Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Fairness Challenge

If you are the type of person who enjoys watching slowly unraveling train wrecks, you may want to take the time between now and the election to listen to some right wing talk radio. Actually, "train wreck" is probably the wrong term. What passes over the airwaves on AM1280 and KTLK is more like a never-ending loop of audio clips from pre-intervention addicts; rantings from ideological crack-heads who have an inkling that the end is near but whose brains haven't quite sent the signal down to stop all the nonsense.

Aside from entertainment value, modern happenings on right wing radio are excellent examples of the need to reintroduce and codify the Fairness Doctrine.

I'll save the nuts and bolts of a new approach to codifying the Fairness Doctrine for another post, but for now I invite you to pick a random 30 minute period during the day to tune into any right wing radio program of your choice. Your mission is simple: find a 1/2 hour sample where the host or station does not explicitly endorse John McCain and/or explicitly slam Barack Obama. For example...

Yesterday I tuned on AM1280 The Patriot from approximately 1030-1100 AM during the Mike Gallagher show. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Gallagher, he has taken over the mid-morning slot on The Patriot from Laura Ingraham. He is one of the top-10 most listened to radio hosts in the United States. According to his Wikipedia page Gallagher got his start as a sportscaster and weatherman at WKEF in Dayton, Ohio. Somewhere along the way he found conservative Jesus and he is now a proud adherent to the Sean Hannity model of winger success; becoming a tripple-threat with TV appearances, a radio program, and a book (Surrounded by Idiots: Fighting Liberal Lunacy in America).

Mr. Gallagher opened up my randomly selected 1/2 hour with the synergistic Daily Dose of Liberal Lunacy, which featured a random caller (who may or may not have been drunk) calling him names. Mr. Gallagher quickly related the sensibilities of the anonymous caller to Barack Obama before the station cut to commercial. During the break I was treated to a pitch from Town Hall magazine offering potential subscribers a Sarah Palin biography, supposedly filled with facts that the dastardly MSM won't dare tell you. Friends and neighbors, at this point my will was broken and I turned the dial to KFAN. A man can only take so much.

After a few minutes of listening to rehashed Vikings drivel I gained enough strength to return to AM1280 where I found Mr. Gallagher crowing about a series of pro-McCain commercials that he and his producer had DIY'd in the studio. He spent a good 5 minutes literally offering them (for free) to the campaign. The commercials themselves were poorly-constructed attacks on an answer Barack Obama gave during the Saddleback Forum concerning the origins of life. Mr. Gallagher was quite proud of his accomplishments. Mr. Sponge was not and he turned back to KFAN. After about 30 seconds of listening to the awful PA and Dubay I decided to give it a final shot. (I know what you are asking: Doesn't Mr. Sponge fancy himself a talk radio connoisseur? How come he can't make it through 30 minutes of the Mike Gallagher show? The answer to this is that while I may be fond of right wing radio, I do have standards and Mr. Gallagher falls well short of all of them.)

I made my way back to AM1280 just in time to hear Mr. Gallagher field a call from someone who compared Obama supporters to people who were happy when OJ got off from a murder rap. I then snorted some iced tea through my nose when Mr. Gallagher happily agreed with the caller while adding something to the effect of "this is just another way of them sticking it to the white man." Lovely.

Earlier today I tuned into the Dennis Prager show for a couple of minutes during which Dennis assured his viewers that a Democratic victory in November would cause the country a "hurt we can't recover from". He then went on to cite the issue of gay marriage as an example of the creeping liberal menace before bringing it on home with a story about how the income tax has slid all the way down the slippery slope from 1 to 30%.

What set this little bit of lunacy off? Dennis was fielding calls from folks who believed that a McCain loss in November would contain a silver lining in the sense that America would see liberalism unveiled in an Obama administration and it would be so horrible that the American people would be scared straight. Amazingly, Mr. Prager fashions himself as a public intellectual with a penchant for clarity uber alles. It's actually quite cute.

Later on I dialed up AM1280 during the Michael Medved program just in time to hear the nasally movie critic implore his audience to not "give up" because it's a "close" and "winnable" election. Really, for whom? (Interestingly enough, Mr. Medved likes to talk about the Fairness Doctrine from time to time. His main argument against the doctrine is that he believes a federal bureaucracy could never regulate political editorials in an unbiased manner. As a well-compensated radio personality who tells his listeners not to give up on getting John McCain elected, you can see where he might come to such a conclusion.)

While writing this post I turned on KTLK and heard Jason Lewis, Minnesota's "Mr. Right", tell his listeners to "not give up" (on the election) and "get the job done" (for McCain). He then handed out free tickets to An American Carol. I turned the dial back to AM1280 just in time to catch a Hugh Hewitt interview with Victor Davis Hanson where the two discussed what cave-dwelling terrorists and Iranians might think of an Obama presidency. Hanson wondered out loud how hard it would be for a messianic egotist like Obama to give up the office of the president should he tragically make his way to 1600 PA.

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to take the Fairness Challenge. Take a moment or two to listen to right wing radio and try to make believe that it is anything other than overt and targeted propaganda for a specific political party and specific candidates. Take a moment or two to listen to Sean Hannity go on and on about how Barry Hussein Obama will destroy this Great Nation if he is elected president instead of John McCain. Take a moment or two to listen to Hugh Hewitt tell his listeners that voting for Democrats will literally, yes literally, get you killed.

For the past 2+ decades movement conservatism has sought to destroy and de-fund liberalism and the Democratic party (the two are not synonymous). While their ultimate prize is the yet-to-be-dismantled Social Security system, they have largely succeeded with their main goal by emptying the federal bureaucracy of competent liberal professionals (and replacing them with Brownies), crippling the institutions that employ and empower liberal-leaning donors, and busting unions from coast to coast. Meanwhile, conservative influence in government has been magnified by over-representation in Congress (in both halls), the relaxation of federal regulations, and the growth of the lobbying industry. The explosion of talk radio has provided conservative candidates with a built-in media apparatus that operates on a profit instead of eating up campaign donations. Think about how much it would cost a campaign to produce 30-second commercials with the type of material listed above and then distribute it coast-to-coast. Now think about 30 minutes worth of material...or 3 hours of Hannitization.

Folks, it's time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. Instead of de-funding the right, we're simply going to ask them to pay for what they take and abuse for free. It's time to make the Obama Channel a model for conservative talk radio.

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