October 14, 2006

"They were not a broadcasting concern to begin with. ... They went into business to affect elections."

Gloats Rush Limbaugh, as Air America files for bankruptcy. The implication is that his show is "a broadcasting concern," but you've got to wonder: How is his show less about affecting elections than "Air America"?

I like the idea that listeners can tell what the radio guy is up to. We're sensitive to the voice. We can tell when what the speaker wants is to tell you to get in line politically. (I feel the same way about blogging.)

I'm not a big listener of either Limbaugh or Al Franken, but, driving in my car, I've spent some time with both of them.

I think Limbaugh clearly and constantly is trying to get you to agree with his opinions, but he's got a joy in the moment that captures the listener. You know, I am the same age as Limbaugh -- we were actually born on the same day -- and I get the distinct sense that he was influenced by the two great, great radio guys that I listened to every day back in the 60s: Jean Shepherd and Cousin Brucie. These were not political broadcasters as all, just extremely entertaining radio voices.

Al Franken, being a comedian, ought to bring entertainment value to his radio show, but I never got the feeling that he was into the moment, that he had a sense of what it means to be a voice on the radio. He always sounds exasperated, like he's dragged himself to the studio and it's a tough job but somebody's got to do it. Why, oh, why, don't people get it yet? How many times do I have to tell you...

33 comments:

Seneca the Younger said...

There's one obvious way Rush is less about affecting elections than Air America was --- Rush is sufficiently entertaining that he makes a freaking fortune. Certainly he's about making a political point too... but he's about attracting an audience first.

Franken and Air America seem to have missed that step.

Dave said...

I don't understand the appeal of Rush. But I don't understand the appeal of Franken either.

In fact, I don't understand the appeal of radio, period.

Word verification, oddly enough:

djeasy

tom faranda said...

Good observations. Comparing the two, Limbaugh is fun to listen to, whether you agree with him or not. And besides being witty, he's usuall sunny and optimistic. The same can't be said for any of the Air America personalities I ever heard, they are soooo serious. Just not fun to listen to..

Ron said...

Franken was not trying to entertain; he was using his humor as a weapon.

minimus said...

Limbaugh started small, learned and grew accordingly. He and his listeners enjoy themselves.

Air America was a top down oganization from the beginning. There wasn't a lot of joy there.

Doyle said...

Rush is very good at what he does, but right wing politics also lends itself to better talk radio.

Bashing bleeding heart liberals, the Islamic terrorists they sympathize with, immigrants, gays, and the media is easy pickins.

Who wouldn't want to hear about how bad all those groups are and how superior we are as a civilization, or would be if it weren't for those effete commies?

The Air America case, that our government has been hijacked by a corrupt cabal that is merely a facilitator of corporate interest, whatever its merits, is kind of a downer.

Talking about the importance of civil liberties makes for less compelling entertainment than demanding the eradication of any group of people responsible for, or sympathetic to, the 9/11 attacks.

I'm not sweating it though. I don't listen to radio, and for those that do, there's still NPR.

OhioAnne said...

I always get the sense that Rush is just a little amused by the fact that so many people (from all political spectrums) take him so seriously, but is smart enough to realize that there is money to be made if he lets them.

Joe said...

Rush succeeded in a market. Air America needed subsidies to keep going because, unlike Rush, their message does not resonate with the majority of the people.

Kirk Parker said...

Doyle,

"The Air America case, that our government has been hijacked by a corrupt cabal ... whatever its merits"

I can precisely quantify those merits for you: zero.

Glad to be of assistance! :-)

Johnny Nucleo said...

I don't listen to Limbaugh, but I am familiar with his biography. He is a radio guy first, a political guy second. I'm not saying he is being disingenuous, but even if there were no such thing as conservative talk radio, Limbaugh would still be a radio guy.

Air America was all about hating Bush. There is more to liberalism than hating Bush. Bush will not be president forever. Liberals must begin to think about this.

Doyle, liberals are always saying their message is too complex and nuanced for talk radio. A word of advice: Implying that most people are too dumb to get what you are saying is not the way to win elections. Also, when a failure to communicate occurs it is almost always the fault of the sender, not the receiver. If, however, you are communicating clearly, and people still reject your message, you must consider the possibility that perhaps your message needs work.

Americans like many liberal ideas, especially the idea of helping out the little guy and keeping corporate fat-cats from going too far with their corporate fat-cat schemes. But Americans do not like radical nonsense. Americans like America pretty much the way it is. If liberals purge themselves of radical nonsense, convey to Americans that they actually like America too, and get serious about defense, liberals will win.

