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Ears Wide Shut: Epistemological Populism, Argutainment and Canadian Conservative Talk Radio

  • Paul Saurette (a1) and Shane Gunster (a2)

Abstract. Although scholars have identified political talk radio (PTR) as an important site of political socialization, the current literature has largely failed to examine the political relevance of PTR's rhetorical strategies and has virtually ignored Canadian PTR altogether. This article addresses these gaps by analyzing Adler On Line, Canada's only nationally syndicated commercial PTR program, to show that how Canadian PTR talks, particularly its use of populist rhetoric, plays a central role in establishing what type of political deliberation and debate is possible within it. Divided into two main sections, the article first explores how Adler On Line renders a particular epistemological framework authoritative. The second section then analyzes the rules and norms of political expression and debate encouraged by the show's style of argutainment debate. The article concludes with a more speculative evaluation of the practical consequences as well as the theoretical and normative implications of these discursive practices.

Résumé. Bien que les auteurs de recherches reconnaissent que la radio interactive politique (RIP) représente un lieu important de socialisation politique, la littérature courante dans ce domaine omet, en grande partie, d'analyser la signification politique des stratégies rhétoriques de la RIP, tout en laissant entièrement dans l'ombre les activités de RIP canadiennes. Visant à combler ces lacunes, le présent article offre, dans un premier temps, une analyse de l'émission Adler On Line, qui est la seule émission de RIP commerciale souscrite nationalement au Canada, puis démontre que le mode d'expression typique adopté dans cette émission, et surtout son usage de la rhétorique populiste, ont une incidence déterminante sur le genre de délibération et de débat politiques que permet la radio parlée au Canada. L'article se divise en deux grandes parties. La première explore le cadre épistémologique particulier de l'émission Adler On Line et la manière dont ce cadre se voit empreint d'autorité. La seconde partie analyse les règles ou normes de débat et d'expression des opinions politiques qu'encourage le style divertissant de cette émission-débat. Pour conclure, les auteurs évaluent de façon plus spéculative les conséquences pratiques de ces formes d'expression discursive, tout comme leur incidence théorique et normative.

Corresponding author
Paul Saurette, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Rm 9101 Desmarais Bldg, 55 Laurier Ave, Ottawa, ON, K1S 0T2,
Shane Gunster, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, K9671-8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6,
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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
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