THE WAY THINGS USED TO BE
By Lynn Woolley*
I stand before another assembly of talk radio fans, entertaining them as best I can with stories of the “good old days” when FM was still an alternative medium and rock and roll deejays still ruled on AM. I explain that talk shows were often programmed late at night or on Sunday morning for the purpose of fulfilling a station’s “public affairs commitment.”
I go on to relate my first experience in talk radio?as news anchor on “The Ed Busch Show” on WFAA in Dallas in 1973. I tell my audience about Ed’s guests?the first being a gentleman named Tom Valentine who was an expert on the pyramids of Egypt. I go down the list of Ed’s most popular subjects: Author Brad Steiger of Mysteries of Time and Space; Joey the Mafia hit man who called from a mobile telephone so the call couldn’t be traced; Dr. Peter Beter whose theory was that Nelson Rockefeller was going to become president and later dictator of the United States; and Erich von Daniken whose book Chariots of the Gods postulated that ancient astronauts were responsible for such mysteries as Stonehenge and the giant statues of Easter Island.
Someone asks, “What about politics? Did the show ever cover political issues like Rush does today?”
“No,” I say. I explain that, while politics wasn’t taboo, it was considered stuffy and boring. When radio dabbled into political issues, it was usually on Sunday morning, it was canned (recorded), and it seemed purposefully dull.
Ed’s show was anything but.
He delighted in bringing on controversial figures such as the atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and once paired her with Dr. W.A. Criswell of Dallas’ huge First Baptist Church in a debate that was picked up by a statewide radio network, and videotaped to run on the Dallas ABC affiliate.
I tell my audience about Ed’s interviews with a larger-than-life lady by the name of Elizabeth Carmichael who had two automobiles in the post-development stage: the “Dale” and the “Revette.” Liz and her investors’ cash went missing, and when found by the police, “she” turned out to be one “Jerry Dean Michael.” CAR-michael, indeed!
I remember for my audience those evenings that Ed would ring up the Motion Picture Country House, a California living center for retired actors, and get into lengthy discussions of the old Three Stooges shorts with the two then-surviving members of the comedy troupe, Larry Fine and Moe Howard. I smile at the remembrance of these old talk shows, and liken them somewhat to today’s Art Bell and George Noory.
As to the question of why Ed Busch rarely delved into the politics of the day, I explain that Ed’s show was simply intended as entertainment in a day when no one thought a political show could be anything but dull. Ed obviously enjoyed the subject matter, as did his late-night audience. I tell the crowd that I suspect that Ed did an occasional episode that could be counted by station management as “public affairs,” thereby fulfilling one of the requirements of then-current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations.
Government Knows Best
Then, I mention the Fairness Doctrine.
The audience is stunned. They can’t believe that speech was regulated by government rules and regs?and during such a recent time. “How can that be?” they want to know. “What about the First Amendment?”
I attempt to explain the old argument that the broadcast spectrum is “owned by the people,” but my audience isn’t buying it. They are incredulous that government once interfered with their right to tune in to open political discussions on radio or TV.
“If you don’t like a radio show, change the channel,” someone yells out.
“Agreed,” I say. But back in the “good old days,” we were all used to the regulation of free speech. We had never heard or even heard of Rush or Sean, and virtually no one had any idea what he was missing.
“Thank goodness we aren’t under that kind of restriction today,” someone offers.
I smile, and after a pause for effect, I tell the crowd that it’s entirely possible to return to those days when the government could yank a company’s license to broadcast if it deemed a political show to be not “balanced” under the rules.
I explain that mainstream broadcasts were protected because of the exemption for legitimate news programming. Of course, that meant, that under the guise of news, ABC, CBS and NBC were free to be as biased as they pleased. But if a radio show stopped talking about UFO’s and started commenting, Rush-like, about President Nixon, the war in Vietnam, or the emerging welfare state?better call in someone with an opposing viewpoint.
What do I mean when I say that we could return to those days?
I tell my audience that the Left doesn’t like to be challenged. After decades of near-complete control of all major media outlets, the New Media revolution caught them by surprise. They can’t believe that they actually have major on-air opposition. Sure, they still have the three networks and big newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, but network viewership is rapidly declining and newspapers face unprecedented competition from the Internet, talk radio and cable television.
In short, I say, there’s an abundance of opinion on the air, in print and in cyberspace?and a lot of it conflicts with conventional liberal wisdom. What’s a Leftist to do?
If you’re Al Gore, and you’re a global warming alarmist, you say that the science is decided and that there should be no more discussion. If you’re U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, you crusade to bring back the Fairness Doctrine in the name of, well, fairness. Who could possibly want to “fight against fairness” she asks. And so, Rep. Slaughter’s MEDIA ACT seeks to do just that.
