Right Wing Radio Week in Review: May 25 – 29

Monday was Memorial Day, so most conservative talk radio hosts took the day off and ran “best of” shows. Dennis Prager prides himself on working such holidays; on Monday, he took calls from listeners who wanted to honor friends and family who died in service of the country. It was a moving three hours.

So I tuned into Tammy Bruce on Monday, since she was one of the few hosts broadcasting live. “If someone’s gonna die for our country,” she announced, “the least I can do is work!”

Among other things, Bruce declared bluntly that “America was divinely inspired,” and opined, “I don’t think talk radio will survive (the Obama presidency)” — not so much because of a new Fairness Doctrine but because of radio hosts’ own self-censorship in the name of political correctness.

I’d forgotten how outspoken Tammy Bruce is. She sure doesn’t mince words. I’m a bit surprised that she’s not more frequently the target of mockery and smackdowns at places like Daily Kos, the way Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Michelle Malkin are. Not that I’m complaining – I don’t wish that kind of abuse on anyone.

Obama’s nomination of Sonya Sotomayor to the Supreme Court gave radio hosts something new to talk about after the Memorial Day break. When “inside the Beltway” stuff like this happens, I tune into Hugh Hewitt.

However, I was disappointed by Hewitt’s advice to the GOP, not to oppose Sotomayor’s nomination since it was an unwinnable fight.

Needless to say, not all talk radio hosts took that tack. Rush Limbaugh – who more or less predicted Sotomayor’s rise in 1997condemned Sotomayor as a racist based on some of her more controversial leftwing statements. Rush said:

She deserves a fair and honest hearing so that people can find out exactly who she is.  And you cannot describe who she is without using the "racist" word, unless you want to fluff it up and not use the word but try to convey the image anyway just because you’re worried about what people are going to think of you.  See, I have never understood something.  Why is it that people are saying, "We shouldn’t…?" Krauthammer does too. "We shouldn’t use this racist label. Don’t call her a racist."  Why?  You know, I’m called a racist 20,000 times a day by my opponents — and they’re lying.  We can’t tell the truth?  Why?

This week’s “feud” involved author and radio host Mark Levin, and Rod Dreher, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News as well as a blogger at BeliefNet.com. To summarize as briefly as possible: Dreher took exception to Levin’s abrasive “tone” What made Dreher’s criticism of Levin’s tone particularly odd was Dreher’s own tone, which was almost as caustic as Levin’s.

As well, Dreher foolishly admitted he hadn’t spent more than a few minutes listening to Levin’s show – instead, he was relying upon what a fellow reporter told him it was like!

Robert Stacy McCain weighed in and made some extremely valuable points about the talk radio genre in general:

That Levin employs hyperbole and sarcasm on his show is only shocking to people who don’t listen to talk radio. More importantly, Levin believes conservatives are in a fight they cannot afford to lose, against implacable adversaries determined to win at all costs. When a guy begins a fight by slamming a barstool into the back of your head, the Marquis of Queensberry rules do not apply. If you respond by ripping open his carotid artery with the jagged edge of a broken beer bottle, whose fault is that? (“He needed killing,” as Texans like to say.)

People who’ve never done talk radio, or who’ve never been in a studio and seen how it’s done, have no idea how extraordinarily difficult it is to fill so much as a single hour, much less three hours a day five days a week. Now, consider how difficult it is to do it well, so as to attract a commercially viable nationwide audience. For Dreher (and his source) to disdain Levin is for them to sneer at someone who has succeeded exceptionally in a venue they’ve never even tried.

This is the arrogance of the intellectual elite, to imagine that their particular specialty — the expression of abstract ideals via the written word — is the only ability that matters, qualifying them as experts on anything and everything they choose to write about.

Not surprisingly, Levin responded to the “controversy” in his own inimitable way.

For a change of pace, I tuned into Sean Hannity’s show on Wednesday afternoon. Picking up on the stubborn liberal meme about would-be SOTUS Sotomayor’s “inspiring life story”, Hannity praised Justice Clarence Thomas’s memoir My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoirclarence thomas supreme court book (which I too can highly recommend.) Hannity asked rightly, “Did he get credit for his life story? No. Instead he was the object of vicious attacks and unsubstantiated rumors.”

My trouble with Hannity is that he seems to screen “in” the most idiotic (liberal) callers just to fight with them, and not always successfully. After a while, I have to tune out. However, I hung on long enough to hear a longtime caller tell Hannity that he and his wife were planning on naming their fourth child after him!

As the week would up, a controversy arose around whether or not radio jock “Mancow” had faked his widely-remarked upon “waterboarding” stunt. Gawker.com claimed they had the emails to prove it, but the host denied the accusations. Pretty silly, sordid stuff but then again, if the New York Times can run fake stories, why shouldn’t a boisterous radio host do the same?

The week’s most awkward moments probably came on the G. Gordon Liddy show. A young caller asked Liddy what he’d learned from Watergate, and Liddy responded, “Never listen to anything John Dean tells you.” Except the caller was one of the most awkward and inarticulate I’ve ever put up with. Kudos to Liddy for keeping his cool and turning literally painful listening into a fairly funny bit (audio).

Late Friday night, author Mark Steyn spent two hours with Chicago radio legend Milt Rosenberg, talking about the “Islamification” of Europe and other threats to the West. Thoughtful, long form interviews like that are increasingly rare in our world of media sound bites and shock jock stunts.

A bunch of Salem Radio hosts marked Obama’s 100 Days with a national talking tour in major cities. Now, one of the local station hosts, AM 1280 The Patriot, has the audio for their event on sale; The Patriot’s event featured Hugh Hewitt, Bill Bennett and Dennis Prager.

(PS: if you’re as big a fan of talk radio as I am, you’ll want to check out the Ultimate Internet Talk Radio Directory. You can become a lifetime member for only $29; I did and I use it every day.)

(Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com, now in its 9th year.)

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