Levin the Entertainer

May 27, 2009

In the event any readers aren’t already following it, everyone should go read the excellent exchange between Dan Riehl, Conor Friedersdorf, and Mark Levin here, here, here and here.  Friedersdorf’s restraint is a beautiful thing to behold, especially when faced with the grotesque lack of basic decency on Levin’s part.  Being careful ain’t sexy, but its gets to the bottom of things, and is exactly the kind of tone we should strive for in these situations.

On that note, Riehl makes a point I’d like to take up, as its something that I think is really telling about the direction of the Limbaugher side of the party:

Obviously Mark’s rhetoric is hyperbolic. That’s as much a part of his show as are his great many substantive, informative and insightful monologues on everything from our Courts and our government, to the Constitution. There is nothing outrageous in the above from Mark within the context of his show, which is part entertainment.  

There’s more here. One hears this sort of thing from talk radio defends constantly, but this time around it really struck me how precisely contrary this is to what consistent cultural conservatives have argued for the last twenty years. Their contention has been that entertainment is more than just entertainment: it is culture and as such shapes the norms and values that society rests on, a point which applies equally to GWAR and Mark Levin. Historically, its been the cultural left who turn a blind eye to the entertaining, provided it is not meant too seriously or provokes thought, and the culture articulated on this assumption has been the central front of the culture war. (Piss Christ, anybody?) So it is very strange to now hear talk-radio defenders invoking the same maddening non-standards to justify their lack of common decency. It speaks volumes to their outlook, and to our collective outlook, that Levin and his defenders see their status as entertainers as elevating them above such basic standards, and that so many are willing to accept them as viable political actors at the same time they litter the public discorse with suicide jokes and liberal-baiting.

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