Conversation- The Lost Art

We have destroyed a five thousand year old tradition. For all that time, we humans passed along information through conversations among ourselves and within groups whether those groups were a tribe, town, neighborhood, school, family gathering or the dinner table. In the West, that’s over. Discourse and conversations, if they can even be termed that, now happen through advanced technology and digital media. Human to human exchange is gone..replaced with human to human by way of digital media and rapidly evolving technology.And yet, with all of the digital media content out there, radio and podcasts still have a massive grip on the consumer. Why? Because we’re HUMAN and the spoken word with its corresponding human emotion will always hold our attention. Its how we’re wired.

The longevity of radio is a testament to the power of words as well as the ability to educate and entertain. Some of the highest paid entertainers and talk show hosts in the world are on radio. The incomes of Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck verify this fact.

In some ways this result is odd because people on television have a huge advantage over radio due to better distribution systems, higher production quality and larger staffing. Yet they can barely hold on. Further, they have the ability to use and manipulate their audience with images. None-the-less, those “celebrities” or media darlings still can’t command the size audience that a great radio show can. Rachel Maddow is one of the highest rated cable TV shows, with an audience of four million viewers and the power of NBC behind her. Yet Rush Limbaugh, essentially a one man show, consistently pulls in over 25 million listeners a week.

A radio host has only his or her words to convey their message. Because of this, radio hosts are forced to be concise, clear and on-point at all times. In radio all faults, foibles and illogical statements are exposed as they occur. Radio hosts debate listeners and adversaries alike to get their point across which is why only the best speakers thrive in such an unforgiving medium.

Both of us listen to talk radio, especially Conservative talk radio.  We see why so many of the hosts are successful. They have the ability to converse, influence and explain very complicated matters in easy-to-understand terms. At first glance it  appears they are uniquely qualified to speak on these matters or have some special talent that allows them to.  The reality is that most benefit from having had a family structure where conversation and discourse was encouraged and enforced.

Take the case of Rush Limbaugh. He was an unremarkable student in the lower grades and did not go to college. He does not have a law, or any other, advanced degree. Even his employment history leaves a lot to be desired. For the most part, he had mid-to-low-level jobs at which he toiled for years. What Limbaugh did have was a stable family and an inquisitive father who took the time to educate his children. His father was a lawyer and judge.  Meal times were a family affair where hour long conversations about politics took place. His father would discuss many of the cases he worked on and how those cases, and their outcomes, related to society at-large. Civics, history and Constitutional Law were common topics of conversation and were so detailed that Limbaugh felt he received the best education just sitting at home! Although he was not academically gifted, what he did have was a love of radio and the ability to speak well. His ability to make an argument, explain the basis for his position and defend his ideas were challenged and refined every day of his youth at the dinner table.

Michael Savage is another example. A radio host with a vast following, Savage has said on numerous occasions that his time around the dinner table is what trained him for his career in radio. Although he has multiple degrees and is highly educated, Savage says that what fine-tuned his views on life were the hours spent with his mother.  She was a Russian immigrant who would gather with other women from the community and talk well into the night. As a child, Savage was not excused from these gatherings but instead was “forced” to hear them every night. These conversations helped shape him and his ability to critically think. He began to understand and view America from the eyes of immigrants: the hopes and dreams of what the United States offered from their perspective. A window into the world that other Americans could never understand.

Think about it. Two of the most influential men in radio and political analysis got the majority of their training around a dinner table! Not through textbooks, universities or television. Such is the power of family and spending time together engaged in meaningful and thoughtful conversation in a safe but challenging environment.

Today, as a father of six, I (Steve) know my kids benefit immensely from hearing my wife’s stories about growing up in South America. Latinos have a vivid way of speaking that sparks the imagination. Their stories are imbued with faith and mysticism.  I’ve worked in sales but my wife can tell a story much better than I ever could! I thank God our kids are reaping the rewards of hearing and seeing this county (as did Savage) through the eyes of an immigrant whose stories drive home   the truly extraordinary possibilities and benefits available here that can be found nowhere else.

