Life In Radioland Proves Less Stressful
By Laura Billings
St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press Columnist
A big bald guy we all know, but whose name we probably shouldn't mention lest he become a target of terror, has recently suggested that Minnesotans give up their daily newspapers and evening news broadcasts and get all of their information from talk radio.
"I'll tell you, it's more accurate on there,'' the bald guy has been heard to say. "I have stopped reading the local papers. I've stopped watching the evening news. And I've found it very enlightening and very less stressful in my life and I recommend that people ought to try it for a while and see how they feel.''
This was such a novel idea, I thought I'd take him up on it after consulting with my doctor, of course. Since people who are used to starting the day with three to five newspapers have been known to starve on a steady diet of talk radio, she advised me to start slowly, with 20-minute doses several times a day, working up to a full hour of Rush Limbaugh.
I've done this over the course of the week and have now logged approximately nine hours and 15 minutes of listening time on several talk-radio shows, some of them nationally syndicated and some of them homegrown.
Here's a tally of every enlightening thing I learned:
- Number of times I heard a host or caller blame President Clinton for "everything that's happened in the Middle East," the Sept. 11 attacks, Iraq, the downturn in the economy, the rise of Osama bin Laden and all current woes: 16
- Number of hosts or callers who suggested that not "taking Saddam Hussein out when we had the chance" was a mistake we may be paying for now: 11
- Number of times hosts or callers pointed out that George Bush was actually the president in office during the Persian Gulf War "when we had the chance": 0
- Number of callers who wondered whether CNN could be prosecuted for treason for requesting an interview with Osama bin Laden: 2
- Number of hosts who explained that getting an interview is not the same thing as "consorting with the enemy": 1
- Number of hosts who said "But still, you have to wonder where the media stands sometimes. Are they on our side or not?" or another similar phrase: 2
- Number of times host or caller praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing an anti-terrorism bill that would include new attacks on money laundering, expanded surveillance and detention powers: 7
- Number of times hosts or caller mentioned anything about the other bill the House just passed, granting $70 billion in corporate tax cuts (including a $1.4 billion retroactive rebate check to IBM) as part of post-Sept. 11 "economic stimulus" package, at the same time the unemployment rate soars to the second-highest level in almost a decade: 0
- Number of hosts I heard saying "the media" are creating unnecessary panic and paranoia about an anthrax threat, and should downplay it, moving on to the sort of news we read about before Sept. 11: 3
- Number of talk-radio references to 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake's book deal, the sort of news we read about before Sept. 11: 0
- Total number of minutes I heard hosts and callers discussing anthrax, smallpox, fear of opening the mail, where to buy rubber gloves, how anthrax symptoms could be mistaken for flu symptoms, how to pay bills online, potential damage if anthrax is mailed to the Midwest, effectiveness of gas masks, etc.: 170
- Number of times hosts dismissed newspapers and networks for being slanted, inaccurate, biased, "having a serious agenda'' or being part of a left-wing liberal conspiracy: 8
- Number of times hosts also pointed out that most newspapers and networks in question are owned by giant corporations like AOL Time Warner and General Electric and other megalithic companies not known for their radical lefty agendas: 0
- Number of talk-radio callers who thought "liberal" and "libertarian" were synonyms: 1
- Number of callers who mentioned how Sen. Hillary Clinton was booed during a VH1 benefit concert for victims of the World Trade Center attack: 8
- Number of callers who added that the same crowd also booed New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen: 0
- Number of times callers mentioned the "fact" that Sen. Clinton's driver ran over a New York City cop: 4
- Number of references to Sen. Clinton's driver actually hitting New York City cop found in Lexis/Nexis database: 0
In the end, I can't say my brief experiment with talk radio was particularly enlightening, but it was a lot less stressful than I thought it would be. One possible explanation?
- Number of references to bald guy worrying about becoming terrorist target: 0.