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A Mouthful of Mush

Left Right and Center

I caught an instalment today of the new talk show my local public radio station is trying out, Left Right and Center. I'm giving it a thumbs down.

The format is the hackneyed one of a host/interlocutor guiding a discussion of current events among a small group of more or less regular guests. The gimmick is that the guests each represent a different sector of the body politic, as construed along the tired Euclidean trope of left, right, and center. Somehow this is supposed to distinguish it from other politically oriented gabfests, although they too customarily feature purported spokespersons for each of the three conventionally/stereotypically recognized political tendencies. The central conceit of the show seems to be that we can all like each other, laugh, and get along. Its creators may imagine that they are striking a brave blow against divisiveness.


The essential falsity at the core of the show was exemplified for me by an exchange towards the end of the hour. One of the guests, Sarah Isgur, a former Trump administration official designated to speak for "the right", complained at some length about the tendency she perceived in television satire to soft pedal criticisms of "the left" while going after "the right" full throttle. She specifically complained that they depict Trump as a liar, a grifter, a sexual predator, while all they mock Biden for is his age. Another guest attempted to defend the teevee satirists by pointing out that in fact they do dwell on Biden's age quite extensively as a matter of concern to their audience. It all ended with the guests laughing together - we're all buddies here - in keeping with the show's conceit. But on the central point of the exchange, the designated "left" spokesperson was entirely silent. Yes, Biden is old: and Trump is, in point of fact and not merely opinion, a liar, a grifter, and a sexual predator. The Washington Post counted well over ten thousand lies from him during his term in office. He stands guilty in court of fraud. He is on trial for falsifying business records. He has been found by a court to have committed an act of sexual abuse that the court held could be described in the vernacular as sexual assault. And so on. I have no idea why the "left" guy failed to point these things out, but I suspect it was in service of the show's determinedly mealy-mouthed character. (A convention more respected by the left" and "center" participants than by Ms. Isgur, as it happened.) But, if the project is some version of "come, let us reason together," it seems to me a self-defeating and empty endeavor if that project is not pursued through candid statements of factual reality, however offensive the right wing shill may find them.