If you’ve spent a lot of time listening to radio talk shows (in which case you might want to consider getting a life), then you’ve almost certainly noticed that callers to such programs who mimic the viewpoints expressed by the host almost invariably are poised and articulate, while those who demur sound as if they were tutored in English and forensics by George W. Bush. The hosts themselves like to credit this to the “fact” that ideological fanatics (of their stripe only) are highly intelligent and informed, while dissenters are yokels and yahoos. But as you may have noticed, the hosts themselves don’t bear out this assertion with their own kooky babblings.
The actual explanation is that such programs have call screeners who are highly selective in whom they allow on the air. Although sometimes, an articulate and intelligent dissenter will somehow slip through the cracks.
But now it seems there is an additional explanation. Inspired, perhaps, by George Orwell, or George W. Bush (whose administration planted phony journalists to lob softball questions to him at media conferences), and drawing on a long history of ideological TV talk shows hiring wildly supportive audience members, these programs have been recruiting actors to call in and impersonate John Q.Public on the air.
As reported in the Columbia Journalism Review, Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates (among others) Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, has been offering its clients a service called Premiere On Call, which provides them with scripted callers to make their fans sound really with it. Note that this is peddled as a way to offer a more “authentic” broadcast. Since this scheme came to light, the service apparently has gone underground, but as of this writing you can still fill out a request to audition for them.
So hey, if you have any voice talent, why not go on the air and call the president a socialist/Nazi/commie/terrorist/atheist/Muslim/Martian. Somebody’s gonna do it, so it might as well be you, and you might as well make some bucks on it.