Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why Leftist Talk Radio Is Doomed

There was an interesting article last weekend at Politico about Leftist Talk Radio. They were lamenting the fact that the right has monopolized talk radio and they put together a plan for the left to get back into the game. It’s a silly plan but it’s worth discussing because it shows how delusional they are. The plan came in five parts, most of which were fantasy or denial. Let’s examine each.

(1) We Need A Sugar Daddy: "You got money, Mr. Billionaire? Me make radio long time." Apparently, they want a billionaire like the Evil Koch Brothers™ to fund Leftist Talk Radio no matter how much money they lose. Normally, I would say that’s a silly plan but that seems to be how the left works: it’s essentially owned and operated by billionaires... like Haim Saban (Hillary Clinton’s sugar daddy), Warren Buffett (Barack Obama’s sugar daddy), George Soros (Sugar Daddy of the Progressive Movement), Carlos Slim (the New York Times’s sugar daddy), etc.

The problem with praying for a sugar daddy, however, is that money isn’t the problem: lack of popularity is the problem. In fact, this billionaire idea is pure denial. This is leftists thinking that somehow they’ve been kept from reaching the public by “right wing radio station owners.” Hardly. Leftists have had dozens of chances to get radio programs, television programs, and even whole networks (MSNBC) and channels (NPR)... and the public ain’t buying it.

(2) Somebody Famous Save Me: Leftist Talk Radio needs a star! LOL! Uh, yeah. But they need to make a great video first before they can get Eddie Van Halen. This is what is called a paradox and it’s amazing they would toss this out there as a solution. If Leftist Talk Radio needs a star, they’re going to need to earn it, and that means coming up with a formula that pulls in listeners first.

(3) Who Needs Radio: Sour grapes time. Did you know that radio is dying? Maybe getting on the radio isn’t worth it after all? You know what Leftist Talk Radio should do? They should do something different that reaches more people in a better way... use technology to do what no one else has done and win the day. Woo hoo!

Yeah. Good luck. First of all, that's just platitudes - there's no substance here. Secondly, this is what podcasting was supposed to be and internet radio and youtube and all those things that turned out to be so obscure that only a handful of people pay any attention to them. Like it or not, the public gets their news through (1) television, (2) radio, and (3) a handful of internet portals. That’s it, folks. The further you get from those, the more you disappear into the mist.

(4) Market Timing: Elections are always good for talk radio, so maybe with an election coming up, now would be a good time to do something! Yep, only, the “something” is the problem.

(5) Don’t Shill For The Democrats: Finally, let’s talk substance, because this is where the answer lies. Of course, they struggle getting there. Their main point is that they need to stop being shills for the Democrats.

Oh boy. First, let me point out that the fringe left, which is where their talkers come from, are not shills for Democrats. Sure, they pimp for people like Obama and Pelosi, but that’s because they view those Democrats as fellow travelers. As anyone who ventures to leftist sites can tell you, when they don’t think a Democrat is far left enough, they have no problem tearing them apart. And if they don’t like the Democrat, they will stay home or vote freak, just like the fringe right. So let’s not pretend that Leftist Talk Radio was destroyed because it was too loyal.

The problem has been winning over an audience. For some reason, which I’m about to explain, Leftist Talk Radio has not been able to win an audience. The Politico article attributes this to leftists being too “professional” and not entertaining enough, but that’s a crock. There is nothing professional about the left. They have copied the exact formula all the right-wing guys use... seething anger, style over substance, pick your facts carefully, make grandiose pronouncements about the end of the America, etc. They are clones. It just hasn’t worked on the left. Why not?

Well, having given this some thought, the problem is that the fringe left isn’t built the same way as the fringe right. The fringe right follows one ideological goal, whether they want to believe this or not: NO! They are opposed to everything. That makes them a very easy audience to grab, because they all have the same interest, and it makes them easy to sell... you just have to hate everything unless the public hates it, then you embrace it. Simple.

The fringe left isn’t built that way. The fringe left consists of a half-dozen small groups, each of whom cares ONLY about their issue. How do you attract an audience when your potential audience wants to hear only environmentalism or feminism or race baiting or socialism or gay issues or anti-corporate rants or anti-military rants or anti-religious rants... and not a word about the rest. That’s the real problem on the left. The Democrats have overcome that because they can pet each group and tell them "You're my favorite." But talk radio can't do that. And that is why I think Leftist Talk Radio is doomed, because there is no common interest that unites the left. That means there's no solution that will let any one talker get a large audience.

Interesting problem.



LL said...

