Monday, March 23, 2009

Why rightwing radio is so popular

Why does the far-right dominate all the talk radio stations in most markets? Conservatives would have you believe that it is because their ideas are more popular with the general public and they treat it as an affirmation of their political views. That explanation seemed plausible enough earlier in this decade when Republicans controlled the White House and both branches of Congress as well as most governships and state legislatures. But now that the pendulum has swung back the other way and Democrats are acscendent once again that explanation doesn’t work anymore. Now, even though the country voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama and the Democrats in the last election, we still have the same hard-right mix of opinions on talk radio. This is clearly not a business model that is trying to expand its market share by providing consumers what they want. I believe this is because the means of distribution are controlled by corporations like Clear Channel Communications and News Corp. which are run by hardline conservatives.
My friend Mack Harrison also makes an excellent point in the comments about the regulatory hurdles to setting up new radio stations which makes it hard for the industry to react to changes in the political landscape. As Mack points out, on the Internet where those barriers don’t exist, liberals are competing quite well and in some cases are outperforming their conservative counterparts.
But it can still be argued that these radio stations are making money and draw a large base of listeners. Why is that?
As I mentioned in the comments to the previous post, I think one reason why rightwing radio is popular is because it is designed to appeal to our baser instincts. Rightwing radio tells its listeners what they want to hear, not what they should hear or need to hear. It says that YOU are always right and that THEY are always to blame for all of the worlds’ problems. It tells them that they are justified in their prejudices and bigotry and intolerance. It tells them that they don’t have to feel guilty or responsible for any of the nation’s problems. And they are constantly spoonfed a steady diet of propaganda propping up these beliefs and offering up a litany of boogeymen and scapegoats on whom they can vent their outrage and hatred.
Conservative talk radio is fun and entertaining and it reinforces the listener’s own high opinion of themselves, provided that they don’t identify with those awful, hated Liberals. Furthermore, rightwing radio never challenges its listeners with inconvenient facts and regularly dismisses complex problems that liberals tend to fret over or ignores them completely.
On rightwing radio, you don’t have to worry about Global Warming because they have declared it to be a hoax perpetrated by liberal academicians and scientists just looking for government handouts. There is no moral conundrum over torture because the “terrorists” all deserve whatever they get anyway. Huge deficits can be easily solved by eliminating “earmarks” and cutting more taxes. The energy crisis would be over if Liberals would just let them “Drill, baby, Drill!” And so on.
Listening to talk radio is like eating a steady diet of candy. Over at NPR they try to make you eat your vegetables!

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