Tag Archives: talk radio

In political discourse, cable maybe minuscule but broadcast news not helping

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Cable news punditry may reach a small hardcore section of voters but their broadcast news brethren seem to follow their lead which doesn’t contribute to accurate information for the average voter.

Cable news is like fantasy football leagues for the political wonks. The audience for the pundits on cable never rises above 3 million total viewers. But viewership is never close to the average number of voters in the US (in 2008 there were 133 million total votes cast). The broadcast news channels have more viewers (ABC, NBC, CBS) with an average of 14 million a day. Even radio has more of an audience than cable TV news channels.

Of all those shows, only O’Reilly gets significantly above two million total viewers. By contrast, NBC’s nightly news program doubles O’Reilly’s ratings in both total viewers and in the coveted 25-54 bracket. Even CBS, the lowest rated of the three, easily outdraws cable, and both broadcast and cable news face the same aging demographics: the median Fox News viewer is 65, two to three years older than the median broadcast news viewer, and CNN and MSNBC aren’t far behind.

But outpacing all of TV news is radio, and that’s where Koppel and other media observers should be focusing their attention. At first glance, radio may look like a conservative-dominated field. Rush Limbaugh’s weekly audience of 15 million dwarfs any television news program, and even Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck’s radio audiences are several times their TV audiences.

In fact, though, NPR provides a counterweight both to conservative talk radio, and to the charge that both sides have equally partisan media. Twenty-seven million people listen to NPR each week, and its morning and evening news programs get fourteen and thirteen million weekly listeners respectively, just behind Limbaugh.

The Tiny Cable News Universe

But the conclusion of the article quoted above – that the audience is small – is beside the point. It seems the drivers of broadcast news follow cable’s lead in deciding what is news and the coverage of the issues and often either give misleading information or don’t squash outright lies quickly enough.

* Polling data during and after last week’s midterm elections suggested that many Americans genuinely believe President Obama has raised their taxes — even though the reality is that our president actually lowered them for most of us. This means that people trust pundits like Rush Limbaugh, a major force behind spreading that lie, over the numbers on their own tax returns.
* Another recent phenomenon? Half of new Congressmen don’t believe in the reality of global warming. It’s not that they don’t just disagree on the source or the severity of the problem. They flat out don’t think the world is getting warmer–despite the evidence outside their windows.
* The new Congress will probably try to restore millions of dollars of funding for scientifically inaccurate, largely disastrous abstinence-only curriculum in schools, many of which have been shown to spread lies like “condoms don’t work” and “abortion causes cancer.”
* News outlets picked up a wildly inflated and completely outlandish claim from an Indian blog that Obama’s trip abroad cost $200 million a day–and listeners have swallowed it. (In this case, the White House flat-out denied it.)
The scary thing is, these kinds of rumors have a way of taking root in the popular consciousness. Just as the election season began heating up earlier this year, Newsweek published a list of “Dumb Things Americans Believe.” While some of them are garden-variety lunacy, a surprising number are lies that were fed to Americans by our leaders on the far-Right. This demonstrates that media-fed lies can easily become ingrained in the collective memory if they’re not countered quickly and surely.

16 of the Dumbest Things Americans Believe — And the Right-Wing Lies Behind Them

Another example is the media blow job NBC gave to former President Bush who is trying to sell a book. Matt Lauer, looking for his Frost-Nixon moment, never pushed Bush hard enough to actually answer questions about his presidential screw ups like Katrina and the Iraq war. I mean when the biggest nugget from the interview was Bush being hurt by the statement of a rapper just made me sad for journalism.

Broadcast media does a disservice to the citizens of this country by letting cable news pundits lead them by the nose and giving up their needed advocacy for the truth. Just ask a follow up question – please!

Return of Fairness Doctrine would be good

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I‘ve made no secret that I support a return of the old FCC rule called the “Fairness Doctrine” that was removed in 1987. I feel that the obscene conservative bias in talk radio is hurting the country more than the Fairness Doctrine would “hurt” people like Rush Limbaugh. Steve Almond had a good op-ed about it today in the Boston Globe.

Predictably, the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 spurred a talk radio revolution. Why? Because talk radio’s business model is predicated on silencing all opposing viewpoints. If Rush Limbaugh and his ilk were forced to engage in a reasonable debate, rather than ad hominems, they would forfeit the moral surety – and the seductive rage – that is the central appeal of all demagogues.

Would talk radio’s bullies freak out? Absolutely. They know the Fairness Doctrine would spell the end to their ongoing cultural flim-flam. Besides, there’s nothing so intoxicating to a fraudulent moralist as the perfume of fraudulent martyrdom.

The real shock is that journalists haven’t supported the Fairness Doctrine. Then again, consider the state of “mainstream media” outlets. Increasingly, they dine on the same fears and ginned-up wrath as talk radio. Rather than wondering, “Does this story serve the public good?” they ask, “Will it get ratings?”

