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Savage Times, Or "...Or I Shall Taunt You A Second Time"

Of late, a couple of us here at Wizbang have taken to criticizing certain aspects of the media. And the comments in reaction to our pieces have been rather enlightening. Both our articles and the responses of our detractors give some insight into the way the writers' minds work.

Last night, Cassy took talk show host Michael Savage to task over his recent comments about autism. I'll be honest -- I didn't read her article too carefully, and it's not an article I'd ever write myself. But that's not out of disagreement with Cassy's article, only her priorities.

For me, Savage isn't worth a full-blown article. The few times I've listened to some of his show, I've been turned off -- and so has my radio. The guy does not impress me in the least. And his current cause is assailing autism, and I have no vested interest in the topic. I understand others have a great deal of interest in the issue, but I'm not one of them. So what Savage says about autism are irrelevant to me on two grounds.

And yesterday I took the New York Times to task for running Barack Obama's op-ed on how he would end the Iraq war, but refusing to run John McCain's response.

In both Cassy's and my article, we talked about how we thought both media institutions -- Savage and the Times -- had behaved in a reprehensible fashion. We both thought that our respective targets had made poor choices, and wanted our declarations of such to be heard far and wide. And we both spelled out just what we thought they ought to do.

But neither of us said that we thought they should be MADE to comply with our wishes.

Cassy didn't call for Savage to be taken off the air. I didn't say that the Times should either run McCain's piece or be shut down.

And while I'm normally reticent to speak on others' behalf, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Cassy wouldn't want the government to take Savage off the air over this mess, nor do I want the government to do anything similar to the Times.

That's why I don't support the return to the Orwellian-named "Fairness Doctrine." I think that opposing viewpoints ought to be offered equal time, but I don't think that it's the government's place to mandate that. I think that the marketplace does a pretty good job of hashing things out. There's liberal talk radio and conservative talk radio. Conservative talk radio does well enough that its leading voice just signed a deal worth almost half a billion dollars. Liberal talk radio does so well that it needs to steal money from charities to pay its bills. Conservative and balanced newspapers are doing all right. Liberal newspapers like the New York Times are crumbling.

Among my core principles, my most strongly held beliefs, is that people haev the right to be wrong. That it is not the place of government to deny people their rights to make choices just because they might make "wrong" choices, that they need to be protected from "bad" decisions. It's why I always wear my seat belt, but oppose seat belt laws.

Savage is wrong to say what he did. The Times was wrong to refuse to publish McCain's piece. But in both cases, they were within their rights to do so.

And we are within our rights to point out that they are asses and idiots and utterly, completely wrong to do so.

That noted right-winger Alan Dershowitz has a saying: "the best answer to bad speech is more speech." He's absoltuely right. The best answer to idiots like Savage and the New York Times is to speak up ourselves, to argue with them, to denounce them, to discredit their positions and idiocies.

The second best is to ignore them, to let them fade into the obscurity they so richly deserve and deeply fear.

Some may disagree with the rankings of those two, but no one of any principle would disagree with the absolute worst response: to get the government to shut them down entirely.

As another aphorism goes, "any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." Once you get the government into the business of shutting down people for what they say, it's hard to get them to stop -- and sooner or later, they'll turn on those with whom you agree.


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Comments (19)

I'm actually surprised that... (Below threshold)

I'm actually surprised that Air America didn't do better than it has. Supposedly people are waiting to hear something that mirrors their belief systems - and if there were as many people (or more, supposedly) who were 'progressive' in their thought and outlook as there are conservatives, then Air America should have been a no-brainer investment.

But... God. It was on Sirius, and I TRIED listening to it a couple of times. What'd they do, hire rejected applicants from the Mail Order School of Radio Broadcasting? I don't care what their hosts' credentials or opinions were - their voices set my teeth on edge so much I didn't WANT to listen. Would you listen to, say, Dvorak's New World Symphony if they replaced half the violin section with dentist drills?