I think that you're right. There is no room for a "big tent" with talk radio because they can't pander to everyone in the tent all of the time - though NPR made a great run at it.

Critch said...

I have a mentally deficient couisin who happens to own a small AM transmitter, he's a Democrat....He has been trying to find a liberal talk show to air for years and they all flop and he ends up running some conservative...

Patriot said...

Andrew....The left doesn't need talk radio. They have most every other idea dissemination channel out there... TV, Newspapers, Academia, etc.

What does the right have, other than FOX news and talk radio, to get their ideas out there?

That's why talk radio works for the's one of the only areas where those with similar viewpoints can find support. The left gets support daily, through just about every outlet.

Individualist said...

Leftist Talk Radio does not work because Progressivism is based on Sophistry. Rush Limbaugh did not become a superstar using a dying technology because he was "against" everything. Nor was it because he seethed with anger all the time, nor was it because he cherry picked facts.

Limbaugh became famous because he illustrated a conservative viewpoint that he truly believed in. He addressed the sophistry and slanders of the left on a daily basis. When the liberal press came out with faux memes about Republicans attacking the homeless, the minorities, the children, the fill in the blank with your favorite victim group here, he mocked them, he ridiculed them and he stood up to the lie when supposedly "proper" conservatives who wrote Op Ed pieces for liberal run newspapers would not.

There are some things that I have disagreed with Rush about over the years but even when he was mistaken I never got the feeling that he was being dishonest. If he was wrong on an issue I at least knew he believed he was right on the issue. You can't get that from a democrat as they argue to win for their side. They could care less if their facts are straight. If it means their side loses then they will lie about it. This is how you have "scientific experts" plotting to slander the good name of people that dare to admit to the truth they have observed. To the extent that they write emails in secret to each other describing how to lie.

Talk Radio on the right is based on people spilling out their hearts to explain what they believe. The "meme" that they are all liars and propagandists and what not have been around since Rush started in the early 80's. Many on the right go along with this because they like the liberal establishment. These Rockefeller Republicans are cut from the cloth of Nixon who felt no qualms about issuing laws dictating no increase in raises being allowed. They really don't like the idea of limited government they just can't openly admit to it.

Individualist said...

I remember hearing about the women that received an unsigned letter from the state run insurance commission in Oregon that stated she could not have the experimental cancer drugs she needed because they would only extend her life but that the state would pay for assisted suicide on Levin's show.

When I mentioned this to my Dad at the time he got angry yelling at me that talk radio was stupid and I should not repeat what they say on it because those guys are blowhards and you should not listen to those exaggerations because you'd sound kooky listening to talk radio.

When we got home I spent several minutes researching articles. I got to one from a Catholic Church publication detailing the letter and showing a copy of it and showed this to my Dad. He did not quite apologize to me but he never questioned something simply because it was heard on talk radio again.

This is the problem with the crowd that wants to inflame the meme that right wing talk radio is all propaganda. What they fail to understand is that these guys that sit behind that microphone can't afford to make up stories, cannot get away with lying and cannot even exaggerate issues.

They are inundated on a constant daily basis with queries, criticisms, slanders, evaluations of the psychosis, double checking of their facts, sophistry laden attacks on their interpretations to unfairly malign them. Any simple meaningless mistake they might make will become the top story on the political news pages.

It is not that they can't lie or that they can't use slip shoddy journalistic practices. It is that they cannot get away with it. From the start of the 80's the politicos in the GOP I met always denounced talk radio. It was not until much later in life that I realized that a true limited government message is anethma to all who are in Washington, not just the Progressives.

tryanmax said...

Indie, neither Andrew nor Politico said anything about conservative talk radio being a bunch of liars. Actually, the only slight against conservative talk radio made in today's article is that their only real position is "No to everything!" which is a pretty defensible assertion, IMO.

I'm not shy about my criticism of talk radio, precisely because I used to be a fan. I agree with everything you say about how Limbaugh became famous. But since then, he and the rest have become acerbic, inflammatory, sensationalist, disingenuous, and downright lazy. That last one isn't just my assessment, it's something Rush brags about on his show.

What's interesting is that you interpret a discussion of why liberal radio fails as an attack on conservative radio. I could dissect that, but in no way would you find it flattering.

tryanmax said...

Patriot, I agree, it's true that the left doesn't need radio, but Andrew has touched on exactly why it irks them to not have it other than a desire to own everything. Talk radio reveals the biggest lie of liberalism--that theirs isn't really a big-tent ideology, it's just a campground for lots of little tents. Tents that have little in common except opposition from the "NO!" camp across the way.

