Part of being a recovering Catholic means that there are some things that are so drilled into me that I’m not sure they’ll ever go away. I still have a thing for ritual. I still have respect for nuns (especially if they teach. Especially if they teach something other than religion). And I’m still a glutton for punishment. And since self-flagellation isn’t good for the complexion (it might improve circulation, but, oh, those unsightly discipline scars), that means I listen to talk radio instead.
We have a surplus of on-air bile in Los Angeles, but my favorites for when I want to feel the hate are the crew at KFI. I’ve written about them before, though not in detail. The 7pm pass-off from John & Ken to John Ziegler is an especially magical time, like watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham, except the guards have been replaced by drunken Florida State communications majors, the palace is a bar on Wet T-Shirt Night, and the military commands are now a chorus of WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOs and Show us your tits. There’s something about how mean they are and the casual nature of their animosity towards, well, everybody that makes me glad they’re too unambitious to run for office. Because they’d harness the Stupid Hate Vote like nobody’s business.
Last night, however, I got to hear something wondrous: the sound of jackholes eating their own.
I knew yesterday’s date would send KFI (which is also the local Fox affiliate) into some state that embraced “Never Forget” and “America: Fuck, Yeah!” It didn’t disappoint: solemn voiceovers led into replays of frantic news reports from five years ago, which were then followed by spots for sub-prime lending and the shouts of men who are too doughy and cowardly to fight in a war they’re more than happy to have other people fight for them while they stay home and protect America from the onslaught of brown people. I got my fill pretty quickly, but then there was a stirring over the airwaves, portents that some magical thing was going to happen.
John Ziegler was going into his pre-show pitch (please pardon my paraphrasing). “Tonight, we’re gonna talk about two things,” he said, sounding like that one assclown teacher you had who you knew was not only full of shit but was also too thin-skinned to take an argument without slashing grades. “First, why George W. Bush loves illegal immigrants, and by John Kobylt [the John of John & Ken and the more histrionic of the two] is wrong about the war in Iraq.”
Kobylt lost it. He yelled at Ziegler to shut up, that he was wrong, that someone had to either get Ziegler out of there or cut off his mic. And while the producer did cut off Ziegler’s mic, it was too little, too late. Kobylt, a man who sounds like he’s gone through his last good nerve one time too many, just said, “That’s it. Bye.” Or something as curt. Just left the air.
But that wasn’t the magical bit.
After the solemn voiceovers reminding me to never forget (and to tune in because KFI has the most traffic checks on the hour), Ziegler comes on and proceeds to do a twelve minute churn that, if it had been done by, say, John Coltrane on a tenor sax, would have been perfect in its build-up and conclusion. It was a marvel of crescendo and tone, such a stacking of point upon point that I would have been blown away, if only I hadn’t been laughing so hard because Ziegler so full of blind fear and bullshit.
You know the tune: Saddam was evil, the Islamofascists are out to destroy our civilization, 9/11 changed everything, America: fuck, yeah! And through the whole thing, Ziegler’s voice, a voice like a herd of rabid cats dragged across the world’s biggest chalkboard, a voice that must strain beyond the limits set by 80s hair bands, a voice that says “I have had it up to here but I’m too much of an idiot to do anything about it but complain,” that voice cracked. Literally. His vocal chords, strained past their operational parameters over God knows how many nights of bitching about how hard it was to get by as a straight white man in world run by bureaucrats, PC pansies and Mexicans, gave out and broke. John Ziegler screeched about how the war in Iraq was the right thing. I can only imagine the frantic board op playing with mic levels to make sure everything was kosher as the host shrilled like a little boy who’d been told he wasn’t going to get a bicycle for Christmas because he’d broken the previous six by hitting them with a hammer instead of, y’know, riding the damn things.
I don’t like giving into schadenfreude, but, last night, on hearing John Ziegler lose it, I couldn’t help but laugh and laugh and laugh.
And then I played Joe Strummer for the rest of the drive. Seemed appropriate.