Thursday, April 07, 2005

Air Amerikkka

XM radio came with the new Suburban, and perched one station to the right on the dial from the conservative talk radio station is Air Amerikkka, its liberal counterpart. I’m strangely attracted, making me wonder if I have sado-masochistic tendencies. So here are some observations on what I’ve heard so far, which is three separate hosts, one of which is Al Franken, another Randi Rhodes, and a third a woman I haven’t identified.

Originally I though that liberal talk radio would never survive because it cannot differentiate itself enough from mainstream news – who needs to hear guys on Air America put the same gloss on information that they’ll get from watching Dan Rather or reading the NYT. Conservative talk radio is immensely popular because unlike Air America it fills a real consumer need – a critical assessment of the stories and opinions pushed in more liberal press outlets that resonates with a significantly sized subset of the population. People can argue all they wish to about whether the mainstream press is biased (relative to the distribution of opinions held by the population), but the market success of conservative radio and the relative preponderance and popularity of conservative blogs is all the proof one should need.

That said, it is also undoubtedly true that people to the extreme left view the mainstream press as being biased to the right, and in comparison to the world view of a Nation reader (for example), it is. So the Nation reader would be attracted to a show that can be critical of the mainstream press and all of its critics on the right. But in the past the only people who read the Nation were those who wrote it. The question is whether or not there are enough such people now to make Air America successful. A show that positions itself more or less in line with the mainstream media is more or less redundant media. Air America has to be more on the fringe to be successful, and it has to hope that enough people have taken leave of their senses to the point where they can swallow conspiracy theories that have no factual support.

Alternatively, the network has to capitalize on the overwhelming need of even the more moderate factions of the political left to be told how morally superior they are to those on the right; such validation is not in great demand when they are in power, but it may be now. From my brief experience, it seems that there is a lot of both going on. So here are some observations:

1) People have told me that Al Franken is genuinely funny, and maybe that is so, but talking politics seems to strip him of his sense of humor. I’ve listened to at least 2 total hours of his show, and he’s just not that funny. It doesn’t even seem like he tries to be funny.

2) Neither Franken nor Rhodes seem to take many calls. Maybe it’s because we just all need to listen. But maybe it’s a good thing, because people might realize that the callers make more sense than the hosts. Franken goes off on one Schiavo related call saying that it would be better – good news in fact – if Schiavo were in a coma, because people come out of comas. He goes on to say that he’s spoken with injured soldiers who were put into medically induced comas, and that they come out of them, and this is the basis upon which he claims comas are good, because they are only temporary. So cheer up if you are reading this from a comatose state!

3) The left has learned not to spit on soldiers. Now they just condescend to them, treating them as hapless victims who thought they were just signing up to do fun obstacle courses. You never hear these guys talk about a soldier who isn’t maimed unless it’s Wesley Clark. Maybe that is because the soldiers who can walk just walk away from these guys – either that or journalists never approach soldiers because they are obvious targets.

4) Randi Rhodes goes off on how the Republicans don’t want to regulate any businesses, but they want to regulate people’s lives. And who can argue with that, given the Republican initiatives to eliminate or repeal the EPA, the SEC, the IRS, the FCC, the FTC, FERC, the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Reserve, the Sherman Antitrust Act, the FAA, the FDA and … well, you get the picture. If we had some regulation, we’d see people from Enron, WorldCom, Fannie Mae, etc. actually go to jail. Oh, wait a minute, that’s happening, isn’t it? But not before they cheated their shareholders and employees, which of course happened during Clinton’s watch.

5) Meanwhile, according to Ms. Rhodes in her incoherent rant, we want to tell people when they can live and die, when they can have babies and not. Isn’t it China that tells people when they can’t have babies? Can someone refill her prescription?

