Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The real, ugly truth about Talk Radio

Oh, those early 90's....While playing in Mudcat, the bass player suggested we do a 'freebie' for WGST at a local jock's charity golf tournament. I, as a righteous liberal musician patiently awaiting Clinton's rise to power did not feel it was worth it. Playing early in the freezing cold for free, for Talk Radio. It was not even 'music radio'.

Oh, sure, in the late 80's and early 90's I was aware of Rush Limbaugh, but had no desire to listen in.

Years later, I would work in the medium myself, and peer behind the veiled curtain into the yawning abyss of Talk Radio.

I did it all: parody songs and comedy bits, post production and running the boards, sports talk, political talk, on differing frequencies. Occasionally, Mike Rose would let me fill in when he was gone, or run point for a visiting 'guest' host.

It has now been a full decade since a collegue of mine bet me that 'within 10 years, Rush Limbaugh and his brand of hate speech would be replaced by more sane, sensitive talent'. Even my vaunted brother in law weighed in, and I bet him Air America would not even be on the air when he suggested I leave the misery and pittance of Cumulus Radio for the fledgling station opening up here in Atlanta. True to form, 3 years later AM 1690 Air America was no more.

I do not wish to defend or praise Limbaugh. When I was doing stuff for 640am for the Kimmer show ( that came on after Rush ) I parted ways ideologically with Limbaugh after his disgusting use of politics in the Elian Gonzales saga. It was at that point that I could not be a fellow traveller. And, interestingly enough, Mr Gonzales would come back to bite Clinton in the 2000 Florida election circus.

Bill O Reilly was an ass to me when I met him ,refusing to sign some of his books I bought...Dennis Miller relies too heavily on name dropping and obscure movie bytes, although I appreciate his lack of bombasity...

But, the rest of the 'B' Squad, Hannity, Boortz, Ingraham, etc pretty much sound the same.

Glenn Beck is different, because lately he has been turning into Alex Jones. I pine for the good ol days of 'More On Trivia' and busting on Idol contestants. But now, it's armegeddon all the time.

I have had XM for a couple years, and as of late I have been tuning into thier 'Left Talk' channel, just for good measure. I have had my original thesis on why Liberal Talk wont work nationally vindicated.

Thom Hartmann: what a snoozefest. Think of the NPR bits Alex Baldwin used to do on SNL and that gives you an idea.

Mike Malloy: a true loon. The left's 'Micheal Savage'. He has an acerbic wit, and would be pretty decent if he did not openly admit he is a Marxist and buy into 9-11 conspiracies...Once that stuff come out, it's 'click'.

And why is it that the vast majority of 'Truthers' are more 'left on center'? I mean, it's pretty obvious by now.

Randi and Franken, as well as Schultz, just seemed like 'Limbaugh light.' Franken was just awful, like Jerry Springer awful. He could be entertaining, but it usually devolved into a 'point and laugh wonkism' that really is more suitable for Comedy Central then Talk Radio. No wonder he went to be a politician. And, it's pretty ironic that the very same parlor tricks that he accused 'W' of engineering in his 2 terms would be deployed by Franken for his own corrupt bid for power!

I do enjoy Stephanie Miller. I think she is the best of the lot. Better then Alex Bennett, Lionel, and the rest. Because I know her face and voice, I can picture her in my mind's eye, and even if I disagree with her, I can appreciate the humor, similar to Jon Stewart or Colbert. But she couldn't sell in ths market.

The only 'liberal host' that could effectively do a real, nationally syndicated Talk Radio show that would generate $$$ and ratings on a national level is Jon Stewart. He has the 'chops' to deal with the callers off the top of his head, something the pack of liberal talkers cannot do as well. He has a popular show, so he could roll our a radio show ( ala Bill O Reilly ) and HE could compete with the Godfather alone.

All the rest will fail.

Recently, while perusing Paglia's Salon page, this exchange resulted in 19 pages of bile in the hilarious 'comment' section:

As a former lover of talk radio, I too have wondered why programs with a liberal bent have fared so poorly in the free market. There are two specific factors that may be responsible for the disparity.

1) The vast majority of the talk radio audience listens in their car or from home. People driving around during the day and listening to the radio are probably demographically skewed toward the self-employed or people in some sort of sales. Admittedly, there are a large number of service jobs that require drive time, but I would bet those people are not interested in politics. The entrepreneur or six-figure sales professional is far more likely to be a conservative. People listening from home would either be stay-at-home parents or people working from home. These groups would also tend to be much more likely to listen to Laura Schlessinger than Al Franken.

2) The liberal talk shows I've listened to are not really all that entertaining. The jokes tend to be mean-spirited personal attacks and are rarely as clever as what I have heard on Rush Limbaugh's program. I think if the left wants to have a successful talk radio platform, they should be asking people like Jon Stewart for ideas and quit trying to silence the opposition.

And Paglia's response?

Your theories about the talk radio audience are intriguing. The most rewarding aspect of talk radio for me is the callers, whose voices are heard nowhere else in the culture -- the feisty, super-organized home-schooling moms, the gruffly stoical transcontinental truckers, and the fiercely independent and self-reliant small-business owners, outraged by Washington's tilt toward bailing out corrupt, top-heavy corporations.

However, the popularity of conservative radio shows is a round-the-clock phenomenon. There are flamboyant evening hosts as well as night replays of the major daytime shows, extending well past midnight to dawn. Clearly, conservative hosts have an instinctive rapport with AM radio, which I have been arguing for years is a populist medium (an idea that finally seems to have taken wing in its invocation by other commentators).

Salon reader Cecil W. Powell writes: "The failure of talkers on liberal radio is in large part due to an absolute inability to poke fun at themselves." How true! Liberal hosts like to snap and snip and chortle snidely, but they are weighed down by a complacent superiority complex, a paralyzing sanctimony. They mistake irony for wit. The conservative hosts love to rant and stomp and bring down the house. They're doing breakneck vaudeville while liberal hosts are primly stirring their non-caffeine green tea.


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