What a moment it was, 6:55 pm today, when I heard arch-conservative talk show host Lars Larson call in to Randi Rhodes’ arch-liberal Air America radio program. Lars and Randi are two of the most irritating people on radio, proving that pomposity, big egos, impoliteness, and ill-informed opinions can be found equally on both the left and right sides of the dial.
Lars phoned to tease Randi about being “punked” by her guest the preceding hour, Patti Smith (the singer). I didn’t hear all of the interview, but got in on the end of it. They were talking about Ralph Nader, who Patti said was a friend of hers. Patti was miffed that Randi said, “Ralph Nader doesn’t care about anything except himself.” (All quotes just my best recollections, of course).
Patti didn’t want to talk more about Nader, but Randi kept pressing her about why he hadn’t formed a political party during the past four years, if he was so concerned about changing America. Patti kept defending Nader in a calm and collected fashion, while Randi did her usual high-pitched, sarcastic, talk-over-anyone-who-doesn’t-agree-with-you thing.
Then a “thunk” was heard, and Randi said, “Oh, Patti is pissed at me. She just threw down her headphones.”
Soon Patti came back on the radio and spoke about how emotional Randi was about Nader, and how much that bothered her when she expected to be treated better as a guest. Randi then proceeded to rant and rave about how she wasn’t being emotional at all, that she was just expressing her rational, factual opinion, and that Patti was the emotional one because she was Nader’s friend.
That led to another “thunk,” which apparently was the studio door slamming as Patti left in a huff. Can’t blame her. After listening to Randi Rhodes, an ardent Kerry supporter, I almost felt like voting for Nader myself.
Just before the 7:00 pm break Lars Larson made his call. I can’t imagine why Air America put him on the air, because Randi Rhodes didn’t come off very well in the interchange. Lars’ opening words were, “I just wanted to call in about Patti Smith punking you on the air.” (“Punk’d” is a MTV show that sets up celebrities in embarrassing situations and then films them as they react).
He added, “And why do you have such a thing about my gun?” (Larson is a notorious concealed weapon carrier and must have had a previous run-in with Randi about this). Randi said, “As a girl I like men to have their gun in front, not in back.” Larson replied, “I’ve got a gun in both places.” Sweet! I wanted this catty interchange to go on forever. Sadly, Randi started talking over Lars, just as Lars does so often with those who call in to his show, and soon she hung up on him.
With the airwaves all to her own massive ego, she ended the hour with a pathetic, self-absorbed monologue directed at the person she didn’t have the guts to talk to directly: “Lars, I’m beating you in your time slot in Portland. You’re toast. You’re history. Conservative talk radio is dead. It’s a dinosaur. It’s over, Lars, admit it.” And so on. And so on. Until, blessedly, the hourly news.
At that moment I said to myself, “A pox on both your houses.” Randi Rhodes and Lars Larson, along with Michael Savage, represent the worst in American talk radio: divisive, shrill, uninformed. I listen to Randi a lot more than Lars, because I generally agree with Air America’s liberal positions. But when I heard Randi rail on one day about how there was more torture in the Abu Ghraib prison than in Saddam Hussein’s regime, I was convinced that this woman was as half-blind with her left eye as Larson and Savage are with their right eyes.
Laurel and I have been getting to the point where we can barely stand to listen to Randi Rhodes. After I heard her trash and insult Patti Smith this evening, I’m over that point—at least until, as a good liberal, I decide to give Randi another chance. At the least, I’m going to write Air America and plead that she be given another time slot, like 2:00 am to 5:00 am.
If I were an undecided voter and tuned in to Air America to learn more about how a Kerry supporter sees the world, a few minutes with Randi Rhodes would make me want to turn to the right side of the dial. When you preach solely to the choir, you’re not going to be persuading new singers to join up. Especially not Patti Smith, that’s for sure.