6) They need more villains. Twenty four hours of liberal talk radio hosts having epileptic seizures at the mere mention of Tom Delay gets old fast. Either that, or they need more powerful villains – one of 400 plus congresspersons is just not enough to fuel an entire entertainment genre. Can you imagine the conservative hosts talking about Henry Waxman 24/7? Frankly, we have a much better list of targets, with Al Sharpton, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson … the list goes on and on. I attribute this to a mainstream press that will string a shady conservative out to dry, but give any ethically challenged liberal every benefit of the doubt; because that is true, Republicans do a better job screening out candidates.

7) Liar liar liar liar. When Bush says anything, there is no benefit of the doubt accorded – he is a liar. Franken is big on this. In an interview with Barak Obama, they were talking about how Bush was “lying” when he recently was pointing out the fact that Social Security has generally been bad for blacks, who pay into it but die earlier. But there is plenty of evidence to support Bush’s claim. That offered by Franken to call him a liar – well, there was none.

People talk about the hate speech of conservative radio – usually those who don’t listen to any of it. They assume Rush, for example, is just telling people to commit hate crimes. I listened to Rush extensively in the nineties, and his show is relentlessly optimistic about America. Sure, he had plenty of complaints about the Clinton governance, but he seemed to always keep it in his head that, even when the other party is in office (stealing the furniture, as it were), it’s still better to live in America than anywhere else. I get the sense that this is what is lacking, especially with Rhodes, and to a lesser extent with Franken. These people actually believe their own rhetoric – they think they live in a police state. I don’t know that such relentless negativity can sustain a large enough audience, and I hope it can’t. Things could change, and probably would if a Dem were elected – then, all of a sudden, it would be morning in America again.


Blogger Professor Vic said...

"Air Amerikkka"? A well written title. You get to associate Al Franken with the communists and the Klan all at once. Well, you, like Rush and all the other conservatives, sure do like to keep it positive.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Hold the phone there Professor Vic, what does that title have to do with the pinko commies? As for the association with the KKK - if you knew the history of the spelling of America in that fashion, you'd know that it was the favored spelling of sixties radicals who felt the country was like one big KKK chapter. So, it is not meant to associate Franken with the KKK, it is meant to associate Franken with those who are convinced America is a rotten country.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

Ok, I was not aware that your use of Amerikkka was a play on the 60s radicals. Despite having read both "On the Road" and "Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test," I was unaware of the term. I'm surprised I didn't have to answer a question on that when I took my written admission test to enter academia.

But at least I know the pinko commie connection. The term "Amerika" (single k) is an often used term referring to a supposed Socialist takeover of America. The spelling with a "k" comes from the spelling of America in several European languages (including German and Dutch). Again, it refers to the Europeanization or Socialization of free, capitalist America by Socialist European ideals.

The title was more historically intellectual (although every bit as insulting) than I gave you credit.

In general, my feelings on both Frankin and Rush (and Michael Moore, as well) are that I see them as entertainers not scholars or news media just as Paul Krugman's NYT column is different than his scholarly works.

They are there to promote ratings rather than truth, so why should I get too upset about what Rush says. I do fear that a large percentage of people can't tell the difference between editorials and news and worry that people think that Rush and Frankin are telling the real story.

There is a real question about why red-staters find radio editorials and blogs so much more entertaining than do blue-staters for which I have no real answer. I am not certainly not convinced that regular news serves as liberal editorializing.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Clupbert said...

"There is a real question about why red-staters find radio editorials and blogs so much more entertaining than do blue-staters for which I have no real answer. I am not certainly not convinced that regular news serves as liberal editorializing."

This guy's a professor? COME ON BUDDY. Whatever news that isn't tainted by liberal bias, is tainted by negative sensationalist bias. Where is information that says? You know what America is up and running quite well... There is never going to be news about it because liberal journalists think it is boring and don't ever do stories on it. Rush talks about it a lot but I do agree that he has too much spin for me to listen to him.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

While I agree completely that there is a sensationalist bias in the media, it's not clear at all to me why that should translate into liberal bias.

