America’s Best Chance for Gold, Rush or Howie?

What if there was an Outrage Media Olympics? Who would bring home the gold in events like radio talking, op-ed writing, cable TV news analysis, and political blogging? Who would lead the American team? Would left wing bloviators, feeling out gunned, form their own team; the Anti-American Outrage Media team?

Let’s take a look at the American talent in the biathlon of the Outrage Media Olympics, the radio talk/op-ed writing event. Who would be America’s best in this event? Many would, no doubt, look to America’s sweetheart, Rush Limbaugh as our top gun in this event. In their excellent book about outrage media Berry and Sobieraj credit Rush with essentially inventing the outrage talk formula. But is the father of modern outrage media really America’s best chance for Gold? I think a case could be made that our own Howie Carr is America’s best outrage radio talker/op-ed writer.

Limbaugh’s shtick may still be a winning formula; but I think the old man has lost a step. I for one don’t see his many missteps of late as merely “flukes.” Rush has a soft schedule; his audience is too easy. Howie Carr, on the other hand, weaves his demagogic magic in the bright blue heart of the “People’s Republic of Massachusetts.” Howie has to keep ’em coming back despite the fact that almost every liberal he attacks wins anyway.

Carr’s latest screed, for example, tees up the outgoing two-term Democratic governor, Deval Patrick. Under the heading “The worst Guv ever! Let me count the ways” Carr deftly employs the “parade of horribles” technique against a popular governor whose actual tenure will very likely win more applause than guffaws. With the certain knowledge that most Bay Staters see him as a comedian and a buffoon, Carr soldiers on with the dedication and work ethic you’d expect from an Olympic hopeful fighting against long odds. In this particular parade of horribles Carr delights the crowd with some very creative floats and charismatic marchers celebrating the Guv’s incompetence and/or corruption.

The New England Compounding Center float includes an intricate depiction of the Guv pouring a bottle of pills down the throats of 64 victims made entirely out of the dreams of school children from broken homes. Annie Dookhan, marching in a lovely orange jump suit festooned with “Patrick for Prez” stickers and buttons, is flanked by DCF employees who appear to be having trouble finding their way (I think they helped built the NECC float). A nattily dressed Mitt Romney impersonator rides in an expensive convertible with a sign saying that the unemployment rate was lower when he was going up and down in his private State House elevator. The Ex-Guv’s convertible is followed by a much less expensive flatbed truck carrying two dozen now unemployed former Walmart greeters and Chick-fil-A cashiers wearing T-shirts celebrating Gov. Patrick’s increase in the state’s sales tax. Marching unusually close to the flatbed’s rear exhaust pipes, is a group of masked alcoholics thanking the Guv for his support of an increase in the state alcohol tax with signs that say “nice try.” Marching behind the alcoholics (at a safe distance) is a lively band of Muslim terrorists railing against American decadence and boasting loudly about their friend, ally, and fellow Muslim Deval Patrick. The last group of marchers, who appear to be tasked with cleaning up after the parade, are a motley crew of incompetent Patrick appointees expressing their gratitude by waiving signs that say “we made these signs on state time with state resources.” What a show! Fans will be talking about this one for months.

Carr’s ability to entertainingly trash liberal pols and policies without even a nod to logic, context, or reasonableness is simply unparalleled. Rush relies on the very low brow tastes of his “Dittoheads.” Carr has to sell his wares in a much less friendly marketplace. There’s no way Carr could get away with saying that a gay NFL prospect represents an attack on heterosexuals. Rush’s game has deteriorated quite a bit in recent years, leaving him much too reliant on mindless hate and absurd comic self-aggrandizement. Howie, on the other hand, is years away from this sad state. He’s outrage media’s Tom Brady to Rush’s Brett Favre. Sure, he ain’t no spring chicken, but he’s clearly still got the skills to play in the big leagues, and I think he’s America’s best chance for Gold in the 2014 Outrage Media Olympics.

We should try to arrange a scrimmage with the Anti-American squad. Unlike Rush, I’m confident that Carr could take down that Rachel Maddow gal without having to crack a lesbian joke…..Okay, he may have to crack a lesbian joke, but not as quickly as a Rush would.

About Jerold Duquette

Jerold Duquette is an associate professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of Regulating the National Pastime: Baseball and Antitrust and has published articles and book chapters on campaign finance reform, political parties, Massachusetts politics and political culture, public opinion, and political socialization. Professor Duquette lives in Longmeadow, MA with his wife and four children.
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7 Responses to America’s Best Chance for Gold, Rush or Howie?

  1. Ed Lyons says:

    Amen, Professor Duquette!

    Mr. Carr is an awful political citizen and is part of the conservative political-media complex that maintains the alienation of so many Massachusetts Republicans. I am constantly telling my fellow republican activists that the road to political mental health and strength begins with unplugging yourself from these destructive influences. There is a good case to be made for an alternative view of citizens, corporations, and government that is in opposition to both radio talk show hosts and college professors. :-)

  2. Patrick says:

    Rather than pointing out the worst in right wing talk radio, if you were to make a list of the best who would win the gold, silver, and bronze?

    • Jerold Duquette says:


      Is there any “rightwing” talk radio that doesn’t utilize the “outrage” format? If so, I’m not aware of it. This is about the “best” of rightwing radio on its own terms. These guys are very good at what they do. Their listeners obviously love what they do. Who am I to say that what they do isn’t being done well? Clearly, I believe their listeners are being exploited, misinformed, and often flat out lied to, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting what they bargained for. Lots of commercial products are bad for us, but popular nonetheless.

  3. Matt O'Brien says:

    I am disappointed at the pedestrian nature of this posting. Professor Duquette likes Governor Patrick and uses ad hominem attacks to defend him. One would expect that a credentialed scholar would be able to defend his political beliefs with resorting to a “kill-the-messenger” tirade. But perhaps I expect too much.

