Be it Bill O'Reilly or The Savage Nation, a specific set of rules and strategies of right-wing punditry is followed to show faithful listeners that the talk show hosts' opinions are far superior than those of their guests. What better way to infiltrate the machinery than by learning their rules from the inside? Recently I was asked to be a guest on right-wing talk radio shows. That's right bubba, I got booked on as the Bay Area moonbat liberal, with hosts ready to extend their claws and tear me a new one.
My virgin foray into conservative punditry was on "Michigan's Most Listened to Christian Talk" -- The Bob Dutko Show on WMUZ-The Light.
Other guests on the Bob Dutko Show bill: a guy with "scientific" proof that the Earth is only thousands of years old, not billions, which would make evolution impossible. Host Bob Dutko states, "Which, by the way, scientifically, I agree with. Not just because the Bible says so, but that's what the science actually says. We're not going to deal with emotion, we're going to deal with fact and science!"
OK, imagine Rush Limbaugh but with a Jesus twist -- that's what I'm up against.
Show needs an "I don't take shit from anyone" catchphrase. Dutko's: "Fearlessly Defending the Faith!"
Must use hard-rock intro music -- further showing you don't take shit from anyone!
The show's theme, a Christian version of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," plays. Then my introduction: "Right now let's get to a guy who is not shy about criticizing President Bush or any other Republicans or conservatives for that matter," Dutko says. "He's a flaming liberal. I can't give you the subtitle of his book. It has a cuss word in it, and I'm not going to do it."
The word, by the way, is "ass" (as in Republican Like Me: Infiltrating Red-State, White-Ass, and Blue-Suit America). In the imagination of the Christian listeners I'm sure they're thinking the cuss word is "motherfucker" and are immediately plotting this flaming liberal's eternal damnation. One pundit point for Dutko!
Immediately get your guest on the defensive, working up his emotions so he'll come across as a blathering idiot.
"I think you got a double standard going here," the Fearless Defender of the Faith rants, in regard to Target stores saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." Target wanted to include other religions' little holidays in order to cash in on their non-Jesus-believing consumer dollars.
Yup, I took the bait and made the rookie mistake of immediately criticizing Bob Dutko's asinine view of his boycott of Target stores.
"You're saying that's leaving out the poor Jew or atheists or whatever," he adds about other religions' Grinch-like stealing of the religious holiday, like it was little Cindy Lou Who's last can of Who-hash.
My response to their inclusion: "Why not give the little guy a shot?"
It seems Bob Dutko fears that saying "Happy Holidays" will somehow lead to back-alley abortions being performed in Target dressing rooms.
"Why not educate the Jews and the atheist and everyone else that there is in fact a holiday called Christmas. And it is a national holiday. That it is based on a historic figure named Jesus Christ who was born," he lectures like a high school principal. "What's wrong with educating people on that reality?"
My response: "I think people are aware that Christmas takes place."
Dutko's: "If I go into a store and it's run by a Jewish person and they put up 'Happy Hanukkah,' the cross around my neck is not going to melt. I can handle somebody saying to me 'Happy Hanukkah.'"
Summary of Applied Punditry Tactic: Jews got that crappy Adam Sandler animated Hanukkah movie didn't they? That should be plenty for those greedy bastards.
Use an unrealistic extreme and compare it to the guest's argument.
The Fearless Defender of the Faith argues against homosexuality being taught in schools -- especially in a positive light -- and then explains why it is OK for Christians to shun gays. "You want a Hindu to be a good Hindu? Do you want Hindus to now start eating cows?!
"If you respect other people having their beliefs, why not respect Christians having their beliefs as well?"
This is becoming like talking to a guy who thinks Spider-Man really exists and can point to all the exact issues of Marvel comics to back up his claim.
Summary of Applied Punditry Tactic: Shoving a hamburger at a Hindu is like pushing a penis toward a Christian man.
Only read the press release, the book jacket, and a few highlighted paragraphs to formulate your knee-jerk arguments.