However, we've seen twice now that "No to everything!" isn't as appealing as "Yes we can!" Conservative talk radio needs to get back to it's roots of discussing and defending the things that conservatism is for. Unlike liberalism's collection of little tents, real conservative principles do have broad appeal. That's something Rush and the rest used to understand. Heck! Conservatism is basically summed up in the Bill of Rights! (Just don't get too hung up on the 10th. If you get 1 - 9 right, the 10th is along for the ride. That's a rhetorical tip, not an ideological criticism.)

On what little the right has, I see that as a participation problem. Conservatives just aren't engaging most media. They have radio b/c, as Andrew noted, screaming "NO!" is easy. We've talked at length in the past about how conservatives have drawn away from entertainment and education. Newspaper has a particular history that led to it's being so liberal, but as the old model dies, so does the barrier to conservatism in print. Actually, I see newspaper starting to balance already. As for Fox News, it is the biggest failure of opportunity in modern media, which I've explained before.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, my apologies, but today I'm more inspired by the comments to your article than the article itself. But I think you do have a very keen insight as to the differences between right and left wing radio.

tryanmax said...

LL, having listened to more NPR than I should probably admit, at present it is little more than PBS on the radio. Sure, the political stuff is certainly slanted, but the majority of the programming is just interesting stuff of no bent whatsoever. There's no reason to think that a conservative viewpoint couldn't be broadcast on NPR except that conservatives have written it off--as with PBS. But they are just like other media companies in that they go out and buy content. I don't think anyone is even trying to sell them conservative content.

BevfromNYC said...

Liberal talk radio doesn't work because they field "comedians" as their hosts who turn out to be mostly angry, not funny or the least bit entertaining. Think Air America with Jeanne Garofalo and Al Franken. Really, who listened? The audience wanted FUNNY punditry, not insulting and angry. And since 90% of Americans listen to the radio for entertainment/info daily, why would anyone listen. They probably caused road rage incidents too! Think of the great disc jockeys past and present and their longevity depended on their entertainment value.

You can say a lot of things about the Levins, Limbaughs, Gallaghers et al. But first and foremost, they can be very entertaining.

"...but that the state would pay for assisted suicide on Levin's show."

Uh, Indi, the state would only pay if she killed herself on the Levin show? Why just the Levin show? ;-) [Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

BevfromNYC said...

Tryanmax - I will second your defense of NPR as being mostly non-partisan and interesting too. It's the local NPR affiliates like Leonard Lopate in NYC who make it appear to slant hard left. Lenny never met a liberal cause he couldn't get behind and a conservative one that he could not denigrate.

Patriot said...

So was Paul Harvey a conservative or liberal radio ranter?

tryanmax said...

Patriot, I don't think Harvey's show was long enough to work up a proper rant. ;-)

tryanmax said...

Bev, good spot on the comedians. It just shows that liberals are trying to put together something based on their perception of conservative talk radio without actually trying to understand how it really works.

Patriot said...

tryanmax.......but what's the "rest of the story?" If he could have drawn that out he might have made it into a rant!

I don't think Mr. Harvey COULD even rant!

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, Clearly you are wrong. You are part of the right-wing conspiracy that runs this country and all the networks!!!!!! Obama = Milton Friedman!!!! LOL!

In all seriousness, they are right that there is no leftist talk radio, and that's because there is no audience for it. Part of it could be that they already get what they want from all the networks (who are pretty much center-left with the occasional day trip to the fringe). But I think the real reason is the same reason MSNBC can't catch on, which is the above.

They also way overestimate the "dominance" of right-wing talk radio. Right-wing radio is less than 20 million listeners maximum. And while that sounds like a lot, it's really just 6% of the public. So it's hardly "dominant." The difference is that they can't get their 6% to listen to their own shows. That says more about them than it does anything to do with the public or radio. And what it says is that they aren't winnable in this medium.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, Thanks. I concur. NPR should be a home for leftists, as should MSNBC. They both present the same opinions, only with very different styles. Yet, neither attracts an audience. I really think the problem is that the left is simply "too niche." They all only want to hear about their pet peeves and that makes it impossible to generate a sizable audience.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, That's the thing. The left acts like these channels are all run by right-winger who exclude them, but the truth is that these business are non-partisan and they will run anyone who gets ratings. There's just no leftist who has been able to get ratings.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I would agree with you IF we're talking about Rush in the 1990s. But we're not.

