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The Secrets of Talk Radio
November 15, 2008 6:19 PM   Subscribe

"I was distraught. I felt I was actively participating in something so inconsistent with reality that even most conservative talk radio devotees would see this. But in a way, it was merely a more obvious example of how talk radio portrayed reality selectively." A former producer reveals the secrets of talk radio. via
posted by Knappster (92 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
it was merely a more obvious example of how talk radio portrayed reality selectively."

They're just doing consciously what each one of us does unconsciously to ourselves. In politics, in everything. Their success relies on people's own desire to have reality selectively portrayed to them. Conservative talk radio is about providing people with a black-and-white, easily digested poltical narrative. The left is only getting into this game now.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:33 PM on November 15, 2008


From the radio station's response to the article:

We are surprised and saddened that a former employee, who worked with us for ten years, would choose to attack our talk shows hosts and company in this manner. Neither the station nor our hosts were offered a chance to comment on the claims made by the author.

Well, now's your chance to comment, guys. Looks like you don't have much to say in your own defense.
posted by grouse at 6:38 PM on November 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


It all just makes me sad.
posted by Ms. Saint at 6:55 PM on November 15, 2008


Excellent article. Thanks for the link.

The key reason talk radio succeeds is because its hosts can exploit the fears and perceived victimization of a large swath of conservative-leaning listeners. And they feel victimized because many liberals and moderates have ignored or trivialized their concerns and have stereotyped these Americans as uncaring curmudgeons.

That seems true. So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?
posted by up in the old hotel at 6:57 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does anyone really need an insider to tell them all this? Seems almost painfully obvious.
posted by zoinks at 6:59 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also on topic, from David Foster Wallace in The Atlantic.
posted by GamblingBlues at 7:03 PM on November 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Does anyone really need an insider to tell them all this? Seems almost painfully obvious.

It's extremely obvious, but not that it helps. Righties think Lefties are big, bad threats, and Lefties think Righties are big, bad threats. People seem to have violent, allergic reactions to differing points of view...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:03 PM on November 15, 2008


So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

If the metric is going to be 'galvanizing the base' into action, then it's a failure. I would say normal radio talk shows are fine at having a decent discussion of the issues and aren't a failure.
posted by Exad at 7:04 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here in town we have a conservative talk radio show, except the host pairs up with a liberal. It works pretty well. The big talk radio show names have no credibility. I think people realize this and listen just for the entertainment value. Liberal talk radio fails because it doesn't get people riled up.

Liberal radio: "Everyone should have health care!"
Listener (thinking): Well, that sounds about settled. Let's see if I can find a ballgame. *tune*
posted by starman at 7:06 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


That seems true. So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

I'd suggest that, for one thing, liberals don't really need the radio. The liberal propaganda machine didn't really get rolling until about a decade later than the conservative equivalent, and ended up taking root in the blogosphere to a far greater extent. Conservative online presence has probably been less effective for the same reason, plus the fact that Republicans seem generally less tech-savvy than Democrats. (Or, possibly, the tech-savvy tend to lean Democratic for unrelated reasons.)

Some might argue that Democrats are less susceptible to the kind of demagoguery you get from Limbaugh and Hannity, but I'm not sure that's entirely true. I have a hard time seeing much of a difference between Keith Olbermann and a lot of the blowhards on the right, except that I agree with him about more stuff.
posted by EarBucket at 7:09 PM on November 15, 2008


And they feel victimized because many liberals and moderates have ignored or trivialized their concerns and have stereotyped these Americans as uncaring curmudgeons.

I have two main responses:

1) The concerns of conservatives are mainly ignorant and trivial, e.g. precious bodily fluids being sapped by immigrants, women, Kids Todaytm, slight decline in popular superstitions, failure to heed the Gold Standard, etc.

2) And yet if there is one viewpoint that never fails to be expressed or addressed in any forum, from the most liberal to the most corporate, it is these very people. I mean seriously, what could be more stereotypically a trivial, ignorant, conservative concern than flag lapel pins? And yet how long did the airwaves rage with this nontroversy?
posted by DU at 7:11 PM on November 15, 2008 [18 favorites]


Conservatives keep their listeners feeling like victims and liberals give their listeners hope, believing they can take charge of things and turn it all around.

Which one do YOU think breeds more dependance on the talking points? Which group is easier to deliver to advertisers?

Seems to me like the closest thing to a non-conservative talk show that keeps listeners feeling disempowered is something like Coast to Coast AM where conspiracy theories may attack the power elite, but leave the rest us us played for suckers. It's hard to get enough of hearing that the man is sticking it to ya.
posted by salishsea at 7:13 PM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


They're just doing consciously what each one of us does unconsciously to ourselves. In politics, in everything. Their success relies on people's own desire to have reality selectively portrayed to them. Conservative talk radio is about providing people with a black-and-white, easily digested poltical narrative. The left is only getting into this game now.

I'd just like to emphasize this very important point. I'd even put it more boldly that people have a motivation to select their own version of reality. In short, it makes choices easier.

This isn't just a conservative phenomenon. Think about this pres. election. It was supposed to be about the issues. It ended up being, for a majority of the electorate, a choice between "nasty McCain" and "hopeful Obama." That is not a decision based on issues; those are caricatures. Even though the will of the people ended up lining up with mine this time, I'm not pleased by how they made their decision.

