Talk radio

Which came first, the rabid “delude me! delude me!” audience of victims of liberalism, or the voices on the air full of conspiracy theories about democrats banning the bible?

It’s actually an important question.

Some guy thinks there’s an audience for his particular brand of political and social commentary, and of course, there is. That’s the genesis of it, though I doubt it started with talk radio (talk radio was just one of the first really widespread methods).

You can find examples of this all across the Internet; Liberal and Conservative, Atheist and Theist. We’ve entered into an age of editorialism and biased reporting that hasn’t been seen before. With Cable TV, Talk Radio, and the Internet, people can (and will) watch, whatever the hell mirrors their own beliefs.

If you think it’s only the redneck conservatives that are pining to be deluded, then I’ve got news for you…

I think its a little like gerrymandering: something that has always been possible but which has been made much easier and more effective to do by technology.

There’s been demogoguery of various sorts since forever. But the rise of mass media made it easier to do on a mass scale. Now in the last 20 years or so we’ve seen the rise of the focused media so demogoguery can be custom made to order, to fit any size of idealogy.

So the audience has always been there, but the means of reaching them with a particularized and specific message is fairly recent.

The particular type of right wing talk radio that has dominated in the last 10 to 15 years is an outgrowth of the 70s and 80s efforts by various conservative groups and foundations to train, publish, gain exposure for, and promote conservative media figures. They made efficient and innovative use of the potential of technology to take demoguery to heights rarely seen.

Last year I read The Republican Noise Machine by David Brock and What’s the Matter with Kansas by Thomas Frank in fairly short order. Although both books have serious flaws, reading them both went a LONG way towards explaining the big picture in American politcs now. Both books are kinda half right/half wrong. Taken together they paint a pretty interesting picture.

Art Bell’s Coast to Coast is proof of that.

Sharpe, I thought the genesis of Right-Wing talk radio had something to do with Reagan striking down an FCC rule about equal time on the air waves. Before this each station would have to air a liberal host for every conservative. Now, not so much. Anything about that in that Noise Machine book?

It’s mentioned, yeah. Basically you couldn’t run fox news radio-style outlets before that, as apparently the market for this gets really angry if you mix up the liberals and conservatives on the same station. Not joking - there’s market research.

That bit about mixed formats being unpopular is interesting. That would tend to indicate that what attracts loyal listeners is reinforcement, rather than multi-layered debate.

I’m curious if the market research was all about conservative talk stations which had a smattering of liberal talk (that’s the only model I’ve seen that wasn’t pure conservative, or Air America) – I wonder what the market research shows for a station thats mostly liberal with a smattering of conservative, or a station that’s fully mixed.

I have no idea what their market share is or even anything about the demographics of their audience, but there’s an AM station in Seattle (710 KIRO) that has a good mix of viewpoints – at least when I tend to listen, which is the mid-late afternoon hours.

In the early-mid afternoon time block, they have the decidedly conservative Dori Monson, followed immediately by Dave Ross, whose views are pretty left wing. Of course, “real” conservatives would probably label Monson a liberal and “real” liberals probably think Ross is a stooge for the right, so who knows?

Anyway, my point is, I would guess that 710 KIRO is a pretty popular station in the Puget Sound region, and they seem to have a good variety of perspectives in their programming.

That’s because KVI is the local crank talk radio:

I find it amazing anyone can listen to Sean Hannity at all. He’s like Rush without the fun.

The Atlantic Monthly had a good article on talk radio this past month - some real insightful stuff in there.