Modern Rush is mimicking Levin, who is all about hate. He and the others get their ideas from Drudge's headlines (which are more often than not seriously distorted), they only tell you half the story, they blow things vastly out of proportion to present a distorted view of America, and then they spend the rest of their time telling you what to hate and fear. I have not heard a positive idea out of talk radio in four years. I have, on the other hand, repeatedly heard lies, distortions, insults, self-aggrandizing conspiracies, continual disloyalty, and MASSIVE non-stop victimization. You may not want to believe it, but it's true.

And if you don't believe that, then tell me some actual ideas talk radio has offered of late.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I'm sorry, but this:

What they fail to understand is that these guys that sit behind that microphone can't afford to make up stories, cannot get away with lying and cannot even exaggerate issues.

is flat out wrong. THIS is what these shows specialize in. And they are counting on their audiences not knowing any better. I urge you to step back and to take an honest look. I think you're going to be shocked at much utter bullshit these guys spin as truth.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I didn't say anything in the article about lying, but I did say they cherry-pick their facts carefully... which is a form of lying. And I totally stand by that. I've seen it time and again where they only tell half the story and then continue to run with it long after their version is completely discredited.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I agree with your comment to Patriot wholeheartedly.

Conservatism is compelling (liberalism is not). That's what we need to get back to: selling the ideas of small government, free markets, personal freedoms, personal responsibility, innovation, and letting millions of Americans make a better world through their efforts. Unfortunately, few are doing that today, and no one in talk radio.

Also agree about Fox... totally wasted opportunity to reshape the public through investigative reporting, unbiased (no spin) presentation of facts, and then conservative opinion. Spinning AP articles is pointless.

On the left, I agree that this puts the lie to the idea that the left is actually a political movement of any sort and certainly not a big tent one. That is why OWS fell apart, because they had no idea what they stood for. Each just showed up with their own pet peeves and they never meshed.

I also think what bothers them about not having a radio presence is (1) they know that having a platform to reach the public is power, (2) they wrong think that talk radio is what stopped Obama, (3) it is an embarrassment that they can't duplicate the success of the right and it suggests that the public doesn't support them, and (4) the hard left really doesn't think that all the leftists on television represent them.

Agreed on Hollywood and the culture. As I've pointed out before, you can reach hundreds of millions with a film, but only a few million with anything political. Abandoning the culture is stupid and we need to reverse that asap.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Thanks! I'll take keen insight anytime. :) And no problem about discussing the comments. Whatever you find interesting.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev and tryanmax, I don't listen to NPR regularly, so I can't say for sure. But my take on what I've heard is that they are middle-left, but they present it calmly... in the sense of sounding sane and "establishment." Unlike MSNBC, they don't yell and scream and name-call (all that often), but I don't think the opinions they present are all that different.

As for the network itself, I'm sure you're right that they would take conservative programming if the tone fit what they are trying to do. It would be interesting to see someone offer them a show.

Tennessee Jed said...

Your theory seems to make sense. I always figured they didn't need radio since they had the network news shows, weekly magazines, big city dailies, etc. I will always give Rush credit for being a lone voice back in the late 80's, but rarely listen anymore.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I think that talk radio was entertaining. There was a time when Rush was funny, when he did all kinds of clever things, and when you could listen to his show (whether you agreed with him fully or not) and just enjoy the show. You could even learn some things. They told you the news that didn't hit the papers. They explained various positions. They linked things that people didn't often link.

Everything I've heard from talk radio in the past few years has been seething conspiracy, nothing more.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev and tryanmax, On comedians, I think the left starts by looking for people who have proven to have something compelling enough to already win an audience. Basically, grab somebody famous and let them rant. Right-wing talk radio seems to start with the farm team of local radio. The difference does matter because comedians have an audience because they were in a film, local radio hosts have an audience because they've proven they could master the format.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I have no idea what Harvey's views were. I know he was religious. I know he was very "Norman Rockwell." Beyond that, I couldn't honestly tell you. And that makes me think he was conservative.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think it makes sense because otherwise talk radio would be as natural a fit for the left as it would be for the right, but it clearly isn't. I think this is the reason. And that has some serious implications actually.

And once again, I absolutely respect what Rush did and was. I don't respect what he's doing now.

tryanmax said...

On talk radio lying/cherry-picking/distorting/misrepresenting/however you want to call it, just moments ago I heard Rush characterize the Pope's comments the other day as a direct attack on America and Ronald Reagan. Not kidding. I haven't read the actual thing, but I suspect it would have made headlines if the Pope had singled out the US and certainly if he had referenced Reagan.

BTW, I just checked, the Pope Francis = Obama meme is in full swing in the right-wing blogosphere.

