Tempest June 2005

A Letters Exchange

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Why Marc Cooper ("Thinking of Jackasses," April Atlantic) refers to Al Franken as a "showbiz clown" is puzzling. Once a clown, Franken is now dead serious (and often funny), and right on the political mark. David Foster Wallace's prediction ("Host," April Atlantic) that Air America and Ed Schultz "are not likely to succeed" is equally questionable. A ringing response to the dire need for the kind of radio Franken and Schultz give us is building, because they are committed to the truth of what is really going on. They are serious critics, urging us to cry for a wake-up call. They do their homework, always correct themselves when they are wrong, conduct informed interviews, and never muffle dissenting voices.

Franken, Schultz, Randi Rhodes, and their core group provide a compelling challenge to the prevalent right-wing invective on talk radio. If hand-wringing Democrats listen, maybe we can get somewhere.

Elizabeth Van Deusen
Riverside, Calif.

Marc Cooper replies:
Elizabeth Van Deusen doesn't know how correct she really is. Her appraisal of Al Franken and Air America as providers of the "ringing response" to a "dire need," with a commitment "to the truth of what is really going on," clearly evidence the sort of self-referential, therapeutic view of politics now prevalent among liberals—just what I described in my review. Van Deusen apparently relies on Franken to tell her what she already suspects: that The Truth Is Out There (even as the Bush administration spends all its waking hours trying to hide it).

If Franken and Co. were truly engaged in effective politics, they wouldn't even be talking to Van Deusen and her fellow liberals but, instead, directing their spiel over their heads at the uninitiated and uncommitted.

Having forced myself to listen to several hours' worth of Air America, I would say that Franken, Rhodes, Schultz, and Janeane Garofalo are, more than "dead serious," simply—in radio terms—deadly. Smug, self-satisfied, and morally superior, they play directly into the Limbaugh-O'Reilly caricature by giving the Democrats the voice—if not the face—of a claque of shrill, spoiled performers and clowns.

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