I really hope the next four or eight years tries to correct this trend, which has unfortunately only been accelerating even as it moves against the Republican party. Maybe sometime in the near future we can get back to interviews where the questions are asked to sincerely solicit the opinions of the interviewee, not push the view of the interviewer.
posted by napkin at 7:14 PM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


To succeed, a talk show host must perpetuate the notion that his or her listeners are victims, and the host is the vehicle by which they can become empowered.

Oh man! My favorite: the advertorial call-in shows, walking a tightrope between advertisiment and talk radio; a thin veneer of legitimacy, the mellifluous host with scripted spontaneous-seeming lines all in aid of selling some heath product. "Rescue" capsules being the most prolific, with the company founder himself--purportedly a doctor--taking calls on the air from people that love to discuss their medical problems in public, everyone with lower cholesterol or whatever, all thanks to the magic pill. Operators are standing by!
posted by gac at 7:27 PM on November 15, 2008


That seems true. So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

Because the unspoken formula of talk radio is 'us vs them', namley white conservatives vs blacks, latinos, immigrants, poor, liberals, unions, etc. Liberals on the other hand are supposed to be inclusive so they cant play this game outside of us vs. conservatives
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:35 PM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


This isn't just a conservative phenomenon. Think about this pres. election. It was supposed to be about the issues. It ended up being, for a majority of the electorate, a choice between "nasty McCain" and "hopeful Obama." That is not a decision based on issues; those are caricatures. Even though the will of the people ended up lining up with mine this time, I'm not pleased by how they made their decision.

I'm not sure this is true. The polling showed Obama and McCain about five points apart and closing slightly in McCain's favor until the stock market plunged and all the bailout talk accelerated. I think people made a rational choice based on which candidate they thought would serve their interests better in difficult economic times, whether for reasons of competence or because of Democrats favoring social welfare policies.

I think there was some of what you describe going on. Obama was far more charismatic in message and certainly in his person. But pessimism and fear can take a different turn in the public mind. I think people made a choice based more on reality than the last two presidential elections, but mostly because it only really turned for Obama when the shit started getting scary bad. It wasn't about "nasty McCain" or "hopeful Obama" anymore, it was about "how the hell do we get out of this mess?"
posted by krinklyfig at 7:39 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

Because liberal talk radio is competing with NPR, CBS, NBC, ABC, the NYTimes, and the Washington Post for its audience.
posted by Class Goat at 7:41 PM on November 15, 2008


So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

Conservative: disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.

Conservatives tend to be conservative. As such, they tend to be less interested in other viewpoints. Conservative people -- by definition -- take fewer risks and want to be exposed to fewer things. So they are not interested in listening to liberal radio. They are interested in listening to programming that covers what they are comfortable with. Conservative radio does that, so they will listen to that.

Liberal: Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas

Liberals tend to be liberal. As such, they tend to be interested in a variety of viewpoints. Liberal people -- by definition -- take more risks and want to be exposed to more things. So they are not particularly interested in liberal radio because they do not want someone trying to talk them into something they already believe. They are more interested in listening to programming that has a different point of view so they might learn something. Conservative radio offers them arguments they do not already believe, so they will sometimes listen to that.

So conservative radio attracts conservatives and some liberals, while liberal radio attracts no conservatives and few liberals. Liberal radio fails because no one wants to listen to it.
posted by flarbuse at 7:41 PM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

Liberals generally cannot reduce complex reality into simplistic terms with easy solutions that easily masquerade as folksy common sense, so they can't form the kind of one-note consensus that makes conservative talk radio so successful. They ask too many questions and consider too many points of view.
posted by troybob at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


@Troybob: Sounds a bit like the process that goes into making Digg's headlines. Granted, they seem to skirt between liberal and libertarian.

Personally, I'd say liberal talk radio hasn't caught on because I think, as a liberal myself, liberals prefer the straight news or, if they want opinion, a nuanced editorial. That seems like the sort of thing that newspapers and certain websites offer. In the car, NPR and the many public radio programs also work pretty well, so that negates the need for a conservative-style talk radio type of show. Plus, the angry yelling gets annoying.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:49 PM on November 15, 2008


It ended up being, for a majority of the electorate, a choice between "nasty McCain" and "hopeful Obama." That is not a decision based on issues; those are caricatures. Even though the will of the people ended up lining up with mine this time, I'm not pleased by how they made their decision.

Bullshit. The vast majority of the electorate was locked up years before the election. What you saw was a fight over the tiny group of people who were unfamiliar with the issues and were therefore persuadable. And many of them probably did research and voted on the issues, but not enough to overcome the "gut voters" who decide close elections (like 2000 and 2004). The gap was so huge for Obama this year I suspect it had more to do with the issues then '04 and '00.
posted by delmoi at 7:49 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Liberals are too non-authoritarian. Listening to the same guy give you the same opinions four hours a day isnt appealing.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:50 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I thought that point was echoed in Obama's statement in one of the debates about how he wanted to try some different solutions, some of which might not work. It's something I can't imagine ever hearing a conservative say.)
posted by troybob at 7:50 PM on November 15, 2008


Liberal talk radio fails because it doesn't get people riled up.