I make sure everyone in the room understands fully that the Left has tried repeatedly to bring back this most-favored regulation only to see prior bills vetoed (or stopped due to threat of veto) during the Reagan and Bush-41 administrations. The crowd is astonished, not realizing that the efforts to regulate on-air speech had come so close to reinstatement.
So far, to no avail, I explain.
And so the Left tried a new tack: a liberal-leaning radio network called Air America that failed miserably.
Someone asks why.
“I can only present you with a theory,” I answer. My guess is that liberalism only makes sense in short sound bites. When a liberal talk-show host has three hours a day to explain kooky ideas such as nationalizing the healthcare system, his arguments collapse under their own weight. But when conservative ideas and values are stripped of emotion and analyzed with truth and logic, they stand up to the scrutiny.
And so, I tell the fans, if liberal values go nowhere under the microscope of long-form radio, the next-best thing to do is find a way to get the opposing viewpoint that DOES make sense off the air. It’s like the poker player who sees that he can’t win the game, so he kicks the table over and sends the cards reeling.
In the field of ideas, the Left is trying to kick over the table.
“I’ll be happy to stay and sign some books,” I say in closing. And while I’m putting my John Henry to a few volumes that I brought along to sell, the conversation continues.
“Is this a serious threat?”
“Are we going to lose Rush Limbaugh?”
I tell them, no, we’re not going to lose Rush as long as we’re vigilant. We just have to make sure that anti-free-speech Leftists don’t take over the Congress of the United States and then have one of their own ascend to the White House. I shake a few hands and go home, feeling pretty good about my performance.
An Election Away
But time marches on and situations change. The Democrats now control both houses of Congress. Many of those Democrats now in power look with favor on Rep. Slaughter’s MEDIA ACT and would not hesitate to plunge us right back into the days of regulation. If they gain enough seats, they might override the veto of a Republican president. Or, if a liberal Democrat were to reach the White House, the Fairness Doctrine could be reinstated with nothing more than a few key appointments to the FCC.
That, of course, would make life much more difficult for people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, and Mark Levin whose affiliates would then have to find liberal viewpoints for balance.
There are individuals such as Howard Dean and organizations such as Media Matters that are working behind the scenes to bring back the old regulations?perhaps with more teeth than ever before. And if that doesn’t have the desired effect, there are other ways to shut people up.
The Don Imus affair, for example, showcased the power of the Rev. Al Sharpton and others to have a few seconds of on-air patter designated “hate speech.” If you can accomplish that, you can get rid of the offending host altogether. Was the Imus firing a tune-up to see if other hosts can be accused of hate speech?
Perhaps. But it points out a salient truth: Those who called for the dismissal of Rosie O’Donnell for her outrageous statements on “The View” and those who’d like to see MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann fired for his nightly spewing on “Countdown” had better be careful of what they wish for. The Left would throw Olbermann to the wolves in a heartbeat if it meant that conservative talk radio and TV would go down with him.
Free speech should mean free speech for all?even those points-of-view that drive you crazy. So you’ll forgive us if we champion the right of Rosie and Keith and even good old Al Franken to say what they will over the airwaves. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander?maybe even better. In the marketplace of ideas, conservatism will win on the merits. It’s Leftist thought that must suppress the other side.
And that’s precisely what the Left intends to do.
*Lynn Woolley is a top-rated host of a Texas-based radio show.
GORE’S NOBEL PRIZE COULD SIDELINE HILLARY
By Roger Aronoff
It is being widely reported that Al Gore’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize could propel him into the presidential race, but the award is tainted and the former vice president received it shortly after a British Court issued a ruling alleging numerous errors in his film on global warming. In short, Gore’s prize is a joke, something that should be fodder for late-night comedians.
But there can be no minimizing the propaganda value that such an award can garner. If Hillary falters in her race for the Democratic presidential nomination, it could be enough for Gore to make a move, and try to seize the White House for himself. That will depend, in part, on the fickle finger of the Big Media.
Gore won the award along with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a controversial body, for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” Such “measures,” if Gore has his way, will include higher taxes and loopholes?such as “carbon offsets”?for the rich to avoid them.
The award sounds impressive, but in the past it has gone to Yasser Arafat, a terrorist who was responsible for the assassination of U.S. diplomats in Sudan; Jimmy Carter, the failed former U.S. president who while taking millions of dollars from Arab countries has been on a rhetorical rampage against Israel; and Rigoberta Menchu, who postured as a human rights activist before many of her biographical claims were exposed as outright lies. Winning a Nobel Peace Prize does not carry much prestige these days.
