Ears Wide Shut: Epistemological Populism, Argutainment and Canadian Conservative Talk Radio

From an academic paper in 2011:

* For many people, radio has a slightly anachronistic air about it. Perceived as technologically inferior to image-based media and less serious than textual media, radio is often ignored as a marginal and ephemeral medium
with little enduring political significance.

* we have examined the rhetorical strategies of Adler On Line (AOL), the pre-eminent commercial PTR program in Canada. While our analysis has revealed many interesting findings, in this article we have chosen to focus on two elements which we believe are both noteworthy and previously unexplored. The first section of this article argues that the program’s rhetorical practices establish a specific epistemological framework we call epistemological populism, since it employs a variety of populist rhetorical tropes to define certain types of individual experience as the only ground of valid and politically relevant knowledge. We suggest that this epistemology has significant political impacts insofar as its epistemic inclusions and exclusions make certain political positions appear self-evident and others incomprehensible and repugnant.

In the second section, we argue that the style of debate as performed and enforced by the host serves to privilege political speech which is passionate, simple and entertaining. More importantly, however, we show that this style, which we call argutainment, plays a key role in helping establishing the political preferences and views privileged by the program. The article closes with a speculative conclusion in which we identify some of the potential theoretical, political and normative implications of our findings.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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