If you're an American liberal, and you haven't had cause to be riled up for the last, oh, decade or so, you're doing it wrong.
posted by pompomtom at 7:57 PM on November 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Liberals sure are great, aren't they?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:05 PM on November 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Liberals generally cannot reduce complex reality into simplistic terms with easy solutions that easily masquerade as folksy common sense, so they can't form the kind of one-note consensus that makes conservative talk radio so successful. They ask too many questions and consider too many points of view.

Or maybe liberals are so good at entertaining themselves with hilariously self-congratulatory flights of fancy that they don't need radios.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:15 PM on November 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


Or maybe liberals are so good at entertaining themselves with hilariously self-congratulatory flights of fancy that they don't need radios.

Nice way to prove a point. On conservative radio, being an asshole is sufficient cover for avoiding the issue itself.
posted by troybob at 8:23 PM on November 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Oh man! My favorite: the advertorial call-in shows, walking a tightrope between advertisiment and talk radio; a thin veneer of legitimacy, the mellifluous host with scripted spontaneous-seeming lines all in aid of selling some heath product.

Oh man, I gotta chime in here.

Sometimes I end up listening to this one show on late night talk radio. (Not by choice, but no matter.) There's this one host who has a commercial that's made to sound exactly like a segment of his show, in which he "talks" to a recording of Roseanne Barr (whose career can't exactly be soaring right now) telling about her new show in Vegas. In the piece, she tells about this great deal for all his listeners for staying at a given hotel, blah blah.

It's so transparently a long-form ad for the hotel, not the least reason of which because they play the entire piece verbatim nearly every night.
posted by JHarris at 8:24 PM on November 15, 2008


So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

Liberals can't stand the sound quality of AM radio?
posted by octothorpe at 8:27 PM on November 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

larry king was quite successful in his day - the reason liberal talk radio has been such a failure is because the station owners and the advertisers don't want it to succeed
posted by pyramid termite at 8:30 PM on November 15, 2008


they are not particularly interested in liberal radio because they do not want someone trying to talk them into something they already believe.
Yeah, that's why no one ever watches the Daily Show.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:34 PM on November 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm a liberal. I've got The Beatles and pretty much every other decent rock group in history.

Conservatives have Ted Nugent and Hank Williams, Jr. I'd turn off the music and listen to talk too.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:36 PM on November 15, 2008 [11 favorites]


Really a great, helpful article. I know of so many RJ-wannabes out there. Maybe this will be helpful to all of them. The notion of listeners are victims and talk show hosts are vehicles is a really great simile.
posted by susanharper at 8:41 PM on November 15, 2008


From the article:

A smart talk show host will, from time to time, disagree publicly with a Republican president, the Republican Party, or some conservative doctrine. (President Bush’s disastrous choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court was one such example.)

That's a terrible example. The conservative base (both the religious side and the neocon side) were ready to pounce on Miers at the start because she had no rabid conservative judicial record that they could rely on (they were smarting from Souter and Kennedy). Once the White House recognized how upset their puppetmasters were (Manny Miranda et al), they came up with the executive privilege endgame tactic that allowed her to quickly withdraw. And then we got Samuel Alito instead, the perfect slap in the face to the moderate Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat he was taking. Jeffrey Toobin's book The Nine spends a chapter on this (I just finished reading it, good stuff).

And now, back to pointless sniping about talk radio ...
posted by intermod at 8:52 PM on November 15, 2008


In the spirit of unity and brotherhood and reaching across the aisle and stuff, I suggest we all chill out with a cold Summit and listen to Tommy Mischke.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:10 PM on November 15, 2008


Nice way to prove a point. On conservative radio, being an asshole is sufficient cover for avoiding the issue itself.

Is this "liberal" versus "conservative" dichotomy an illustration of liberals' inability to reduce complex reality to simplistic terms? Just curious.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:19 PM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Liberal radio: "Everyone should have health care!"
Listener (thinking): Well, that sounds about settled. Let's see if I can find a ballgame. *tune*


Repeated for truth.

orporate media exists to deliver eyeballs to advertisers in the most cost-effective manner. Conservative talk radio is cheap to produce and delivers the gullible to savvy marketers.

Little wonder real journalism is on the way out.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:23 PM on November 15, 2008


The key reason talk radio succeeds is because its hosts can exploit the fears and perceived victimization of a large swath of conservative-leaning listeners. And they feel victimized because many liberals and moderates have ignored or trivialized their concerns and have stereotyped these Americans as uncaring curmudgeons.

No. It succeeds in helping people to deny their relative poverty by simply distancing themselves from the liberal (who would acknowledge their state of need). Conservatives who work for a living and who need cheaper health care and better education funding (and lower taxes), are targeted by false allies in order to get them to fear government services and blame the victim, severing any notion of solidarity with the liberal. The Republicans are desperate for this strategy because it peels votes away from their opposition. For liberals to remind those people that they are really in need of liberalism is not the uplifting message they desperately want to hear over and over.
posted by Brian B. at 9:24 PM on November 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


hmmm....manipulate other people by taking advantage of their weaknesses. Can they do that?
posted by sluglicker at 9:27 PM on November 15, 2008


If you want to see what a difference a talk radio program can make, watch "The Fire Next Time." It shows very well how corrosive a single broadcaster can be in an area that already divided and somewhat mistrustful.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:45 PM on November 15, 2008


Facts are not interesting to the average person.

Conservatism is fundamentally like a religious belief. It is not fact based, and indeed, is highly dismissive of fact based thinking as "intellectual elitism".

