What is Going on with Talk Radio? A Convert’s Perspective.

I wasn’t always liberal. There was a time when I was a “ditto-head.”

Being fully absorbed by Talk Radio culture during my childhood has given me a unique perspective on something that is often treated as a side-show, but is actually having a shockingly large impact upon American culture and the future of our democracy.

– J

  8 comments for “What is Going on with Talk Radio? A Convert’s Perspective.

  1. Chuck Bowen
    June 27, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    I echo your story, or considering my vastly longer time on earth, it’s more likely that you echo mine. I was raised across the 1950’s and 60’s in a fundamentalist church. Church activities nearly every day, weeks of summer camp spent memorizing scripture and its application in daily life, and early entry into seminary classes helped me accept my mother’s vision that God had chosen me for a life as an evangelist.

    Unfortunately for my father but fortunately for me, he suffered a major heart attack near the end of my senior year in high school. Suddenly, my only path to higher education existed only in scholarships to a public university. Despite my family’s dire warnings and being introduced to on-campus Christian groups, I gradually became aware of the non-rational basis of my family’s insulated faith. I critically re-examined the church’s support of Goldwater and John Birch, as well as its denial of evolution and separation of (the correct) religion from governance.

    For several years I lived a crisis of faith expressed in rebellious behavior and joining outlying religious groups. After living through an anti-cult intervention staged by my family and church, I realized the gap between what my family believed and the world as I’d come to know it. I spoke the necessary words to escape deprogramming and was joyously released as again being saved.

    As you experienced, when my family and friends realized that the intervention had failed, they rejected not only my new thoughts, but also me. Shunning is probably too extreme a term, but after a decade of near isolation my mother invited me back into the fold with the rationale that, ‘Since we won’t be spending eternity with you, we’ll spend time with you now.’

    After graduate and doctoral studies in social/clinical psychology, I recognize the effects of tribal thinking and cultural cognition in my family and its history. Thar recognition did little to the lessen the impact of being rejected at the time, nor the current temptation to ‘reason’ with my relatives. My visual and physical afflictions (genetics will out in the end) limit my ability to effectively engage our post truth society. So I delight in what you do.

    All said, I resonate with your story and respect the things you and Zee are doing to bring enlightened abd critical thinking to the study of both history and and current events.

    Congratulations on your citizenship anniversary and best wishes for you impending marriage.

  2. Lindsay
    June 28, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your story in this episode Jamie. The authenticity shone through and as critical thinkers we should always be asking where the people we listen to are coming from. I think your story is an important one in our time.
    It resonated with me, even though I’m halfway across the world. I’m an anti-Brexit Brit struggling this past year with older members of my family who have the opposite view. They think higher education turned me into a ‘loony lefty’!
    Thanks for your story. Keep up the great work.

  3. Jeff Millett
    June 30, 2017 at 1:22 am

    Thank you Jamie! Love your show!

    Education too eroded most all of my Young Republican world views, in my case, many decades ago. For me, education also shattered my fundamentalist Christianity leaving me a closeted non-theist. However, I got married decades before I dared share my aberrant views so all my family came to the wedding. That would not be the case if the wedding were held today.

    I’m sad for you and your dad but unfortunately i can relate. After just one frank, and I thought cordial, conversation, my brother, who was my best man at my wedding, and I are no longer on speaking terms.

  4. RcCarol
    June 30, 2017 at 3:37 am

    Your story really resonated with me. I am so sorry that your father has taken the path he has. That must be very hard for you. It seems so many families have been affected by this election. Congratulations on becoming a citizen – glad that you can participate in voting! And good luck with wedding planning.

