Unreported World – USA: Talk-Radio Nation – Review

Unreported World – USA: Talk-Radio Nation, Friday 9th November, Channel 4, 3am

“So this is what a bunch of racist, homophobic, hate-mongering domestic Christian terrorists looks like?” [The crowd cheers] “My kinda crowd.â€? When an audience recognises itself as victims quite this enthusiastically, you can be certain that you’re about to hear some self-indulgent demagoguery.

Yet their provocateurs are, privately, often quite reasonable everymen with disagreeable, but on occasion logically defensible conclusions to what ails America.

In the America that the majority of talk-radio inhabits, it is still possible to live in a world in which good manners prohibits swearing but economic inequality is as accepted as inbreeding in seventeenth century aristocrats. A world where misogynists, homophobes and racists are prevalent, except the terms don’t register as tar-and-feather epithets but as ironic signifiers of upstanding, BCE morality.

Sceptics are called deniers, sincere expression of doubt is treated as the pursuit of a particular ‘agenda’ and the scientific process is attacked because it can’t approach the mathematically definitive conclusions of religious text. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt – its an old joke; but its a modern stream of thought which informs a lot of partisan ‘debate’ in the USA.

“Are you ready to get your values on?â€?

When Arizona senator Jon Kyle was caught inaccurately claiming in the Senate that providing abortions is ‘well over 90 per cent of what Planned Parenthood does’ (its actually 3%), his spokesman said that Kyle’s remark “was not intended to be a factual statement”. It’s hard not to satirise behaviour like this and that was exactly Stephen Colbert, amongst others, did. Colbert started tweeting absurdities like “Jon Kyle can unhinge his jaw like a python to swallow small rodents wholeâ€? followed by a disclaimer parodying Kyle’s spokesman.

When 48 million people, or approaching a sixth of the US population listens to talk-radio and from the fervour of audience participation, share its opinions; would it have not been wiser to investigate how these beliefs arise and are perpetuated? As opposed to merely confirming a pervasive British bias that all Americans are accurately represented in politics, personality and intelligence by Senator Kyle and their forty-third President. Krishnan Guru-Murthy is an engagingly earnest presenter with Louis Theroux poise, but the half-hour format is too short for what he is trying to achieve.

De Tocqueville, in his optimistic phrase, said that “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.â€? An assessment of the country, which, at the moment, unfortunately only rings true in the century it was written in.

Nick Arthur