Posts Tagged With: talk radio

TALK RADIO

Most of you are probably unaware that there used to exist in radio and TV land something called the “Fairness Doctrine.” This was a rule established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and applied to all companies seeking licenses to broadcast on radio and TV. The rule required that TV and radio stations holding FCC issued licenses be required to devote some of their broadcast time to controversial issues of public importance. It also required that equal time be devoted to both sides of, say, a political controversy. For example, if a Rush Limbaugh type ranted for an hour on the radio demonizing liberals and Democrats; another hour had to be set aside for some one to talk in favor of the liberal position, and in turn castigate conservatives and Republicans. Broadcasters were required to  actively determine the full spectrum of views on any given issue, and to present those people best suited toward representing both sides being discussed. Additionally the rule required that broadcasters alert any public figure of the fact that they, or their views were being attacked on the air; and allow them equal time to rebut those accusations. The “Fairness Doctrine” originated back in 1927, and was further strengthened in 1949 with the advent of commercial television. It had thus been around for quite some time as we headed into the 1980s; and it seemed to work reasonably well.

Come the Reagan era in the 1980s, the “Fairness Doctrine” was increasingly being challenged in the courts as being an infringement on the first amendment’s constitutional right to freedom of speech. The FCC began to reconsider this rule in the mid-1980s, after Congress passed a resolution expressing its disapproval. The FCC then revoked the rule in 1987, and, thereby, opened the floodgates of what is called “talk radio” in present day vernacular. Democrats were completely clueless as to the havoc that dissolving the “Fairness Doctrine” would wreck on their political fortunes and aspirations. But without the requirement of having to broadcast both sides of all controversial or political issues, the door was open to any looney-tunes, crackpot with a reasonably good speaking voice, and the ability to master the art of demagoguery. The first one on the scene was Rush Limbaugh, who until the late 1980s, was basically a small time radio sports and news broadcaster. But with the “Fairness Doctrine” gone, Rush, ever the opportunist, realized “thar was gold in them thar hills” of bashing and demonizing Democrats and progressives. With demagogic skills approaching that of a Josef Goebbels, (if you don’t know who he is, look it up in your Funk&Wagnalls), Rush developed a loyal audience of millions tuning in every day to get their 3 hours of first Clinton and then Obama demonization. When a Republican became President, such as George W. Bush, Rush’s format would switch to protective coating of each dumb decision they made, such as the Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, or the whole Iraqi invasion fiasco. But, as I’ve said, millions bought his drivel, which made Rush a very, very wealthy man.

Not long after, other opportunists such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and hosts of other Rush wannabes joined the right-wing whacko parade, each seeking to outdo the others in demonizing what they consider to be their political enemies. Using, perhaps 5-10% fact, and 90-95% fiction, each uses the same basic format steeped in demagoguery to make a good living off the gullibility of millions of adherents. One such lunatic deserves special mention, because even the lunatic-fringe considers him too unhinged to be allowed recognition in polite society. His name is Michael Wiener; but he changed it to Michael Savage, and hosts a radio program called the “Savage Nation.” After all, I guess the Wiener Nation wouldn’t sound quite so fearsome. In any event, his bellicose rantings against Obama, the Democrats, liberals, minorities, environmentalists, etc. are so vile and hate-filled that Great Britain has put him on a list banning him from entry into their country. The other names on this British list are known terrorists, serial killers, or recognized criminals. He’s the only one on that list that talks on the radio for a living. Yet, we, in this country, allow him freedom of the airways to spread his filth and poison. Ain’t democracy wonderful.

The most disturbing aspect of all this, is not the fact that there are so many unhinged lunatics freely pounding away on the radio, and TV also, (Fox News.) The most disturbing aspect is that millions of Americans are not only rabid fans of all this right-wing drivel, but apparently can’t get through their days without listening to a steady stream of such demagogic lunacy. One might say, to be fair, that there are also left-wing zealots on the radio and TV airwaves. That may be true; but apparently they can’t perform nearly as well as the right-wingers do, and no prominent name stands out on the left side of the spectrum.

So why does all this matter in current day realtime. Because Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage and all their wannabes are basically shills for the Republican Party. Republican fortunes over the past 25 years have improved vastly, in no large part due to these right-wing broadcasts on talk radio. Tomorrow we have an election coming up, in which all the pundits have predicted that the GOP will win the Senate and increase their majority in the House. To say nothing of electing more Governors and state legislators. We’ll have a total Republican Congress that basically despises President Obama, and Democrats in general. Won’t life be fun then. Look for lots of Government shutdowns, as well as more extreme hyper-partainship, polarization and dysfunction. One might be well advised to examine how we painted ourselves into this corner in the first place.