    So where does this bring us? We are talking about the future and the lives of our neighbors and children. Picking sides and working for the destruction of the “other” by any means that come to hand? Is that what will help us “progress”? Such scorched earth total war thinking has brought ruin with it before. That is not the sort Commonwealth that I am working to perfect.

    • Matt,

      “Pedestrian?” Ouch! You know how to hurt an effite liberal academic. 😉 Are you sure you didn’t think it was witty?

      This is one a several recent posts generated by my present interest in media effects on public opinion. A while back I recommended an excellent book on the topic, “The Outrage Industry” by a couple of Tufts Profs. I recommend it to you.

      In this post, I thought my purpose was pretty clear though. It was to pull back the curtain, so to speak, on a particular “outrage” media tactic/rhetorical device. Ironically, much of your criticism of my post is implied criticism I am making about the tactics of outrage media figures like Howie and Rush. I thought mine was a rather light hearted attempt to highlight a common rhetorical tactic (parade of horribles) used by outrage talkers/writers to accomplish exactly the things you accuse me of doing in this post.

      One of the cornerstones of the outrage media “genre” is that it is personality-driven. Howie and Rush and their fellow outrage hosts left and right make all their pronouncements deeply personal because their fans keep coming back for them, not for their “arguments” per se. If Howie were dumb enough to give publicity to an unknown college prof’s criticism of his operation (he’s not), he would no doubt feign umbrage and repeat many of the criticisms you have made of my post (though not nearly as politely). This would allow him to skirt the substantive criticisms of his tactics and to have a good old time making fun of another dumb liberal academic who doesn’t inhabit the “real world.” What he would not, and could not, do is to rebut the substance of my post. That his parade of horribles was an abuse of context is not seriously debateable. If it were, you may have chosen to do so.

      I realize you believe I’ve gotten down into the mud with a mudslinger and that I shouldn’t do that sort of thing, but since my tounge and cheek effort clearly carried a substantive point, I think your criticism is too harsh. I can also assure you that were I in the habit of defending pols I personally support in this space, I wouldn’t waste the effort on a departing two-term governor. I’ve never been compelled to care about the “legacy” of pols whether I supported them or not. By the way, I don’t think Howie was merely unloading his comical venom on a liberal Guv for ratings. I have no doubt that he wants to assist Charlie Baker’s campaign in spinning the last 8 years as negatively as possible. This is, obviously, a smart tactic, given the fact that the Guv’s actual record and conditions in the state are not understood by average voters as particularly bad right now. An unpleasant status quo is ESSENTIAL for a MA Republican Guv candidate to have a chance in November, and its no skin off Howie’s nose to help out since. His commercial motives are quite compatible with his political motives.

      • Matt O'Brien says:

        Thank you for the book recommendation, if only I had enough time to read all the great books that are recommended to me. Perhaps if I win the Powerball I will be able to find the time.

        I acknowledge that I am not the intended or usual audience for your posts. I grant that the tone attempted to be humorous and that is a subjective matter. Also I am a partisan in sympathy with (if not in agreement with) Mr. Carr. I have meet Mr. Carr and have called in to his program. Every criticism I make needs to be judged with an understanding of these facts. The old axiom states: “fish don’t know they’re wet” so maybe this might be of use to you. Or maybe not.

        The overall tone of this post was snide and condescending. The allusion to Olympic medals seemed so out of place that one could believe that it was made for SEO reason only. I do believe that your characterization of his post is debateable(sic). The central argument being that Mr. Carr thrives only by attacking a politician’s person is not illustrated by the article sited. Rush Limbaugh called Ms Fluke a slut, but where does Mr. Carr make an equally personal attack on Gov Patrick? If Mr. Carr were to point out that only a philistine would drink white wine with duck that would be a personal attack. To site: “Annie Dookhan and the state crime lab: thousands of criminal drug cases compromised, hundreds of millions set aside for lawsuits, one dead — so far.” as evidence of the failures of Gov Patrick’s administration is not. In both your posting and your reply you fall victim to the common logic fallacy that you accuse Mr. Carr of.

        That does not disprove that Mr. Carr doesn’t attack people personally or that laying the blame for all of these matters at the Governor’s desk is “fair.” Only that your example is insufficient to the task. You may well choose to argue that point. I am interested in how a tax increase is seen as not a matter of policy, but as a personal slight. It would be helpful if you could expand on how your use of stereo types is not.

        Much of what you state in the closing of you reply is true and I agree with wholeheartedly. With any luck I will be able to convince more voters to see the condition of our Commonwealth as I do while we can still avoid the consequences of these faulty policies.

        • Matt, my central argument isn’t that Howie attacked the Guv personally. It was his use of the “parade of horribles” device to imply that the Guv did a poor job in office that I was mocking. He wasn’t attacking, he was blaming, and his argument was a comical but blatent abuse of context. He merely ticked off a list of things he hoped his readers will blame on the Guv. In fact, just as you say Carr didn’t “personally attack Patrick,” so I did not “personally” attack Carr. I was intentionally deploying the very same rhetorical devise (mockingly) in an effort to highlight the illegitimacy of the devise. The offense you took at the deceptiveness of my parade was intented.

          I certainly cannot deny that my effort was “snide and condescending.” I think the current term for this is “snark.” I can imagine reducing my snideness, but given my premise that outrage shock jocks like Howie are supremely anti-intellectual, I’m not sure how to avoid condescension.

          I can understand you not having time to read “The Outrage Industry,” but the authors did write a couple of good summaries/excerpts that they published as articles. I hyperlinked to them in my post about the book. You might take a look at them. I think they might convince you to read the whole book.

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