Hopefully, this mission statement will provide the answer: The mission of the RADIO DEMAGOGUES blog is to expose right-wing radio talk show hosts as the vile hypocrites, venal tools, and rabid reactionaries they truly are, while kicking as much sand, mud, and gravel in their gears as possible. – Mickey Murphy, proprietor
“The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” – H.L. Mencken, journalist, scholar, essayist, and iconoclast
Mencken was already an accomplished writer and critic when radio broadcasting began in the 1920s. It wasn’t until the 1930s when a few opportunistic demagogues began to use the radio as a powerful megaphone to spew their lies, contumely, and hate over the air waves.
Most prominent were two rabble-rousing anti-Semites, Father Charles Coughlin, the so-called “radio priest,” and Gerald L.K. Smith, who Mencken termed “the champion boob bumper of all epochs.”
While only a handful of radio demagogues were on the air during Mencken’s era, they are all over the radio frequencies today. Some of the most dangerous: Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Jon Arthur, and Mark Levin. There are, unfortunately, many more.
Of course, all of these individuals are rabid, right-wing flamethrowers and firebrands, dedicated to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. They are, without a doubt, the prototypical “prophets of deceit,” the term so aptly coined by Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman in their groundbreaking Prophets of Deceit, a book that examines propaganda, published in 1949, and still relevant today. These radio rogues deal only in half-truths, misinformation, and outright lies, their base intellectual (really, visceral) currency.
Dishonorable Goals, Dishonest Message
Their primary mission: Convince as many Americans as possible that the ideal U.S. domestic policy is to eliminate taxes for millionaires and billionaires, regulations for corporations, and what remains of the already frayed and tattered safety net for everyone else. Their ideal foreign policy: all war, all the time.
Unfortunately, these radio reactionaries – or “Reich Wing Bats,” a term borrowed from the ever helpful Auxclass – are quite effective in getting this phony message across to a weary, beleaguered, gullible, and easily conned American public. This includes far too many “sheeple,” another term Auxclass lent me. In the process, these despicable radio demagogues are destroying the venerable democratic tradition in the United States.
We Need Honest Talk
More than anything else, democracy depends on honest conversations, or what people metaphorically referred to in earlier, less cynical times, as “the public square.” We certainly do not get such frank discourse today from Limbaugh, Beck, Levin, and their vile ilk.
What we are constantly battered with instead is propaganda, untruths, and vicious, illogical, and dangerous nonsense. Radio demagogues love the big lie – “Barack Obama is a Mau-Mau Maoist born in Kenya!” “Democrats want to ruin America!” “If we cut taxes, government revenues will increase!” “Climate change does not exist!” – which they attempt to shove down our throats every minute they are on the air.
Radio’s Glorious Past
Radio wasn’t always this way. It has a rich and noble tradition: The Mercury Theater on the Air, The Jack Benny Program, The Cavalcade of America, Professor Quiz, Abbott and Costello, The Voice of Firestone, The Bell Telephone Hour, Grand Ole Opry. Radio used to uplift, entertain, inspire, and captivate people. It was a magical kingdom that you could enter by simply turning on a knob. It was an absolute and positive force for good.
During tough times, and particularly in the Great Depression era, radio let people forget about their troubles for a little while, and feel better about things. For example, in 1945, during a New York City newspaper strike, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the “Little Flower,” read the comics over the radio so local children would not miss them. (Click on this link to watch him.)
During its golden age, radio let you laugh at Baby Snooks, thrill with Inner Sanctum Mysteries, or put your shoes up on the desk and get comfortable with Arthur Godfrey. Such positive programming is what radio audiences were privileged to listen to in the past. Today, we get the talk show hyenas of right-wing radio, who do their best to agitate listeners and stir them up to cause as much trouble as possible.
A typical example: In 2008, Rush Limbaugh prayed over the air for riots to disrupt the Democratic Convention that nominated Barack Obama as a candidate for president. Limbaugh’s daily dialogue on the radio is always so wildly irresponsible that most of the media ignored his wicked words.
This is what passes for typical programming on much of AM talk radio today. What a tragic loss Americans have suffered with such broadcast “entertainment”! Radio used to boost people up and make them feel good. Now it pulls them down and makes them feel bad. Now it fools and misleads them. Now it angers and frightens them. Now it drives them crazy. Now it incites them to riot.
Please Subscribe, Link, and Pass Along
Do you agree that people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage are making honest dialogue impossible regarding the baffling challenges we now face in the United States? If so, please show your support for the RADIO DEMAGOGUES blog by subscribing (see immediately below), by linking to the blog, and by passing this link on to others. Also, your comments and suggestions will be most helpful and appreciated. In advance, thank you for them.
For information about RADIO DEMAGOGUE’s proprietor, please click on Mickey Murphy.