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THE GOD THING

Over the weekend we went to see the Iranian movie that won the Oscar for the best foreign film. It’s called “A Separation,” but unfortunately it turned out to be a highly disappointing 2 hours of constant bickering and fighting with no point to be made and no real ending. (One wonders what the Academy was thinking in giving this film the Oscar.) But there was one scene that appeared relevant to the topic at hand. A pregnant woman working to take care of her employer’s father, (who suffered from dementia,) has a miscarriage, and puts the blame on her employer for shoving her. The case goes to court, but the employer finally agrees to pay the woman a large sum of money if she will swear on the Koran that it was he, the employer, that truly caused the miscarriage. The woman’s husband is deeply in debt (in Iran they throw your ass into jail for that) and begs his wife to accept the offer. But she is not sure it’s the employer’s fault, and she feels that to swear falsely will bring the wrath of God down upon her family, and thus refuses the offer, much to her husband’s dismay. I think psychologically most people feel this way and that this causes many of society’s ills. I call it the God thing.

Even during my own upbringing, if we experienced any bit of good fortune or luck (which wasn’t very often) and I mentioned it out loud, my mother would give me a scornful rebuke, since she was positive that any boastful sounding remark would incur God’s anger. Since religion seems to play a huge role in our society”s actions and politics, I feel it’s useful to understand its psychological underpinnings. For example, many people, and especially tea party members are upset with our large deficit spending and feel this will lead to God’s punishment. After all, the bible says: be neither a borrower or a lender, or words to that effect. ( Actually, I think that phrase got inserted in the bible by figure known at the time, as Manny the Sheepherder, who warned that people would risk everything if they loaned out money. Instead he counseled that the way to accumulate wealth was to put one’s money in cotton futures.) We can joke about it but the psychological fear of incurring God’s anger can have deadly consequences.

The Republican Party is today dominated by so-called born again Christians, or evangelicals, who feel that if we continue going down the road of legal abortion, gay rights, easily obtainable contraception, and various other cultural issues, God will certainly wreck His vengeance on the U.S. Psychologically, people thinking along those lines have been taught this from childhood so that it’s strongly embedded in their mindsets. That, along with a healthy dose of paranoia, also probably taught to them since childhood, and you have the makings of religious fanaticism. If the GOP takes control of the Presidency and Congress in November, you can look forward to this type of agenda taking hold on our society. The God thing.

A lot of this right-wing religious fanaticism is also fostered by what is called Talk Radio. We saw an example of that this past week when right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh got in this kerfuffle (still liking that word) with a 23 year-old Georgetown student because she advocated before a Congressional committee for birth control. I consider Limbaugh probably the most despicable figure in U.S. public life, but after more than 20 years of spewing out hate and venom against Bill Clinton and now Barak Obama, as well as Democrats in general, he finally got in trouble for calling a college student a slut and prostitute. Some advertisers on his show finally showed a little moral conviction and cancelled their business causing him to issue some half-assed apology. In the meantime he’s become a billionaire over the years because millions of listeners tune in to his show every day. And he certainly isn’t the only right-wing lunatic on the radio.

There is another right-wing fanatic on the air who was born Michael Wiener, but calls himself Michael Savage and his program the Savage Nation. (After all, how would the Wiener Nation sound.) If anything he spews forth even more vicious hate and bile than Rush Limbaugh. It’s so despicable that England has banned him from entering Great Britain. England considers his hate-mongering so vile that he is on a list of of banned individuals that includes known terrorists, serial killers and other assorted scum. Yet we accept it in this country without any qualms. And this type of right-wing filth isn’t limited to men. A person named Laura Ingraham has her own radio show and constantly rails about the evils of abortion, contraception, or acceptance of a gay life-style. And of course, there are many other Rush and Laura wannabes scattered in individual cities throughout the U.S.

Now there are some interesting aspects to all of this from a psychological perspective. The first is that there are apparently millions of people out there (Limbaugh claims a listenership of 20 million) that apparently can’t get thru the day without hearing 3 hours of Obama or liberal bashing. You have to wonder who these people are and what kind of of lives they have, if they have to listen to hours of pure, distilled hate and venom directed against their supposed political enemies, in order  to get themselves thru the day. I would presume that most of these listeners consider themselves the God- fearing evangelical type. You also have to ask these people how it personally affects them, if for example, Jack and John, or Jill and Jane decide to marry, or if some woman that they don’t know, decides to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. How could it possibly have any effect on their personal lives. The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t, except psychologically, they believe that God will vent his wrath on our country if such practices are allowed to continue. The God thing again.

Meanwhile right-wing radio and TV commentators have for the large part become extremely wealthy. Hate and paranoia sell big time, and purveyors of such, including advertisers and corporate execs have no reason not to go on peddling this type of obscenity.

 

 

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