Trolling The American Id Between Four And Eight Megacycles

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

A few generations ago, another American president took office when our country was mired in another devastating financial disaster. Of course, I’m talking about Franklin Roosevelt, a president to whom Obama is occasionally compared (after JFK and Lincoln, I suppose). And following tradition, he addressed the nation announcing his vision for America. It was a bit of pep talk really. And although few who actually heard that rousing speech are still around today, we’ve all heard (or read) the declaration he delivered in this opening remarks:

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Always presented to me as the key phrase of a historic speech, those words themselves never rattled with great wisdom for me. It always seemed a little redundant, and too straightforward to offer much in the way of revelation. But then again I didn’t grow up during the Great Depression.

Now we’re living though the worst economic crisis since that time, and while our circumstances aren’t nearly as dire as the day Roosevelt moved into the White House, no one knows how much worse things may get. Or where we are headed as a nation. And as luck would have it, we seem to have brought in a decent and thoughtful man to help steer our country out of this new financial morass of our times. It seemed almost hopeful.

And then the fact that he happened to spend some formative years overseas in a Muslim country seemed fortuitous as well, following on the heels of an administration that incited so much hatred and animosity from Muslims around the world. Yet, for all the logic or serendipity that seemed inherent in the rise to power of Barack Obama, others see something else.

There is a bizarre streak of American humanity which is utterly convinced that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. And once you’re willing to chain your brain up to that premise, it’s an easy leap in logic to assume that this astute mulatto man must be an an evil foreign agent assigned to destroy our country. And there’s more. A lot of these less than enlightened Americans also are certain that Obama is a communist, the leader of the evil “new world order,” the devil or the Anti-Christ (are they the same thing? I’m still not sure), a fascist dictator, and perhaps gay or a Muslim, or worse– the most liberal politician alive. And they are scared. They are angry. And what should worry ALL of us, is that they seem to be beyond the reach of all logic or common sense.

And now I get it. FDR was right. As a country in crisis at a critical point in our history, the greatest thing we have to fear IS fear itself. And I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to really fear the fear. And I think the paragraph that surrounded his heralded declaration back in 1932 is even more illustrative of our current dilemma:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

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And this is EXACTLY what’s going on– now, in these critical days. In the face of across the board loses at the polls, the Republican party and their media agents have chosen to unleash an unheralded fear and smear campaign to brutalize the enemy (i.e., the actual elected government). Rush Limbaugh, the defacto (media) leader of the G.O.P., openly cheers for the failure of our government under Obama. And he’s just setting the tone for a massive ongoing effort– nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror is being instigated and encouraged via the many-headed hydra of the right-wing media machine. And it’s nonstop.

And it’s no secret around the world that Americans, in general, are some of the most ignorant people on the planet. Add to that, the anxiety that continues to grip our country since the September 11th attacks and the inconvenient collapse of our economic system, and there’s suddenly a buzzing and bristling bunch of screwed Americans who suddenly want to know what the hell is going on? (While they didn’t seem too concerned during eight years of mayhem and plunder under Bush.)

I suppose it’s only natural to look for BIG answers when you’ve got big problems. And two unrelated historical milestones (moving into a new millennium and electing a black president) seems to have driven some of the logic-deprived among us to apply grandiose meaning to current events and invoked lots of irrational suspicion regarding any proposed changes in governance or our economic system. The three horsemen of contemporary apocalyptic fear (religiosity, paranoia, and xenophobia) were already mounted and ready to ride before Obama’s election. And since that historic moment, a fourth has come forward. And I think he’s going to lead the charge. Perhaps you already know where this is going. (Let’s just say he used to wear a white sheet.)

Despite the fact that we miraculously elected a man with African heritage to our highest office, there’s a seething element of race hatred that’s still alive and well in this country that once enslaved people who looked like Barrack Obama. And although the dirty racist words and imagery are only used by the most extreme and extroverted of that crowd, for every one of them there’s hundreds more across the fruited plain who will never accept or respect that uppity brown man who gets on the television and has the nerve to act like he’s president.

And make no mistake about it, all this garbage about the invalidity of Obama’s birth certificate, and all the disenfranchised and hateful white people alleging Obama is something "other" and not like you and me– it’s all frosting and filagree on top of the word they dare not utter– nigger.

And whether or not the people who are behind all this incitement of hatred and fear mongering are actually racists themselves is beside the point. I mean, Karl Rove’s atheism never got in the way of manipulating fundamentalists to vote (and campaign) for Republicans. It’s not hard to see how it works. There’s no shortage of less-than informed Americans to run through manipulative focus group studies. Then with data in hard, you go forward with media weaponry you know will be effective– no matter how profane or irrational the entreaty might be. Lee Atwater was an expert at this kind of thing, and he didn’t seem to be an actual racist in his personal life. And when Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination began to founder, her operators started experimenting with the same kind of toolbox.

If you haven’t seen this clip online of Shepherd Smith of Fox News, you oughtta take a minute and ingest this artifact of contemporary culture. I don’t watch enough of Fox (mostly clips online…) to know much about the guy, but he seems to be emerging as some kind of reactionary conscience over there. (Like this outburst regarding our government’s involvement in torture, or his habit of making fun of his unbalanced Fox News cohort, Glenn Beck.)

But in this particular clip (from the day that white supremacist loon went ballistic at the Holocaust Museum in D.C.), Smith noting he’s frightened by the torrent of twisted and psychotic email that’s been filling the Fox News servers since Obama’s election. Mr. Smith and his guest agree– the realms of the internet provide a powerful clubhouse for all sorts of angry and misinformed people to feed into each other’s insanity, loading up with “hate not based in fact”. Although Smith seems shocked to discover some Fox viewers are “out there in a scary place." I’m sure others weren’t surprised at all.

And what he doesn’t say (and what he can’t say), is how much the network he works for is feeding these people tainted factoids and manipulative Republican propaganda. Even Charles Krauthammer came out this year to congratulate Fox News for creating an “alternate reality.” And he said that the relative consensus on current events we used to enjoy in our society was the result of a “liberal bias” in the media…which apparently existed for all time until Fox News came along to balance everything out. Which makes you wonder what a network like Fox News would have had to say during the great American labor struggles or the civil rights movement.

Of course his argument is bogus. But it doesn’t matter. There’s always Fox News, and NewsBusters, and the World Nut Daily out there to back him up. Once we had a marketplace of ideas where agendas and opinions and versions of events battled it out for the public’s allegiance, and at a certain point some semblance of common sense would win out, and as a nation we would decide that slavery was wrong, and women should vote, and minorities should have equal rights, and wars of choice like we had in Vietnam were immoral. Sure, not everybody agreed. But some form of consensus came to pass and differing sides moved on to other battles. But not anymore.

Today, the natural coalescence of public thought is easily thwarted the monied and manicured "alternate reality."While some semblance of consensus is battled out in (what is pejoratively called) the "mainstream media," a conservative flavored narrative flows freely beside it as a more simplistic consumer-friendly product.

And it’s not that corporate America or the Chamber of Commerce is necessarily invested in all that ignorant claptrap, but by putting that kind of manipulative language and cynically clever sophistry churned out by Karl Rove or Frank Luntz. And there’s not a lot of quality control on some of these mindless appeals to the lowest of the lowest common denominator. An example might be a headline I saw at the Drudge Report on a slow day in June– BEWARE THE OBAMA ‘EVIL EYE. Again, this was a headline on one of the most clicked pages on the web. Assorted photos of Obama’s "menacing glance were included with this short and shabby piece of original Drudge journalism (something you rarely see)." And while it’s easy to find almost any facial expression imaginable when you’re dealing with someone as photographed as a sitting President, but the shots Drudge put together merely showed Obama looking attentive or tired, or perhaps just appropriately sober. Take a look yourself. It’s ridiculous. And everybody knows, President Hairy-Eyeball went back to Texas months ago.

How did things get so ludicrous? You might wanna check out this confidential memo written by a corporate attorney named Lewis Powell (soon to be a Supreme Court Justice) back in 1971. It was a manifesto outlining how the business interests of America needed to get serious about shaping public opinion in their favor. It’s one of those little known documents that truly changed the world, and not in a good way.

And if you recall those days so long ago, they used to call the mechanisms of wealth and power in this country “the system.” And visionary people like Upton Sinclair, Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader successfully took on “the system” and helped protect millions from the deadly consequences of amoral profiteering and unregulated capitalism. Well, Lewis Powell saw these people as the enemy. And through his writing and counter-activism he helped create a broad public relations front in media and academia to defend and protect the raw capitalist ambitions of the system itself. But even the late Mr. Powell (who is often recalled for his perfect manners and genteel nature) might be shocked at the divisive and brutish behavior of the swarms of ignorant and politically agitated Americans who have been home-schooled by a sensational and partisan united front of right-wing media he arguably fathered.

In a recent column, Frank Rich discussed Shep Smith’s scary inbox and how the new wave of anti-Obama rhetoric is increasingly paranoid and irrational across the board. While some white voters wouldn’t support someone like Obama in any situation, the fact that they see him as the cause and architect of all the frightening generational changes that are happening all at once. He’s the new boogie man– the embiodiment of a new century they’re not ready to understand.