There's two reasons there why liberal media-anything won't work. Plus the fact that liberals are "tolerant", which does not attract a well defined following.

On the flip side, there is no conservative humor. It flat out doesn't work. That's because humor is based in fact, and indeed highlights the most painful of realities, which is anathema to the conservative worldview.

Liberals will never have the leadership most of the time, because of these realities. They will only inherit the leadership in times of great difficulty, after the conservatives have wrecked things.

This cycle will continue until human nature changes.
posted by Xoebe at 9:49 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Very good, but where were articles like this ten years ago?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:01 PM on November 15, 2008


Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits:
Although political views have been thought to arise largely from individuals' experiences, recent research suggests that they may have a biological basis. We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with physiological traits. In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats.
Science Daily article on the paper:
Participants were chosen randomly over the phone in Lincoln, Neb. Those expressing strong political views -- regardless of their content -- were asked to fill out a questionnaire on their political beliefs, personality traits and demographic characteristics.

In a later session, they were attached to physiological measuring equipment and shown three threatening images (a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face and an open wound with maggots in it) interspersed among a sequence of 33 images. Similarly, participants also viewed three nonthreatening images (a bunny, a bowl of fruit and a happy child) placed within a series of other images. A second test used auditory stimuli to measure involuntary responses to a startling noise.

The researchers noted a correlation between those who reacted strongly to the stimuli and those who expressed support for "socially protective policies," which tend to be held by people "particularly concerned with protecting the interests of the participants' group, defined as the United States in mid-2007, from threats." These positions include support for military spending, warrantless searches, the death penalty, the Patriot Act, obedience, patriotism, the Iraq War, school prayer and Biblical truth, and opposition to pacifism, immigration, gun control, foreign aid, compromise, premarital sex, gay marriage, abortion rights and pornography.
If a politically neutral talk-radio station aired scary programs, conservatives would respond more than liberals would, so the station would build a conservative audience and respond by swinging its politics that way. If it were the other way around -- if liberals were the scaredy cats -- talk radio would have evolved into a more liberal beast and would have abandoned the conservatives, because radio is just a business responding to a market.
posted by pracowity at 10:35 PM on November 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


Righties think Lefties are big, bad threats, and Lefties think Righties are big, bad threats.

I see this sort of thing all the time. "Gee, we're all the same." But it's just not so. Where are these "Leftie" talk shows, for example?

We've had eight years of the "Righties" running everything. They appear to have destroyed the US economy and the US's status in the world. The "Lefties" haven't had a place in government for thirty years.

Feel free to equate the two if you like - but you're in a dream world. The "Righties" run everything, and continue to do so. The "Lefties" are simply convenient enemies for them, a figurehead, with no power of any type.

(Please don't try to convince me that Mr. Obama is in any way "left" except that he's not a Republican. Obama's big appeal is that he's competent; until we have a President who's willing to say, "Gee, we spent more than half our tax money on weapons, and we're a bunch of unhealthy, poorly-educated saps: perhaps we should change this!", the "Left" is still just a straw man for the "Righties" to beat upon.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:49 PM on November 15, 2008 [11 favorites]


So interesting how this:

Because liberal talk radio is competing with NPR, CBS, NBC, ABC, the NYTimes, and the Washington Post for its audience.

Dovetails with this:

To begin with, talk show hosts such as Charlie Sykes – one of the best in the business – are popular and powerful because they appeal to a segment of the population that feels disenfranchised and even victimized by the media. These people believe the media are predominantly staffed by and consistently reflect the views of social liberals. This view is by now so long-held and deep-rooted, it has evolved into part of virtually every conservative’s DNA.


But go ahead and keeping being afraid of the big, bad old liberal media, class goat. It makes you a pretty easy mark to sell garbage to.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:19 AM on November 16, 2008


Because liberal talk radio is competing with NPR, CBS, NBC, ABC, the NYTimes, and the Washington Post for its audience. - posted by class goat

So class goat - do you have actual demographic proof?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:59 AM on November 16, 2008


Or maybe liberals are so good at entertaining themselves with hilariously self-congratulatory flights of fancy that they don't need radios.

Hilariously self-congratulatory? Like what? Give me an example.

Give me one fucking clear example that displays this "hilariously self-congratulatory" behavior, you wrongheaded fool.

I don't know. Something like "Mission Accomplished". You got anything quite like that?
posted by loquacious at 5:16 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good Lord, I'm agreeing with MPDSEA. loquacious, how about:

"The concerns of conservatives are mainly ignorant and trivial . . ."

"Conservatives tend to be conservative. As such, they tend to be less interested in other viewpoints."

"Personally, I'd say liberal talk radio hasn't caught on because I think, as a liberal myself, liberals prefer the straight news or, if they want opinion, a nuanced editorial."

"Conservatism is fundamentally like a religious belief."

Sorry, guys, but there are too many comments here along the lines of, "The problem here is that liberals are simply too intelligent and fair to succeed in talk radio, whereas the Neanderthal conservatives love to listen to the hooting of tribal leaders for the blood of the Other." I'm on Team Blue this year, but it hasn't always been that way.

