Reading Rod Dreher’s piece on NPR, in which he hypothesizes the kind of show he’d love to listen to regularly, I was struck with inspiration. You know what I would listen to?
The Devil’s Defense Attorney.
An absurd proportion of our discourse today is devoted to outrage porn (Dreher has been known to indulge in this himself). You read a news story that sounds outrageous, you declare yourself outraged, and you proceed to suck your thumb about how the significance of this new outage. It’s a reliable business model, the perfect match for the other reliable business model, smarm.
This is a bi-partisan pastime; the outrage could be the latest excrescence from the fever swamps of the right or the eye-rollingest drivel from some left-wing fruit loop – or, for that matter, the purest expression of Friedman-Gladwell conventional (as in convention center) wisdom.
So here’s my show format: every week (or, heck, every day), the producers scour the internet for the most outrageous story – and build a show around defending the apparently indefensible.
You’d have to be assiduous about being fair-minded, picking things that outrage right and left, sensible center and radical center. And, because the same host would have to argue from wildly different premises each week (or day), she couldn’t promote a specific ideology. Rather, she’d merely have to make the case that a defense existed out there, one that was deserving of some degree of respect even if it wasn’t endorsed.
Would the show always succeed in convincing people of that defense? I hope not – some outrages are genuinely outrageous, and even among those that aren’t there are plenty of non-outrages that are nonetheless simply wrong. But maybe, just maybe, it would force those who profit by outrage to reckon with the possibility that, before the week was out, they would be obliterated by the devil’s defense attorney, and would therefore be forced to, you know, make actual arguments – and, more to the point, present the facts in something more closely resembling a neutral manner.
That’s a utopian hope, perhaps. But hey, if it had no effect on the discourse, then it would never run out of material. So as a business proposition . . .