In closing, Rich linked to this video featuring Jon Voight at a Republican fundraiser, where he called Obama a false prophet, and said the Republicans have to get back in power so they can “free this nation from this Obama oppression.” Which on the face of it seems like just so much mean-spirited red meat for the conservatives on hand, but in reality words like “false prophet” resonate profoundly in religio-paranoid circles. (And a lot of them have guns…) Plus– saying Obama is the cause of whatever “oppression” people might be feeling in the middle of a financial disaster that was coming on long before Obama came to power isn’t just disingenuous– it’s toxic. (And did you hear about his evil eye?)

And conversely, this column from a Fox website might be as good of an illustration as any of how much self-serving bullshit can be crammed into a short editorial. I don’t even know where I ran across this piece, which reads like a ten-year old’s attempt at a persuasive essay. The author of this gem is a guy named Noel Sheppard, who routinely churns out rightist grist for the unintentionally comical “NewsBusters” site (which often reads like a lampoon of a conservative news portal). But his point is this– if the electorate wasn’t scared off by all the guilt-by-association tactics used by douche bags like Sean Hannity (i.e., using Bill Ayers, Reverend Wright and Tony Rezko as scarecrows), then the press must have hypnotized us into electing Obama. How else could it have happened? I mean, McCain had so much more charisma

Sheppard’s weak thesis somehow merited over four-thousand comments before they shut the floodgates. And if you have the stomach for it, you can go read a few. But I wouldn’t recommend it. I hate to think of all the time I’ve wasted looking at all the ignorance and vitriol on display in the comments addendum to online articles and opinion pieces. Especially if I happen to follow a link from the ultimate right-wing portal behind this new Age of Unreasoning– The Drudge Report.

Anyway, I could spend all day linking to all the spewing spigots of ignorance and intolerance on the web. But I won’t and I can’t. But I will say this, when we went and hooked ourselves all together with all these computers and cell phones and hand-held whatchamacallits there was a general feeling that being able to share so much “information” was going to make us smarter or wiser. But “information” is neutral, it’s just patterns of data. It can be good or bad or right or wrong. Or persuasive, if you have a particular mindset you wanna spread around.

And all we’ve done is make it possible to share “data” between ourselves like never before. We’re not creating more truth. And just as old “information” industries like newspapers, magazines and the film and music business see all this data sharing as a devastating profit killer so far, there’s no assurance that setting all this information free has made us any smarter either.

Like the flood waters after Katrina, some of the information that floods the American mind is a toxic soup. Awash in carefully targeted misinformation and logic-free passion screeds, there is a pandemic of fear and ignorance sweeping this country. And all this unjustified terror is poisoning American political discourse and is most certainly paralyzing “needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Thanks to the craven manipulation by people who should know better, the new American ignoranti are marching backward– into our racist past, into a new McCarthyism, and eventually all the way back to that Christian apocalypse continually predicted since the first century. And when these folks fire up their PC in search of information, you can bet they’re not looking for verifiable facts, reasoned journalism, or opposing views. No no no. That’s stuff the devil uses to fool ya.

And it gets worse. Since Obama’s election there’s been a huge surge in sales of guns and ammunition in this country. Prices are up and ammo is getting scarce. People are stocking up. For what? Good question. Meanwhile, the Obama administration really hasn’t made any moves or statements indicating any coming new gun control regulations. However, there’s lots and lots and lots of “information” out there telling folks that “Obama is coming to take their guns.” So, are you scared yet?

After talking about so much trouble in our midst, there’s an urge to come to conclusions– to predict or to warn of some assassination or apocalypse. Or perhaps to offer some road to widespread common sense in all this madness. But I don’t have a good answer to plug into such an equation. When you have human beings as your adversary, there’s always the last resort call for decency, or that chance of some recognition by the losing side that their goals or motivations may have been flawed. The system fights dirty. And empathy that makes us human is our fatal disadvantage.

When the Supreme Court granted corporations the rights of human beings and equated the money they spend as free speech (with the same Lewis Powell writing the majority opinion)– it set loose the hellhounds of capitalism in this country, allowing amoral ambition and soulless motivations to run rampant in the marketplace. And then Ronald Reagan came along to make it all official. And the legacy of Powell and Reagan (and more contemporary operators like Grover Norquist) is a Republican media machine that works on behalf of the large corporate financial concerns. Period.

And the Democratic party? Some of them are better than others. I generally trust Robert Kennedy Jr, who believes that the constant influx of big business money has completely compromised our political process, and says: "the Republicans are 95 percent corrupt and the Democrats are 75 percent corrupt." Sounds about right. It certainly helps to explain the inadequacies of the House and Senate under Pelosi and Reid. And while the nature of the Republicans is to stick to "the plan," the Democratic party is bigger, more varied, and unlike the Republicans they have to deal with the tough stuff– like consensus, ordinary constituents, and the most difficult of all– reality. The Republicans are in favor of God and lower taxes.

And if that sounds like a sinister plot, I suppose it is. And while you could make a case that this powerful triumvirate of transnational capitalists, the Republican party and assorted dark masters of media had a good ride, from the Gipper to the attack on Iraq. (Making Clinton’s Presidency about a sex scandal was even somewhat of a victory, and he was half-Republican anyway.) And now we’re left with a broken economy and two endless military occupations, and the Republican Party unpopular and out of power across the board. Yet, despite so many recent political losses their alternate reality media machine seems to be cranking even harder into the American psyche. It might seem counterintuitive, but winning isn’t everything. It’s all about not losing (money).

And I don’t think you can blame it all on Rupert Murdoch or Rush Limbaugh or any of those guys. And if you look at the movie "Network," Paddy Chayefsky was incredibly prescient in almost predicting what would become the Fox Network and Fox News (although Glenn Beck is far less appealing version of Howard Beale). But I don’t think the Ned Beatty character in that film really exists. My personal idea for this incredible conspiracy of fear and unreason is that there is no evil leader behind it all. I think we’re through the looking glass now and a simple mathematics created to serve the short-term profit margin of the entrenched financial status quo is in charge now. And the right wing noise machine is running on autopilot. The reason there’s no leadership on the right is because they don’t need it (or can’t have it). The politics, policy and all the Republican party products are generated by a big simple algorithm. And all their major candidates need to do is step up and put it on like a nice blue business suit. (Remember how McCain "transformed" during the last election?)

While they’re getting the white and right crowd energized by these tactics, they’re not winning over the rest of us. Big money had an eight year free reign over our government and economy, and it didn’t work out so well. They’ve spent their wad, and run out of ideas, leadership, and vision, and all seem to do right is make a mess, while the media machine does all the heaving lifting. All the links on the Drudge Report and everything that comes out of Sean Hannity’s mouth is the result of this crude media mathematics. And there is no real rumination behind the on-air musings of Bill O’Reilly or Michael Savage, and no innate desire to leave a legacy of a life dedicated to the greater good of mankind. No, it’s much simpler than that. When the other side is ahead in the polls, you operate like Limbaugh during the Democratic nomination process. You cause trouble. "Operation Chaos."

Perhaps by this point you’re wondering what does all this have to do with radio? Well, for as long as I remember, in between the sane programming coming in from around the world on shortwave there’s always been mad preachers and nutjobs from America exporting fear to the planet. And now that kind of diseased discourse has spread far beyond shortwave. Especially on the web. And Glenn Beck and his eyeballs have brought paranoid lunacy into the mainstream like never before. But shortwave has more charm. And you don’t have to look at their faces.

So for a week in June I went back to the source, scanning the back alleys of radio with my antique Zenith Trans-Oceanic. It’s an H500 from the early fifties, and it still works pretty good– at least on the band setting between four and eight megacycles. (We call ‘em megahertz these days.) And more significantly it overcomes a bit of the RF noise of my Brooklyn digs. I guess it was my steampunk adventure of the summer– drinking hot tea and tuning in the apocalypse with a big gilded vacuum tube device.

It’s a fun radio to use, but it’s not so good for bandscanning. There’s no digital frequency readout (for logging and ID purposes). And the dial itself needs to be calibrated. And besides, I wasn’t DXing. For the first time, I was intentionally looking for as much stupid as I could find. Because of other obligations most of my roaming occurred after nine or ten at night. But I don’t think there was any time when I couldn’t find someone, somewhere saying something ridiculous. For this post I scooped up some of the more flavorful froth I found from the 60 and 49 meter bands. And I invite you to join me for some urgent and uneasy listening. You just might unlearn something.        

WHRI – Trunews with Rick Wiles & guest Roy Moore 4:15
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In this clip, former judge Roy Moore is chatting on the phone with Rick Wiles of Trunews. Which is not just the “end times newscast,” but also the “only nightly newscast reporting the countdown to the second coming of Jesus Christ.” And Wiles says that Obama has been put in office for one purpose– “to start a civil war in this country,” just to give a flavor of the thoughtful rhetoric on this program.