(Note: The Democrats are going to win this election. But they should not delude themselves. Americans are not voting for them. They are voting against the Republicans. It is a temporary reprieve)

Alan said...

I used to be a fan of Rush. Just as I used to tolerate the pro-lifers within the GOP, I used to tolerate Rush's pro-life stance. After all, the feminazis he railed against wanted to de-gender the English language--even the Bible. Rush spoke of the the "culture of death" when Kevorkian hit the scene. But I didn't agree with Rush's blanket position on euthanasia. I think the decision should be open to the patient. Should individuals be forced to suffer if they don't want to? Rush thinks so...slippery slope you know.

Well anyway, Rush was a great spokesperson for limited government. He was even called the "majority maker" when the GOP took control of congress in '94 on its "Contract with America." But IMO, the relationship the GOP nurtured with the Religious Right is what veered the GOP away from its vision of limited government. And Rush is partly to blame.

Here's an MP3 of Rush defining his version of conservatism. It's not how I think Goldwater would define it. But then Goldwater is considered a liberal now.

Goatwhacker said...

But IMO, the relationship the GOP nurtured with the Religious Right is what veered the GOP away from its vision of limited government. And Rush is partly to blame.

This is a great observation and my experience was somewhat the same as yours. Rush and much of the GOP are now very happy with big government as long as they are the ones who are running it.

Depressingly, the Democrats who will now probably gain control of Congress will most likely be even worse. There really is no party of small government at this point.

Doyle said...

Johnny -

Thanks for the advice. I wasn't implying that anyone was too stupid to understand just how awful the Bush administration is. Polling data suggests otherwise, so don't worry about our election chances.

I just said it was "kind of a downer."

Decoder said...

Broadcasting is about attracting an audience for advertisers, and helping the advertisers succeed. That was always Rush's primary mission.

Air America was never about that. That's Rush's point.

To succeed in broadcasting, you have the be a broadcaster. Rush is the world's foremost broadcaster, and one of the most talented radio broadcasters ever. Franken is not.

If Rush never mentioned politics at all, he would still be able to attract a large audience and broadcast a good show.

Revenant said...

I never listened to Air America (was it even on the air in San Diego?), so I have no idea if Limbaugh's description of them is correct.

My experience with Limbaugh's program, however, is that it is aimed exclusively at reenforcing the beliefs of conservative listeners. It doesn't aim to convince anyone of anything they didn't already believe. So I doubt it affects elections at all.

AJ Lynch said...

Johnny Nucleo said:
"If liberals purge themselves of radical nonsense, convey to Americans that they actually like America too, and get serious about defense, liberals will win."

Bing Johnny- you will never hear Air America DJ's like Randi Rhodes even come close to saying she loves this country. It's one big bash America fest. They should have fixed this IMHO.

paul a'barge said...

Limbaugh is funny, intelligent, cogent, on the mark, and entertaining.

Air America was staffed with hateful, bitter, vile monsters who were exactly the opposite.

Freeman Hunt said...

How is his show less about affecting elections than "Air America"?

He does his show to make a profit. Air America, obviously, doesn't.

Highly unsurprising then that his show is infinitely better.

Ernst Blofeld said...

I haven't listened in years, but as I recall Rush doesn't organize call-ins to congress, letter writing campaigns, or the other typical electioneering stuff.

Much of convervative talk radio popularity is driven by a feeling of being excluded by the rest of the media. Liberals don't have that feeling to the same extent, and don't seek out alternative media in the same way.

babuilder said...

Rush was already in his prime and we got eight years of Bill Clinton. It always seemed the obvious rebuttal to complaints that he influences elections.

He's like a friendly neighborhood bar for those of us trying to escape the MSM.

Alan said...

"'They were not a broadcasting concern to begin with. ... They went into business to affect elections.' Gloats Rush Limbaugh, as Air America files for bankruptcy. The implication is that his show is 'a broadcasting concern,' but you've got to wonder: How is his show less about affecting elections than 'Air America'?"

I don't think people realize Rush had his 20 million listeners before Clinton was even running for the Democratic nomination. And back then it was but a dream that congress would one day go to the GOP. Nonetheless, the GOP owned the Presidency.

As covered above, it was the media and the left Rush reacted to. After all, Rush was balance to the left and its MSM. But what kept Rush's show popular was his focus on current news events not guests or activism--that and his likable personality. His schtick was that there was no need to watch or read the news because he did it for his listeners. That's not the case anymore. Anyway, if his show affected elections it was a byproduct of the show, not its focus.