Who’s afraid of the big, bad Fairness Doctrine?

I agree. Real journalism should be asking “Does this story serve the public good?” and we might see that if talk radio were forced to have other voices on their shows as well.

Defending government is easier today

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The one thing about current political debate or any kind of debate is the need for “talking points”. These are buzzwords or short phrases that quickly make a point and say more than the number of words used. Usually the person or group who come up with the quickest talking points can frame the debate. It is kind of like a gun fight – the quickest draw wins. Some of my conservative friends have told me during the current health care reform debate that “Obamcare is socialized medicine” or “Medicare is clogged with waste and fraud”. I needed some place to go to rebut some of the classic “government is bad” arguments from the right and I think I found it.

Some years ago on an e-mail list I use to be on, a guy came on spouting Libertarian arguments hard and fast. Many times I didn’t have a quick way of refuting the classic arguments even though I knew he was wrong. Then I found the A Non-Libertarian FAQ which allowed me in some cases to cut and paste answers to his arguments like “Social Contract? I never signed no steenking social contract. ” etc….

With the right media bias currently, the political arguments today get framed by conservative talking heads with little to no counter arguments from people on the left side of the spectrum. Most times the host – like David Gregory of Meet the Press – just lets the conservative spew their talking points like it was a press conference rather than a political show.

I needed a place that had some good rebuttals I could use when I had my own debates with friends who like to parrot talk radio.

Government is Good is recent addition to my bookmarks as it offers a quick way to answer the arguments from the right about how bad government is. For example:

When the Republicans took over Congress in the mid-1990s, one of their first priorities was to “reform welfare” along these lines. In a landmark 1996 bill, welfare was declared to be no longer an entitlement, and strict time limits and work requirements were imposed on recipients – all designed to discourage people from staying on welfare and forcing them onto the job market. This legislation has come to be celebrated by conservatives as one of the most successful policies coming out of that period. They point out that between 1996 and 2003, the number of people on the welfare rolls dropped by over 60%.

This is pretty impressive. But unfortunately, the effect of this reduction of the welfare rolls on the poverty level was not what Republicans had predicted. If welfare was actually a major cause of persistent poverty, then we should have also seen a dramatic decrease in poverty as millions of people were forced off welfare and onto the job market. But this is precisely what did not happen. The poverty rate did not fall by 60% or 50%. Not even by 40% or 30%. Not by 20%, nor even by 10%. It fell by a measly 8% — from 13.7% to 12.5% from 1996 to 2003.

How can this be explained? It is simple. Conservatives were wrong about poverty being largely caused by government welfare programs. First, they ignored the fact that most poor people aren’t even on welfare – and that many of them work already. Second, as many scholars of poverty have pointed out, the major causes of poverty in this country are mostly in the economic system. Most people are poor for two reasons: (1) there is a chronic lack of jobs, and (2) many low-level jobs pay wages below the poverty level.

Why Government Becomes the Scapegoat

So if you are looking for some backup in your own debates with people who claim government is bad for us then check out the website.

When talking heads go too far

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I have always had a beef with the conservative pundit class, the talking heads on the various cable channels and talk radio. The main one is they like to lie to their audience and play into any bias the audience member already has like hating women, foreigners, and liberals. They never seem to get that some people do get influenced by them and their rhetoric. They accuse the left of doing the same thing when they complain about liberal bias but feign outrage when told their toxic views can do the same to others. Words have meaning or else why say them? I don’t support domestic terrorism and I don’t think conservative talking heads should either.

On the June 1st edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, he pointed to the constant verbal attacks on Dr George Tiller, the doctor murdered on Sunday, by Fox News talking head Bill O’Reilly and how Mr. O’Reilly refuses to accept some of the blame for the egging on the person who pulled the trigger with his inflammatory speech.

Here is the segment:

Don’t get me wrong. I support free speech including views I disagree with but there is a line not to be crossed at least by reasonable people.

Not once during the 8 year nightmare that was the Bush administration did I hear any left side pundits suggest that Bush be taken out in some way other than through legal means like impeachment.

As exasperating as it was being led down the stupid road by the lead ignorant cuss that was our President at the time, no one wished ill will toward him beyond making fun of his speeches, mannerisms, etc….

What O’Reilly fails to do is acknowledge that Tiller’s murder was something illegal and stupid.

O’Reilly tried to blame the left and Randall Terry, of Operation Rescue, almost gleefully gloated about the murder:

Terry: The point that must be emphasized over, and over, and over again: pro-life leaders and the pro-life movement are not responsible for George Tiller’s death. George Tiller was a mass-murder and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed.