Ever wonder if America just might be better off without all that “separation of church and state” business? And public school teachers reading the bible to our children, and religious police would enforce public morality? (like in… Saudi Arabia?) Then you might wanna head over to Alabama and get behind Roy Moore’s 2010 campaign for Governor.

Perhaps you recall when Moore was the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court a few years ago. Because there was a big stink when he refused to remove an ostentatious display of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. Not surprisingly, his stubborn religiosity cost him his high court gig, but it gained him a lot of brownie points with fundamentalists across the country, and served as the launching point for his new political career. And in his state he’s effectively established a splinter sect of religious conservatives who are working on taking over the Republican Party there.

At first, Wiles gets Moore lathered up with talk about Obama’s socialist agenda, but Moore quickly diverts the conversation into more religious territory– decrying Obama’s recognition of Gay Pride Month. Perhaps if Moore is elected he could counter this move by observing a month of gay shame in Alabama.

“It’s a travesty,” Moore says when Wiles tells him there was actually a “gay party” in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. While it doesn’t seem likely that all of our tax dollars that have gone toward death, torture and destruction would bother Moore all that much (he doesn’t like Muslims much anyway), the idea that American money has gone toward letting a few gay service people blow off steam is too much for him to bear.

Only God can right these matters,” Moore says, seeming to stop himself from finishing where that thought might have been going. I’ll leave it to you to ponder how that might play out if Moore and his ilk could play out their theocratic fantasies in real life.

(Probably WWRB) – The Prognostications of a Yahweh Cult Couple 29:59
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I suspect this broadcast originates from one of the two giant brokered shortwave monsters in Tennessee– WWRB or WWCR. It’s "Mark" and a female co-host I assume to be his wife. I guess you could call them radio missionaries working on behalf of the big sky guy– Yahweh. There doesn’t seem to be any production to the program itself. It’s just your basic phone call to the transmitter. Mark has a handful of notes and news stories to share, and when gets lost in his "documents" he hands the phone to the wife, letting her riff on the wornders of Yahweh until he has paperwork in order.

This clip starts out with Mark reading a letter from a concerned soldier from Kentucky regarding how the army is actively taking detailed inventory of all the personal firearms belonging to soldiers and officers on base. Hmmm. Could this have something to do with the internal Department of Homeland Security report on the threat of right-wing extremism that became public last April?

I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the idea of the government keeping better track of heavy-duty home weaponry these days. The recent murder of an arbortion doctor as well the bloody incident at the Holocaust Museum added more validity to the warnings of Janet Napolitano and the DHS report she presented on the dangers of the deep and dark entrenched right-wing element in America.

And Mark has more bad news. Apparently, the world elites (including Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and the Rockefellers) are meeting on yachts and planning to kill off most of the rest of the people in the world. And I gues this may happen quite soon. Before the rapture. Massive depopulation theories have been popular on shortwave since I can remember– almost as common as the world government-new world order paranoia. And I guess it all feeds into the same colorful narrative, as the last hurrah of the evil forces on Earth before the messiah comes down and takes the faithful up to heaven for a big shindig– while the rest of us spend eternity as human barbeque. Burn baby burn.

Next up, some rather animated fire and brimstone style conspiracy radio.

WWRB – The Beast Preacher  1:38
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This guy’s worked up. And his sermon almost plays out like an exorcism, as he proclaims the names of all the evil he can think of– OLD Satan, and the anti-Christ of course– and THE BEAST, and then he goes down a list– the serpent, the old dragon, the devil, the son of perdition, Lucifer, the Destroyer, and more. Not only is the reception bad here, but he’s a loud and boisterous guy and it’s hard to understand all the prognosticating going on. But what he does do is move onto another important list. This time he proclaims the names of the embodiment of the “the beast” on earth. Specifically the one world government problem– the “one-worldism, the United Nations, the new world order, the Knights Templar, and the Priory of Sion (who apparently are even more powerful than the Illuminati), and all the sons of Cain. It sounds like the devil has quite a social calender.

He ends his rowdy lecture with a spirited sign-off worthy of a Latin American football announcer. All in all it’s a testosterone-soaked overview of most (if not all) of the paranoia conspiracies that have haunted the followers of Jesus for hundreds of years. And then when it all ends with a telephone disconnect and an automated recording (just like the Yahweh cultists radio show) it even seems a little stranger, that this big voice being broadcast on an international radio transmitter was just another guy yelling into a telephone.

And the fact that this program cuts off in the same sloppy manner as the Yahweh believers program tells me that they were probably broadcasting on WWRB as well. And it seems that this big international radio outlet doesn’t pay for an actual human board operator in the evening hours. From these recordings it appears their programming runs through some sloppy automation interface that doesn’t compensate for incoming programming on the telephone ending a few seconds early. I guess everybody’s cutting back these days.

Of course, if you listen to shortwave radio you’ve already heard all this heebie-jeebie hullabaloo before. All this rapture preparation and mark of the beast anxiety didn’t just hit the airwaves when Obama was elected. It’s a bizarre sickness in the very fabric of our culture. And while it infects so much discourse and entertainment all around us, only on shortwave you can hear (and almost smell) the mythical doom visions in their unrefined state. And while we didn’t invent crazy religious thought, the United States of America has been a breeding ground for it for a mighty long time. Much in the same way Australia later became a dumping ground for unwanted criminals for the British Empire, the new world was a dumping ground for all sorts of wild-eyed religious fanatics from Western Europe. And their legacy lives on.

A 2002 Time Magazine poll found that almost sixty-percent of Americans believe “the events in Revelation are going to come true.” And an AP poll in 2007 determined that one in four of us believed that Jesus was going to return to earth that very year. You get the idea. We is crazy. At least a lot of us are. And even among people who might not consider themselves overtly religious, there’s still plenty of superstition and irrationality to go around. After all, when it comes to apocalyptic sensationalism and pornographic arousal of the conspiracy gland, why should the religiously-ill have all the fun?

WWCR – The Alex Jones Show – with special guest David Icke
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Here you have a couple of the most successful secular scaremongers in the world in a bizarre radio pow-wow. It’s one-time rivals Alex Jones and David Icke, rolling around in the mud of some middle-ground they’ve cleared between their divergent paranoid theories. These apocalyptic showmen mine the concepts of science fiction TV and movies instead of using the King James Version for narrative support. And a few years ago these two giant fear-purveyors realized that there were just too many more books and DVDs to sell if they could put their differences behind them and create some viable consumer crossover business by joint media appearances, like this one.

For those who don’t know the history of these two professional paranoids, let me offer a little background. David Icke (pronounced like “Ike,” not “icky.) was a BBC sports announcer and then a spokesmen for the UK Green Party when he realized he was “the son of god.” and from that time forward he’s taken himself quite seriously and has created a whole cottage industry based on his own magnificence and need to enlighten us all. While he seems to have abandoned all the son of god business, his claim to fame eventually came through exposing the evil cabal of shape-shifting reptile people who rule our world (like the Queen of England, Henry Kissinger and Bob Hope). Alex Jones on the other hand, is a big loud Texas talk radio host who got his start on Austin cable access TV. I"ve written about Jones before (which you can read here), and hardly feel the need to promote a guy who’s one of the most ambitious self-promoters I’ve ever seen. When it comes to secular "new world order" conspiracy, Alex Jones is probably at the top of the heap these days. And at first he considered David Icke’s presence in the paranoia panorama as a big problem. His concern over letting blood guzzling reptilians into the conspiracy cannon led Jones to call Icke a conman and an opportunist, and his theories the "turd in the punch bowl” for all the seekers of hidden truths.

In an odd turnabout, in this clip Icke kicks into some rambling discussion about the inherent weakness of our “reptilian brain.” And he’s NOT talking about scaly skin blood suckers, but the brain stem and all that squishy stuff around it that makes up the vestigial remnants of our pre-mammalian legacy. In light of Icke’s long-standing fixation on reptilian villains, Jones steps in to let his listeners know–“this is not debatable. ” Icke is talking about real brain science this time, not scaly-skinned Republicans. And Icke responds with a quick hint of nervous laughter before carrying on with his neurological mumbo-jumbo. And so the ambitious Mr. Jones has kept the “turd” out of his punch bowl once again.

But here’s the funny thing. Protestant Armageddonists are even more bizarre. Instead of tending to their own souls, they seem more obsessed with the “sins” of other people– total strangers who don’t necessarily have the same religious beliefs. And many long for the day when America will become the theocratic state they believe it should have been all along. The dream of Roy Moore and his ilk is to indoctrinate our children in the public schools. And let’s face it, the only reason these people can keep riding that same sick pony around the American stage is because too many people let religiously infected people get a hold of their children at an early age. As their irrational belief beliefs are passed down generations it’s not just child abuse– it’s a viral infection that continues to stunt our spiritual growth as a nation.