The article itself says that talk show listeners are not "angry, uneducated white men," but from a range of backgrounds. They "feel victimized because many liberals and moderates have ignored or trivialized their concerns and have stereotyped these Americans as uncaring curmudgeons." I'm wondering how to reach out to them.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:42 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm on Team Blue this year

So much of what is trying to be passed as 'intelligent observation' smacks more of 'this is my sports team - and I support them by attending their events, giving them money, wearing their branding'.

Team Blue 'self-branding' is a fine example - thank you for posting it.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:51 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]



Who has time to listen to talk radio? You all must be speed readers. By the time I read metafilter, arts and letters daily, salon and plastic I don't have time for the radio. (or tv) Actually it is all the damn links that slow me down.
posted by notreally at 5:53 AM on November 16, 2008


rough ashlar, it was a turn of phrase from a friend who said she was on Team Red. (I'm old enough to remember when the colors were reversed!) I have a hard time saying I'm a liberal across the board, although it is probably true, simply because it means a lot of things in American political discussion that I don't necessarily want it to. (For example, I support gun rights, and where does that put you?)
posted by Countess Elena at 5:56 AM on November 16, 2008


You need to go visit your crazy republican uncle. You know you've got one. They're not looking to be reached out to, they're looking for conversational ammunition they can spray into any given political topic, as well as a sense of belonging, a ready-manufactured set of values that distinctly set them apart... right wing talk radio provides them all of that. It's just that simple.

They're stereotyped as uncaring curmudgeons, because, in large part, they're uncaring curmudgeons. You can't reach out to them in any meaningful way, like, say, pointing out your aunt will have to work until she's almost 70 because his health coverage was yanked out from beneath him by a failed pension plan. It's communism to talk about universal healthcare, and it's all Clinton's fault the pension plan went under! (According to Bill O'reilly, it's not the big-money executives who looted it and burned it to the ground while Dubbya looked the other way, but Barney Frank, the gay congressman, who's to blame. And Nancy Pelosi. And B. Hussein Obama - so we'll call it the "Obama Recession" two months before he's sworn into office.)

If you can cut through that kind of denial with anything short of a chainsaw, let me know, because I got three uncles just like this. They know they're being lied to. They don't care.

The cultural currents that allowed this happen in the first place is ebbing rapidly - new-blood conservatives are all self-professed Libertarians who voted for Ron Paul. They generally don't have time for talk radio that doesn't involve sports scores.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:13 AM on November 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


For example, I support gun rights, and where does that put you?

1st off guns are objects and have no rights. Sovereign citizens have rights.

The Constitution has a clause about citizens and clinging to their guns. It would seem that your position is 'pro constitutional'. In theory, being 'for the constitution' is neither a Republican or Democrat issue.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:20 AM on November 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


After reading the article and the comments in this thread, I am left with two questions:

1) Is there a problem that needs to be addressed?

2) If so, what is a viable solution?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:38 AM on November 16, 2008


The big talk radio show names have no credibility. I think people realize this and listen just for the entertainment value.

You don't actually know any conservatives, do you?

Countess Elena is, of course, correct, and loquacious is being uncharacteristically blinkered. This very thread is a perfect example of hilariously self-congratulatory liberals. See the Countess's comment above for details.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on November 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


loquacious is being uncharacteristically blinkered.

He was asking for humor to be defined. How crazZzzzy.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:04 AM on November 16, 2008


One year, Charlie targeted me because I had instructed my midday news anchor to report the Wimbledon tennis results, even though the matches wouldn’t be telecast until much later in the day. Charlie gave out my phone number and e-mail address on the air. I was flooded with hate mail, nasty messages, and even one death threat from a federal law enforcement agent whom I knew to be a big Charlie fan.

Lets see - death threats over broadcasting a sports score?

By someone who should know better - a member of 'law enforcement'?

Gay canibals, calls to set tires on fire to stop traffic by elected officials, other elected officials who want to hire people to break someone's legs, and bloggers who feel threatened over blog posts - there sure is the crazy in Milwaukee.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:31 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, guys, but there are too many comments here along the lines of, "The problem here is that liberals are simply too intelligent and fair to succeed in talk radio, whereas the Neanderthal conservatives love to listen to the hooting of tribal leaders for the blood of the Other."

Really, have you not listened to talk radio? They don't let little things like reality stand in the way of the message. It is a constant stream of willful misunderstanding/misrepresentation and disingenuous rationale. Even if you could get a roomful of liberals to do this, you would never get them on the same page as to how; even if you could, you couldn't get enough liberals to buy into it to be considered a listenership. (And it's no small degree of creepy mental pathology that would allow one to engage with three hours a day, five days a week (or more) of listening to or broadcasting a steady stream of bitter whining.)

And I'm not one who considers talk radio to be representative of intelligent conservatism, which I am hoping will come back in style; it wouldn't work on talk radio any more than liberal debate.

They "feel victimized because many liberals and moderates have ignored or trivialized their concerns and have stereotyped these Americans as uncaring curmudgeons." I'm wondering how to reach out to them.

You can reach out to them by giving them something fresh to hate. The talk radio message has two forms: (1) someone is out there trying to take something away from you, and liberals are helping them do it; or (2) someone is out there getting what you deserve, and liberals are giving it to them. That's why a phrase like 'threat to traditional marriage' gains traction though it has no basis in reality.

