Friday, July 30, 2004

Free Speech Irony

Yahoo! News - Photos - Boston Free Speech Zone- AP

Now, really. We're calling this a "free speech zone"? It's been pointed out a hundred times now, but really... handling protestors in this manner is a direct affront to the First Amendment.


One might say I'm being inconsistent with my next thought.

I might have mentioned in here that when I was growing up, I was a big fan of talk radio. Back then, it truly was "talk" radio, mostly local discussions about regional events and local politics. There were some national programs, such as Larry King and Bruce Williams, but for the most part, the local programming ruled.  Today's "ginormous" media has killed off most traces of those shows, leaving us with banal crap that leads to shows like Dr. Laura.

Williams is something of a "less bitchy" Dr. Laura, these days. He fires off a lot of mock humility while treating most callers with condescension. Gone is the pretense of a "folksy" feel to the show.  There is something "real" about that, though. The guy was a minor celebrity and after decades of being treated as elite, it may be inevitable you will start believing your own clippings.

Williams' show has been sliding into the ubiquitous right cacophony of sound. While the majority of his callers wish to discuss personal obstacles they are facing (legal questions, business decisions, credit problems), Williams generally starts the show with a one-sided swipe at Democrats and Kerry. Today, for example, he was beating the drum about Kerry looking stupid in a clean-room suit (hey, I had to wear one of those damn things for 3 years at Motorola!)

Of course, he thought Bush looked just fine in his flight suit. He threw out the obvious "but it was a mistake," probably because not admitting it was a mistake makes even the most partisan observer look stupid.  And to offset that tiny dig at his own people, he dusted off the Dukakis "tank commander" corpse and paraded it around for a bit.

I bring this up because today I finally hit my limit of right-wing bullshit. Kee-righst, it's gets old hearing it from morning until night. AM radio appears lost forever.   (Thank God for iPod.)

There is one, lone independent station in all of Phoenix metro (at least, last I heard it's still independent.) I used to listen to a funny "over the back fence" radio show on KXAM. Just 2 guys and a gal doing skits and taking a few calls. That show was born when its predecessor broke up; same concept but was performed by two ex-disk jockeys: The Jones and Boze Show. (I apologize for incomplete wayback sites I've linked; but alas, these pages have long since gone.)

After the death of these shows, I've found myself limited to an extremely small niche in AM radio: sports and financial stations. I have no complaints with the sports talk going on, it is what it is. (Well, one complaint: like everything else, the stations are concentrating ownership leaving fewer real choices.)

The financial stations have fallen victim to right wing programming as well. Gary Kaltbaum mixes in anti-Kerry propaganda with his take on the market. Bob Brinker doesn't complete a stock analysis without a juicy lie or two about Democrats. Even Moe Ansari, the weakest radio personality currently on the air, can't help but talk about how the economy will go to Hell if Bush loses.

I try to rationalize it this way: these guys' shows are mostly advertising for the brokerage, website, or whatever else they can pitch. So if the goal is driving listeners to their personal businesses, and most listeners are going to be righties, why not cater to that crowd?

That kind of thinking only goes so far, however. If you can rationalize that into a belief, you have no reason to listen to the show anyway (it's just an ad.) And there are some rare examples of how to do it right: Ray Lucia, for example. Sure, he plugs his book, they mention their seminars... but for the most part, the guy gives really good advice on retirement planning and rarely do they talk politics. When they do talk politics, they tend to give both sides (despite Lucia being an obvious Republican; but why not? He's rich.)

So here I am, a guy so frustrated and fearful about the direction of this country's political soul that I have to pound out these stupid little missives every week; complaining about all the political talk on AM radio.

The difference, however, is my little jumble of bits here is nothing to no one. When I tune into a radio station, I am expecting to be entertained. I am hoping to learn something. And when I tune in to KFNN, I want to hear about money, not politics. If I want to hear some frustrated Limbaugh wanna-be (and I don't), I'll tune to KFYI.

No comments: