Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October 14, 2015--Talk Radio

I'm a notoriously poor sleeper.

I manage to fall asleep without trouble, but it's the staying asleep that's the problem.

I have found that one thing that interrupts my early morning obsessing and allows me to resume sleeping is listening to overnight talk radio. The shows tend to be so repetitive and inane that they literally bore me to unconsciousness.

Sports talk of the sort found on WFAN, where callers and hosts obsessively fret about the Jets, Giants, and Knicks gets me slumbering in less than half an hour.

And then there are the political shows. All right wing and full of hate (mostly directed toward Barack Obama) and paranoia (most fears and conspiracies attributed to Obama) and so predictable and repetitive that they too soon lull me back to dreamland.

Then there is Coast to Coast, a nationally syndicated show that is devoted to the paranormal. Guests and callers share stories about flying saucers and how they were abducted and poked in all their bodily cavities by Martians before being returned to Earth. The good news--no one on these shows seem much interested in the president. Though occasionally he is thought to be an alien.

Usually, if I manage to acquire a strong C to C signal, I'm snoring again in less than 15 minutes. There are just so many trips to Venus I can handle even when staring fretfully at the 3:00 a.m. ceiling.

It is interesting that with two exceptions, political talk radio is all so stridently conservative. The two exceptions are the Alan Colmes and Al Sharpton shows. The former has 1.75 million listeners while the Reverend typically attracts 1.0 million.

Compare this with the king of talk, Russ Limbaugh, who has 13.25 million followers; the prince of paranoia, Sean Hannity with 12.5 million; delusional Glenn Beck and Mark Levin with 7.0 million each; and the Michael Savage show that pitches to 5.25 mad-as-hell insomniacs.

All the latter specialize in savaging (pun intended) liberals and especially Obama, who, frequently, is thought to be the Antichrist or at the very least a Kenyan Muslim. Nothing he is doing or did in the past is without fault. The goal is to overturn everything he accomplished, especially Obamacare, and even to delegitimatize him. Yes, he was elected two times with majorities, but if he can be proven to be foreign born or the literal Devil, they can make him go away. It would be as if he never existed.

To give their assault on Obama and other liberals the patina of credibility, these hosts and their callers frequently make things up.

Since they cannot marshall facts to support most of their allegations and grievances, they create them, disproving Daniel Patrick Moynahan's oft-quoted assertion that we are entitled to our opinions but not our own facts.

One small example--On the well-named Red Eye Radio program the other night--a widely syndicated show pitched to truck drivers--they were ranting about Obama's intention to ignore the Second Amendment and to begin to confiscate everyone's guns. Even hunting rifles. That he was using the most recent campus slaughter in southern Utah as a "political opportunity" to justify his fascistic agenda.

"If he's in favor of more gun control," one of the hosts shouted, "why doesn't he come forward with detailed proposals? He talks in generalities but offers no specifics."

His cohost and a procession of folks called in agree.

In fact, three years ago, after the murders at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama proposed a full program of legislation to limit the size of ammunition magazines for automatic weapons, increased requirements for those who sell semi-automatic assault rifles at gun shows, and the like.

I thought, why aren't any people calling in to present these facts? Where are the liberals who care about these issues? Why are they, we, so passive when faced with the phenomenon of right-wing talk radio?

If we can't sustain shows that present a progressive perspective (including on television--MSNBC failed while Fox News is thriving) why not at least organize a campaign to flood the airwaves with callers who will take on the lies and vitriol of the Glenn Becks, Michael Savages, and Mark Levins?

Liberals recognize the influence and power of these shows on political life and their ability to articulate a vision for the extreme right. A segment of the activist population that is more and more influencing and even shaping the Republican agenda.

Why have we ceded this on-air ground to the untra-conservatives? Even if these shows' producers began to screen out liberal callers, that in itself would make quite a story when publicly exposed.

It is curious that progressives spend passive time tuning in to the Jon Stewarts, Steven Colberts, and Bill Mahers, but are not motivated enough to get up off the couch to take on the calumnies of Limbaugh and Hannity.

Sorry, but if we don't get mobilized, we will get what we deserve.

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