However, the post-religious doom prophets don’t worry about everyone’s sins. They realize all that perverse religion turns a lot of people off. So, instead of putting a modern spin on ancient myths, they put an ancient spin on contemporary economics and politics. If you figure out we’re under the thumb of powerful people, they’ll tell you it all stems from bizarre rituals, or exotic bloodlines or visitors from outer space. Whether their conspiracy theories are more ridiculous than the burning bush or the impending return of Jesus doesn’t much matter. Dressing up the machinations of big money and the world power mafia in the garb of the Illuminati or jumbo lizard suits just turns your righteous anger into comic angst. Because you’ve invested into a load of crap.

If you’re willing to wade into the online swamps that surround showmen like Icke or Jones you can read how all these earnest believers create a burgeoning support group together to brace themselves against the coming cosmic doom they both predict. in their narratives, a seductive mix of fact and fantasy is always at play. Legitimate concerns about transnational corporations and governmental regimes twisting the truth, stealing our money and taking away our rights are all shuffled into fantastic all-encompassing conspiracies. And If I happened to be full of money and the devil, I’d pay clowns like Alex Jones or David Icke to exaggerate my crimes and mythologize my powers. Not only do the bad guys get all the best roles in the extravagant sci-fi narratives they fashion around themselves, but they also magically discredit every legitimate concern that gets sucked up into their conspiracy narrative. Call it disinfortainment.

I say this while hoping not to attribute any more power or pedigree to the postmodern carnival provided by David Icke or Alex Jones. They’re more like parasites than movers or shakers in all this insanity. And when they talk about corporate bias in mainstream news and our government relieving us of rights and choices we once enjoyed, it’s got to be seductive to people who are half-aware of what’s going on. And if it’s already in your makeup to believe in miracles and people rising from the dead, then how much of a stretch is it to imagine Dick Cheney (or Barack Obama) as a blood sucking reptile, or to obsess over what Republicans really do in the woods around the bonfires of Bohemian Grove.

And none of these samples of American sickness on shortwave radio are in and of themselves worthy of any great significance. But it’s all symptomatic of something strange going on. In a country founded in the Age Of Enlightenment by thoughtful and brave men who wanted to improve on the European models of government for the greater good of our people, there’s always been a counter-story. To get the United States off the ground, we relied on enslaved Africans for many decades. And then the mindset that helped people accept and embrace that kind of inhumanity didn’t go away. It evolved into an ugly legacy of lingering bigotry and hatred. And it’s easy to qualify the bizarre fundamentalism and the mindless racism as artifacts of the American South, but all this irrationality is much more widespread than that. (I’m resisting the urge to quote Pogo.)

While the Republican Party is in more serious disarray than ever, the big brutish media operation that brought them to power seems to be set on automatic, creating at least enough havoc to justify its cost. And lots of nameless unreasoning is indeed sweeping the nation. And when Icke sticks to the script he used on the air with Jones, that our lower "reptilian" mind is being manipulated by the man, he’s stumbling onto some truth there.

As far as shortwave radio these days, I guess the tables have tuned. Once a tool that brought us the rest of the world is fast becoming more relevant as a way to tune inward, into the lower brain of our very republic. And plenty of people get in touch with their creator that way. And even Tim McVeigh found inspiration and guidance through listening to his shortwave.

And when you’re out stocking up on ammo, you might wanna pick up some extra batteries for that radio. After all, a lot of folks are hoping for bad news.

Remember The Fifth of November?

Monday, March 9th, 2009

It was kind of hard to be in a bad mood that Wednesday morning. At least for many of us. Barack Obama had won the big election. Fair and square. It almost felt like optimism. Then I wondered about all those right wing propagandists who have taken over the AM dial across America… What the hell would they have to say on a day like the fifth of November?

This led to an online scavenger hunt for conservative talk radio from that fateful day. And I found plenty. It was like putting buckets out in a heavy thunderstorm. When it was all over I had captured close to a hundred hours of right wing radio broadcasting from November 5, 2008 (as MP3 files). I’ve gone on archiving binges like this before. And typically what I do is sample some of what I collected (just to get a flavor of the stuff) and then store it away in a digital attic for historical purposes. And you never know. Archival collections like this can come in handy for some future project.

Then I got to thinking… Hey I have a radio blog. And gosh, the future is now!. And wouldn’t it be so much fun to post a bunch of clips of all these deflated propagandists having a bad day. Just to make it simple, I came up with a plan. I’d post the opening monologue of each show. Nothing more. What would come out of their mouths on day one of this new reality? Of course, this meant that I would have to listen to each one and write a litter teaser/synopsis to lure you into listening. Right? I mean I guess that’s what I do here. It didn’t seem like an insurmountable task.

Anyway, the only problem was that I had to really listen. I wasn’t going to put up vile propaganda without providing some context. Then again, perhaps I hadn’t thought the process through very carefully. And in a sense, I was defeated by the very material I had assumed I would enjoy (in a schadenfreude fashion).

Okay, I wasn’t defeated (It didn’t turn me into a Republican or anything). But ingesting hours of right wing radio propaganda is probably not a very good idea (unless your a dittohead or a masochist). In fact, there was something rather toxic in the strange amalgam of boredom, nausea and repulsion that swept over me in all that listening. I began to feel like I was trapped in a Room 101 of my own creation.

As it happened, the great media buffoon, Glenn Beck, just brought this whole blogging experience to a halt for me. It was just the final straw after listening to awful radio for days. I became increasingly averse to putting myself through one more minute of Beck’s thoughts. After all, I did have other things to do. And for a while I did them, intending to eventually finish this post… soon.

Of course, this is why Media Matters for America was founded. For a long time, the smears, lies and distortions aired on right-wing talk radio were barely noted and rarely challenged– because unless you subscribe to the consensus reality of the media right (Fox News, Murdoch papers, talk radio, etc.), you will find getting immersed in it for any length of time to be an unnerving and uncomfortable experience. Now we have intelligent and thoughtful people to monitor these broadcasts for outrageous and false content. But just like the people who take care of your trash at the curb (or what you flush down the toilet), they need to be paid. It’s thankless work.

The truth is I spent way too much time attempting to get a grip on the slippery Mr. Beck. I’d listen to the same few minutes repeatedly trying to ascertain his point, or viewpoint, or something. But each time my brain would naturally tune out. I’m human. I have limits. In retrospect, it felt rather like getting trapped on a barstool next to a loud mouth drunk. Which kinda makes sense. Not only is Glenn Beck a recovering alcoholic, but a key element of his persona is flaunting that fact.

Just recently I came across a news story where Beck admitted that during his last spree of championship drinking (the late 1990′s) he had become quite an asshole. Now if you ask me, I doubt Glenn Beck has changed all that much. Except he’s apparently quit drinking. Which I guess is a good thing, but it all kind of reminds me of a certain president we used to know.

Glenn Beck Intro Monologue – 11-05-08 8:36

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Then it all started to make sense. For me, lending an ear to a meandering egoist like Glenn Beck is a constant struggle against a visceral urge, not just to ignore him, but to physically move away from the radio (or just shut off it off). Then again, I guess some people are really inspired by Glenn Beck. His radio show has proven to be quite popular. And he’s traded in his gig as a right-wing CNN gadfly for a shiny sideshow booth over at Fox News. (Check out Steven Colbert’s humorous parody of Beck’s new show here.) Although I must admit that I am heartened to hear that Glenn. Beck (and other conservative media types) aren’t giving up on Sarah Palin anytime soon. (There’s a balloon to pin your hopes on.)

And how grandiose Beck sounds, making the Obama election a national "self-help" event and invoking the founding fathers. Beck is the master of cocky half-wit profundity. And all discussions on Becks’ show seem to lead back to his throbbing self-importance and sense of drama.

If you’re not familiar with Glenn Beck’s radio antics or the huge rightist talk radio industry in general, I can’t blame you. If I hadn’t developed a taste for talk radio a long time ago, I would never wallow into that mess either. But if you’re wondering what it’s all about, the machinations of right-wing talk radio are pretty simple. It’s a massive and effective propaganda machine that masquerades as informative entertainment. It’s become a massive media movement employed by the moneyed interests of the US and their corporate associates to convince people of lesser means to happily support laws and lawmakers who favor the privileged and the upper class (and to habitually vote against their own economic interests). While Rush Limbaugh kind of invented this method of political warfare on a national scale, in the last twenty years it’s proven to be a very effective method for electing Republicans for local and national office. Of course, over this last election cycle rightist talk radio just didn’t provide the kind of political support it generated in previous years. Which in a sense, led me to put together this post.

While there’s always been political opinion in talk radio, since the Fairness Doctrine was scrapped at the end of the Reagan Administration, there’s been something else– Political radio warfare. It has gotten so bad after Bush took over, that there was a grassroots movement to develop a left-wing talk industry to counter the many-headed media monster the right had developed (which I talked about here).

And since there’s so many varieties of independent and moderate Americans, there’s all sorts of right-wing talk hosts (each with their own approach and style) working day and night to make them angry and blind– to inspire people who should know better to hate Democrats and fight the "evils" of liberal policy and progressive politicians. After some consideration, I’ve decided against offering all of the thirty-five propagandists I’ve archived. Instead, what you’ll find here is a reasonable and representative sampler of conservative bile and blather collected during the first full day of "President-Elect Obama."

