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Bluster and Blather 

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It’s all in the delivery, isn’t it? During his “speech” in front of Utah Valley State College students at the McKay Events Center, conservative commentator Sean Hannity rallied the troops and whooped the crowd into an orgy of conservative ecstasy verging on narcissistic political orgasm.

Hannity did impersonations. He mimicked Ted Kennedy. He invited a liberal on stage for ready dissembling and ridicule. He lambasted Sen. John Kerry and Michael Moore, of course. But in a tender moment, Hannity lauded Utah County residents for never letting go of their “innocence.” Several ladies in the crowd agreed that Hannity was a handsome hunk of manhood. Would he consider converting to the LDS Church? The crowd was dying to know. Yes siree, Hannity loves Utah County. Utah County loves Hannity. Was it good for you, too?

Put a bunch of conservatives in a room with this man and what do you get? A whole bunch of people falling in love all over again. And that’s what passes for political dialogue in today’s America. Some dare call it “balance.”

This is the paragraph where you expect a modest defense of film director Michael Moore. Not so fast. Moore plays the same line of extreme reasoning, albeit from a different angle. He’s smugger than Hannity, no doubt. But as a frumpy man wearing a baseball cap, Moore can’t rely on his animal sex appeal in the manner of Hannity. But like his opponent, Moore reduces politics to entertainment through films. What’s doubtful is that his fans would hurl death threats at UVSC student leaders for allowing Hannity onstage. We know, according to one Deseret Morning News report, that a few of Hannity’s ostensible supporters have done just that.

Quiet debate of questions, followed by answers in a space free of hostile interruption, is a lost art. Programs such as the Jim Lehrer News Hour, with all those people talking back and forth, are just too damned sleepy. No wonder Rush Limbaugh made a mint in the early ’90s. It’s so much easier to ridicule a person’s physical height, à la President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich, than it is to tackle questions of policy. It’s so much easier to shout someone down, or accuse them of being a traitor to their own country.

Fans of both Hannity and Moore get a certain dramatic charge out of all this showmanship and one-upmanship, but there’s very little to prove that it enlightens anyone about anything. Research shows that most people carry on their parent’s political views into the next generation, anyway. The idea that open minds exist is somehow depressingly naïve.

Depressing, too, is that we hold fast to the notion that only American viewpoints can guide us in a post-9/11 world. Invoking God, family and the American way in the face of a world that, when it doesn’t understand us, hates us outright is easy, but dangerously shortsighted. While Hannity bellowed and blustered the UVSC crowd, a more informative speaker held the stage at BYU that same Monday night. Talking to more sedate listeners, Egyptian Consul General Abderahman Salaheldin outlined forces driving the Arab world and radical Islamist terrorism. Too bad Abderahman didn’t have Hannity’s sex appeal, a force far more effective in American politics.

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