Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Righteous Radio Right

Radio may no longer play a big role in your life. It still does, however, in the lives of millions of Americans, and not all of them are truckers by profession. Political radio has been with us for about 25 years in its current form. Stations carry conservative talk radio vs. liberal (or, what they'd like to call "progressive") at a ratio of about 10 to 1. I admit I listen to too much of it, even though I almost always disagree. Still, I can't argue that it doesn't make money for the stations who bring it to us every weekday, and sometimes on the weekend, too. Here's a list of the on-air bigshots of this genre. I started to make a list and stopped at 12.
The list has to start with Rush Limbaugh, who gets credit for inventing the format of conservative talk. His radio "character" is one of unchallengable intellect and verbal power, embellished by a supersized ego aimed at telling "the truth" in contrast to the"mainstream media" whose word, due to stong liberal bias, may not be trusted. He seldom has guests of any kind, but does use callers as a pretext to spread the conservative philosophy, which generally boils down to supporting the Republican Party, though it's not perfect, either.
Limbaugh can be funny when ripping environmentalists or feminists, and he has made a wonderful living puncturing the balloons of the overinflated in Congress. He can also be vicious. I heard him mock the UN mission in Iraq on the same day members of that mission lost their lives in a terror bombing. His nicknames for those on the other side, such as "Feminazis" strain the boundaries of good taste. But Limbaugh knows, as none before him knew, that talk radio is about stirring emotions and getting people mad enough to at least tune in tomorrow.
The Big Guy has had some tough press in the past few years. He's now 0-for-3 in marriages, and had to publicly live down an addiction to pain pills. A fling at commentary for NFL games didn't work when he forgot which audience was tuning in. Last year he was caught coming back from the Dominican Republic with someone else's Viagra pills. Could it be that he's not chaste in his lifestyle? His radio character doesn't seem to care much, though, and he now openly lives the life of the megarich, including stories in his broadcasts of hobnobbing with the good fellas of the PGA Tour, fatcat generals and luxury cigar aficionados. He's exactly the type of person that good liberals are supposed to hate. We do, but he doesn't care.
Lots of stations that carry Limbaugh also feature his onetime backup Sean Hannity. His radio character is that of the self-made tough Irishman from New York who hit it big and now lives to serve the country he loves. He's not nearly as funny or as smart as Limbaugh, but the format is pretty similar. Hannity's strength, if it may be called that, is his unbending loyalty to the GOP and the Bush folks. An all-out advocate, he never shows any other side to his audience. He started attacking the Pelosi-led House the DAY AFTER the election. Not surprisingly, his show is pretty predictable. He's not above shouting down a hostile caller, and so few hostile listeners make the effort, especially if they know they can be cut off simply by the use of the "mute" button. The tough-guy Republicans who call in invariably say "You're a great American", as if Hannity were an underdog instead of a multimillionaire.
Michael Savage is another guy you can find at these AM stations. Unlike Hannity, Savage seems willing to rip anyone, and doesn't hesitate to use every clean epithet to a caller that disagrees. His character has little but disdain for almost everyone not in uniform. He hates all non-Americans, almost all immigrants and, not surprisingly, all Muslims. He must be a master at something, because his program is carried by 300 or more stations. He's so far right and still so cynical that he even rips Limbaugh and Hannity, though for some reason, not by name. Also a tough New Yorker type who likes you to think he's seen it all and is surprised by nothing. He loves violence as long as we're the ones dishing it out.
And there are a boatload of others. I once heard one of Limbaugh's backups say that whatever arose from Ground Zero in New York must be taller than the WTC Twin Towers or "The terrorists win". Mike Gallagher seems to specialize in shouting, though he's not too concerned with finding the truth. Michael Reagan, adopted son of the President but raised by Jane Wyman, doesn't add much to the debate. Bill O'Reilly, like Hannity, is on both radio and TV, but seems slightly more moderate on the former. Laura Ingraham and Tammy Bruce make a specialty of talking in nasal voices and sneering about Hollywood types whom they assume to be liberals. Michael Medved went from being a movie critic to political advocate. He's smarter than the majority mentioned here, but will not aknowledge any fact which supports the other side. A Jew, he often finds himself defending the Christian Right, which he does , knowing who his audience is. And there are sooo many others.
Here on the West Coast you can actually find progressive radio talk, and I think it's pretty good on the whole, but you, my phantom audience, wouldn't know the hosts on these shows from today's lobster haul, so I will forbear. Hope the snow holds off except where you plan to go skiing, and that all your teams are set to play in bowls.


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