You can't call something an unfair bias if it happens to be true. Metafilter gets criticized for liberal bias and for shouting down conservative voices, but I think it has more to do with the fact that you can't really expect what you say will go unchallenged. The neocon shit that makes up talk radio suffers greatly in the realm of the printed word (which is why its online manifestations are so often ridiculous to the point of self-parody), and suffocates in the realms of science, history, and logic. I'm more often embarrassed for those who try to defend it than those who merely mindlessly repeat it.
posted by troybob at 7:51 AM on November 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


The big talk radio show names have no credibility. I think people realize this and listen just for the entertainment value.

You don't actually know any conservatives, do you?


Ok, there might be some that take them seriously, but they still don't have any credibility. They could have such a stronger impact for their ideals if they were honest and had a "real" debate of the issues. But that wouldn't be good for ratings.
posted by starman at 7:56 AM on November 16, 2008


Those evil, trollish, us-vs-them conservatives sure do see things in black and white! And I'm tired of how their love of perceived victimization has oppressed us Smarter Americans for the last ten years!
posted by shakespeherian at 8:40 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Those evil, trollish, us-vs-them conservatives sure do see things in black and white! And I'm tired of how their love of perceived victimization has oppressed us Smarter Americans for the last ten years!

Yeah, no perceived victimization there.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:54 AM on November 16, 2008


I mean, honestly, is this the best conservatives can do now that they're on the downtick? Liberals are too full of themselves, and don't reach out?

Do you people have any memory at all for the past eight years? Any memory whatsoever for millions of words on political Web sites identifying liberals as crazy "moonbats" who are just too wishy washy to avoid "drinking the Kool Aid" and know a fact if it bit them on the nose? And memory of eight years of pure bullying on the part of Conservatives -- I have never ONCE had a conservative try and reach out to me. Oh no. Not while they have been in power. No, it has been eight years of "You lost, get used to it." Eight years of accusations of unAmericanism. Eight years of the meanest, smallest minded bullying I've ever experienced. Eight years of having attempts at dialogue met by screeching talking points, many of them disproved, but nonetheless continued to be screeched anyway.

Have you listened to right wing talk radio? Have you listened and not heard the smugly superior tone? The sense that liberals are blindly, stupidly wrong on everything, and that they are actually traitors to America. Have you read a thing written by Ann Coulter or Michele Malkin or any of the little murderous poisoned pens that you unleashed on the world and made rich?

So occasionally a liberal gets a little full of themselves. It's like a match has been lit in a darkened room, and you all flock to point out the fire. Man, your house has been ablaze for eight years. Eight years plus -- it's not like talk radio started with Bush. Talk radio spent eight years of Clinton trying to ruin the man, and painting liberalism and a curse on the earth created by a people of positively Neanderthal intelligence.

I'm sorry, but in that time, you have opposed human rights, supported a war built on lies, denied science, actively fought to combine religion and government, attempted to force schools to teach evolution, tried to strip rights away from women, and spent considerably time and energy in this last campaign painting an American capitalist Christian of mixed race as a foreign black radical Marxist Muslim. And a lot of you bought it. Excuse us if once in a while we find you a little stupid. It's because, with alarming, depressing frequency, you act like freaking morons.

And now you have the temerity to accuse us of the very things you have been guilty of for ages. Motes and planks in eyes, as somebody once said.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:07 AM on November 16, 2008 [44 favorites]


...victimization has oppressed us Smarter Americans for the last ten years!

Were you even around for the last 10 years? Remember swiftboating? Max Cleland? Hundreds if not thousands of others called terrorist sympathizers or worse for daring to question Il President?
posted by DU at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2008


Old maxim explains the dif: the foolish are certain, but the wise doubt.
posted by bonefish at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Astro Zombie.
posted by Phire at 10:34 AM on November 16, 2008


The big talk radio show names have no credibility. I think people realize this and listen just for the entertainment value.

I haven known many Limbaugh listeners, including many members of my family. In my experience, it is decidedly untrue that listeners don't believe it and listen only for entertainment value. I have never, ever met a listener of conservative talk radio that didn't take it very seriously and adopt the talking points as their personal world view.

I have no problem believing, however, that this is how the producers of conservative talk radio think of their work.

When I was in the fourth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Neal who used to excuse herself from the classroom as if she had some business to attend to, and then came back thirty seconds later wearing funny looking glasses. She claimed that Mrs. Neal was away and that she was someone named "Gertie Maturdie," a simple-minded person who had all sorts of crazy and wrong headed ideas about absolutely everything. She would be teaching us in Mrs. Neal's absence.

We loved Gertie's rare appearances. She spoke in a funny voice and wrote misspelled words on the board, driving us to near revolt by swearing up and down that her misspelled version was correct, or that there were only forty states, or that the moon was the center of the solar system. We shrieked, "Noooooooo!" and tried to correct her, but she was certain that her version was correct and would never admit to being wrong about anything.

But what drove us craziest was the fact that even though it was obviously only Mrs. Neal wearing funny glasses and talking in a funny voice, we always spent half of Gertie's appearances trying to prove that she was really only Mrs. Neal, which she denied. How come her shoes were the same as Mrs. Neals? They must shop at the same store. How come she and Mrs. Neal were never in the room at the same time? Mrs. Neal didn't like the way she taught. You're Mrs. Neal! You're Mrs. Neal! No, we were mistaken.

