This article in Milwaukee Magazine was published last week, but I only had the chance to read it today. It was written by Dan Shelley, the former news director/program manager at one of Milwaukee's largest and most powerful radio stations, WTMJ. The article offers a lot of inside skinny on how Rightwing Radio chooses its slanted topics, marches in lockstep with GOP talking points, sets up its "conservative" listeners as victims, and shuts out all but the most artfully selected opposing viewpoints.
Shelley points to the popular Charlie Sykes, who hosts one of the shows he'd produced for years at WTMJ, and some others by way of examples of how the scam works.
"There is no way to win a disagreement with Charlie Sykes," writes Shelley. "Calls from listeners who disagree with him don’t get on the air if the show’s producer, who generally does the screening, fears they might make Charlie look bad. I witnessed several occasions when Sen. Russ Feingold, former Mayor John Norquist, Mayor Tom Barrett or others would call in, but wouldn’t be allowed on the air."
I'll take this moment to mention, yet again, that this is all being done on the publicly owned airwaves, which we grant license to out of the kindness of our public hearts, and which the wingnuts enjoy as public welfare queens to bludgeon Americans into voting against their own self-interest.
There's a reason guys like Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly are so frightened of some form of restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. It's not because it would remove them from the air, as they like to lie about to their listeners, but because it would actually require them to be fair by carrying opposing viewpoints. Ya know, that balance thing you've heard so much about on Fox "News" where they're just kidding about it. If they weren't kidding about it, why would they be so terrified about restoring what Reagan did away with in 1987, which then allowed for the Hannitys, Limbaughs and O'Reillys to go on air, on virtually every single station, in every single market, to freely lie to the public via its own airwaves?...
Shelley writes that rightwing hosts "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."
He goes on to give a few bullet point examples of the most egregious hypocrisy of the wingnut radio m.o. over the last 8 years or so, and how their narrative would have been completely different had the offenders in question been Democrats instead of Republicans. See the excerpts posted below for some of that, but I'd otherwise strongly recommend a full read of the entire article...
• In the talk show world, the line-item veto was the most effective way to control government spending when Ronald Reagan was president; it was a violation of the separation of powers after President Clinton took office.
• Perjury was a heinous crime when Clinton was accused of lying under oath about his extramarital activities. But when Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide, was charged with lying under oath, it was the prosecutor who had committed an egregious act by charging Libby with perjury.
• "Activist judges" are the scourge of the earth when they rule it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the rights heterosexuals receive. But judicial activism is needed to stop the husband of a woman in a persistent vegetative state – say Terri Schiavo – from removing her feeding tube to end her suffering.
To amuse myself while listening to a talk show, I would ask myself what the host would say if the situation were reversed. What if alleged D.C. Madam client Sen. David Vitter had been a Democrat? Would the reaction of talk show hosts have been so quiet you could hear crickets chirping? Hardly.
Or what if former Rep. Mark Foley had been a Democrat? Would his pedophile-like tendencies have been excused as a “prank” or mere “overfriendly e-mails?” Not on the life of your teenage son.
Suppose Al Gore was president and ordered an invasion of Iraq without an exit strategy. Suppose this had led to the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. troops and actually made that part of the world less stable. Would talk show hosts have dismissed criticism of that war as unpatriotic? No chance.
Or imagine that John Kerry had been president during Hurricane Katrina and that his administration’s rescue and rebuilding effort had been horribly botched. Would talk show hosts have branded him a great president? Of course not.
It was Katrina, finally, that made me truly see the light. Until then, 10 years into my time at TMJ, while I might have disagreed with some stands the hosts took, I did think there were grounds for their constant criticism of the media. I had convinced myself that the national media had an intrinsic bias that was, at the very least, geographical if not ideological, to which talk radio could provide an alternative.
Then along came the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.
Read the full story for Shelley's outrage at what he witnessed from his rightwing talk show hosts as New Orleans drowned. Hint: It was all just an illusion of the "liberal media" and the "angry left" naturally...