Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Yammer Factor

[Back in 2010 I was writing about right-wing talk radio at my old blog, and I think this bit is worth saving and updating, because it is as pertinent as ever.]

These guys need something to talk about for hours on end. Has there ever been a culture that rewarded so handsomely the ability to yammer endlessly to no particular purpose? It is a gift, of a kind; certainly not everyone could do it. And it is by no means restricted to right-wing talk radio: Howard Stern does it, Keith Olbermann does it, every ESPN announcer and wannabe had better be able to do it. The rewards come partly because in a 24/7 media culture, there is so much time to fill. Dead air is, well, deadly (unless you can turn it to comic purpose, as Jim Rome effectively does). And the non-stop yapping serves a subsidiary purpose in that it creates minor media scandals which are then the pretext of much more talk, in a sort of Moebius strip of meaninglessness. In an attention economy, controversy is the real coinage, and a knack for creating controversy is also a heavily rewarded skill nowadays. (Twitter has been a godsend for this mission.)

Some of the controversies we are presented with daily are knowingly concocted, others occur because bloviators simply talk too much (or resort to Twitter too readily). I will gladly acknowledge that if I had to talk for three or four hours a day on radio and television, as Glenn Beck, Jim Rome, and others do, I would say an awful lot of idiotic and embarrassing things. Because no one can be smart in public for that long, day in and day out. Yammer yammer yammer.

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