"We're continuing our talk with author Harmon Leon. His book is Republican Like Me; kind of targeting and attacking if you will Christianity, conservatism, Republicanism, but in a humorous-type way, satire and that type of thing."
I jump in.
"Was there anything in the book that you found funny?"
"Uh ... yeah." [His voice cracks] "I mean ..."
"So, what did you specifically find funny?"
"I haven't read ... I can't point that out specifically ... I just kind of skimmed through parts. So I know that you take kind of a sarcastic approach, to uh ..."
"Irony," I clarify, fearlessly defending the literary device. "I use irony!"
"... and I'm a guy who enjoys sarcasm ..."
"No, no! Irony often gets mistaken for sarcasm. They're two different things."
"Yeah, OK, all right," he says sarcastically (which is different from ironically). "You know what? I can point out both of them. I got no problem recognizing irony, and I got no problem enjoying humorous satire."
Summary of Applied Punditry Tactic: The Fearless Defender of the Faith surely enjoys a good laugh as much as anyone!
Act like the group you represent, no matter how massively powerful, is actually the poor victim of the opposition.
"I guess, since you talk so much about irony, let me bring up something I consider to be one of the ultimate ironies in the liberal-versus-conservative debate," Dutko begins.
"That's the use of the word 'censorship,'" he spews. "It amazes me that liberals in the country will point their fingers at conservatives and accuse conservatives of being the book burners and the censors and the one's denying free speech." He bellows about evil liberals being the ones censoring the poor ex-gay voice, anti-condom-using abstinence education, and Intelligent Design theory in schools. "Those people are silenced!" boils the Fearless Defender of the Faith. "You talk about irony!"
My response: "Do we let Scientologists come into our schools and teach that we all evolved from volcanoes?"
His response: "Teaching that we all evolved from rock and sand, you don't think that's mythology? 'Cause that's what's being taught in our schools right now. We all evolved from rocks. Rocks and sand! Do you think that's mythology or do you think that's sound science?"
Summary of Applied Punditry Tactic: There's nothing pretty about Christian sarcasm.
It shows weakness if the host gives in to any points of the opposition. Combat this by being really patronizing while cutting off the guest.
"Would Jesus want his message to be told through people being hit in the back of the head with chairs?" I question about the Christian Wrestling Federation (they body-slam for Jesus).
"Let me answer the question. I don't have a problem with that as long they don't get into too much gore."
"What about Christian black metal -- the heaviest of heavy metal?"
"I'm not a fan personally." Dutko worries Christians may cross over to mainstream devil-worshipping heavy metal.
"So would you not see the satire and irony and humor in that?" I ask.
"Weeeeelll, see now, I don't get the irony 'cause ..."
"You just mentioned the irony."
"Hold on a second here ..."
"What about Christian hardcore punk? Punk originated as anti-establishment, anti-religion. Now it's used to spread the word of Jesus. Would you find anything funny in that?"
One thing Bob Dutko does find funny: "I've poked fun at Promise Keepers from time to time." Explanation: "Sometimes it gets around to guys in a circle of five crying on each other's shoulders. I've poked fun before, saying they turn into Promise Weepers. That's not a good rally if somebody doesn't cry."
My response: "So you're saying Promise Keepers are the only Christian arena I'm able to poke fun at?!"
"I don't have a problem with you poking fun at it."
Summary of Applied Punditry Tactic: Promise Keepers cry like girls, so it's OK to satirize them.
Pose a large, extreme question in the last few seconds that can't possibly be answered articulately with time running out, thus making the guest seem incompetent at the closing.
Sixty seconds left and Bob Dutko has an argumentative epiphany: "Why should the Promise Keepers be criticized for their supposed oppression of women when in Islam and throughout the Middle East women are treated far worse than anything the Promise Keepers do?"
He asks: "Do you find it ironic that Promise Keepers is made out to be this anti-women group?!"
"So, wait, you're giving me 30 seconds to give a little soundbite on that?"
"Mr. Leon, I know we don't see eye-to-eye, but I do appreciate your willingness to come on and go round and round on some of these issues."
"I would suggest before you have someone on as a guest, maybe read something they've written."