And one thing to keep in mind that the far-right propaganda performers hate political moderates. That’s why they didn’t really have their heart in supporting McCain. While they loved Sarah, they suspected old John might not be the far-right ideologue he portrayed himself to be during the campaign. And remember Bill Clinton? Very moderate. Almost a Republican. The talk radio mob really hated him. Pounded on him daily. They still do.

So, let’s take the temperature of the golden goose of the 1994 Republican revolution at the dawn of a new era, and see if he’s cooked yet.

Rush Limbaugh Opening Monologue – 11-05-08

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The top dog of right wing talk, Rush Limbaugh set the tone for the genre over twenty years ago. And although there’s all sorts of shapes and sizes of rightist talk these days, the basic mold created by Limbaugh has proven effective– putting forward a host who is provocative, haughty and unwavering– in your face. Provide an over-confident rightist asshole with a microphone, and don’t apologize for the indignities that arise from the all the entertainment that ensues.

With so much joy and relief sweeping around the world after Obama’s win, it was only natural that the news industry would start seeking out the disgruntled right-wing pundits who didn’t get their way. Just to keep everything fair and balanced. And you would think that with McCain getting thrashed in the polls for weeks that Limbaugh would be better prepared for what was bound to be the most scrutinized intro monologue since his drug addictions became public knowledge.

It would appear that Limbaugh didn’t put much thought into this big moment. The material he brings to the table is scattershot at best. He starts out congratulating Obama for defeating Hillary Clinton (which of course happened months ago), and then he gets lost in an extended train wreck of football metaphors. (With only a high school education, football is where Limbaugh usually goes for analogies and comparisons in most of his oratory).

Toward the end of this clip you ll hear Limbaugh somehow re-imagine that the crowd at Grant Park on election night started to turn on Obama when he mentioned they might have to sacrifice and work harder to bring a better world. Notice the cute way Limbaugh embodies "black thought" by ending each exclamation with the familiar black to black slang noun "bro."  (as in "That wasn’t the deal here bro!" ) This is a constant Limbaugh theme, to create fictitious scenarios where where blacks openly lack the ambition and initiative of white folks.

Considering the bad news, Rush comes off as rather carefree and chipper on November 5th. As a somewhat moderate Republican, John McCain has been a topic of derision on Limbaugh’s program for years, and his approach here is that there wasn’t a real conservative in the race anyway, so no big deal. "This wasn’t any big landslide," Limbaugh mocks the portly Limbaugh.  “And how many of those votes were stolen?”

Yeah, right. No hard feelings I guess, eh? It sounds to me that Limbaugh is the one who’s going to have to work harder to make things happen over the next four years. It’s bad enough when your job is to publically denigrate and mock an inspirational figure who has so many important qualitites you lack (like class, intelligence and grace), but it’s gotta be even worse when the inspirational figure is black and you obviously have a big problem with that fact. Barack Obama makes life a little harder for Rush Limbaugh. He forces him to edit himself.

When the big man gets to talking, now and then something rather racist falls out of his mouth. Whether he’s telling black callers to take the bone out of their nose or contending that all newspaper composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson.  Another dumbass comment he made about a black quarterback cost Limbaugh his coveted gig on ESPN a few years ago.

Angry and white radio rightists like Limbaugh and Michael the Savage Weiner energize racist factions within their core audience by saying racially insensitive stuff that doesn’t quite go over the line. And it seems that Obama and his media operation is more than aware of Limbaugh’s vulnerabilities, and the way he magically repels moderates, women, Latinos and younger people away from the Republican party. Maybe you noticed how the administration has been teasing and taunting the opiated blowhard into more public foolishness than usual. And Limbaugh’s swollen ego makes it impossible for him to avoid taking the bait.

While getting pushed into the top arc of the news cycle has to be driving up his listenership in the short term, it also makes Limbaugh much more vulnerable. When he says something fatally stupid, or some new Limbaugh scandal breaks, it’s going to happen right square in the public spotlight. Of course, when Humpty Rush takes his fall there is a prince in waiting…

Sean Hannity Intro Monologue – 11-05-08

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Like Rush, Sean is rather sloppy out of the gate on day one of the new era. And I just have to wonder if all these righty talkers just never considered the most likely scenario would really come true. And then a shocker– Hannity theorizes that "the left" has been fighting dirty, spending years orchestrating a failure of President Bush just for their own political benefit! (I tend to think that the thousands of lives that might have been saved was a little more of an incentive, but okay) I guess that means that all of Bush’s failures have been caused by those evil genius liberals. Who knew?

Compared to the portentous Mr. Limbaugh, Hannity is able to at least feign some measure of momentary grace in defeat. Only to note that the Obama win wasn’t quite the election landslides of Hannity’s heroes– Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. You see, Hannity walked a fine line that Wednesday, trying not to sound too much like a bitter partisan hack while never missing a chance to demean or denounce Obama. Yet, although Hannity is pretty repulsive, there are more vile and ridiculous voices on the radio.

Michael Savage Intro Monologue – 11-05-08

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It would be easy to write off Michael Savage as a hateful xenophobic little prick, but he’s really so much more. If you listen carefully, what you’ll hear is a really boring self-absorbed old fart, who seems to drop in something outrageous, vicious or crazy every once in a while– just to make sure you’re still paying attention. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve heard a man on the radio who seems to need so much attention (Remember, Randi Rhodes is actually a woman…).

Not surprisingly, Savage has no allegiance toward McCain or the Republicans. Actually, there’s not quite enough hatred toward gays and brown people in either major political party for Michael Savage. He says in this clip that he spits in McCain’s face. Nice. However, most of what you’ll actually hear is a just pathetic homely man who needs listeners so bad. It’s odd. A couple of people I actually respect actually find Savage’s act entertaining (or at least compelling). It just reminds me of early onset dementia.

Speaking of dementia…

Bill O’Reilly Intro Monologue – 11-05-08

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Okay, O’Reilly isn’t really so much demented as depraved. But that’s beside the point. Mr. O’Reilly imagines himself a bigger and better version of the average American, and a righteous media advocate for religious and fact-deprived Americans. And when he tries to explain complex and profound issues and current events on the radio or TV there’s something poetic in his inarticulate and ignorant analysis and insight that might either help you understand why the U.S. has been the laughing stock of the world or make you feel even more enlightened by your own lack of knowledge and curiosity.

With a relatively successful TV show underway, I ve always wondered why O’Reilly wanted a daily radio show too. Perhaps just because Sean had one. And any hotshot talk host has a staff at hand, some hosts are more involved in the process in their own preparation than others. But here, O’Reilly sounds like he might have rolled into the studio fifteen minutes before air time with a hot coffee and a roll of Tums.

In fact, not long after the election O’Reilly announced that he was getting out of radio. Perhaps the looming election kept old Bill at the microphone another year or so, but not long after this broadcast he called it quits. Supposedly this will give Bill more time to make his TV show even better. How exciting.

Okay, I’ve had enough of the highly paid hacks and hucksters. Bring on the freak show! Ladies and gentlemen, the mostly highly decorative officer in Phoenix, Arizona history. (Or maybe she said “decorated”…)

Jack McLamb Intro Monologue – 11-05-08 8:36

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For me, full-bore kookiness is a lot more fun than hardcore RNC talk radio. Officer Jack has retired from the force, and today he conducts his conspiratorial talk radio program from America’s survivalist playground, the high Rocky Mountains of Idaho, USA. Like many fringe and freaky rightist radio shows, McLamb’s daily program is carried by the Genesis Communications Network. Many of their shows can be found on a few little AM stations scattered across the countryside (mostly in the south and out west). But the main outlet for McLamb’s (and most GCN content) is WWCR (World Wide Christian Radio), the shortwave multi-frequency international powerhouse in Tennessee (and on the web).

A retired cop (who can’t seem to give up the uniform), McLamb also founded an organization called "Police Against the New World Order," which should give you an idea where he’s coming from. And Jack doesn’t like Obama much. But the far right wackies never liked Bush much either. I don’t think the conspiracy fetishists ever like any elected president, or any leader for that matter. Government is always the enemy, run by monsters in cahoots with the infamous elites and the secret societies. “Well, you see who the international criminal elite chose to be our President,” McLamb tells us. “We now have an Obama-nation as President of the United States.”

McLamb is concerned that this election may bring on the great American “race war” that so many survivalist/patriot extremists have been predicting for so long. And how might that happen?. According to McLamb, the satanic international criminal elites don’t like brown people, and they might have Obama killed, and then blame all the white supremacists. Thus starting a “race war.” All of which might make you wonder if McLamb might be a bit of a bigot himself.

And maybe his is, but doesn’t want you to think so. In fact, this monologue kicks off with one of the more extravagant “some of my best friends are black” expositions I’ve heard in quite a long time. To hear McLamb tell it, he has a real passion for people “of color.” The problem with Obama however, is that he’s a communist. And MAYBE a Muslim. And McLamb hates Communists (He might not like Muslims much either.) And on the day after the election there’s just something very creepy about getting on the radio and talking about Obama getting shot in the head.

