The first time I heard Rush Limbaugh I was driving back from a business meeting in Cleveland in 1993. I was driving on I-80 and was just flipping through AM stations when all of a sudden this voice was talking about Bill Clinton in a way I had never heard anyone ever talk about any President before or since.
The voice that came over the radio was loud, it was sarcastic, it was profane, and most of all you could feel the anger morphing into hate.
Rush created the alt-right media echo chamber all by himself. In 1994 when he hooked up with Newt Gingrich and became a daily PR machine for the ‘contract with America’ campaign which gave the GOP control of the House for the first time since 1952.
From 1994 until he went off the air in 2021, Rush used his daily show to promote the GOP, often fashioning his narratives directly from a ‘talking points’ memo that the RNC faxed out to the growing list of AM shock-jocks every day.
The growth of a media environment which promoted conservative politics then took a major step forward with the launch of Fox News on TV in 1996 followed by the leadership provided by Roger Aisles beginning in 2001. Ailes took his cue from Limbaugh, redefining the word ‘news’ to encompass both facts and opinion with no differentiation between the two, along with a harsh and unrelenting assault on liberal-slanted media competitors like MS-NBC and CNN.
This shift away from ‘hard’ news to ‘soft’ news was made possible by the easing of government restrictions on programming content put into effect by Ronald Reagan in 1987 with the abolition of what was called the ‘fairness doctrine’ which had been a regulatory practice of the FCC since 1949. Under this new approach, conservative TV and radio media grew exponentially, in particular the all-talk AM radio networks owned by CBS and NBC.
Once virtually every American home got wired for high-speed internet, then all bets were off when it came to the political orientation of news content which Americans watched and heard every day. For reasons that nobody has really ever explained, all three broadcast environments – TV, radio, internet – have always been dominated by conservative politics and conservative political personalities, with competition for viewers and listeners occurring primarily within the right-wing media world, rather than between the Left versus the Right.
This competition has resulted in an even more rightward shift of conservative political programming and media content, which was then taken to the next level by Donald Trump’s exploiting of Twitter during the 2016 Presidential campaign. Trump was the first politician who linked TV and radio to social media which gave him a voice in 2016 which nobody else had.
Unfortunately for him, a serious response to the Pandemic required more than just some nightly tweets, which gave the edge to Joe who made voters believe that at least he had some kind of plan to deal with Covid-19.
What did Trump have? Pictures and videos of him walking around without a mask.
Yesterday, the AM shock jock was taking calls from irate listeners who swore up and down that they would never watch Fox News again. What are they going to do in the evening? Tune into NPR?
Alt-right media programming is all well and good when there’s nothing to really worry about, unless you want to believe that allowing transgender kids to use both male and female toilets in the public school is a big deal. But the idea that a national political party would run an entire Presidential campaign on whether to allow men who have become women to compete in women’s sports is so crazy and so bizarrely stupid that it only goes to raise the possibility that the alt-right media echo chamber may be good and dead.
Look at it this way. The GOP has been the recipient of millions of hours of free media advertising since Rush Limbaugh first cranked himself up in 1984. No media coverage even remotely compares to that freebie messaging for our side.
If you’re running as a Democrat, there’s no local AM radio station that will give you the time of day, except to tell its listeners that you’re a no-good bum who wants to give all their hard-earned money away to the welfare cheats, the illegal immigrants and everyone else in the woke crowd.
But my sister wasn’t necessarily wrong this morning when she wondered whether Murdoch would see the handwriting on the wall and make some kind of deal with Joe.
Who says liberals can’t learn to enjoy being pissed off?