Happy With Distortions
However, basking in the glow of the tainted Nobel Peace Prize, Gore claims to be “gratified” by the British court findings that his global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” contains a number of inaccuracies but was “substantially founded upon scientific research and fact.”
Gore insists that his main theme?that man-made activity is causing the warming?has held up and seems pleased that the court only found that the film’s errors were in the area of “alarmism and exaggeration.” But if the case was so solid, why did Gore need to exaggerate? It should be noted that the U.N. body sharing the prize with Gore has also been accused of distortions and exaggerations.
The best thing to come out of the publicity surrounding Gore and the film is that it has brought many global warming skeptics in the scientific community to stand up and make the case that in fact Gore is wrong on most of the major related issues, and that there is no scientific consensus on the issue of man-made global warming.
Is Gore Serious?
However, if people take the awarding of the prize to Gore seriously, the publicity could have the disastrous effect of pushing the world to attempt some Kyoto-type solution to avert a potential catastrophe that isn’t really occurring, at great cost to the living standards of billions of people around the world. That is why it is necessary for our media to tell the truth about Gore and his prize.
Being interested in speculation, not facts, before the prize was announced on Friday morning, a Newsweek article suggested that it could be the stepping stone to the real prize Gore has his eye on, namely 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It pointed to the Draft Gore movement, and a full-page ad taken out in the New York Times this week imploring Gore to run.
Will Media Dump Hillary?
The pro-Gore push tells us something about the media and the Democrats. They seem to have a sense that Hillary might not be able to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
This may be based on polls indicating that Democrats are not happy with their choices for their party’s nomination next year, and a significant number are hoping Gore will fill that role.
A plausible scenario is that Gore will wait to see if Hillary actually does sew up the nomination on February 5 of next year, the day that more than 20 states will choose their delegates. If Hillary is leading in delegates but Obama and Edwards have won enough to keep her from having a lock on the nomination, Gore could come in as a compromise candidate.
Gore Can Wait
The scenario bears watching and could even occur as late as the Democratic convention next summer. If Hillary doesn’t lock it up in February, there won’t be enough primaries left to put her over the top before the convention.
This is when Gore could step back into the ring. That is when he?and his media allies?could argue that the Nobel Prize proves that he is a prophet who deserves the White House and that Hillary is too weighted down by too many scandals to be a viable Democratic presidential candidate.
It could be a battle not only in the Democratic Party but in the liberal media, as backers of Gore and Hillary slug it out. If Hillary’s media backers sense her grasp on the nomination is slipping away, that is when they might find it newsworthy to cover and comment on Gore’s controversial views on global warming?and the controversial lifestyle that goes with it.
There is much to scrutinize. The fact is that global capitalism, which has supposedly spawned the crisis he warns us about, has been very good to Gore. Playing the role of planetary savior, he is now said to be worth $100 million?a figure cited by Time magazine’s Justin Fox.
Gore’s history of lying could also be fair game. AIM previously published the “17 Lies of Al Gore.”
An article in the October issue of Vanity Fair magazine attempts to rehabilitate Gore’s record and save face for him. Evgenia Peretz, daughter of Gore’s old buddy Marty Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic magazine, criticizes some of the charges leveled against Gore in the 2000 election and suggests that most, if not all, were inaccurate.
She is critical, for example, of some publications for misquoting Gore as saying “I invented the Internet.” What he actually did say was, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”
The Big Lies
While nitpicking the media about misquoting Gore on creating or inventing the Internet, she lets some of his more egregious lies go unchallenged. They include his claim that he didn’t know the fundraiser he attended at a Buddhist temple in 1996 was in fact a fundraiser, and that the fundraising calls he made from his vice president’s office were illegal.
With the Nobel Prize in hand, as tainted as it is, the question now is whether Al Gore will seek the prize that he has most coveted?the White House. That will depend on Democratic primary voters and the media. Hillary has every reason to be concerned.
Order AIM’s New Book!
Time is running out on free speech in America. A politically-powerful liberal-left movement seeks to silence conservative media personalities. Its vehicle is the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” a federal policy that would authorize bureaucrats at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to monitor and regulate the content of political speech over the airwaves. A liberal majority at the FCC could impose this policy without a vote by Congress. However, Congress can stop this dangerous threat to free speech by passing the Broadcaster Freedom Act.
AIM’s new book, The Death of Talk Radio?, analyzes the threat from the perspective of veteran talk show host Lynn Woolley and AIM editor Cliff Kincaid. They demonstrate that, unless the Broadcaster Freedom Act is passed into law, we may be looking at the death of conservative talk radio if the liberals take the White House in 2008. If you value the First Amendment and want to see it protected, you must read this book and act on the information in it. Please use this postcard to order several copies. And please send a special contribution so that AIM can lead a nationwide campaign to save conservative talk radio.