You have to have an outgoing, nominally pleasant personality to be on radio. (Or at least a personality that can engage people and get them to think.) You have to have a voice that people like to listen to. You have to have enough material to be able to keep the audience engaged long-term.

And Air America failed for me on the first two counts there. Never got as far as the third...

As far as their financial problems went? Well - if you're just starting out, you shouldn't spend money you're going to need to expand the franchise. They acted like they were ALREADY big - and couldn't grow to match.

JLawson,You've hit a... (Below threshold)

You've hit a nail there. I don't agree with alot of what one of our local hosts says here in Philly, but I find him to be pleasant and engaging in most of his interactions. Same thing applies for the National Geographic weekly roundup show on Sundays. The host's politics and bias is open and undisguised. But he is polite and has a pleasant voice coupled with an engaging manner. When he veers into politics, I can hold on until he gets back to nature/travel talk.

Now, Sean Hannity, I find him to be pushy and nasal. Nails on a chalk board. I've read some of his essays and excerpts from his books. I probably agree with many of his arguments. But I'll never know because I can't sit through his broadcasts on TV or the radio.

That's pretty much my usual... (Below threshold)

That's pretty much my usual response to those who retort with, "They have a right to free speech!"

And I have a right to criticize that speech, but that's not the same as advocating that they be silenced.

Jay,Regarding your... (Below threshold)


Regarding your Chatsworth, NH "Scare Tactics" entry, it may be a planned "error" on the part of the producers. Check this out:

There is a Chatsworth, CA with a company in it called New Hampshire Ball Bearings, which is a research & development company. I live in New Hampshire and am very familiar with this company's New Hampshire facility. Maybe the producers used this company's facility, in Chatsworth, CA, and purposely or accidentally ascribed "NH" instead of "CA"

I cannot say that New Hampshire Ball Bearings, in California, is the site used, but this may explain the riddle.

SCSI--don't suppose you've ... (Below threshold)

SCSI--don't suppose you've seen any of Colbert's Hannity montages, have you? Absolutely hilarious. Hannity is an imbecile and a bully.

As for Air America, perhaps there's some demographic discrepancy between how often and for how long conservatives listen to the radio vs. liberals. Or maybe the programming was just really bad. (I listened to Randi Rhodes once, and never again. If Ann Coulter sucks so much, why bite her style so hard?) Regardless, liberals are better at using the internet for fundraising, activism, and the sharing of information, which is now serving as a buttress against the conservative stranglehold on talk radio.

Jay Tea: I think that opposing viewpoints ought to be offered equal time. I hope you're joking. This is the main reason American cable news is such a sick joke. On some issues, i.e. the war, it's obviously good to have debate, but for what reason would we countenance the views of somebody opposed to (e.g.) a cessation of violence in Darfur? A harmful example of this would be teaching evolution in classrooms: if a scientist comes on a talk show to explain why science class ought to be reserved for scientific theories and discussion thereof, what good reason is there to then pass the microphone to an anti-scientific opponent of evolution, who exhibits no understanding of the history and philosophy of scientific knowledge?

Pick a less controversial example, if you like. Should NAMBLA be allowed to defend itself on television? (No. They're pedophiles, and deserve not to be heard.) The point is, there is such a thing as being wrong, and being right, and it should be the media's job to present facts, and filter bullshit. Had they done that in 2003, I think it's obvious that an even greater majority of Americans would have been opposed to the invasion of Iraq.

Jay Tea: "Any government b... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea: "Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have," was actually said by President Ford, although it was echoed by many others, including Reagan.

Hyper,One problem wi... (Below threshold)

One problem with your example: Ann Coulter isn't a syndicated radio host.

I don't think it's a matter of who has time to listen, it has to do with the entertainment factor. Just because you agree with someone doesn't mean you'll enjoy listening to them.
Air America failed not because of politics, but because of quality

Regardless, libera... (Below threshold)
Regardless, liberals are better at using the internet for fundraising, activism, and the sharing of information, which is now serving as a buttress against the conservative stranglehold on talk radio.

