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Conservatize Me

Reported by Deborah - February 20, 2008 -

Guest Blogged by Judy

Remember the movie Supersize Me? Director Morgan Spurlock decides to subject himself to a full month of eating nothing but fast food from McDonald’s just to see what happens to him. Reviewers called the resulting effects “fascinating and nauseating.”

John Moe, a liberal talk show host for National Public Radio in Seattle, decided to try the same thing – but with politics instead of French fries. For a full month, Moe gave up all his liberal listening and reading habits and tried to live the fully conservative lifestyle. The result is his book Conservatize Me – How I Tried to Become a Righty With the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith, and Beef Jerky (New York: William Morrow, 2006). Sean Hannity, it turns out, was not much help.

Moe survives, his liberal principles intact. Although the way he meets a few conservatives he actually likes, discovering some complexity and contradictions in their thinking. And he realizes that many values of his own (love of family, attending church) are labeled conservative even when held by liberals. But for the most part he finds conservatism to be a dogma of inconsistent beliefs.

One of the conservatives Moe comes away liking is Richard Nixon. One of those he doesn’t is Sean Hannity.

Under the rules of Moe’s experiment, Moe did not talk politics with his liberal friends, gathered all his news from Fox News, the Washington Times or conservative talk radio, and never argued back with any conservative, either ones he met in person or through some other medium, such as talk radio.

Moe also cleaned out all the liberal music groups from his iPod and replaced it with artists like Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood. He drank Coors beer, ate beef jerky, went to a gun range, a country music concert, a Bible church, and Ronald Reagan’s library and interviewed Bill Kristol.

He also made an effort to read one of Sean Hannity’s books, Deliver Us from Evil. Here’s what Moe says happened:

“On the plane, I pulled up some Kid Rock music and pulled out Sean Hannity’s book Deliver Us from Evil. In Bill Kristol, Rich Lowry, and Jonah Goldberg, I had met smart conservatives. In Mayor Shawn Larsen of Rexburg, I had met a down-to-earth practical conservative. In Michael Medved, I had even met (a) conservative talk show host with whom I could have a civil and enlightening conversation. While I didn’t agree with everything they had said, I found something resonant in each of them. Hannity? Not so much.”

Moe found that Hannity made no attempt to be objective. The Washington Post is always referred to as “the liberal Washington Post,” Moe writes. Similarly, the New York Times was described by Hannity as “incorrigible” because of its criticism of Reagan. “I always thought that you wanted a newspaper to be incorrigible. When I think of corrigible newspapers, I think of Pravda,” wrote Moe.

On the flip side, Hannity described the shah of Iran as having “human rights problems” and being an imperfect national leader. “Well no,” wrote Moe, “running a murderous secret police program is rarely considered the mark of perfection.”

Moe, who had sworn to read nothing but conservative authors, put the book away and never finished it. When it comes to converting liberals, even ones who are trying to be converted, Hannity totally failed.

Not only did Moe find Hannity weak, he also found that at least one competitor doesn’t think much of him, either. Moe interviewed conservative talk radio host Michael Medved and recorded this exchange:

“Medved pointed to Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt as reasonable conservative talk show hosts who also happen to be distributed by the same syndicate as Medved and he defended Limbaugh, sort of. ‘Occasionally there will be stuff that I’ll hear on the Limbaugh show that will embarrass me, but I think it’s wrong to equate Rush and Michael Savage. I think it’s wrote to equate Rush and Sean Hannity. Rush is sophisticated, extremely well-read, smart, and don’t ask me about that other show.’
“’You mean Hannity?’ I asked.
“’It’s different,’ he said, making clear that ‘different’ was not a compliment.”

Nor did Medved think much of Fox News. Moe visited with Medved the day of the London subway bombings, and during the many commercial breaks in the show, Medved mostly watched CNN, but occasionally switched to Fox News to see how it was covering the story. Moe said Medved disliked Fox News but was “morbidly interested in how poor Fox’s coverage was.”

The book was about much more than Fox News, but as a former regular Fox watcher, I enjoyed someone else’s perspective on the news channel. And I sympathized with Moe’s reaction to it. At one point, Moe said the experiment so took over his life that he even dreamed about conservatives. In one dream Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, reincarnated as monster trucks, chased Moe around.

Been there, done that.