Jay said...

Air America's talent didn't seem like they were having fun. You can't be entertaining if you don't at least seem like you're having fun. Having bumbling flops like Bush, Hastert, and Frist for material they couldn't successfully ridicule the ridiculous. The Moe, Larry, and Curly of political leadership. It was lack of talent on air and in writing that was the problem. Talented lefties can make good dough on NPR and the MSM and were probably all taken.

Alan said...

Thanks Goatwhacker. Rush never hid his beliefs...it's just that I never took his pro-life angle serious. I should have...after all, he gained his audience with the caller abortions. Heck, my brother went to a "Rush to Excellence" tour show and saw people actually carrying Bibles in with them. Today the GOP is in Rush's image.

Theo Boehm said...

Johnny Nucleo, as ever, has nailed this. Scroll back up to his comment.

Revenant said...

Rush was already in his prime and we got eight years of Bill Clinton. It always seemed the obvious rebuttal to complaints that he influences elections

I seem to recall that Rush couldn't stand Bush Senior, though. So Clinton beating Bush in 1992 doesn't indicate much about Rush's influence one way or the other.

Alan said...

Revenant,

I don't think Rush disliked Bush 41. He supported him during the '92 campaign. Although, Rush threw his support, during the primary, to Buchanan. But that was a stunt to put some fire into the Bush campaign.

Bush 41 came across as uninspired back then. It didn't help that he signed the Democratic bill to raise taxes. Which, BTW, included the 10% stick it to the rich luxury tax that later had to be repealed due to the dismal effects it had on the economy. The real reason Bush lost in '92, though, was Perot.

no1special said...

Rush is a preacher...u need him to keep u motivated, to keep u on the right track... Democrats think they already 'get it' so what could frankin have to say that they didn't already know? Why listen..... Rush is like going to church.... Frankin is like watching football when the other guys r at church. They're both irrelevant. I prefer reading.

Revenant said...

I prefer reading.

O, u r a reader, r u?

Reading's good, but think of all the fun you could have if you tried spelling, too.

Anthony said...

I don't agree that talk radio is exclusive to the right. I used to listen to NPR's Talk of the Nation nerly every day and it is/was, I believe, one of their most popular programs. They had no end of idiot left-iberal callers, too, by the way. One had to be reminded by Ray (Suarez) that yes, House members have to be elected every two years (she audibly gasped). Another was absolutely certain that the good people of Cuba really did continuously re-elect Castro with 99% of the vote year after year. This was by no means uncommon.

Then there was the guy from Science Friday (Ira Flatow) who hammered on global warming constantly, but then did a show devoted to his pet theory of alien abductions, I think it was.

The Left likes to dress its dogma up in fancy words and academic language, but it's still all about preaching to the choir.

BTW, Ray Suarez remains one of my favorite radio hosts, at least in his TOTN form. He was obviously a liberal, but he was an exceptionally balanced and knowledgeable host. He familiarized himself with each hour's topic, and was just as critical of liberals as he was of conservatives.

Zach said...

I haven't listened to Rush in ... gosh, 10 years or so. But what I remember is that it was a very creative show. Parody songs, ironic theme music, recurring themes, in-jokes. The point about Limbaugh being a broadcaster first is that it can get really tiring to listen to one person talk for more than a few minutes straight, and it takes a lot of skill to overcome that.

It's not like liberals can't find an audience, or don't have that kind of talent. NPR is extremely listenable. The Car Talk guys, Garrison Keillor, morning edition.

It's not clear to me why, setting up a radio enterprise, you would choose on-air talent that came from a rehearsed or written background. Too little spontaneity, too little gift for gab.

no1special said...

Revenant- Hope u didn't spend too much time figuring out my post...
crash course:
u- you
ur- you're
tho- though
r- are
there's more but i don't want to overwhelm u.

Sigivald said...

People keep telling me Franken is a comedian, but I don't think I've ever seen him be funny.

Where does this idea come from?

(Yeah, I know he worked on SNL. But SNL's often not funny, either.)

Kellen said...

I just want to thank Ann for mentioning Jean Shepherd. Whether in radio, TV, film or books, the man's work was outstanding. Every time I hear someone praising a third-rate wannabe like Garrison Keillior, I point them to the Shepherd radio show archives available at the link Ann points to, and in the process create a new Shepherd fan.