This is what I think of when I hear, for example, Limbaugh saying that this is an "Obama recession." He cannot possibly believe it. Or when Karl Rove talks on Tuesday about how Tim Kaine's experience as Governor of sparsely-populated Virginia makes him unqualified to be Vice President, and then talks on Wednesday about how it is specifically her experience as Governor of Alaska that makes Sarah Palin so qualified to be Vice President. It is not so much that they are wrong that drives me crazy, but that they cannot possibly believe what they are saying but continue to say it repeatedly with a straight face.

Conservative talk-radio listeners, they are like if a third of the class went all Lord of the Flies on us and decided that anyone who questioned Gertie's word was a faggot who needed to be beaten up at recess. The big difference is that as fourth graders, even the dimmest of us were able to see through the ruse.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 10:35 AM on November 16, 2008 [25 favorites]


What does it say about me that I doubted that was an actual old maxim? Indeed, I could not find it after a Google search. Perhaps you paraphrased?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:36 AM on November 16, 2008


I have just fallen in love with Mrs. Neal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:40 AM on November 16, 2008


The difference between Stephen Colbert and Bill O'Reilly is simply this:

People who listen to Stephen Colbert know he is an entertainer.

People who listen to Bill O'Reilly do not.

This is largely because Stephen Colbert tells people it's a character role. He lets his live audiences know that he will be presenting outrageous mistruths and distortions, and that while these may be uncomfortably wrong, it's a means of enabling his guests to correct the lies and tell the truth.

Bill O'Reilly, on the other hand, presents himself as a fact-based promoter of uncomfortable truths. That his "truths" are factually incorrect and damaging to society is ignored both by himself and his producers, and by his largely ignorant listeners. When anyone corrects Bill O'Reilly's misrepresentations, he tells them to shut up.

Stephen is interested in exposing the lies; wealth and power are secondary to that. Bill is interested in wealth and power; the lies are an end to that means.

It is truly sad that people like O'Reilly and Limbaugh can make hundreds of millions of dollars selling billions of dollars of advertising to such a large population of ignorant and hateful people. It is extremely unfortunate that these people number enough to affect society and culture.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:51 AM on November 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


1) Is there a problem that needs to be addressed?

2) If so, what is a viable solution?


The problem is both systemic and psychological, related to the two party system and the thought reform it demands.

Any elitist party necessarily requires a majority to service its elite interests, which must be aggressively pursued while bluffing at it. As a result, working conservatives are convinced to vote for their own economic oppression, because they are led to believe that they are representing a divine economic order of reward and punishment. This becomes a self-justifying reality to them: the poor are to be blamed, the wealthy respected, just like any divine order would have it. By enlisting their active participation they end up punishing poverty and reward wealth some more, because they want to help the divine order out in hopes of getting some too.

The system solution is to break the oppositional good-versus-evil paradigm. "Third parties" need to exist without the built in spoiler effect. This is done by reforming the election system. Currently, any viable third party destroys its parent movement by sabotaging the majority vote needed. This destruction guarantees a conservative tradition, because third party formation proceeds from the ranks of the reform minded.
posted by Brian B. at 11:02 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Secret Life of Gravy:

1) Is there a problem that needs to be addressed?

2) If so, what is a viable solution?


The conservative response:

1. No.

2. See 1.

The liberal response:

1. Yes.

2. Bring back the fairness doctrine.
posted by up in the old hotel at 11:12 AM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit mixed on the fairness doctrine. As much as I dislike talk radio, I'm not ignorant of its honeypot effect, and who knows what these people would do with all that time not spent stewing in persecution complexes. Also, this election demonstrated the value of an organized ground team; would liberals be driven to action if they spent so many hours a week effectively exorcising their frustrations?
posted by troybob at 11:54 AM on November 16, 2008


So why has liberal talk radio been such a failure?

I think it's more a question of style than content. At first, Air America recruited hosts who mirrored the style of the Limbaughs and the Hannitys, but with liberal content. Although Limbaugh's persona as a blowhard (e.g., "talent on loan from God") endears him to his conservative fan base, I don't think a Limbaugh-style shtick is as successful with liberals if you just substituted the conservative viewpoint with a liberal one. The news/entertainment hybrids that seem to be most popular with left/liberals are either comedic and satirical (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert) or just-the-facts-ma'am debaters with a wry sense of humor (Rachel Maddow) rather than mimicking styles from right-wing talk radio. Olbermann is probably the only one who comes close to matching the bluster of Limbaugh, but Olbermann's personal style seems to be more a combination of his previous sports reporting and extended rewatchings of Edward R. Murrow monologues from Good Night and Good Luck than from borrowing styles from right-wing talk shows hosts.
posted by jonp72 at 12:55 PM on November 16, 2008


Old maxim explains the dif: the foolish are certain, but the wise doubt.

A wise man knows...

"What is the difference between a wise man and a foolish man? A wise man knows that he knows not. A foolish man knows not that he knows not."

"Only a fool knows everything. A wise man knows how little he knows."

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." by William Shakespeare.
posted by starman at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is there a problem?

There is a problem.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:13 PM on November 16, 2008


Oh, I didn't doubt the essential wisdom of the saying; I just didn't recognize the form. It was, as I suspected, a paraphrase.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:19 PM on November 16, 2008


The Fairness Doctrine is stupid. We're going to have people decide what is "neutral"? Or, if you look at it as equal liberal-and-conservative, what is liberal? What is conservative? Do we have to apply quantitative measurements and balance the equation? What is the Conservative Quotient of Rush Limbaugh?

