What makes Medved an exception? For one thing, he frequently has guests on his shows. This in itself is not unusual at all; all the other hosts I just mentioned welcome multiple guests to their shows every day, excluding Limbaugh, who nearly never has guests and often goes long stretches without even taking calls from listeners. The only guests of note Limbaugh has welcomed on his show in the past few years have been members of the Bush administration, most frequently Dick Cheney or Karl Rove, and the interviews were not exactly confrontational. What makes Medved special is that he not only features guests on his program, but often invites people who disagree with him on to debate an issue, effectively turning half the segment over to the guest and almost always giving their viewpoint equal time.
That’s a big thing for me, because intelligent discussion of a disagreed-upon topic has all but gone the way of the dinosaurs in American media. Presidential debates are little more than intricately staged fashion shows. News on cable television is dominated by blustering narcissists like Bill O’Reilly (who also has a radio show, which airs right before Medved’s in my hometown), who react to opposing opinions like petulant children who are being forced to share their toys. Even Keith Olbermann, whose show Countdown I enjoy, rarely welcomes guests who disagree with him and allows them to have an exchange of ideas. Medved does that constantly. And not just with high profile guests; also with callers. He regularly designates a show to be “Disagreement Day,” and encourages listeners who disagree with him to call in and have their voices heard. With nearly every other radio talk show hosted by egomaniacs and demagogues, Medved’s openness to opposing viewpoints and eagerness to debate are like a cool breeze on a hot summer day.
Medved is also a tireless attacker and debunker of conspiracy theories, a topic near and dear to my own heart. Every full moon he devotes an entire show to “Conspiracy Day,” welcoming calls from 9/11 Truthers, anti-New World Order crusaders, and rabid opponents of the supposedly imminent North American Union. Medved guts and discredits these conspiracy theories not by belittling the people who believe them, but by merely asking callers to account for why they believe, for instance, that the government has built concentration camps in secret locations all over the U.S. and is planning one day to round up and imprison the entire population. Here’s a recent example (though this one came on Disagreement Day, not Conspiracy Day) of what I mean:
BOB (CALLER): Experts from the demolition field have gone on record saying that WTC 7 was not brought down by a fire, but fell as a result of a controlled demolition!
MEDVED: No serious expert from the demolition field has ever said that. And besides, what would be the benefit of knocking down WTC 7 five hours after the fall of the Twin Towers?
BOB: To provoke and enrage the people!
MEDVED: The people weren’t sufficiently enraged already? By the destruction of the Twin Towers, the deaths of 3,000 people, the plane that smashed into the Pentagon?
BOB: It wasn’t a plane that smashed into the Pentagon — it was a missile. That hole could not have possibly been made by an airplane.
MEDVED: Okay, well, who fired the missile?
BOB: Talk to the CIA about that.
MEDVED: (PAUSE) . . . Bob?
BOB: Yes sir?
MEDVED: Did we land on the Moon?
BOB: No sir, we did not!
MEDVED: Of course we didn’t . . .
Sean Hannity hangs up on nutjobs who call him to rant and rave about the Federal Reserve or the Trilateral Commission; Medved regularly turns his show over to them, knowing that, given enough rope, nearly all conspiracy theorists wind up hanging themselves. Just yesterday he spent an hour of his three-hour broadcast talking about 9/11 Truther and all-around lunatic Alex Jones, and a frequent guest of Jones’s radio show, Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. Medved is also a frequent critic of Jerome Corsi and his website, which Medved refers to as “WorldNut Daily.”
So Michael, if you read this (and I’m considering emailing you a copy), I’m sorry for including you on my list of people who should die of AIDS. You still come off as smug and condescending sometimes, I still think you’re a terrible film critic, I still disagree with you emphatically on an awful lot of things (gay marriage, the war in Iraq, religion), I still think you have a dismaying tendency to be a cheerleader for the Republican Party, and every time you appear as a guest on CNN Headline News with that infuriating moron Glenn Beck I think I die a little inside. But despite all that, I was wrong about you. You’re open to opposing viewpoints and new ideas when most of your colleagues in talk radio have forgotten that such things even exist, and you do a great service to us all by exposing and discrediting misleading movements like 9/11 Truth and others championed by the Alex Joneses and Jerome Corsis of the world. You haven’t persuaded me to agree with any more of your politics than what little I did already, but you have converted me from a snide critic to an admiring listener. You’re one of the good guys. Keep up the good work.