Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Angry talk radio was an election loser

This from Dave Begel, longtime observer/commentator/agitator of the Milwaukee scene:

I'm going to preface this by saying that I know both Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling well. I like them both and I think they both do a great job on their respective radio shows. [That makes Begel a minority voice on Whallah-Xoff.]

But everything they were in favor of lost last night. Obama won. The sales tax hike won. The sick leave bill won. Conservative talk radio lost, and lost by fairly resounding margins.

What that says is a couple of things.

One, of course, is that people are tired of anger. Say what you will, if there are no enemies, then there is no conservative talk radio. They have built an empire being against things. Conflict is something that has proven to be very good for talk radio hosts.

Talk radio show hosts talk continually about the "mainstream media." Well, in Milwaukee, where both Sykes and Belling draw big ratings, they are the mainstream media. They are the big dogs on the block.

But they may not be so popular as people thought. Listening to those shows, you¹d figure that everyone in the world thought Obama was a corrupt, non-American, terrorist-loving Muslim who read Karl Marx to his kids at bedtime.

But this election has shown us something.

We are tired of the bitterness. We are tired of somebody always being angry at somebody else.

I don¹t want to go all Rodney King here, but maybe, just maybe, we can all get along.

Oh, we can have policy differences. And we can talk about them, and debate them, even heatedly. But what we really are tired of is the "us versus them" patois of conservative talk radio.

I am sure that Charlie and Mark will continue to have their shows. I¹ll personally fight any efforts to stifle talk radio with new kinds of legislation.

But if I were programming a radio station, I might just decide to get ahead of this curve and find some talk show hosts who aren¹t looking to make a name for themselves on the back of other people. I doubt if that¹s going to happen but there's no harm in wishing.


  1. Over at Wigderson's place , I recently tried to bait the locals by asking them what they like best about conservative talk radio. The anti-intellectualism? The jingoism? The unique style of dialectic? The way it can be manipulated to quickly spread the message du jour sent from HQ? The screening and hang-ups? The lack of Buckley-esque wit, intelligence and charm? The haughty self-righteousness? The confident swagger and lack of introspection?

    No one nibbled. Phrased this way, especially to conservatives that I suspect treasure the value of civil behavior and a certain intellectualism, I think they're left speechless. If talk radio can inflame the masses and chase after the sticks they throw, it's a useful tool but not something they're proud of.

  2. Sykes and Belling could be considered "successes" anywhere but in their personal bank accounts only if they moved public opinion. They do not.

    They simply preach to a rabid choir too small to affect elections, but large enough to generate ratings, and therefore profits, and therefore their salaries.

    It would be honorable if they strove for more. They do not. Both programs have a certain canned, "phoned in" quality at this point. The listener knows where they stand on every issue. The listener knows that David Clark and Scott Walker can do no wrong, and that those with an aversion to regular and repeated mutual posterior kissing can do no right.

    To actually move opinion, both Sykes and Belling would have to be able to perceive and acknowledge shades of gray in the personages of all men and women.

    They would have to be able to say, Gee, maybe Walker was wrong to ask for a huge raise for his chief of staff while cutting county jobs...maybe Clarke was wrong to send an employee who wrote disparigingly about him on foot patrol alone in the inner city while requiring an armed guard himself at taxpayer expense when he foots it through the airport.

    Sykes and Belling will not do so. They have their reward. They can sputter and spit their vitriol for their fans, cash their checks, and go home happy.

    They have acheived their goal, telling color blind people daily that there is no difference between red and green, and that anybody who says there is is evil.

    -Soft Words and Broad Swords-

  3. Sykes and Belling are good at what they do. Unfortunately, what they do is not good.