Which arose mainly because of the liberal stranglehold on NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, the NY Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, etc.

And the quality just plain ... (Below threshold)

And the quality just plain stunk.

Hyperbolist - It was capitalism in action. They put out a product that people wouldn't buy. (Or listen to.) If you don't get the listeners, you don't get good ratings. If you don't get good ratings, you end up without sponsors. Without sponsors, you have pretty much no cash flow. With high enough ratings, you'll get enough cash flow from sponsors, and you'll get radio stations wanting to put your product out for free, so long as they can sell some commercial time.

With no cash flow - you've got to PAY stations to put you on.

You're right. They stunk on ice. You cannot FORCE people to listen to bad radio. At least, not yet. Fairness doesn't enter into it - people want to be entertained, not harangued by a screechy-voiced host who's enumerating for the nth time just WHY the country's F*'ed up, and HOW it's F*'ed up, and WHO F*'ed it up, and how the ONLY way to UN-F* up the country is to go "Progressive", until their ears bleed.

There's an off switch on the radio. There's a channel selector. People used it, and Air America went down the tubes.

Radio stations HAVE to make money to stay in business. (And they've already been hurt BAD in the revenue stream by satellite radio. I myself haven't listened to commercial AM/FM in my car for six years, since I had the choice to dump the commercial-infested trash that was the local radio scene.) They live and die by their ratings - shows and hosts live and die by their popularity. You might not think it fair - but then, freedom of choice in the economic marketplace doesn't mean everyone's gonna make bucketloads of money. Only the ones putting out a product the consumer wants.

(And I'm not sure it'd be a good idea to equate small numbers of very passionate supporters to equivalent ratios in larger numbers of the population. It could be the 'progressive' movement is far more limited than they believe.)

The factor missing from the... (Below threshold)
Doran Williams:

The factor missing from the original post and all of the comments is this: If you don't have a license or permit from Uncle Sam, you cannot broadcast your disagreement with Rush, or Franken or whomever over the "airways."

If you don't like what your hometown newspaper says, and if they refuse to publish your op-ed, you can crank out handbills, small newspapers, posters, etc., and distribute them by hand, on the street, or through mass mailings. You don't have to have a license or permit to publish your own rag.

But if Rush is on the only station in town, and that station will not give you equal time, you are SOL. You cannot open up your own little radio station and start broadcasting the next day. If you do, you will probably get shut down by the "airways" police, and you may even get prosecuted in federal court.

It is that disparity, between the common man or woman, and the rich corporations which can afford to bid up the price of a license or permit to astronmical levels, which the Fairness Doctrine was intended to address. The "airways" are not free. The licenses and permits are incredibly expensive.

Look at it this way: If Devour and Consume, Inc., were to be given an exclusive license to utilize the main road through town, and another corp. given the exclusive license to use the side road, and another to use the perimeter roads, that would be a lot like what we have with radio and TV channels. They could shut you out of those roads, or charge you a huge fee to use them.

If the "airways" were really free, if there really was free enterprise at work, it would be an electronic jungle. With stations interferring with each other, with competition fierce to have the biggest transmitters, etc. It would, in my opinion, be fun to watch. But I suspect most people would be pissed-off at the interference and static and low quality of broadcasts. That is why the government has assumed control of the "airways" and why the richest get the best channels.

I kinda like the idea of having a Fairness Doctrine that would allow politically incorrect voices to be heard on the local left-wing radio station. But if those guys shut you out, you have no effective recourse to reach the same listening audience to which they broadcast.

If the "airways" w... (Below threshold)
If the "airways" were really free, if there really was free enterprise at work, it would be an electronic jungle. With stations interferring with each other, with competition fierce to have the biggest transmitters, etc. It would, in my opinion, be fun to watch.