Q: So who is responsible …

Terry: The man who shot him is responsible …

Q: … because that makes it sound like you were saying that he [Tiller] is responsible.

Terry: The man who shot him is responsible.

Q: What did you mean by “he reaped what he sowed”?

Terry: He was a mass-murder. He sowed death. And then he reaped death in a horrifying way.

The event came to an utterly bizarre ending when Terry said that Tiller’s murder “can be a teaching moment for what child-killing is really all about” … and then seemed to ask those in attendance if they’d be willing to buy him lunch – he likes Guinness and chicken wings

Terry Declares That Tiller “Reaped What He Sowed,” Then Asks If Someone Will Buy Him Lunch

Conservatives like that almost never accept responsibility for their words or actions even when they demand others do the same.

That’s why I refuse to listen or watch their shows at all and ask my friends to do the same. I don’t support domestic terrorism and I don’t think conservative talking heads should either.

Why do Congressional Republicans hate America?

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Well we know from their “leader” and gas bag Rush Limbaugh that he wants President Obama to fail. Now we find out that Congressional Republicans are being jackasses about the proposed stimulus bill. The question is why? It’s because the 2010 elections are coming up and Republicans think they can get elected again if the attempt to save America is defeated or damaged enough not to work. They want President Obama to fail too. I think it is nothing but petty bullshit from a party that has no idea how to help the struggling economy and were in fact responsible for screwing the hooch in the first place.

The Republican playbook is about standing in opposition, knowing full well that the Democratic Congress is going to pass a stimulus package. Their next step is to go home and sell to what’s left of their constituencies the notion that if we had listened to them, things would be far rosier. As a minority, a control group is unlikely to emerge that can disprove false numbers based on false rhetoric. They can go back and campaign in two years whether or not Obama’s plan creates anywhere close to the number he hopes and tell the world, and claim that their plan would have provided double the number.

The minority role in government should be about balancing the need of their constituencies with real ideas that create a stronger way of finding a solution. In the modern era of politics Rush Limbaugh style, it is all about spewing hate and misinformation in the guise of governing for the good of the people. The very people that the Obama plan will help most, are the very same people that are being preached to by the likes of Limbaugh and his puppets in Congress.

Republicans Clearly Are Willing to Let This Country Collapse if They Think it Will Win Them Elections

And the media – also known as the Villagers – come along for the fire sale because…. well because they are so insulated in their little GOP controlled bubbles, they think spewing discredited GOP talking points is being objective.

The networks like to have the same tired debate format with the same hired analysts debating with “sound and fury” that usually “signifies nothing” to most of America. Last week the media chose to have Republicans like John Boehner, who helped create the situation we’re in, dominate the airwaves, which does nothing but muddy up the discussion on our rapidly failing economy. And which leads Villagers like Chuck Todd to proclaim that Republicans have won the spin wars. It’s a “spending bill” now.

Why is it called a “spending bill”? Because the Villagers have decided that the Republicans have won the PR war over the stimulus package. How does that tired argument help this country in a time of crisis? I know the spin wars play a role when messaging is concerned because Americans get a lot of their news through the TV and the elitists get aroused by all this nonsense, but it’s killing us. Please Stop It. C&L has often documented how the media tries to elect our politicians, (They chose Bush over Gore, How did that work out?) but now they are trying to decide how this very important stimulus package will be dealt with.

Please, where’s the meat? Stop playing games with our lives. Put people on who can explain it coherently. Economics is complicated. Sound bites aren’t enough. Obama was elected to bring change to the economy, not to debate the merits of tax cuts all over again. We had that discussion for 18 months and Obama won. Tax cuts lost. Why is the media ignoring that fact? John McCain ran on tax cuts to save us and he lost. Now he’s telling his supporters that he’s going to vote NO on the stimulus plan and wants them to sign a petition. You lost the election badly. Democrats have solid majorities everywhere you look, but not when it comes to the media that is supposed to inform us and not play “spin wars’ with the country.

Why aren’t there hundreds of economists on my TV explaining the stimulus package?

So how does that go again – the media has a liberal bias???? Excuse me while I laugh.

The fact is 1 or 2% of the proposed plan might be considered “pork” – that is not directly related to stimulus spending – yet that tiny portion of an 800 billion plus bill is getting 90% of the focus along with more talk about a worse plan like more tax cuts.

At least there is one Democrat with a spine to tell the truth and get airtime at the same time:

In the past few days, I’ve heard criticisms that this [stimulus] plan is somehow wanting, and these criticisms echo the very same failed economic theories that led us into this crisis in the first place, the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems, that we can ignore fundamental challenges like energy independence and the high cost of health care, that we can somehow deal with this in a piecemeal fashion and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject those theories. And so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.

President Obama

I know we will have a stimulus bill passed but I fear it might be watered down too much because the Dems missed the PR boat.