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Vaster Wasteland

TV is a big joke. Watch too much of it and your brain will turn to oatmeal. But with all of its many faults, TV is a full Cambridge scholarship compared to AM radio, and its shock jocks, right-wing talkers, sports show meatheads, and other on-air “personalities.”

In 1961, before the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minow delivered what is now famously known as his “Wasteland Speech.” Stating that, “When television is bad, nothing is worse,” Minow called TV a “vast wasteland.” Minow objected to the programming of that vintage era, as he described it, “game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons.” Minow was right on the money. They didn’t (and still don’t) call TV the “boob tube” for nothing.

At the time, only three TV networks broadcast in the USA. Today, more than 20 national TV networks operate, with hundreds of lesser networks also broadcasting around the clock. With today’s spate of unreal reality shows, dog-eat-dog survivor shows, idiotic game shows, sappy soap operas, and additional broadcasting babblement, things have not improved any. Indeed, the vast wasteland is now vaster than ever.

TV is Bad, Radio is Worse

Then there is radio. If TV is a vast wasteland, radio is a deadly radioactive zone. This no man’s land offers little of value except National Public Radio (National Pubic Radio, according to foul-mouthed conservative talk radio host Mark Levin) and only a few other quality programming options. You can count them all on one hand.

Yes, radio does provide non-stop music: top 40, rock ‘n roll, jazz, country and western, hip-hop, and even obscure musical genres like Celtic metal, barndance and funky house. Can’t find what you want on one station? Just punch up something new. If you like music, this is all great. But let’s face it: Radio music is basically hollow background noise, an elevator that plays the tunes you like, often the same ones over and over. However, the trouble with an elevator is that it only goes up and down. It does not take you to any place new. Same with radio music, which is as predictable as ants at a picnic, and after awhile just as uninviting.

Radio Talkers Should All Stop Talking

What you also get on radio is endless right-wing-talker prattle. The topic de jour: Barack Obama is a Marxist-Socialist-Communist-Nazi-Mau-Mau-Muslim. Though he is the U.S. president, this Harvard elitist’s obvious purpose is to destroy America. The radio airwaves also feature puerile sports talk show hosts who depend on clichés and banalities like emphysema patients do their oxygen tanks, crackpot psychologists with the sensitivity and caring of a fence post, predatory sports handicappers determined to drive you to the poorhouse, smarmy evangelists who beg for your money, thank you Jesus, plus unseemly shock jocks, and other twisted on-air “personalities” – shriveled-up souls and dangerous false prophets (hello, Glenn Beck). The ninth circle of Hell has nothing on these assorted big mouths.

Enough to Drive the Dalai Lama to Drink

Additionally, you get commercials, commercials, and more commercials. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, radio stations had the decency not to string too many commercials together, one after another. Those happy days are long gone. Now, it is not uncommon for radio stations to run six or more commercials in sequence, blasting away at you with no mercy for many minutes, quickly followed by another in-your-face series of ad spots, and another, and another. Radio commercials are like an angry dog that won’t stop barking.

Unfortunately, today’s standard radio programming content is not much better than the non-stop commercials. Often, it is much worse. Consider this recent sampling from radio shows that broadcast daily in South Florida where I live:

Sid Rosenberg Show, 560 WQAM Sports Radio

Told on the air that he had been included on a list of the five most hated broadcasters in South Florida, Rosenberg stated that he didn’t care about it, and then proceeded to talk about the ratings for more than an hour. He claimed that they gave him an erection (a regular topic for this meathead). A former sports reporter with the Imus in the Morning show, Rosenberg once notoriously said that tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams would make better subjects for coverage in National Geographic than in Playboy. He also has said that “faggots play tennis” and that “a bunch of juiced up dykes ” comprise the U.S. woman’s soccer team. Nice guy.

South Florida’s First News with Jimmy Cefalo, News Radio 610 WIOD

Although Cefalo has been a professional broadcaster since the 1980s, he is nearly incoherent on the air. During one show, Cefalo objected to Muslim cleric Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the so-called Ground Zero mosque stating that muslims around the world would see moving the planned facility as an attack against them. In the next breath, Cefalo stated that Rauf should not build the mosque near Ground Zero because it is important to be sensitive to other peoples’ feelings, in this case, the 9/11 families. For Cefalo, logical consistency clearly is less important than parroting the right’s latest hateful talking points, which he mindlessly does every morning on his show.

During one program, Cefalo interviewed David Limbaugh, right-wing radio talker Rush Limbaugh’s wacky brother, and author of the latest angry screed against Barack Obama. While Cefalo said that he found the book “fascinating,” he couldn’t even remember its proper title. Cefalo proudly stated that he hated libraries as a kid, and that he always had his TV on while doing his homework. These revelations do not surprise.

