Now that I’m a driver, that means I have to fill my commute time with audio. I haven’t gotten around to burning more CDs or buying an iPod, so I’ve settled with radio. Every now and then, when NPR is too busy selling out to Dominionists, I’ll flip around to AM, where I get to listen to the soft underbelly of American middlebrow thought.

After a few weeks of this, I’m convinced that talk radio is a leftover Great Society program that gives the mentally feeble something to do other than stand on streetcorners and play with themselves. And I mean this for both sides of the dial. Air America, KFI, whatever, they all specialize in the same thing: outrage. But it’s a special kind; it’s outrage crescendo.

Start off with listening to a talking head who’s supposed to be the opposite of your political ideals. Don’t listen to the content so much as the tone; notice how, at the end of every commercial break, the talking head will sound relatively calm. Now, listen. As time goes on, the TH’s anger will build, like a teakettle full of fury, getting more and more worked up until, until, until…

Bam. Yelled out talking point. Bumper music. Commercial.

Now, do the same thing with a TH whose philosophy is supposed to be aligned with yours. Again, don’t listen to the content; listen to the tones.

Now, repeat this, but listen to their techniques. Listen to the dropped facts, the generalizations, the demonization of the Other, the Righteousness of Us, the victimization and the calls for vengeance and the verbal shrug of “Hey, what do I know?” You will realize that talk radio is mental poison, plain and simple. It is not informative; it just breeds contempt and complacency.

Which is all the more reason to demand public transit so you can sit and read.