicated programs like The Rush Limbaugh Show and Art Bell's Coast to Coast, I really enjoyed listening to local host Roe Conn's Saturday morning and weekday afternoon shows. All of these shows were entertaining, and that's why I listened.

By the end of the 1990s, however, entertaining no longer seemed to be a prerequisite to getting a show, or growing an audience. Have you ever heard The Sean Hannity Show? Here's a show with no redeeming value, and I say that not just because I disagree with the man's narrow-minded politics. Even today I can still listen to Rush, for example, because he's interesting, at least most of the time. Rush prepares for his shows and always has a "stack of stuff" to talk about. Hannity, on the other hand, never seems to prepare. I'm sure he does, but he's repetitive, has less interesting call-in conversations, and basically just annoys the hell out of me.

Quite honestly, I never thought anyone could ever have a worse show than Hannity, but Glenn Beck proved me mistaken. Beck makes Hannity look like Roe Conn. Beck's gimmick is that he uses "common sense" in a world where common sense is no longer common. Hardy-har-har, Beck. How many times can you use that phrase in a three hour program? And what exactly is "common sense"? Should we rely on it? It used to be "common sense" to say the Earth was flat, and that the Sun revolved around the Earth, etc.

But to me, common sense only goes so far. Beck's common sense doesn't seem to value scientific inquiry, the importance of analyzing data, or the need to test theories and "common sense" beliefs.

Simply put, the real problem with talkers like Hannity and Beck is this: they put beliefs before evidence. They think they know everything, and they lack the ability to listen. And what's worse, their narrow-minded, bull-headed chatter isn't the slightest bit entertaining.

What radio or TV personality would you like to punch in the face, and why?

"A narrow mind and a fat head invariably come on the same person." -- Zig Ziglar

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