As a mother, lawyer and former talk radio host, I (Carole) was raised in a home such as were both Limbaugh and Savage. Our dinner table was where heated and diverse opinions were shared and challenged. I learned early on to think critically and to be articulate if I hoped to be taken seriously. In many ways, it was the foundational training ground I needed to go on to both the practice of law and talk radio.

The technological advances have helped our children in many ways. But those raised with it, in the absence of sufficient human interaction, will be the first generation educated primarily by a digital medium rather than the spoken word. Our world has always been shaped by ideas. As a culture, we tend to move in the direction of the ones that are most convincing  not necessarily best.

In the recently released book, “Stealing Fire” authors Stephen Kotler and Jamie Wheal analyze “The Flow…that part of the brain where creative problem solving resides. Whether using meditation, prayer or drugs (Silicon Valley execs are now daily taking LSD and mescaline to enhance flow), time spent in that state exponentially enhances, by as much as 500%, creative thinking; but, it also shuts down the prefrontal cortex where critical thinking occurs. Since the power of great oratory has the ability to also move the masses into the flow (think Jesus, Hitler, Martin Luther King) it simultaneously causes critical thinking to shut down…which is why oratory must be accompanied by an intent to do good by the speaker as well as be critically evaluated by the listener.

It isn’t that our future will not be peppered with great orators. The danger lies in the capacity and developed ability of generations, raised without the benefits of intellectually challenging family life and reduced human interaction, to be able to discern between a well-intentioned leader and a despot.

sleeclark@gmail.com   contact@carolegold.com

The Real Fear About Donald Trump

With the primary elections in full gear, we have seen a full blown assault by the left and right against one man: Donald Trump. The government complex is becoming fearful that the American public is waking up. The powers that have been are worried what a Trump presidency would mean for them.

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Donald Trump, if true to his word, would get rid of the leviathan government that now exists. What he represents is the death of entrenched power for both political parties.

Many Conservative voters seem to be cheering his rise in the polls; but it was only a few years ago that his views were more aligned with Democrats. He was pro-abortion, pro-socialized healthcare and pro-eminent domain.  Since then, he seems to have undergone a transformation… moving from left to right on the political spectrum Normally, Conservatives would not warm up to such a candidate, but many are embracing him as a savior for the Republican party. Or maybe Trump has had an awakening to the monstrosity that government has become and knows if something is not done quickly, the country is surely doomed. Other Conservative voters wonder if this has been a true transformation or, rather, a political ploy by Trump to garner votes.

The reality is that there has been a groundswell of  anger against Obama over the last eight years. One only needs to look at the last two midterm elections to see that many Americans had become unhappy with the direction in which the country is headed. The two midterm elections in 2010 and 2014 gave a large number of party seats to the Conservative movement. The 2014 election being one of the most decisive wins for the party.  As is stands today, the Democrat Party has the least number of representatives since the Civil War.

Yet, nothing has changed. The Republican Party, for whatever reason, has not provided any meaningful opposition to this Administration;  thus, the rise of Donald Trump.

Part of the problem over the last fifty years has been the explosive growth of the size and scope of government. Oddly enough, it was a former U.S. President who began to warn the people about one aspect of the problem.  In the 1950’s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the rise of the military industrial complex. Given the amount of business interests that are served by war, combined with government’s penchant for war and nation building, the combination has resulted in countless military conflicts and wars, resulting in the wars that have ransacked the public coffers.

Since President Eisenhower left office (leaving those prescient comments) the U.S. has been involved in Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, Liberia, Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Just think about the amount of supplies, infrastructure and money required to fund all these operations. Its easy to see the tremendous amounts of money to be made by people and companies involved in sustaining conflict.  Currently, we have 294 U.S. embassies  throughout the world. Each embassy is equipped with a detachment of U.S Marines. We have massive military bases in Germany, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea just to name a few.  We have aircraft carriers and battleships  that continually roam the sea lanes throughout the world. The tab is enormous! With a 19 trillion dollar deficit, it is logical to conclude that this type of global presence is unsustainable. But until that day comes, remember all those individuals and companies making a ton of money funding these misadventures. So while its is safe to assume that most Americans are opposed to war, with so many people benefiting economically more conflicts are bound to emerge.