If liberals had no outlets, maybe I'd see the point. But between MSNBC, DailyShow/ColbertReport, and the Internet (especially the latter), not to mention many newspapers/etc, and to a decent extent NPR, I don't see any lack of liberal media outlets.

It seems to me both sides have quite a few channels for listeners, at varying degrees of dialogue (intelligent conservatives can stick to WSJ and National Review and whatever the net community equivalents are , others can seek out Rush and Hannity -- liberals can go for the "high road" of NPR and the NYT, or watch Olbermann and Maddow).

The only thing I see lacking is a good comedy/satire show (like Daily Show / Colbert) from the conservative perspective (I remember Fox News tried this and it flopped).

Where I live there's even liberal talk radio (Pacifica Radio), but I guess that's only in a few markets.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:02 PM on November 16, 2008


as a liberal myself, liberals prefer the straight news or, if they want opinion, a nuanced editorial.

That's it for me. I don't enjoy being told what to think. On the other hand, I think some people are distinctly disturbed by reporting without some kind of strong, black and white narrative. It's like a sit com without a soundtrack. When do they know to laugh?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2008


Yeah, no perceived victimization there.

Hey, hear that whooshing sound? Look over your head!
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on November 16, 2008


Was that a bird?
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2008


they are not particularly interested in liberal radio because they do not want someone trying to talk them into something they already believe.
Yeah, that's why no one ever watches the Daily Show.


Great snappy response. Unfortunately, off the mark.

The Daily Show is a comedy show. The purpose of it is to make fun of hypocrisy in politics. Stewart clearly leans to the left, but his show points out the hypocrisy of both the left and the right on a regular basis.

Talk radio shows are not comedy shows. The purpose of them is to proclaim and reinforce what the listeners believe in. You might notice a relative absence of pointing out any hypocrisies of their own party.
posted by flarbuse at 3:23 PM on November 16, 2008


The purpose of TDS, IMO, is to make fun of the news media. That they also make fun of politicians is mainly the result of the news media doing a piss-poor job of actually reporting the important issues in a factual and unbiased manner.

TDS is not a liberal comedy show. It doesn't focus on making fun of Conservatives/Republicans. It makes fun of power. It is an equal-opportunity ballon-popper.

Anyone who has been watching the last few weeks of TDS has seen it make a lot of fun of Obama. The man has done some foolish and amusing things, like using logos and home offices reminiscent of the real Administration's props. TDS has been there to knock him off his pedestal. He doesn't get to be an asshat without being called on it.

Colbert, OTOH, I can accept as someone who is purposefully making fun of conservatism, and particularly the nutbar branch of the Republican party.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:41 PM on November 16, 2008


I agree with the people who have felt no secrets were revealed here. The column should have been titled Everything You Suspected About Conservative Radio is True.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:47 PM on November 16, 2008


I understand Dan Shelley worked for Sykes so the article was about Sykes, but we have an even nastier host in Milwaukee by the name of Mark Belling. More popular that Syskes, he regularly substitutes for Rush Limbaugh. Belling is constantly pissed that his callers aren't more intelligent, but I believe that after years of being a dick to callers (even those in agreement with him) has left Belling an audience of morons.

The fucker even looks like a dick. His attempt at a smile must be seen to be believed:

http://theantonys.com/images/Cruise/E_Mark/E029b_SP_MarkNCheri.JPG
posted by sharksandwich at 5:19 PM on November 16, 2008


Please don't try to convince me that Mr. Obama is in any way "left" except that he's not a Republican.

I'm not sure what it accomplishes to pretend that Obama is right of center.
posted by oaf at 5:39 PM on November 16, 2008


Name another Western nation in which Obama might be accurately called "liberal," please.

In global terms, Obama is conservative.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:23 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Name another Western nation in which Obama might be accurately called "liberal," please.

Does Australia count?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:18 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


And I'm not one who considers talk radio to be representative of intelligent conservatism, which I am hoping will come back in style

That's funny, beause I see the ground-level nutter conservative getting all his talking points from the intellectuals. Sure, they dont use the nasty words he uses, they use just enough code to cover for it and publish in respected journals and be on respected media. I think we all know what "supporting traditional marriage" and "protecting the border" actually means. Dont be surprised when they get your true meaning: the hell with gays and latinos. Rush isnt the bogeyman, he's middle management. He only repeats what the top intellectuals tell him to. Dont be naive.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:42 PM on November 16, 2008


Not that I disagree, necessarily, but it seems that the imperative 'don't be naive' is usually uttered by someone saying something that is kind of ridiculous on the face of it.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:47 PM on November 16, 2008


The West.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:56 PM on November 16, 2008


So Bill O'Reilly was on TDS the other day.

The man can be genuinely funny. And I think he's actually got something to say that's worth listening to — were he not couching it in language of hate and hyperbole, and were he not outright lying to make some of his points.

I'm fairly certain the reason has to do with (a) his being a self-admitted thug and bully; (b) a powrful greed for power and money; (c) laziness.

And except for the cost of personal self-respect, who can blame him? Money for nothing and the chicks for free. It's the American dream, writ large.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:12 AM on November 17, 2008


Money for nothing and the chicks for free loofahs
posted by shakespeherian at 9:33 AM on November 17, 2008


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