I'll admit there is some truth to this. the FCC licensing procedures are horribly outdated and do favor those with big bucks. But, remember your history, Rush Limbaugh started out at a peanut whistle station in Sacramento, CA until the day he was approached by some guys who had access to serious bucks, and he was a huge success. But Air America also had major corporate backing, but despite this, they're a dismal failure. They had their shot and they blew it.

Maybe the fairness doctrine made sense years ago when there were only 3 networks and limited broadcast spectrum, but in these days when anyone can get on the internet with a microphone and a little VOIP software, there's just no need for it. If one side of the political spectrum can't compete, too bad. Liberals are getting killed on talk radio. Conservatives are getting killed on the internet. Those are just facts we have to deal with.

I don't disagree that Air A... (Below threshold)

I don't disagree that Air America sucked. Atrios always complained about it, and his friend Sam Seder was one of the people involved with it. It would be stupid if somebody like George Soros bailed it out just so that its handful of listeners could continue to enjoy screechy polemics.

I don't know if people use the term 'progressive' the same way when they use it as a positive or negative. I don't know which 'progressive' position you think fails to resonate with a large swath of the American public, though. While perhaps not in the majority on every issue, it's not so far out of the mainstream as whatever it is the Freepers and their ilk think is good for the world.

You cannot open up... (Below threshold)
You cannot open up your own little radio station and start broadcasting the next day. If you do, you will probably get shut down by the "airways" police, and you may even get prosecuted in federal court.

FYI, pirate stations are usually on the air for 1-3 years before being shut down. The FCC is undermanned and overworked.

Hyperbolist -I'm a... (Below threshold)

Hyperbolist -

I'm afraid I'm using 'progressive' in a rather negative sense in most cases. I see progressives pretty much as being very shrill and unappealing people (as in the Berkeley Code Pink folks) who are very quick to take offense when THEIR sacred cows are gored, but think it only fair and right that THEY should enlighten everyone else on how WE should live. That their pissing other people off is GOOD, because it means they're getting through!

They're people who seriously believe that the Palestinians, Hamas, and Hezbollah are the GOOD guys in the Arab-Israeli conflict and support them totally, think that suicide bombing is morally justifiable, that Communism would have been the perfect form of government if the Soviet Union hadn't screwed things up. And if THEY had the chance, they'd put all the uncooperative bastards who DON'T agree with them up against the wall right off and get 'em out of the way quickly.

They're the ones who idolize communal farm life, ala the '60s - but haven't a clue how to actually run a farm and would shy away from using an outhouse without hand sanitizer close by. They hate businessmen with a passion, because they're always 'ripping off the people' - yet although they haven't much of a clue as to how business actually works they certainly enjoy the largesse that a working economy brings their way, and would complain bitterly if their living conditions and range of available goods suddenly dropped to a, say, 1910 level.

They enjoy the luxuries and freedoms of our society, while they'd like to dismantle them for something 'better' - but their idea of 'better' seems to be "We'll destroy it all, then magic will happen, and everything will be wonderful!"

And I always wondered why - it really seemed counterproductive to me to attempt to dismantle/destroy the society which gave you the freedom to be so nihilistic in the first place - then I ran across the following paragraphs in "Al Quaeda's Fantasy Ideology"...


My first encounter with this particular kind of fantasy occurred when I was in college in the late sixties. A friend of mine and I got into a heated argument. Although we were both opposed to the Vietnam War, we discovered that we differed considerably on what counted as permissible forms of anti-war protest. To me the point of such protest was simple -- to turn people against the war. Hence anything that was counterproductive to this purpose was politically irresponsible and should be severely censured. My friend thought otherwise; in fact, he was planning to join what by all accounts was to be a massively disruptive demonstration in Washington, and which in fact became one.

My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration. Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason -- because it was, in his words, good for his soul.

What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.