In the 1990’s it was Michael Savage who began to warn us of the government media complex. I understand that the media is not directly involved in the size of government; but without the scrutiny of media’s watchful eye government has gotten bigger.  Savage warned his listeners that the relationship between the two entities’ interests were becoming too closely aligned and that media had, in the process,  abdicated its proper role as a watchdog.  Remember, it was a small obscure website at the time, www.drudgrerport.com and not the mainstream media, that broke the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal. Newsweek, at the time a major news magazine, knew about the story weeks before hand but decided not to publish the story  (As a side note Newsweek no longer publishes its physical magazine but has its online presence as “The Daily Beast”).

As the government became more adept at controlling the media, the government began controlling and selling access to it as well. The Clinton Administration was the first to figure this out. It started renting out the Lincoln bedroom to the highest bidder as a way to raise funds. With the press under control they became easier to manipulate. The relationship now between government and media is more symbiotic in nature, with both parties partaking of a revolving door where employment is concerned.or jobs.  Look at this small sample of people who have worked for the media and the government:

  • Diane Sawyer worked for Richard Nixon then worked as the top reporter for CBS and ABC.
  • George Stephanopulos use to work in the Clinton Administration, is a Democrat operative and now works for ABC.
  • The late Tony Snow was a Fox contributor and then worked for the Bush administration.
  • Brian Steel from CNBC, who recently organized the much maligned Republican debate, worked for years in the Clinton Administration.
  • Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, is an NBC journalist.
  • Monica Crowley, a former Nixon assistant, now works as a Fox News contributor.

In the last year alone the facade of objective news has been cracked.  ABC News was called to task for being less than truthful when reporting the scandals at The Clinton Foundation. George Stephanopulos, a top reporter, also  made financial contributions to the Foundation yet failed to disclose this fact when reporting news stories about the Clintons.  CNBC was roundly criticized for the treatment of the Republican candidates for the debate. It should have been no no shock as one of the coordinators of the debate, Brian Steel, had worked for years in the Clinton Administration.

There is no check on the government. Media is in bed with government and together they cut deals that benefit one another. Ratings and access are more important and so the public is not privy to the full picture where political reporting is concerned. The only loser is the American public.

This incestuous relationship is not limited to the media. Wall Street has now become another area where the government has extended its presence.  In this case, it was Wall Street that sought out the government largess. Top officials at the large, private banks and government regularly trade jobs…going back and forth from the public to private sectors padding their resumes and making millions as the go.  Wall Street veterans will pay to gain government access on issues such as taxation, regulation, and trade.  Inside information on matters pertaining to these areas are highly valued by Wall Street and can turn into millions of dollars in profit. In addition, finance professionals will enter the government to build up a contact list of high placed government and foreign officials. They then monetize those contacts once they return to Wall Street.

As much as the government-media complex continues to tell us things are improving, the American people know it isn’t so. The real fear is that electing an outsider, someone not beholden to the insiders, will cause the whole charade to come tumbling down.

If the media wasn’t so focused on tearing down Trump and actually did their job investigating and reporting the underlying causes of American voter frustration and rage, Trump would not be so popular. The reason why Trump is so popular is because he is a reaction to the Obama Administration and the media types who continue to sell us on the narrative that things are going great.

In the early 1990’s Rush Limbaugh and Conservative media took off because their voices had not been heard for a very long time. Trump is taping into the renewed surfacing of that same frustration and the very real monstrosity of government growth.

Greater than the fear the American public has for the future of this country is the fear by government, media and Wall Street that the gravy train is grinding to a halt.  An outsider like Trump (or someone like Cruz who refuses to get on board the train) is their greatest nightmare come true.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com