On a recent Christmas car trip through the heart of the American rust belt, and the tip of the Bible belt, I indulged myself in some syndicated AM talk shows – of the right wing variety. When away from the comfortable surroundings of home, I like to listen in on what folks in other parts of the world are thinking. In Ireland its Hurley. In America, its right wing radio. For the uninitiated, this industry is not your run of the mill Canadian brand of right wing. The audience which the likes of conservative commentators (Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, and Rush Limbaugh to name but a few) seem to attract are even further afield from their hosts. On this particular day the host was taking calls from listeners articulating the merits of then president Barrack Obama. There was something less than total agreement in the air, with callers split between Obama being the worst President in the history of the country or a traitor. (It should be noted, that more than one listener thought that because Obama wasnt even American, he couldnt be a traitor.) To them, Stephen Harper would be a bleeding heart liberal, and Justin Trudeau a communist – and for the record, they would both be sissies.
As you might expect, the advertisers choosing this medium as their means for reaching their customers is reflective of the audience. One particular 4 commercial set carried ads for the Marines, a pay day loan store, a gun range, and my personal favourite – My Patriot Supply Company who will help your family avoid the food riots. How? By supplying you with freeze dried food with a shelf life of 25 years! Preparing for Armageddon with a 25 year supply of Fettucine Alfredo – their best seller – struck me as a startling lack of faith considering our proximity to the Bible belt. While the ads were for different products, they all played on the fear within the consumer to make their sales pitch.
“They all played on the fear within the consumer to make their sales pitch”
Afraid of your bills? The pay day loan store will rescue you. Fear for your safety? Buy and learn how to use a gun. Unemployed AND afraid for your future? Join the Marines. Afraid that the Marines arent going to protect you? Hunker down with your gun and 25 years worth of Fettucine Alfredo and all will be well. Among the descriptive words you could use for these folks – optimists would not be among them.
I used to reassure myself that the line of thinking that permeates these shows is reflective of but a small sliver of the general population, however the recent American election has shaken my confidence somewhat. In a surreal election campaign, in which one candidate seemed determined to self destruct on a daily basis – yet managed to win – a vague recollection of a Sunday school lesson about nations getting the leaders they deserve kept popping into my head. Admittedly, I am no political scientist (or Sunday school teacher), but if I had to venture a guess I would say that there is more than a fleeting connection between the fear that creates a market for 25 year pasta and the new president of the United States of America.
Thanks for reading,