Friday, October 27, 2006

Channel Surfing

It's "pledge drive" time again at NPR. Getting more than a little tired of listening to the personalities at NPR tell me that paying for NPR is a better value than the money I spend on coffee, newspaper subscriptions, or cable (three things I actually don't spend money on, although I'll at least grant that in those cases, it's because I don't use any of those things, whereas I do listen to the radio), and still being unconvinced as to why I should pay to listen to a particular radio station, when most other radio stations make no such requests (yes, I know that it's because other stations pay their bills by doing commercials. Just bear with me.), and getting a bit tired of listening to NPR's particualar spin on current events (even though I usually agree with it), I decided to switch channels.

After a fair bit of channel surfing, I decided to give the local Christian talk radio station another try. This is the station that I used to listen to all the time when I first entered seminary, but after a few years, I decided that I was spending too many mornings in bed yelling at the poor theology of the preacher who did the morning program, and having too many disagreements with the conservative talk program I'd listen to in the evenings, and so I stopped listening to them. It's been a few years now since that time, and the person who did that talk program has since retired, so it seemed worth going back and seeing what they were like these days.

This particular station bills themselves as "the intersection between faith and reason," which is a sentiment I can certainly respect. Unfortunately, I found myself mostly listening to the same "two big issues" that I've associated with conservative Christian movements elsewhere: sexual matters (mostly, what not to do, of course!) and pro-life propaganda (I hasten to add that even those who favor abortions would never consider themselves "pro-death," but I digress). I was especially offended when the host weighed in on the Michael J. Fox/Rush Limbaugh debate. Since I was listening to conversative Christian radio, I wasn't surprised that the host was in favor of Limbaugh's position, but I found it particularly odious that the host would accuse Fox of being dishonest in his public messages supporting certain Democratic politicians. He wasn't saying, as Limbaugh had done, that Fox was necessarily off his medication (although he left that possiblity open), but he did accuse Fox of "acting" by appearing more "out of control" than in any previous appearance (his assertion). I assume that the host failed to see Fox's appearance before Congress, but would otherwise point out that, when Fox has appeared elsewhere, it has usually been in his capacity as an actor, and the camera can edit out most of Fox's less "photogenic" moments. If there's obviously an interest in showing Fox's real condition for a message such as the ones he's been doing, how is that dishonest? But even worse, the host accused Fox of dishonesty because Fox did not explicitly refer to "embryonic" stem cell research in his message. It is true that stem cell research using adult stem cells is not restricted, and that there have been some positive developments out of such research (although I think the host overstated the case more than a bit). It is also true that there is little present evidence that "embryonic" stem cell research would yield advancements that the adult stem cell research can not (of course, part of the reason for this lack of evidence is the lack of research that's been available to date in this area). But I personally fail to see this kind of omission as a dishonest one. The host went so far as to say that, if Fox were honest about his intentions, he'd tell his audience that he favors killing unborn children in favor of the slim possibility that people like Fox might be able to get some help. Frankly, I expect that Fox would be "dishonest" if he said such a ridiculous thing, since I'm sure that Fox does not share the host's assumptions about when life begins.

I also found it odd that the commercials on the station dealt almost exclusively with economic matters. Life insurance, capital investments, charities seeking donations (most of these falling into the "donate your used car" variety, oddly enough), lawyers seeking to help you "get what you deserve" if you've been in an unfortunate situation. I expected more commericials selling actual merchandise, like what I see on TV. I don't know if this is a peculiarity of Christian commercial radio, or of radio in general, but I was surprised nonetheless.

Another station I listened to (although I don't recall the commericals enough from that time to comment) was also a conservative station, although this one was not a religious station. The two hosts of the program I was listening to were talking about the controversy created over the letter sent to Spanish-language speakers in Orange County. Since the time I wrote that blog entry, evidence has surfaced that the letter was sent by a staffer connected to a particular Republican congressional candidate. That candidate denies any knowledge of the letter, and has resisted calls to step out of the election. The talk show hosts were not only in support of the candidate, but because there is a clause at the beginning of the letter (note: is a PDF file) that said "If you are a citizen of the United States, we ask that you participate in the democratic process of voting," they suggested that anybody who was bothered by the clause that followed: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time, and you will be deported for voting without having a right to do so", wasn't paying attention, thereby dismissing anyone who was "scared" by the letter as either illegal themselves (meaning that they should be scared) or stupid. My thought is that the second clause overrides the good intentions of the first, but oh, well. (For the record, the bit about "if... you are an immigrant" is outright wrong, since a citizen could well be an immigrant. The current story is that the language of the letter was the result of an imprecise translation of the original intention from English into Spanish. Let's assume that this is correct. Although there would be nothing legally wrong with a letter that reminded non-citizens that they have not been granted the privilege of voting, it still strikes me as a scare tactic of questionable ethicality, since it could well have the effect of frightening legal citizens out of voting.)

Finally, I found a station that was presenting last night's game of the World Series. Just what I needed. No politics. No heated opinions. Just a good old-fashioned game. I am growing so weary, frankly, of caring about many of the important issues of the day. I don't expect that I will be able to stay away from them for long, because of the sheer fact that I do care about many of these issues so much. But it was good to just relax and listen to a game for a change.

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