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How To Talk To Talk Radio

by Steve Young

Talk Radio: The Lords Of Loud

If you listen to as much talk radio as much as I do, damnit, you begin to catch a general modes operandi for all the monsters of the talkway -- Rush, Sean, O'Reilly, and even the itty-bitty locals of the right. I'm not talking about book-pimping, half-truths, outright lies shoved out along with chronic interruptions, microphone manipulations and humongous egos swelling under the cover of charming self-deprecation. Those are all genuine and delightful weapons of the Lords of Loud. And that is their due. They've developed their technique and if their methods and misinformation just happens to destroy real communication and divide our country, well, that's what America's all about -- at least right now -- unfortunately.

But that isn't to say that making these guys work up a sweat is out of the question. And that's what should happen, that is if you know the answer to the your question before you ask it. Even more, knowing what your genial host will ask you right after you make your play is where you can deal 'em a good shot. But that takes a lot of note-taking or in the least, some research to get prepared for your little broadcast encounter.

While they will call you a "Kool-Aid drinker" if you say anything not lockstep with their world (their own "Kool-aid drinkers" are called "Great Americans"), it wouldn't hurt to know your quarry, er, host, before you dial in. The best of them have their unique manner of making it seem that they have won every argument.

For the most part, Bill O'Reilly will allow you to say what you want...until he responds. Then, you might as well hang up on yourself, because, he already has. Then Bill, who rarely goes toe to toe with a caller, replies to your comment with no need for logic or consistency, as there is no one there to counter it with what some might call, "facts." When either of Bill's lovely "co-hosts" are there and actually do contradict Bill's point, he will laugh them off or make some belittling remark which has as much valid debate value as, "Lise (Wiehl)...a little too much LSD in the coffee this morning?" Balanced? Sure. Fair? Yeah, like King Henry XIII was fair to his wives or a leg of lamb. As a caller to "The Factor," you do not get "the last word." so you must not only make your point up front, but you must assume what Bill's answer will be and respond to it in your opening (i.e. closing) statement.

Now, Sean Hannity, he of the All-American good looks and school-boy charm, is a bit of an enigma. While he will allow the adversarial caller to joust with him, he is the king of listing so long a litany of confrontational questions, that one tends to forget what the heck he asked. Actually, if you listen to his show for more than a couple minutes ahead of time, you should know what that litany will be because he repeats the same statements ad infinitum.

And Rush? Well, Rush doesn't even try anymore. Not much he says has any validity but with his zealots, it doesn't have to. Recommendation...don't even try calling in. Chances are, he still doesn't hear whatever truth you're laying out. Ditto for his fanatical ditto-heads.

There are many more hosts and all of them have their little quirks, but there is one common thread that you, as a caller, MUST prepare yourself for, that is, unless you want to be ground into the dirt like so much losing Democratic fodder. And this is one that is completely within your control.

When you sit in your car, absolutely beside yourself with exasperation as to how the host had mangled the truth, you have to calm down. The problem is, while you're writhing with righteous indignation, even if you do attempt to get through tho the host, by the time you do, it's months later and all that you can remember is the exasperation. And that, my unarmed, liberal friend, is the crux of the problem. For that is what the host is oh-so totally aware of. As soon as you spit out some semblance of, "That's the problem with all you right-wingers..." your humble host, every single, right-wing purveyor of the "problem,"will pull out the big gun: "Tell me what I said."

Dimes to dollars, the caller doesn't remember the specifics. But how? Who pulls a pen out while their driving to write down every piece of crap these guys spew? I'll tell you who. David Brock. No one nails it like Brock. Issues, statements, fact sources, dates, times, everything you need to stick it to the host and maybe have a few of their listeners perk up their ears. And since he was once a sycophant on the dark side, as a born again truth-teller, he knows how the Rushes, Roves and talking points work. Before you pick up that phone and invest a couple hours on hold, wait till you get home and click into Brock's website or one of the other "keeping the Right honest" sites. Make sure you have your facts, dates, times and Valium at the ready. It may not change anyone's mind but you'll feel a hell of a lot better and whether you know it or not, on the next commercial break, the host will be reaming out the screener for letting your call through. Tell me that isn't worth a wee bit of pre-planning on your part.

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Albion Monitor November 27, 2004 (

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