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8/4/02

STRAPPADO WRACK

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While modern technology has given people powerful new communication tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people have nothing useful to say. 
Leo Gomes

Talk Radio has Mellowed

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Once the rage of the airwaves, now talk radio sounds more like a branch of the weekly presidential address. Mimicking the popular line and national mood builds careers. Just look at the latest rising star - Sean Hannity. Since 911 his script has been insufferable. We expect Rush to play to the party faithful and count on Oliver North to take the hard line, but where is the intelligent inquiry?

There was a time when G Gordon Liddy could be heard to challenge the beltway crowd. Now what we get is Janet Parshall whining. For every Michael Savage there are a dozen Cal Thomas clones. Thank God for Bob Grant!

We wake up to hear Don Imus suck up to Tom Rose from the Jerusalem Post newspaper or Senator Joe Lieberman. Then wait to hear Michael Reagan tell us how the "Gipper" would have done it and if we are good, we are treated to hear Lucianne Goldberg plug her son's latest gem in National Review On Line.

Guests like David Horowitz make the rounds and tell us about the inevitable course that America must follow. Ken Hamblin is thrown into the mix for a different tint perspective and Bob Dornan is saved up for the discussions on the best tactics for a bombing run. And who would ever miss out on a debate between Neil Boortz and Mike Gallagher? After listening to them, no one could doubt the common bond between the libertarian and the conservative. But don't fret, it could get worst. Just remember Chuck Harder pitching his light bulbs or consider riding through West Texas and all you can get on the radio is Jim Hightower. Almost would goad one to listen to Jim Bohannon. On second thought Paul Harvey starts to sound better . . .

What happened to the spark that drove this medium to the heights it once had and the influence that it still wheels? Politics and radio was once, the one reliable voice that could be depended upon to push the envelope. Now it has the tone of a money machine, who's only mission is to sell ad revenue. Success breeds not only complacency but senility. The broadcast and script today, is straight out of a Pavlovian experiment. The rally cry of national unity is preached with the zeal of Dr. James Dobson and the bravado and hype of Howard Stern. Isn't it time to "Get Real" ?

Art Bell is starting to sound like a good alternative. New boys like Jeff Rense and Robby Noel are refreshing, but don't hold your breath for Westwood One to push them in drive time! No doubt there is a market for the outrageous, but the real yearning is for the pundit that has the courage to vent the truth. The effectiveness of talk radio was based upon the willingness to deal with serious issues in an engaging and captivating style. Now the emphasis is simply one of purifying the message to conform with the newspeak that passes as public policy. Most conservative talk radio hosts have sold out and bought into the red, white and blue flag waving image of a 'so called' conservative administration.

They have forgotten what Charles Sykes, an author and radio talk show host at WTMJ in Milwaukee, said that at least part of the phenomenon is that listeners "have developed a healthy distrust of the mainstream media and look for someone they can trust." Now, many of the talk radio hosts have become the mainstream! No spin Bill O'Reilly may project a more even handed approach, but he is just as much of a Statist as Rush. The former wants you to believe he wants reform and the latter wants to sway you into accepting that the Republicans are the answer.

Democrats reluctantly admit that talk radio listeners have upscale demographics:

Have an income over $75,000.                                                      

Have graduated college.     

Read a newspaper daily.

Own their residence.

Are likely to use the Internet.

Have opinions that mirror those of the general population.

Even liberal talk hosts suggest that they (liberals) failed to attract a significant audience because their message is "nuanced" and "more confusing." In his book, "How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace)," Harry Stein details his journey from liberalism to his present day status as a conservative. In essence, Stein points out that it was not he that changed but rather it was American liberalism that shifted. Now we conservatives are faced with the same dilemma.

So why can't we get the old anti-state message from most hosts in the current talk radio crowd? It's simply, the programming is now determined by the same money people that use to be the subject of the familiar cutting edge diatribes. We haven't changed, the broadcast management won control over the content. The liberals failed at creating their radio talking following because of their message. Now conservatives risk the abandonment of their audience because they, all too often, relinquish the principles of their own ideology. Laura Ingraham looks great on TV, but her message on radio just fails to hit the mark. If you can't tell the difference or have doubts, go for the proven host - listen to one of our own, Geoff Metcalf.

SARTRE - August 4, 2002

But when the hour and the right material are at hand, the contagion spreads with the speed of electricity over hundreds of miles, and affects the most diverse populations, which hardly know each other. The message flies through the air and they all suddenly agree on that one issue, if only a sulky admission that "there's got to be a change."
Jakob Burckhardt

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