BevfromNYC said...

I think the left starts by looking for people who have proven to have something compelling enough to already win an audience.

Andrew - that is true. Most recently with MSNBC's hiring Alec Baldwin for a serious political talk show just because he played a politician on TV. Not only could he not get anyone to watch, he repeatedly makes such a hateful spectacle of himself in public that they had to fire him after only a few weeks on the air.

Comedian/Pundits like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could never make in radio because their schtick is too visual. And the dreaded/dreadful Bill Maher doesn't have to worry about ratings on HBO. And when they overstep even their own loose boundries like calling certain female conservatives reprehensible names, they always, ALWAYS fall back on "But I am just a comedian, don't take me seriously" excuse. THAT is something you will never hear a conservative radio talk show host say...not even Rush. Why listen if they aren't serious AND aren't funny/entertaining?

BevfromNYC said...

Wow, speaking of pundits who say reprehensible things, Martin Bashir just resigned from MSNBC.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I'm not surprised. Uninformed knee-jerk and herd-think are the order of the day.

This actually started with brainiac Palin. She accused the Pope of crimes against conservatism. What's interesting was that she admitted that she'd never actually read anything he wrote nor had she heard what he said directly. She was relying on the spin the MSM put on his comments, and she then said "you can't trust the MSM so I can't believe he really said this." But she went ahead and blasted him for saying it anyways.

Nice. "I have no knowledge of what I'm talking about and I can't trust the source who told me what they thought you said, but I hereby take an extreme position based on my belief."

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, "But I am just a comedian, don't take me seriously" excuse. THAT is something you will never hear a conservative radio talk show host say...not even Rush.

That's not true. Rush (and his audience) say that every time he puts his foot in his mouth... "He's just an entertainer." Its' his excuse. He's the voice of conservatism when things go right and "just an entertainer" when things go wrong.

On the left, I concur. They seem to pick fame and that doesn't translate into ability. Baldwin was a disaster because all of his "thoughts" came from scripts that were handed to him. Ditto on the other comedians. Stewart and Colbert wouldn't work on radio because they play this game of not really being serious in the opinions they state seriously. So I think they would find it very hard to deal with audiences that want to believe what their leaders tell them.

The one who has managed to do well is Olberman... except he's possibly the worst human being alive and no one can deal with him. He got his start doing what was essentially a more formal talk show done as a newscast on ESPN. That's exactly what he did at MSNBC, so he had solid training.

Bashir really overstepped himself. He made a cardinal mistake of talking about things you can't say on television and that was too much. Seeing him and Baldwin canned does my heart good. :)

Kit said...

Just looked up Bashir's comments. You usually have to sink into the bowels of twitter and the youtube comments to find that kind of stuff.

tryanmax said...

Kit, "bowels"? Pun intended?

Kit said...

Surprisingly, no.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, That is a very nice pun. You should claim it! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Also, I am shocked that Bashir thought he could say what he said. Even he should have known there are limits.

BevfromNYC said...

Actually, no, Bashir thought it was just fine until the backlash. He should have been fired on the spot. They thought the grand apology would work and the incident would be dropped. I think the honchos at MSNBC are getting wise to the fact that their very low ratings may just be the fault of their hosts and not the subject matter or some vast right wing conspiracy fronted by Fox News. However, the sad part is that the line has been crossed and the sacrificial lambs have been slaughtered, expect it to get worse.

People like Rush can weather these storms or not because they are directly beholden to their radio sponsors. The hosts on MSNBC not so much.

BTW, Andrew, you are right...I was wrong. Rush does make "entertainment" excuses. But others do not.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, It seems to be the corporate mentality that you do the apology first and pretend that everything is ok in the hopes that the situation can be fixed. Then you only do the right thing if the public continues to be upset, and you act all outraged about it. I'm kind of sick of people playing those games. Some things require instant termination... this was one of them.

In fact, leaving the politics completely aside, I don't see how they couldn't automatically fire a host who said something like this on the air about anyone for any reason. It's so bizarre and vile that it's up there with rape and murder comments... just something people don't say.

Critch said...

My cousins station used to run a lady, and I forget her name, but she claimed to have been attacked on the street in NYC and I beleive she may be an Air force vet..anyway, listening to her was painful...she was shrill, trite and terribly uninformed and she insulted the audience on a regualr basis,,,how is she going to persuade anyone of anything?

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, Doesn't surprise me. A lot of the leftist hosts were very unpleasant people. If you can't connect to your audience, then you won't last. It's that simple.

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