  5. Tim
    July 3, 2017 at 5:34 am

    Thank you for your story. Your experience is similar to mine. I listened to Rush until I was in my 20s (I even called into conservative talk shows). When I went to university and was exposed to new ideas, I started to think deeply about my beliefs and if I had any justification for them. I went from fundamentalist, baptist, creationist and “ditto-head” to a left-leaning atheist & PhD candidate studying evolutionary biology (systematics & molecular phylogenetics). When you start to pull the string on your unjustified foundational beliefs, they just all start unraveling. Of course, my relationships with my family have been damaged. Luckily, I still have contact with my mom and dad (my daughter is their only grandchild), but other family members are another story. They just aren’t interested in learning or examining what they believe and why. They only want to hear that which already confirms their beliefs. It makes any communication difficult.

  6. mwr
    July 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Dear Jaime,
    Thank you for sharing your story. Interestingly, I had the opposite experience with my upbringing and family. I come from a very liberal secular Jewish family and was raised with liberal and socialist views. Then I went to college at a large university and despite a science track, I made time to take classes in history, English to challenge myself to write and think critically. In brief, I was exposed to the dark side of liberalism: Anti-Semitism, intolerance and people who threatened me when my viewpoints differed. I witnessed a close friend of mine was threatened by Arab students who told her she had no right to live in Israel. They ignored her when she drily remarked that she is an eighth-generation Palestinian-Israeli.

    A story that points to the problems that I experienced: I was at a Passover Seder where an elderly Economics professor shared history of his escape from Hungary within an inch of his life. (I had read The Bridge at Andau when I was in Middle School about the Hungarian Revolution by James Michener). He found it ironic that he was now a professor in a department where the younger professors were Marxist and was frustrated by being isolated by their politics.

    When I graduated, and connected some dots, I became more conservative. I was fed up by the narrow minded bigotry and intolerance from what should be an academic university.

    These days I no longer know what it means to be a Republican. I hate labels since there are issues where I am very left of center (Civil rights, Climate Change) and areas where I am right of center (economics). I try to base my opinions on history, information and not from CNN/Fox. Even the New York Times can get stories dead wrong. We need to read critically and have reasoned opinions, and accept that issues are complex once and not solved with a platitude.

    I hope your podcasts reflect problems from both the liberal and conservative sides. The point is to think critically and learn how to distinguish history from propaganda.

    Congratulations on your citizenship and look forward to future podcasts.

    • Jamie Jeffers
      July 19, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience.

      The false equivalency here is incredible, though. One story about a classmate from your full life experience isn’t the same as the daily barrage from talk radio, brietbart, drudge, etc.

      If the left had a full media apparatus with as much influence as the right does, perhaps. But there’s no org like Fox and Talk Radio spouting (for example) separatist rhetoric all day every day on the left.

      These aren’t the same thing. Because I talked about Rush and the obvious influence dittoheads have had on right wing politics and the GOP in general, doesn’t mean I have to talk about that one classmate of yours from decades ago. Come on, you know these things aren’t equal.

      Furthermore, your example has to do with the politics of Israel and you’re trying to imply that there’s some sort of monolithic view among liberals about that. There isn’t, despite the propaganda on the right about that. And even if there was, I’m betting that the person from your college days wasn’t authorized to be a spokesperson for all liberals.

      Also Marx isn’t feared by younger generations, not because of some terrifying wickedness within the young, but because younger people have read him rather than just using his name as an epithet.

      And while I’m on a roll, I hope you’re mischaracterizing your professor friend because any good academic knows that opposing views aren’t isolating. If he’s offended by the presence of people who have different thoughts on economics, then maybe academia isn’t for him.

      • mwr
        July 19, 2017 at 8:32 pm

        I think you are missing the point here– I am merely pointing out that the university experience and critical thinking pointed me into a different direction.

        Sure, but the conservative side is not monolithic either. I am from Massachusetts where we had Republican role models such as Mitt Romney, Francis Sargent, John Volpe. Not all conservatives are ditto-heads and not all liberals are either.

        No not all liberals have the same politics (duh) about Israel– read Phyllis Chesler!

        I think we need to back away from those labels of liberal and conservative because it puts some of us into boxes where we simply don’t fit.

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