Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is Rush Limbaugh killing talk radio?

Is talk radio dying?  

Has Rush Limbaugh, who gave birth to extremist political radio, killing it now?  Limbaugh spawned many imitators on both the right and the left, from Glenn Beck to Keith Olbermann.  Extremism seems to be the goal, and the hook needed to get a small niche audience.  It doesn't take many people to agree with a radio host to give them a very profitable audience.  I think I saw that the biggest success in the talk show world, Limbaugh himself, gets only about 5% of the radio audience during his time slot.  Most people are not that focused on politics, they actually have lives that concern them and aren't obsessing about how the political world is destroying the world.  Good for them.

Apparently, a company named Premiere Networks is a main distributor of Limbaugh and many right wing talk shows.  And they have made a pretty shocking announcement:  98 sponsors want guarantees that they will not be advertised on extremist, polarizing, mean spirited talk shows.  John Avalon, centrist editorialist, writes the following:

"Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”

This includes corporations like Ford, Geico, and McDonalds.  These are big players.

In a time where our politics has become so polarized that actual governing becomes almost impossible because both parties are incapable of compromise with opponents that they see as evil, I can think of nothing quite so promising as this development.  This is not the government suppressing free speech.  This is advertisers refusing to be associated with extremist nastiness that hurts their brand and inhibits their ability to do business.  

As I have written before, in the '80s the Loony Left became so separated from reality that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were given power to undo some of their craziness.  Now, thirty years later, the Rigid Right, lead by Limbaugh and others on the radio, have become so trapped inside the bubble of their own ideology that they can't see any reality that doesn't confirm their beliefs.  

I once heard Limbaugh announce that his job was ideological purity.  He is famous for saying that what you find in the center of the road is roadkill.  I say what you  find at the extreme edges of the road, both right and left, are ditches.  And these extremists have proudly led our country into the ditches: the ditches of right wing and left wing ideological purities that are incapable of pragmatism and compromise, in other words, incapable of the practice of actual politics, which involves give and take, and ... compromise.

They are lost in obsolete ideologies, and it is time for most of us to turn away from their sad little mean spirited conspiratorial views of the world - both right wing and left wing.