If you're like me, you came up with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Michael (Weiner) Savage. There are others of course, but these are the ones that jump most readily to my mind.
Some of the things all of these people have in common are:
- A penchant for saying outrageously offensive things about people they view as "the enemy." Especially if they have just written a book or have something to promote.
- A knee-jerk tendency to defend conservatives, no matter what they have done.
- An opposite but even more intense tendency to attack liberals, no matter what they have--or haven't--done.
- A built-in but seldom commented upon hypocrisy in squaring the last two items.
- Most offensively, a lack of respect for their audience's intelligence. They'll misdirect, take things out of context, twist and distort--anything to make their point.
But there is no counterpart to that first list, not really. The biggest names might be people like Michael Moore, and Hollywood entertainers like Barbara Streisand, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. But there is no liberal Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh.
More importantly, there is a profound difference in tactics. Let's take the liberal radio hosts for example. Randi Rhodes is arguably the closest to the right-winger radio host in style. She's loud, very opinionated, and uses the coarsest language. She might get something wrong on occasion. She probably picks topics that play to her audience, and ignores those that don't. But Randi--even when she's in a fiercely bad mood--does not do any of the things I listed for the right wingers.
I've never heard Thom Hartmann jump to the defense of a liberal who's done something vile. I've never heard Rachel Maddow attack a Republican by ginning up some nonsense story. And I've never seen Stephanie Miller caught in her 16th "career ending" vile reference to 9/11 war widows, or saying that Jews need "perfecting."
By and large, there is an near absence of mean-spiritedness from the left's punditry. There are exceptions, of course. But everyone in my conservative list is guilty of it, in abundance. So, while there is no liberal Rush or Ann, it is also true that the right has no one as hilarious as Stephanie Miller. No one as affable as Rachel Maddow. No one as thoughtful as Thomm Hartmann. What the right has is name recognition.
So, I'm doing my (admittedly small) part to promote the left's punditry. They deserve it.