It should not shock anyone who reads my column that I am a Republican of conservative bent and that I support interpreting the Constitution as written, as I believe was the intent of its authors. In so saying, it follows that I believe the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression to be inviolate so long as no faction is allowed to infringe unlawfully or unreasonably on the rights of another.
That principle extends to the airwaves and to talk radio in that free expression should apply to all media. Any notion of returning to the “Fairness Doctrine,” in force from 1949 until scrapped in 1987, must be rejected out of hand, for there are multiple airwave outlets open to any and all political and social persuasions, whether right, center or left. Accordingly, that decision is in the hands of the public, which rightfully determines the market.
Talk radio has become for all practical purposes the voice of the right — the conservative wing of America. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Reagan, et al., have dominated that arena primarily because the public has opted to tune in to their message. Those same airwaves are also available to the left or the more liberal sector; however, for some reason, it has failed to “ring the public’s chimes,” as has that of the “starboard” side, if I may revert to my nautical roots.
Having listened to and taken note of the format and tenor of both factions, I am of the opinion that the conservatives have succeeded largely by assiduously avoiding the malice and venom projected by the likes of Air America and the Daily Kos. I won’t insult the reader’s intelligence by pretending that the Limbaughs and their ilk are objectively nonpartisan; nevertheless, I find the message from the right to be far more palatable for its humor and tongue-in-cheek criticisms than the mindless hatred emanating from the left.
However, having pointed out that the success of the conservative talk radio message stems from its near universal acceptance by its listeners as illustrated in the marketplace, there is cause for alarm. People are drawn to that medium which is entertaining as well as informative but tend to be turned off by that which is marked by the constant negatives of hateful and strident discord.
Conservative radio is moving perilously near to losing its edge by alienating the very people for whom it was honed. The Limbaughs, Hannitys, et al., provide a vital service by opening discussion of matters largely ignored or distorted by the mainstream media. The result has been a better-informed public on both sides of the political aisle by forcing issues into the open. Unfortunately, unbridled success often breeds arrogance and open contempt for ideas not embraced by those “who know best.”
This attitude was manifested earlier in their united and often obnoxious but wrongheaded opposition to the Dubai Port “takeover” in 2006. Exhibiting virtually no knowledge of port operations, these self appointed watchdogs castigated the president for “ selling” our ports to foreign interests. It would have required little effort to learn the truth — that Dubai Ports World was to have been granted authority only to operate the cranes and equipment at selected piers while ownership remained in the hands of the city’s Port Authority, as is the case nationwide.
The radio talkers have also taken credit for thwarting “amnesty” for millions of illegal aliens. By exhorting listeners to call, write or buttonhole their members of Congress, they managed to halt the legislative process of bringing a bill forward for consideration, compromise and delivery to the president. But at what cost? Their backslapping and self-congratulations notwithstanding, we remain at square one, with no plan for a reasonable solution on the horizon.
Today we see their attempt to bully the faithful by imposing their self-righteous yardstick of Reaganesque values, which, not surprisingly, finds most candidates inadequate, particularly the front-runner. They have a perfect right to that opinion; however, the majority of conservatives did not just fall off a turnip truck — we have been paying attention. Sen. McCain was not my first or second or even third choice, but, contrary to the caterwauling of the self-anointed, he is not a liberal, nor will he destroy the Republican Party. Conservatives need no one to tell them for whom to vote — we can think for ourselves.
The message to conservative talk radio should be clear: Do not be blinded by, nor allow your ego to allow, previous success to exaggerate your importance. The market that made you can unmake you just as easily.