And then the more you hear McLamb ramble, the more you begin to see how the conspiracy paranoia and religious mental illness all dovetails into a colorful worldview that’s very popular on U.S. shortwave radio (and in the dark corners and back roads of the internet). It’s a general fear of the “new world order,” which often translates to worries about elites in general, the pro-Satan forces, and space aliens. And then there’s the concerns about immigrants (at least they exist). As you might imagine, there’s more than a little bit of racial hatred at the heart of all this conspiracy thought as well, but the true nature of the bigotry is often masked or coded into the public presentations of all the kooks and preachers spreading their messages of fear and intolerance. Actually, if you take away the religious apocalypticism and the science fiction, and it’s really not that all that different than the worldview of Limbaugh or Michael Savage.

In closing, Jack brings up what has become the lynchpin topic for most of the Obama hating paranoids on the air and on the web. Out of all the rumors and smears spread during the campaign, the meme that Obama is not a natural born citizen is the one that continues to fire up the hoards of fringe fraidy-cats out there. Despite substantial proof debunking the rumor, the idea that Obama is some foreign agent (or just not quite American enough) is very appealing to people who already feel ill at ease about Obama’s skin color, or that he has Muslim relatives.

Perhaps we can take McLamb at his word and assume he really does “love people of color.” I guess that would make Obama one of McLamb’s “black brothers and sisters.” It’s the people who employ Obama (and Bush as well) who concern him– the international criminal elite. And of course, you know what Jesus called them: “The Anti-Christ Communist Synagogue of Satan.” (Hmmm.)

So, let me wind up with post with another talk host on the outskirts of radio. This one’s kooky, but not quite a kook. And while I don’t think he’s a racist, I’ll bet I wouldn’t be the first to say he’s  either. And back in the 1980′s, he seemed to be on the verge of hitting the big time.

David Paul Intro Monologue – 11-05-08 8:36

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It’s David Paul, a guy who used to have one of the sleaziest overnight talk shows in radio history on WSB in Atlanta (which could be heard probably a couple dozen states on their 50,000 watt signal) during the 1980′s and 90′s. It was called “Off The Wall with David Paul,” and that’s just what it was. It was stupid and entertaining and often irritating, and it was hard not to listen when you came across Paul’s oily voice and goofy persona in the middle of the night. His show was his own blend of soft-core shock jock fare, with lots of slutty girls calling in keeping David interested in the proceedings and keeping a lot of dirty old men up all night long.

I’ve intended to write about David Paul in more detail for a little while now, so I won’t say so much here. But the short story is after his gig at WSB ended he ended up in Florida (WIOD) I think, and maybe another station or two. And then he disappeared. Occasional internet searches to check if Paul had popped back up somewhere never panned out. Until a year or two ago, when I found out he’s doing a morning drive show at a teeny tiny little radio station down in Georgia.

I’m not totally convinced that David Paul is a right-winger. Although he may be. It’s just that Cartersville, Georgia is such a Republican zone in an already Republican state that it’s probably a good idea for his radio persona to be Republican, whether he is or not. After all, he did need a job. Who doesn’t these days?

As Paul comes on the air he has good news for his listeners. Except for Obama, just about every local and state candidate down there went for the GOP. Although Chambliss would have to call in Sarah Palin some other big Republican stars to help him finally re-secure his Senate seat in a run off election.

Did you know the Democrats want to control everything you see, hear and read? Right. For chrissake, only a hard core Republican (or a dumb ass) would believe that. I know this has been a big talking point bandied about by a lot of right-wing nutballs and crazy Christians out there, the idea that the power hungry Democrats are going to legislate the end of the dominion of right-wing talk radio. It’ll never happen. But I suppose it could be interesting if somehow the voters could became more educated on the corruption and collusion between the far-right in this country and a number of corporations that has led to the vast majority of American talk radio hosts doing shows that are both political and very right wing. It didn’t used to be that way. And America has always been home to a whole range of political beliefs, and has never been a rightist (or leftist) nation.

According to David Paul, without having a radio dial full of right-wing voices people (let’s assume he means Georgians) wouldn’t know what to think and how to vote. And he gives an impassioned reason why his listeners should fear the Democrats: “People can be led.” Exactly. People can be led. “You have a choice!,” Paul says, raising his voice. And his listeners do have a choice, probably between two or three right wing talk show hosts at a time. While progressive talk radio has a foothold in the business these days, there’s plenty of towns and counties where it’s almost impossible to find anything resembling progressive talk radio or any talk radio that isn’t obnoxiously espousing hard right Republican talking points. While Paul is kind of a hoot some days, when it comes to politics he really is a maroon.

Since Obama’s election I’ve heard many in rightist media scream like monkeys about how the Democrats are going to bring “fairness” back to talk radio (and shut down the far right wing dominance of talk radio). While I don’t believe anything quite like the “fairness doctrine” of old will return, I do believe that all the conservative talk radio hosts on the air don’t want their monopoly of talk radio to become a topic of discussion in the media, and especially in the halls of congress. It just wouldn’t be fair.

I have a hunch that right wing talk radio may take a big hit in this new post-bust era, as more and more Americans find they’ve lost their savings and/or their job (and their health insurance), the rightist media figures who have championed illegal and very expensive wars and all of the toxic corporate and financial deregulation that took our economy into this ditch. And all the while smearing unions, environmentalists, anti-war activists, and promulgating specious arguments against the minimum wage, universal health care or anything else that might benefit the middle-class, the working poor or the unemployed. And just like folks who turned over their millions to Bernie Madoff, millions of listeners turned over their common sense, compassion and cultural outlook to contrarian ideologues like Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and Beck. And one day they’ll realize they have nothing to show for it, besides a seasoned ignorance on how government policies and economic principles play out in the real world. And a lifetime supply of mega-dittos.

In four-hundred ways, we’re in uncharted territory these days. Especially when it comes to media, information and politics. And the political talk radio industry that rapidly grew during the Clinton administration, and became more diverse during the eight years of Bush and Cheney, now finds us in an era that still doesn’t have a name– where the rules keep changing and nobody knows where we’re heading. And when Obama quoted from the King James Version at his inauguration, saying– “The time has come to set aside foolish things,’ I think he was really onto something.

And so let me put aside these foolish voices, and move on. Occasional casual monitoring of conservative talk radio just to get a flavor of the RNC media machine is one thing, but sitting down and getting personally acquainted with dozens of hours of this garbage is something else all together. I’m not saying I was damaged, exactly. But from the beginning, this blog has been a labor of love. Although I occasionally do find right wing talk fascinating, I find nothing to love while I’m immersed in the dogmatic swill of it all.

There are changes afoot in the talk radio scene. To what end? I don’t know. But you wanna hear something really weird. I think it’s weird. It’s Rush Limbaugh– all spastic and sullen and bitter. It’s quite a change from the cocky pill-head strut of Clinton impressions and chuckle-packed regular features demeaning activists and thinkers and the poor. Listen to his petulant whine as he complains that those awful Democrats are “mean-spirited…heartless….horrible winners.” Is he serious? When I first heard this clip I really thought he was going to fucking cry (as some Republicans do, at the strangest times). But he never really does.

Actually, instead of the audio, here’s the video! I’m sorry. I know it’s not easy to watch. And the man does not look healthy or happy. And one wonders what might be taking the place of his beloved painkillers. I imagine it’s hard to be Rush Limbaugh… without a little numbing now and then. And if you’re wondering why you should waste bandwidth on a chubby Republican emoting, let me tell you that the arm flapping is worth the ticket to the show.

Is that just sad, or what? And while I think right wing talk radio may be in for a world of hurt, the progressive talk radio format that organically rose to challenge the chorus of scary repug voices on the AM dial has always been a problematic commercial undertaking. It doesn’t help that many of the hosts espouse political positions quite different from the official positions of corporate interests who sponsor, syndicate and promote radio shows and radio stations. And the simplistic solutions and god and country mumbo-jumbo of the rightist talkers has a broad easy appeal that trumps any real discussion of the issues or accidently bumping into the true complexity of human affairs. Then again, maybe the Democrats are just lousy businessmen, and hard-selling a harsh reactionary political agenda on behalf of big money just makes people feel good. I sure don’t have all the answers.

While I’m not going to drag this post on any further, I should mention that there has been a lot of news in the progressive talk radio business. Let’s see if can get all I’ve heard and read lately into a few quick coda paragraphs here…

Amid lots of drama and a little mystery, liberal talk syndicator “Nova M” is gone. Their home station in Phoenix has switched back to Spanish programming. And of their two big stars, Mike Malloy is scrambling to syndicate himself without missing a week, and Randi Rhodes will probably show up back on WNJO sometime soon. And I’m sure she’s land some type of syndication deal somehow. While Malloy was live on the web last Friday night, I have no idea if he’s going to be on the air this week. And as of this writing Rhodes is still sulking in her Florida bungalow, or condo, or whatever she calls home down there.

