High Noon for queasy liberals as George Hook ramps up the rhetoric

Radio review: ‘High Noon’, ‘Morning Ireland’, ‘The Pat Kenny Show’, ‘Marty in the Morning’

Donald Trump: gave a surprisingly gracious victory speech. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Donald Trump: gave a surprisingly gracious victory speech. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

 

It’s a couple of hours after the seismic election result, and right on cue the septuagenarian businessman delivers a blast of trademark demagoguery, full of derogatory language, inflammatory invective and shaky syntax. All in all, George Hook’s opening monologue on High Noon (Newstalk, weekdays) stands in contrast to the surprisingly gracious victory speech that Donald Trump gives on Wednesday. But it chimes with the ugly mood that drove Trump’s victorious campaign.

Broadcasting from Washington, DC, Hook takes quarrel not with the president-elect but with Irish politicians who had opposed him. Affecting great fury, he sees hypocrisy in Enda Kenny’s congratulating the triumphant candidate: “I would remind the Taoiseach that he called Donald Trump a racist.” The temerity of the man.

Hook moans that Irish politicians don’t know their place in the world. “We depend on the largesse and generosity of our nearest neighbour, Britain, and our most faithful supporter, the United States, and this is the way we behave?” Sure and begorrah, sir, aren’t we grateful for their charity?

By way of assuring us that “America is not going to hate”, Hook informs listeners that “we would be speaking German today if it weren’t for the American farm boys who landed on the beaches of Normandy”.

This kind of rhetoric would be comical were it not for the sting in the tail. Liberals may decry Trump’s plan for a border wall, Hook wails, but there are walls in Berlin “to keep Syrians out of housing estates”, while “Marine Le Pen may be president of France”. He cites Hungary and Croatia – hardly paragons of democratic values – as countries that share Trump’s attitudes. “So now let the loony queasy liberals who could only see one answer to this American election go back in your box,” he says.

This is partly meant to wind listeners up, particularly as Hook tries to make his mark in his new midday berth: he delights in reading out texts decrying him as a bigot. He also seems to be showing off in front of his temporary copresenter, the US broadcaster Michael Graham, judging by the pair’s on-air giggles. Graham, a right-wing libertarian who enjoys riling liberal sensibilities but doesn’t support Trump, comes across the sage analyst of the pair, underlining how exaggerated Hook’s persona has become.

Hook does entertain dissenting voices, as when the economist John FitzGerald suggests that Ireland will lose influence under Trump. But the host’s constant baiting is exhausting and even corrosive. Many found Trump’s extreme antics entertaining at the start, after all.

Hook’s huffing and puffing also make it easy to overlook his complaint about Hillary Clinton getting “the softest ride in the history of Irish media”. But he may have a point. During the campaign Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) carried a softball interview with the Clinton supporter Elizabeth Bagley; a week later, by way of belated balance, the programme carried a noticeably tougher interview with Congressman Jimmy Duncan, a Trump surrogate. The show has no obligation of scrupulous balance when covering such a divisive foreign election, but it’s grist to the mill of those who drone on about media bias.

On the morning after the election, shock rather than partiality prevails on the programme. The anchors Keelin Shanley and Rachael English sound blindsided by what is unfolding, although their US correspondent, Caitríona Perry, is less ruffled. Having been on the ground throughout the campaign, giving voice to voters from both sides in her reports, she is able to pinpoint Trump’s “Mystic Meg” quality for tapping into a groundswell of support.

As for partisan emotion, the Clinton supporter Linda O’Shea Farren takes the honours, breaking down when Shanley asks if the Democrat was the right candidate. “Everything she has ever done has been about America, about women, about diversity, about families, about children,” O’Shea Farren says, weeping. One doesn’t need to be a Trump fanatic to find this view a tad beatific.

Shanley, taking pity on her guest, offers sympathy rather than point out that Clinton has also done something to earn tens of millions of dollars, although by this stage it’s perhaps churlish to whinge. More notable is Thursday’s interview with the Republican strategist Patrick Mara, who sounds as uncertain and, well, nervous about Trump’s next moves as any member of the supposed media elite. It’s not just liberal loonies who seem queasy about a Trump presidency.

Amid the shockwaves the most assured performance comes from The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays). Kenny in turn hosts a reassuring talk with the US ambassador, Kevin O’Malley. Though a Democrat, O’Malley talks calmly about the transition to a new presidency and the resilience of American institutions against extremism. These may be platitudes, but given the end-of-days atmosphere reigning elsewhere they have a soothing quality, even as Kenny gleefully admits that he’s trying to get the ambassador to take a party-political stance. Often derided, such diplomatic values are welcome at these times.

Kenny then reads from Francis Fukuyama’s misguidedly optimistic work about the post-cold-war world, The End of History. “History started again last night,” Kenny concludes. Talk about a chilling future.

Moment of the Week: Free Whelan Marty
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Suffering an acute case of Trump anxiety, the dial is inexorably drawn towards the emollient siren song of Marty in the Morning (Lyric FM, weekdays). Dipping into Marty Whelan’s stream of consciousness is like listening to Trump’s benevolent alter ego, as he free-associates on whatever is on his mind. He introduces Ennio Morricone as “Eamon Macaroni”, riffs about liking “a crunchy ring” and welcomes the smaller version of Toblerone, as it now fits in his mouth. It takes more than chocolate to shut Whelan up, but for now it’s a welcome distraction.

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