From the Archives: Hello, is anyone out there? (1997)

in Culture

By Leslie Stackel

Conservative voices have held sway over talk-radio’s airwaves since the 1960s, selling a backlash against progressive ideas to a frightened public married to the status quo. How did it happen? Why does it continue, and where can someone tune in to hear a voice taking the liberal or, heaven forbid!, leftist position on political issues?

A year after comedian Al Franken published Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot (Thorndike Press, Thorndike, ME), the obese sultan of right-wing talk radio still rules the airwaves. Limbaugh and his ultraconservative cronies, most notably G. Gordon Liddy and Ollie North, rant continuously against “feminazis,” environmental “wackos,” minorities and all things progressive in a rolling firestorm of sock-it-to-’em hate radio. Their brand of vitriol has earned them over 600 station spots, mostly Rush’s, on nationally syndicated radio, reaching more than 20 million listeners. And despite reams of bad press, reproach from more moderate Republicans and sagging ratings, the Limbaugh ilk continue to infect our country’s talk-radio continuum like a bad flu it can’t shake.

Where will the cure for this epidemic virus come from? Where can the long-suffering listener tune in for a liberal shot in the ear? Who will present a balanced sensibility for the other side, and an overdue public hazing of Limbaugh and his prating dittoheads?

According to Michael Flarrison, editor of a broadcast publication called Talkers Magazine, talk radio isn’t entirely a conservative wasteland. Dozens of liberals can be found around the dial on local stations, he contends. “About 40% of radio dialog is liberal,” he estimates, “but the media have played up the rightists.”

Maybe. But his 40% figure pretty obviously depends on one’s definition of “liberal.” In one recent study on talk radio by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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