In another show, Cefalo’s broadcast partner Manny Munoz said, “This will probably seem racist of me, and I am all right with that.” He then explained that when he sees and hears people of Middle Eastern origin speaking in Arabic, he always assumes they are involved in some conspiracy.

Yes, Manny, that ignoble thought does not only seem racist, it is. And you didn’t have to tell us that you are OK with coming across as a racist. Many right-wingers are. Indeed, racism has always been the wind in their sails. This has been true from Strom Thurmond’s misanthropic Dixiecrats presidential campaign in 1948 to Richard Nixon and his 1968 presidential campaign’s dishonorable Southern strategy to Ronald Reagan symbolically opening his 1980 presidential campaign in Neshoba County, Mississippi, the infamous locale of the 1964 murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner by white supremacists. Sadly, some things never change.

The Sports Connection with Danny Berrelli, 560 WQAM Sports Radio

This New Jersey handicapper advises his listeners that “we don’t want you to bet your rent money,” but later says that he “can’t do much with $300-$400,” and needs his callers to bet $1,500-$2,000. Sounds like rent money to me, and a fairly fancy apartment at that. And can anyone tell me why is it that all radio sports touts have thick accents like a mobbed-up Joe Pesci?

These are only a few examples from the South Florida radio airwaves. I could easily list dozens more such similar idiocies. Even more distressing, the talk jocks referenced are preferable to many former South Florida radio personalities. Three that come quickly to mind are the boorish Hank Goldberg, who year after year went out of his way to insult and attack audience members that called in to his sports talk show; scatological shock-talker Neil Rogers, who was equally mean to his callers, in particular, the elderly (in 1989, the Hallandale [Florida] City Commission voted to censure Rogers for what it termed “offensive comments” that he routinely made on his show about the elderly); and the clever but corrupt Jeff DeForrest, now back on the air after pleading guilty in federal court regarding a bribery scheme. What a line-up of dangerous desparadoes.

A Kennel of False Hounds

Of course, all of this is on top of the daily outpouring of the vitriol, flim-flam, and double-talk that issues daily from the mouths of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, and the other right-wing attack dogs across the land. As Shakespeare said, these prating mountebanks “speak an infinite deal of nothing.”

Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph, which evolved into present-day radio, once asked, “Have I done the world good, or have I added a menace?” Sorry to say, but if you chose “menace,” you win the kewpie doll.

Put a Cork in It

“What hath God wrought” were the first four words sent by telegraph, an early progenitor of radio. This momentous occurrence took place on May 24, 1844. Radio eventually killed telegraphy, which in its day killed the famous Pony Express. Ah, the airy mysteries of ethereal radio. What hath God wrought, indeed.

Look at what this medium, originally offering such glorious and uplifting potential, has in fact sadly wrought: Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, and far too many other right-wing radio rogues and reprobates, as well as an army of other dim-witted broadcasting bozos. And all of them babbling mindlessly away over the airwaves night and day, a veritable radio hell. Dante and Milton, the original inferno experts, would quake in their boots. It makes you almost want to go deaf.  – Mickey Murphy © 2011 MMMurphy

Note to Readers: If you enjoyed reading this post, and agree with its general point of view that radio demagogues are doing vast damage to the United States, please click on the following link: “Why This Blog?” In this brief post, I provide a little history concerning previous U.S. radio demagogues. I detail what are the radio demagogues’ ignoble goals, how they work their black magic, and why they are so dangerous to the continued civic health of our nation, as well as the basic comity upon which our vital public discourse depends. Also, I discuss the mission of the RADIO DEMAGOGUES blog, and offer a simple suggestion that if all Americans followed would finally shut up all of these vile radio reactionaries for good. Plus, I ask for your support by subscribing and linking to this blog, and referring it to your friends. “Why This Blog?” succinctly answers its own question. It is an informative and worthwhile post. Please read it.


3 responses to “Vaster Wasteland

  1. Erica ⋅

    Wonderful piece – and so true!

  2. Cynthia

    We gave up our Dish TV because out of approximately ONE BILLION channels — there was never anything decent to watch. Well, okay. A Discovery Channel program every once in a while . . . Do we really need radio “personalities” to incite those among us who should NOT be incited in the first place?

  3. Mimi ⋅

    Hey Dad–I love your writing style & enjoyed reading your piece, but there are so many educational shows that are aired on tv. I especially enjoy many shows that HGTV offers on decorating & real estate. Plus, I do agree with you about National Public Radio(even though they seem to plug a mostly liberal agenda). Basically, everything including tv & radio should be done in moderation & w/out a hidden agenda.

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