True enough that a report that "everything is A-OK" doesn't sell papers, but pointing out society's problems is not necessarily a liberal bias. For example, publicizing welfare or lawsuit fraud as well as stories about crime tend to play to conservative concerns about the status quo.

Just as a closing point, I would like to add that Clupbert himself proves my contention that conservatives (presuming that he is one) can be every bit as guilty of sensationalism. He starts his comment with an insult and follows that up with ALL CAPS. I guess whatever blogging that isn't tainted by conservative bias, is tainted by negative sensationalist bias.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Clupbert said...

We all know welfare and lawsuit fraud make the papers everyday, unlike gun accidents, unemployment (only when it's high), corporate fraud, and just about anything that is going bad. I am a journalism major and I see all my fellow journalism majors and the reasons they go in to journalism. There are a ton of them who assume progessive views and not only do they not question them, but they promote them... You should see my student newspaper... The people who write these lefto radical student newspapers go on to become the writers you see in the Dailies, only they aren't so obvious about it. And I hope your joking about your last point...

11:21 PM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

Let's talk about my last point first. I am only half joking there. I think civility in discourse is among the most important virtues we can have, and it is one that seems to be disappearing in this highly partisan day and age. It is especially easy to be abusive in the semi-anonymous world of cyberspace. So, unless you know me personally, no cracks questioning my credentials. Of course, if you do know me, all bets are off because, to be frank, we're all a little surprised that somebody would hire me as a professor.

Now back to your main point. First, while I don't find it surprising that a majority of your colleagues are liberals, that does not necessarily translate into a liberal bias to the news. For example, the majority of the math department at my college are very liberal, but that doesn't change what they do. Facts are facts and reporting is reporting. Again I emphasize the difference between the front page and the editorial page. Similarly, reading my scholarly work, I think you would find it difficult if not impossible to determine my political leanings.

Now the real question becomes why does journalism attract liberals? Perhaps conservatives think their career progression will be harmed? Fair enough, but newspapers always try to present some balance on their editorial pages, so being a conservative journalist might make you a hot commodity, like a black, conservative jurist.

I would guess that at least some of the attraction of journalism is an sense of idealism that through the media one can change the world. If I have deeply held liberal beliefs, I can become a newspaper writer and spread my ideology over the entire reading community. But where are the conservatives with those same deeply held beliefs? Getting "real" jobs and then writing blogs on the side (or during work when the boss isn't looking)? Do they become religious leaders instead? I think it is both a fair and an interesting question.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Clupbert said...

Wooo, I think you're way uptight.The PC age is aimed at eliminating all color and flavor from dialogue, let's call this Politically Correct "civil discourse" newspeak, shall we? Math and newswriting are so far from each other. Worldview is worldview. When a journalist does a story, they have to think, what is important information here? And when you are hardcore either way, you will definitely miss important thing. Liberals just think guns are scary, religion is stupid, corporations are evil, and so on. They do not gauge the importance of situations as any normal American would. They miss the ball... ... a lot. Your definition of abusive is an insult to real abuse. By the way, here is a quote from a comment you made on an earlier post, "This is exactly what I got on Hatch's case about in regards to his Shiavo comments, although even Hatch was never this big a nutjob" How's that glass house working out for you?

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand how anyone can claim mainstream media is not biased and with a severe "restrictive" tilt. I wouldn't use the word "liberal" however, because that implies that they somehow seek liberty and freedom for others whereas they simply seek to impose their will and way of life on others. How is a "liberal" someone who believes that they have a right to demand and dictate how someone else spends their money? That's what a "liberal" does when they want to dictate how people shell out dollars to the government (i.e. taxes) so that the government can determine for them how that money should be spent. "Liberals" also want to dictate whether or not you have a right to carry a gun to protect yourself. Hence why "liberals" are more like a legion of "dictators" or perhaps collectively "restrictives".

Don't get me wrong, the "conservatives" are not really "conservative" either in general, but at least their not as "restrictive"...and at least they don't dominant the mainstream media like the "restrictives" do.

11:09 AM  

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