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Did Ralph the Talking Computer do a Mike Daisey on Harry Shearer?

Following a monologue on the latest developments in Afghanistan and Iran, Harry Shearer had his semi-regular guest, Ralph the Talking Computer, on the March 25 edition of his podcast: Le Show.  Looks like Harry thought that he and Ralph needed to talk about journalistic integrity (the chat starts around 10 minutes into the program).

One could also surmise that Shearer thinks that another prominent public radio broadcaster needs to get over himself.

“I guess it’s not news to anybody who has been following the news that there are now credible allegations that the Christmas Day edition of this broadcast was filled with fabrications,” Shearer tells Ralph. “And that you in your capacity as the computer of this broadcast . . . were in some sense responsible for these fabrications.”

Ralph wastes no time in coming up with excuses. “Ok then,” the digital voice program begins in a deep, hesitant, and very nerdy tone. “Let me start by saying that due to the revenue and budget constraints of working in public radio, I’m the only computer really involved day-to-day in this program.”

“Well . . . that’s not quite fair I don’t think to the listeners,” Shearer quickly cuts in. “There’s an office computer. There’s a studio computer . . . ”

“All right, well,” Ralph continues. “Let me just start then by saying that I really don’t have any regrets. I mean, I’m not a journalist. I’m not a performer. I’m just a freaking computer.”

“All right, you did select the items,” Shearer continues. “And they were broadcast I think with the listeners’ understanding that there was a factual basis for them!”

“Ok. See, that’s debatable,” Ralph retorts. “I mean, this is a comedy program, supposedly [Shearer chuckles]. It’s listed that way on, for example.”

“I understand. I understand,” Shearer concedes.

Ralph: “So the fact that the recordings I selected for the Christmas Show were comedic or satirical, in some way I thought listeners would assume that they’re not to be taken as factual for freaking sake.”

Shearer: “Ok. Fair enough. It was a Christmas show indeed,. Not even carried by the home station, so maybe not the highest profile of these broadcasts, but we did do due diligence with you, Ralph, on these recorded elements. . . . We did say to you, you know, you are going to respond and be responsible to the constraints of journalistic practices that’s normally thought of on this program, and you agreed that you were doing that.”

Ralph: “All right. Well. See. I don’t think that there’s really a tradition of hewing to journalistic standards on this program. It’s comedy. It’s satire.”

Shearer: “Ok. But on the other hand, you did agree . . . you read the mission statement,” Shearer notes. “The mission statement was composed on you, for goodness sake.”

“And, just to be totally accurate, since I guess this is what that is about,” ” Ralph cuts in, “that mission statement was cut and pasted from the mission statement of Wendys. If I remember correctly, you just did a global replace of the word ‘food’ with the word ‘radio’ . . . ”

Radio Survivor readers should listen to the “why did you lie to me?” moment and the statement of retraction of the Christmas show themselves. It’s a LOL moment for sure, and suggests, at least to me, that the author thinks that everybody has gotten just a little too sanctimonious about the Mike Daisey / This American Life brouhaha.

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