And Air America? You gotta wonder. They finally lost their biggest star, Rachel Maddow. All that’s left is a vestigial morning hour where they broadcast the audio from her previous night’s TV show on MSNBC. And Thom Hartmann (who just cracked the top ten of Talker’s Magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” talk show hosts) has abandoned Air America as well. One time CEO Mark Green is pulling out as well, to get back into NYC politics. And in the vacuum created by Rachel pulling out of AAR’s evening lineup has come Ron Reagan, son of the oft-heralded Republican hero. And I must admit, he’s not bad.

Perhaps the most interesting thing going on over at Air America is what former hosts Sam Seder and Marc Maron are up to. They’ve created a daily web-only videocast (which is also a free audio podcast) where they can freely be ridiculous and creative and even utter dirty words now and then. It’s called “Break Room Live,” and it takes place at 3pm every weekday in a real break room at the Air America headquarters. While it’s rather unprofessional, it is produced. Actually, it’s a Brendan McDonald production, and fans of McDonald and Maron’s efforts on Morning Sedition will probably enjoy this somewhat primitive progressive news sitcom. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but I Iike this show. And occasionally it is hilarious. 

I don’t know how long Air America is going to spend money on this offbeat experiment, but there’s worse ways to waste an hour or two sitting at your computer. Like listening to Michael Savage or Glenn Beck or Dennis Miller (oooh, that’s really bad). But I am starting to think that Rush Limbaugh may just go down in a ball of flames. And it might happen sooner than you think. Until something wonderful like that happens, I think I’ll take a vacation from conservative talk radio for a while.

Let me get back to something more whimsical and heartwarming? Like shortwave radio perhaps. And maybe I’ll see you at the SWL fest!

Adultery, Betrayal & Confession– The ABC Exclusive

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

It’s not that often that you know the exact time a news story breaks. Obviously, massive acts of nature or great violence (earthquakes, bombings, etc) generally become information almost within seconds. However, many news items enter the media stream at a carefully chosen day and hour. After all, the news is first and foremost a “product” these days, and news providers, news makers and anybody with a hot tip all have financial and political interests to consider when letting a news story out into the wild.

An interesting case study might be former Presidential candidate John Edwards’ public confession the other day. I thought it was interesting that how the story was released to the world precisely at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (or maybe 2:58).

Everybody paying attention knows that late summer 2008 has three major events that are going to be big news and generate lots of stories around the world. Of course there’s a big presidential election going on here in the states, but it’s not until the party conventions are over and done in early September that the campaign warfare and election media overload really begins. Meanwhile, the other BIG news event began on Friday the allegedly cosmic 08/08/08– The opening ceremonies in Beijing.

I'm not much for spectator sports. Even the Olympics. But I did catch some highlights of those ceremonies. Wow. As big and amazing as anything I've ever seen. Lots of pomp. Yet disturbing, at least to me. And our President himself was there for all the fireworks.

But it was BIG. The Olympic opening had been the single most anticipated event around the world for weeks. And nobody's surprised at the estimate of roughly a billion people who tuned in for the TV mega-pageant. All in all, it was an opportune time to get the least bang for the bump for a major news event– like invading a neighboring country or explaining to a national TV audience why you've been lying about your sex life.

So the reason I'm wading into this sordid media quagmire is because I have radio moment of sorts to share– the sound this big news story actually breaking, live, on WABC here in New York. Although Disney sold off their talk stations recently, their ABC News network is still intertwined with the format of the former ABC stations for ten years as part of the deal.

WABC – Breaking News at 3:00 – 08-08-08

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This clip begins just before 3:00 p.m. on WABC. It’ the official hand-off time between Limbaugh and Hannity, where the right-wing radio rocks of Gibraltar almost touch. And as the media storm sweeps over the horizon, the thunderclaps begin. Boom! Rush Limbaugh emerges with just enough time to dish the dirt. Then, boom! Sean Hannity kicks in on cue, barely more prepared than Limbaugh: “All right, we’ve got some breaking news… “

Although the story is barely a minute old, Hannity promises to get to the “bottom line on that.” (After all, if anybody's going to go straight to the bottom of a story, it’s Sean). Despite the hot Edwards story, Hannity promised to hit hard on some Clinton non-story anyway. (Beating up on Bill Clinton? It's all they really know how to do when they're not being fed any juicy red meat from Republican headquarters that day).

And then– Boom, boom, boom-boom– ABC News with Bob Schmidt. A media cloudburst begins… As newsrooms around the country are suddenly scrambling in preparation to have the story by their next newscast, ABC news hits play on a breezy Barbara Britt piece on Edwards' predicament. If you know anything about this situation, you know the version (his version) of the story as it went out that Friday. This is followed by what would have been the lead story, the Olympics are underway!

So why the story launch at 3 o'clock? Well apparently the interview was conducted late that morning. ABC wouldn't need much time to slap a web item and a radio piece together and it was hours before the nightly news. But Edwards certainly would want to have himself, his family and Ms. Hunter secure when the story went out, and to have certain people in his circle informed before they heard it on the news. So while every mention of Edwards confession in the media that day would be a de facto promotion for Nightline that evening, the network probably agreed to give Edwards a head start to prepare for the media fallout.

And while I'm apt to add that the timing would also bump the story into Saturday's newspaper, which is as Rachel Maddow always says is the skinniest and least read edition of a weekly paper, I think that 24/7 cable news and the constant web news stream trumps the print reality these days.

The Nightline interview itself was a sad exercise. For such a full-throttle effort to get in front of a story, Edwards certainly seemed less than candid all through the thing. And what's worse, is he couldn't get out of "campaign mode," going as far as thanking Bob Woodruff for showing up to grill him (like he was invited to a TV debate or something). And why does the supposed fact that he had the affair while his wife's cancer was in remission. And why is important to me or anyone besides his wife if fooled around with Rielle Hunter (i.e. Lisa Jo Druck), but didn't actually love her. And yeah right, the baby's not his. Sure. It would probably be easier to get to the truth if the lady in question would come forward and spill the beans. But apparently she's hiding… somewhere. (The Virgin Islands?)

OK, I gotta admit it. There deeper you go into this story, it just gets dumber and creepier. And like so many sordid airings of celebrity dirty laundry in the public square, once you get a whiff it's hard to turn away. I really brought the whole thing up here blog because I was fascinated with the precision clockwork of the news cycle caught in a few minutes of radio. But I ain't proud that I ended up spending hours researching the kind of stupid celebrity scandal crap that clogs up the works of the news industry with indulgence, lifestyle porn and tragedy. So I'll cut off this discussion of the fall of John Edwards by leaving you with a few links of interest, if you need to know more.

This Newsweek writer's piece on his casual friendship with the lady in question during the Edwards affair speaks volumes. And the youthful shenanigans of Ms. Hunter (Druck) in downtown NYC in the crazy 80's was immortalized in some infamous and trashy fiction titles you may know. And lastly, if your really want to get a fly on the wall flavor of the last temptation of John Edwards, take a gander at the first "Webisode" Hunter produced. You can easily see (and hear) why they were taken down once he was busted by Mrs. E. Watching them may make you wonder how they ever ended up there in the first place. More Edwards dirt can probably be found at this trash compost than anywhere else, starting here and here. And there's more on the way…

And, I'm sorry to page six on you like this…

As far as the other big news of 08/08/08, besides the Olympics… the ongoing situation between Russia and Georgia (and NATO and the former Soviet satellite states and the U.S. and E.U…. everybody else) looks like it's going to get ugly. And that mess just adds more sorts of complexities and variables to an already unpredictable and turbulent (and corrupt) international situation that always seems to be on the verge of turning into something far worse. And something strange.

If you do own a shortwave radio, keep in mind that your connection to the rest of the world is less vulnerable to a cyberattack. And as far as keeping informed, the U.S. and most EU countries may have cut way back on shortwave broadcasting to the west, Russia and many of the states within its historic sphere haven't given up on old fashioned world broadcasting yet. And when the world's on fire, it's always best to not to trust any one version of current events, or recent history.

And then there's China. Proving every day that they can filter all the news and all the information (and entertainment) and suppress all the dissent AND be super-fantastic all at the same time. That really is incredible. I didn't see much of the Olympics, but it looked incredibly colorful and everybody seemed really happy.

Next week the Democratic convention in Denver. John Edwards won't be there. Last month his name was still mentioned as a possible VP pick for Obama. Instead, he may be trying to figure out if he's still married.

Bye Bob

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

I was in the middle of working on another radio piece for this blog when I took a break to eat and trolled a few blogs for some dinner reading. I guess I was feeling a bit braver than usual and ended up at a blog I’ve been avoiding lately because the content there has gotten increasingly painful to read. That’s when I found out that Bob Lassiter has signed off.

No, he’s not dead. Not yet. But the running theme of Lassiter’s blog has always been about the rapid approach of the end of his life and the thoughts and reflections inherent in being aware during the process. In his last blog entry (May 21), Lassiter says: “I am faced with both a certainty that cannot be denied, and an uncertainty that consumes me. I choose to make the remainder of the journey in privacy…” 

In a way, Lassiter’s blog has been a long goodbye letter to his fans, and that’s never been more true than this last post. You can read it here.

