Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let's Talk about Talk Radio

I have been listening to Talk Radio for more than 25 years. Being a right of center guy it's not much of a stretch considering that talk radio has been the one avenue for us right wingers that is not completely dominated and controlled by "progressive" thought.

It wasn't until conservative talk radio came along that I realized that I didn't really believe all the happy talk and propaganda coming out of the media and liberal legislatures. My eyes and my experiences conveyed a disconnect from what I was told was the truth of things.

At first it was like a foreign language, so odd, so controversial, so blasphemous. Soon I was talking back to the radio. "You can't say that!" I yelled. Yet, as I watched mainstream news and read the paper (before the Internet) I started to hear the lies we all used to accept as truth. I felt like I was in on something. It was interesting and even fun. I was hooked.

At the time mainstream media didn't understand talk radio. It was a niche format on AM radio that represented nothing but a fly buzzing about their head. Since the MSM never felt threatened by the so-called wing-nuts, talk radio grew into a sort of underground juggernaut. It wasn't until 1994 when the Republicans took both houses of Congress did talk radio get the attention of the major media and by then it was already a force to be reckoned with.

It was Rush Limbaugh who put conservative talk radio on the map and to whom is owed a debt of gratitude for everyone who has prospered in the forum ever since. In 1994 he was called the "majority maker" and the Republicans in Congress were not shy in crediting Mr. Limbaugh for his incalculable help during the historic 1994 campaign. Most everyone by now has heard of him and either loves him or hates him, he leaves very little middle ground.

When the media recognized that Rush and talk radio were here to stay - and had some very real influence on middle America - for those in the newsroom and in the ivory towers it became necessary to label it and treat it derisively. Hate radio became the buzz word for Limbaugh and talk radio. For the people who only got their news from the truth scrubbed mainstream media hate radio was a reality and it could be easily dismissed with a bumper sticker that said "Mean People Suck". Meanwhile the forum grew and grew and there soon was a talk host for everyone, in all walks of life. Even the liberals tried their hand at it... Remember Air America?

The funny thing is, while I find liberal talk radio unlistenable, (there's only so many hours of "I hate this country" that Americans can listen to) I've fear that conservative radio has become a broken record. No matter how much you like the chorus a skipping record that keeps repeating the same line over and over can drive you nuts!

I've taken to listening to NPR and its Minnesota counterpart MPR. Don't get me wrong, I'm not turning over to the dark-side, it's just that I can't take the skipping record anymore. I admit NPR could also known as National Palestinian Radio for all the sobs stories they do on the plight of terrorist supporting Palestinians. (that's when we push a button for a different station). However, what I like is the calm and soothing delivery and the segments that last for more than 3 minutes before more ear splitting, mind-numbing commercials. So few conservative radio hosts take the high ground and use easy, reasonable conversational tones that when I hear NPR coming over the car speakers it's like a treat for the senses and sensibilities. While they pretend to be balanced and fair to all points of view NPR (and MPR) let their true colors shine through more often than not. It is the one thing I absolutely appreciate about right wing radio is the willingness to be honest about their non-objectivity.

There is not any single personality on NPR or MPR that I could even direct you to, and maybe that too is part of the charm. It's just strange that I find myself punching up NPR more and more just to hear calmness and reasonable tones of voice. Only Bill Bennett's Morning in America and The Dennis Prager Show deliver a sense of reasonableness on the conservative dial.

Being at one time a "professional" musician a lot of people find it hard to grasp how I would even listen to talk radio. Yes, I love music, but music stimulates the emotional part of my brain, talk radio stimulates the rest.

Here's a host by host one line critique of the radio shows I listen to off and on...

  1. Rush Limbaugh - feels like a comfortable shoe by now, but I rarely if ever listen to him anymore
  2. Glenn Beck - he's effing crazy, but oddly appealing, small doses only
  3. Mike Gallagher - a blow hard with a heart of gold, he can make you turn off the radio altogether
  4. Bill Bennett - A soothing, reasonable change of pace, almost always interesting, almost...
  5. Sean Hannity - can't stand him, won't listen
  6. Mark Levin - super smart, super energy, super strident
  7. Hugh Hewitt - a Republican cheerleader that has very interesting guests, quite easy to listen to
  8. Michael Medved - super smart, perhaps the most intelligent person on the radio who says some of the dumbest things
  9. Michael Savage - he's effing crazy, on the other end of the spectrum from Beck, oddly unappealing
  10. Dennis Prager - my favorite, can't say enough about how much I admire his wisdom
  11. Bill O'Rielly - unlistenable, is it possible to be too opinionated?
  12. Dennis Miller - Fun, funny, irreverent and oddly insightful
  13. Bill Cunningham - over the top conservative, the only good liberal is a discredited liberal
  14. Jason Lewis - a reasonable, intelligent conservative who epitomizes the broken record

I'm sure there are hosts I'm forgetting about that I have listened to - the point is they are all singing the same tune, a tune I like, but for God's sake, change it up a bit once in a while!



Anonymous said...

Interesting review. I listen to Rush when I have a chance but when I do I realize that I can almost finish his sentences because most of what he says is on the conservative blogs that I read before his show comes on. Makes me wonder how he did his show before blogs were so popular!