And that clicked. The Progressive organizers gain no power from getting their desires met - indeed, it's far down on the list and if they DID get what they ostensibly want, the next day they'd be looking for something ELSE to be outraged about. What matters to them is how they FEEL while they're doing what they're doing - like the ecoterroist torching houses under construction. He's erasing man's stain from the earth with cleansing fire - how can he NOT feel holy and blessed by Gaia? They're environmentalists who feel real warm and good about how they're blocking drilling all over the place, and then gripe mightily about the high cost of gas and heating oil. They look at one very narrow aspect of what THEY believe, and feel perfectly justified to force it on everyone else, whether it's wanted or not.

And deep at the core, I believe the most vocal 'progressive' organizers are not concerned about the good of all the people who might be affected by it - it's about what feels good for the folks pushing the progressive agenda. I don't think all self-labeled 'progressives' run that way, in fact I really hope they don't.

That's how I see the vast vocal majority of 'progressives', Hyperbolist, and I realize your mileage may vary on that. Social progressives, re racism and such? A lot of them are activists looking for a cause, and they'll make one up if they have to. I judge people by the content of their character - not skin color.

This is running way long, but I hope this gives you some food for thought, and not grounds for a reflexive dismissal. You asked - I answered.

Thanks, JLawson. And as alw... (Below threshold)

Thanks, JLawson. And as always, I appreciate the civility.

I'm a progressive, and I don't share any of those views. I don't support higher taxes because it makes me feel good--I would like to have more disposable income, obviously--but because I think certain things ought to be a priority in our society, ahead of wealthy people living more comfortably than they otherwise might.

It's actually a pretty mushy position, but such is the nature of being a social democrat. (In fact, any position to the left of the libertarians, and to the right of communists, is inherently mushy.) These clowns in this video give people on my side of the broad-assed spectrum a bad name, but most misguided extremists are easily ignored, dontcha think? They don't win or lose elections.

I think it depends, Hyperbo... (Below threshold)

I think it depends, Hyperbolist. Some clown gets into the news having identified him/herself as a 'Progressive', and proceeds to do something astoundingly memorable (and not in a nice way) - you're going to remember that action and attach it to "Progressive" later.

Maybe things are different up in your neck of the woods, but some "Progressives" have managed to pretty well poison the brand name.

(Same thing with "Liberal" and "Conservative, I think...)

By the way, I thought this was kind of funny... "but because I think certain things ought to be a priority in our society, ahead of wealthy people living more comfortably than they otherwise might."

Their living more comfortably would mean spending money in retail stores, meaning more retail jobs, goods moving around, suppliers getting orders, jobs being created at the supplier level and all that rot. Taking more from them in taxes means it goes to the government... which does what with it?

It would seem to waste a lot of it.

So, I kind of wonder sometimes whether the government needs all the money they say they do. I'm for a strong defense, also for Social Security (I'm going to be needing it in a decade or so, and want it to be solvent) - but I wonder if we'd be further into space if NASA hadn't monopolized the US to-orbit passenger market for so long with the Space Shuttle, and whether a lot of money we're tossing into social programs is really well spent. I'm sure you've got doubts about your country's choices also.

"I'll be honest -- I did... (Below threshold)

"I'll be honest -- I didn't read her article too carefully"

This just in -The sun rises in the East.

I'm all for fiscal responsi... (Below threshold)

I'm all for fiscal responsibility, JL. I like how my country has had a Liberal government for most of the past twenty years that has enjoyed budget surpluses and robust social spending, with lower corporate tax rates than the United States. Our current government's priority is reducing personal income taxes to stimulate an economy that is actually doing quite well compared to many others; the next government will win based on their commitment to repairing our public health care system, which is currently a point of concern, if not shame, for most people here.

Our civil service is far more dedicated and efficient than yours, which is a reflection of my country's philosophy of the role of government vs. your country's. There's good and bad to both perspective, which I freely acknowledge; and regardless of one another's opinions of one another's countries, it's clear that either of us could be living in places far worse than North America.

Ain't THAT the truth, man. ... (Below threshold)

Ain't THAT the truth, man. Ain't it the truth!






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