In this profound period for Lassiter, it’s as difficult for me to write about him as it ever was. Lassiter is a such a paradoxical character. He’s a brilliant high school drop-out, an introvert who loves attention, and a man who debated great spiritual and intellectual issues with callers just to entertain and attract listeners. On any given show you might hear a raging provocateur, an obsessed geek, or just a sentimental fool.

Bloglassiter_1As I’ve said before, Lassiter was one of the greats of talk radio. A host like no other who sought and created adversary listeners, demanded intellectual honesty over belief, and was often audibly bored or uncomfortable when embraced over the phone by fans or folks who agreed with him. There was nobody like Lassiter in talk radio before, and there won’t be another anytime soon.

 As Lassiter’s blog comes to a close, the other popular site for Bob’s fans is going strong and getting better all time. "Bob Lassiter Airchecks" started small a while back when a fan put up a simple site with a few recordings he’d purchased from a collector. I happily sent him a bunch of the Lassiter material I had, and more people have been doing the same thing. While it’s hardly complete, this site now offers a compelling overview of most of Lassiter’s career, and quite a variety of his antics and monologues. No eye candy there, just plenty of Lassiter radio you can download for free (thanks George!). Have at it. And there’s more… VIDEO.

Yes, you can now WATCH Bob Lassiter. There’s two extended clips there. One is from 1988– a wacky local Tampa public access show– "Hot Seat

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Hot Seat was a Florida public access TV show hosted by Carroll Sudler (Who now has a loopy left-wing talk radio show out in California as “Harrison”) And doesn’t Lassiter look remarkably healthy and confident in this clip? And he actually seems to be having fun.

However, what’s really amazing is an episode of CNN’s "Crossfire" featuring Lasster AND Rush Limbaugh. 

It was 1990, and Limbaugh had only been national for a couple of years and Lassiter was doing afternoon drive at WLS in Chicago. At this time they were roughly equals in their field. Of course, it’s the same obnoxious TV slapfight Crossfire always was, and nothing is really discussed or decided. However, Lassiter actually looks more comfortable than Limbaugh on camera (and for all the talk of Bob’s weight back then, he is CONSIDERABLY thinner than Rush), and he gets his licks in nicely over the course of the bickering. If you’re a Lassiter fan, you’re going to want to downloadboth of these clips and take a look. You’ll see him in his prime and at the peak of his career.

The irony I get from the Crossfire clip is how flustered and defensive Limbaugh gets about being labeled a "radical." He retorts that he’s merely “an entertainer” who doesn’t want to “change people’s minds or to cause people trouble.” El Rushbo says he just wants to “fun on the radio.” It’s too bad Lassiter didn’t say it. Because in that case it actually would have been close to the truth.

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But I gotta tell you, one aircheck that’s recently been added to this site is one I’ve been wanting to hear for a long time. It’s Lassiter’s final radio show, from December 1, 1999. And fans will be happy to know that the Mad Dog went down in style that day, raging and ranting with his dark sense of humor intact. The target of his anger? The very station he was on– WFLA. You don’t hear this kind of thing very often in commercial radio.

Bobrush_1WFLA management (and Clear Channel) had apparently decided not to renew his contract, and were avoiding Bob in the hallway and not taking his calls. So, breaking a big talk radio taboo he took his beef with the station on the air. It’s “nothing to lose” radio and Lassiter is in fine form.

By this time, Lassiter knew he was a lame duck. He’d lost gigs before and was well aware that radio was a cutthroat business. However, what really irked him was the silent treatment he was getting. I mean, who WOULD want to fire Lassiter face to face? And no one did. He says on his blog that he got a short call the next day simply telling him he didn’t need to come in to work anymore.

On this last show, Lassiter mentions several times another show he did a few years before where he discussed the heartless and gutless realities of the radio business. It was quite a program. For three hours Lassiter didn’t take calls. He just recounted his radio career in dramatic detail, highlighting the lack of mercy in the business. I featured some of it when I did a two part profile on Lassiter for WFMU’s “Aircheck” in 2003, but you can hear the last two-thirds of that show at Bob Lassiter Airchecks. It’s called Radio For One.”

In fact, you can go to the Bob Lassiter Airchecks site and listen to his last show at WPLP, then Radio For One, and finish up with the WFLA finale you’ll hear the definitive history of Lassiter’s radio career from the man himself.

Squares1_1And now, it’s equally difficult to end this post and say something meaningful about Lassiter’s declining health, or that he’s ending his relationship with his fans and followers. So I won’t. Except to say I wish him well (as much as that means). And thank you Bob, for the time you  spent with me a decade ago, as uncomfortable as it was for the both of us.

So, for a few hours or days (or until Lassiter turns the comments off on this latest post) you can still say something to Lassiter if you wish. Or you might just want to read some of the comments there. He’s requested “no questions.” Seems fair. And also, don’t pray for Bob. He wouldn’t like that either.

Be good.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

New War’s Eve

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

Shock_and_awe The beginning of each new year often invokes feelings of anticipation in a human being, and occasionally warrants one to brace for changes to come. Remember six years ago when the Gregorian odometer lined up three big zeros in a row? Many of us in the city bought up canned goods and bottled water in fear of that dreaded Y2K bug. But thankfully the Giuliani administration welded up all the manhole covers in Midtown and everything turned out all right. Kinda like how the invasion of Iraq has prevented any further terrorist attacks here in New York. I guess it’s similar to burying pennies in the garden to get rid of warts. You don’t know exactly how it works, but somehow it does.

But seriously, as the dead pile up in Iraq and you might scratch your head here in 2006 wondering how we somehow attacked and occupied a defenseless country. And in less than three years our country has been responsible for the death, wounding and maiming of thousands of people AND has fired up a civil war over there with no end in sight– ALL based on false intelligence. It might be interesting to look at a different kind of eve– The EVE of the Iraq war as heard on right wing talk radio.

Conflict Almost three years ago on St. Patrick’s Day 2003, there was a different kind of celebration going in America. Instead of a yearning to gulp some bubbly and kiss somebody, a lot of Americans were all pumped up to kiss a regime goodbye. And they were thirsty for blood. Iraqi blood.

The Bush Administration convinced enough of us that Saddam Hussein had huge stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction,” possibly nukes, and the time had come to go to war against him to save ourselves. There was an epidemic of war fever in the U.S. of A. By March 17, 2003 thousands of American and British troops were ready at the Iraq Border, and Bush was about to give a speech that evening that everybody knew was going to be a “final warning” for the Iraqi government. Thankfully, the evil French weren’t going to get in our way this time.

That day there was a blood lust in conservative talk radio that’s still shocking to me. Let’s listen to how it sounded that afternoon in New York City…

01 – WABC Rush Limbaugh – President Cowboy 03-17-03  14:30

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Rush is confident and enthusiastic about the coming bloodshed. He doesn’t see the war lasting much longer than a few days. Certainly not weeks. After all, America NEVER loses. In reality, all those anti-war types are only hoping for defeat, right? What’s even more embarrassing is Limbaugh shamelessly making Bush into a matinee cowboy hero.

02 – WMCA Jay Sekulow – Modern Blitzkrieg  03-17-03  2:02

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By the way, this is a "Christian" talk show relishing all the death to come. Get ready for the new blitzkrieg! And will weather get in the way of our glory?

03 – WOR Bill O’Reilly – Alright, It’s On  03-17-03  11:08

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Bill O’Reilly, a cocky and powerful political pundit, and just the biggest and most ignorant asshole in American media today. Yet from what I understand, his boycott of France has put their economy into a devastating unending depression. Pretty impressive. Anyway, here you have O’Reilly beating the war drums awful hard. And once the war starts, YOU had better be in favor of all the mayhem or you’ll not only be a bad American but big bad Bill is going to come after you with his TV & radio guns ablazing. The funny part is when O’Reilly says if Bush invades Iraq and finds no WMD’s and the Iraqis resent our invasion he’ll never trust the Bush Administration again. Me neither.

04 – WABC Sean Hannity – Saddam Threatening Global War 03-17-03  10:39

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The right wing’s ultimate talkbot, Sean Hannity is salivating pretty heavily on this day. The “moment of truth” is upon us. Within five minutes Hannity has made the case that Hussein will level the world with nuclear weapons– unless if we stop him!

05 – WOR Bob Grant – Some Things Come Before Peace 03-17-03  5:28

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Congressman Vito Fossella of Staten Island is planning a big pro-war rally for the weekend. Here he talks to the throbbingly war-ready Bob Grant. After all, there’s some things that come before peace and security. And what are those things again?

05 – WOR Tom Marr – God Is On Our Side 03-17-03  1:30

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Stan calls up to tell us how anti-war demonstrators are “abysmally ignorant of history.” Then, as Marr stares longingly at the TV set in the studio waiting on President Bush to step up and unleash the dogs of war, he reminds us all that the cloud being above is still America’s biggest fan.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)