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The Great Right-Wing Propaganda War

November 19th, 2009 · No Comments · Health Care, Jobs, Media, Politics

There is a war going on in this country. It is a war against the American People and a war against the truth. It is not being waged by terrorists but by a group of hugely wealthy, arch-conservative individuals who merely want…more. Their personal assets, both individually and collectively are in the billions and they want to protect them and create more. They have no conscience and no true patriotism, which, in a society such as ours today, can be defined simply as a concern for one’s fellow man.

Patriotism is being loyal to your country. But the country is not merely words on a piece of paper or neoclassical buildings in Washington. Your country is made up of the people who inhabit it…the children, the young students, the workers, teachers, doctors, the elderly, yes, the soldiers and sailors and all those who are either rich or poor. The Right Wing commentators on talk radio and their sponsoring networks are attacking our fellow citizens, those whom we just mentioned make up our country. Therefore they are traitors.

The people in question who are most responsible are the owners of the national radio networks. As a category of Americans some could be referred to simply as traitors. Many of them could. They work to divide our country, to misinform our citizens, leading them to vote against their own best interests while these talk-show-radio network owners and the on-air hosts enrich themselves. They use their ill-gotten gains to invest in politicians who will obstruct the important issues of the day, like health care reform and energy independence. They fund campaigns that will further reduce the assets of the middle class in America. This is a war against the American Middle Class and until now the talk radio networks have been winning.

They have lied about the veracity of the very Congress persons and Senators who are working hardest to bring a safe and secure and inexpensive health care system to all. They have done their best to make three or four out of every ten people wonder whether a new health care system will bankrupt them or cause their care to be rationed, when, of course, those things will never happen. Rep. John Boehner, a favorite of the Neocon Right Wing lobbyists, worked tirelessly for the tobacco industry until the last pack of cigarettes received its final warning. The settlements in billions of dollars were ultimately paid by the Tobacco Industry, Boehner’s patrons, for knowingly selling an addictive and mortally dangerous product. Now he is trying to do the same for a health insurance industry that has been raising prices at the rate of 15 to 20% per year for the last ten years while denying care to more an more individuals.

The radio networks and their hired guns, like Rush Limbaugh, are opposing health care reform all the way, trying with every breath to get average citizens to vote against their own best interests. Of every ten radio talk show hosts, nine are conservative. Those are the statistics. Nine out of every ten are fighting as hard as they can to kill health care reform. They are on the health insurance industry payroll.

There are, in fact, about 4,000 conservative talk show hosts in this country. Why so many? The money is good. They are all trying to please their masters. They rail against and slander the Kennedys and the Baucuses and the Rockefellers and the Schumers and the Harkins…anything to stop this bill that will end the domination of the health insurance companies and empower every single American. These flacks are paid to lie about any progressive legislation, from lower health care costs to reduced gasoline prices or job creation. And any act or speech by the President that will show America in a good light.

The radio talk show hosts who are fighting health care reform supported Dick Cheney and George W. Bush to the end. How did that work out for the country over the last 8 years? And now they want to challenge those whom the American People elected to change the situation. So should we trust the Rush Limbaughs of the world who are against health care reform or cap-and-trade (to create the new renewable energy industry jobs) or the wars in Iraq and Iran? Does it make even one tiny scintilla of sense that the people who supported the rich against the middle class now, suddenly, care more for the People than they do for their bank accounts? Not likely.

This is not about Nielsen or Arbitron ratings. If it were, radio communications in this country would be balanced. An example of how people feel about politics is how they vote. Last year, Barack Obama won 28 states to John McCain’s 22. Of the states John McCain did win, some like Wyoming, have only a handful of electoral votes. So in these conservative states at least, there are very few people, ergo, very few Conservatives. So it seems unlikely that we are, as these talk show people claim, a largely conservative country.

As of November 2009, when asked with which Party do you see yourself affiliated, about 26% say Republican, 32% say Democratic and 39% say Independent, or no Party affiliation. Now this is interesting because the Neoconservatives have long said that this is a conservative country, to the political Right of center. But, if the Independent vote were split down the middle…and the evidence is to the contrary…that is, Independents voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama last year…then the country would be 44.5% Conservative (there are only Conservatives in the Republican Party now) and the Liberals would be 50.5% with about 6% being apparently either non-voters or just non-responsive.

The point is that the country is either marginally Liberal or substantially Liberal…but it is not Conservative. So why does it often seem that it is? If you understand who owns what media, it becomes clearer. When you know that about five companies own all the radio stations, it is not difficult to see how the conservative media could make it seem that way.

In mid-2007, Pew Research interviewed radio listeners while Bush was still in office, before the crash but while he was still very unpopular. The poll showed about 43 percent said that they were Conservative. Not bad. But 23 percent said that they were Liberal and another 30 percent said that they were moderates. Of course, if you take moderate to mean not conservative, this gives you a substantially greater number. “Moderate” is not the same as “Independent.” Moderate is someone who differentiates him or herself from “Conservative” but for a number of reasons does not want to be called “Liberal.” It may or may not be a Democrat, but it is definitely mostly associated with very centrist or slightly left-leaning Republicans.

One of those reasons is very simple. Every single hate-mongering, hate-speech advocating talk show host on the Right attaches the term “Liberal” to any crazy scheme that relates even remotely to politics. The political Right Wing of the Republican Party, that group that, as of 2009 became the Neoconservative Obstructionist Party, has spent an enormous amount of time working any number of unflattering characteristics into the term “Liberal.”

Democrats have too often forgotten to remind Americans that among Liberals were such great leaders and statesmen of both Parties as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, Claiborne Pell, Chuck Percy, Nelson Rockefeller, Mike Mansfield, Claude Pepper and George W. Norris.

So how is it possible that this misinformation comes out in such great volume that it distorts reality? It is the 90% solution.

Over 90% of all talk on the radio…9 out of every 10 hours heard by the average listener around the country is conservative talk radio. Who are we talking about? About, for example, Rush Limbaugh who has called President Obama a dictator, a Nazi, and has run ridiculing commentary…though not legally actionable…and satiric but grossly crude and racist material like the parody “Barack the Magic Negro.”

Of course that jingle was really a racist attack on all blacks, which apparently Mr. Limbaugh thinks is safe, though one could be surprised that it has been thus far. The idea that rich radio broadcasters can play disgusting lyrics insulting the President, lyrics intended also to slur every African-American is reprehensible. That it can be done with impunity is sad.

“Rich” radio broadcasters? Oh yes, it is all about money. That is why most of them do it. They are simply whores and panderers for the ultra-Right Wing sponsors of their programs. The syndicator of Rush Limbaugh’s program is Premiere Radio Networks, which is a division of Clear Channel Broadcasting, which at various times has been said to be the largest owner of radio stations in the country.

At one time Clear Channel owned as many as 70 different companies with over 1200 stations, which they programmed with the same syndicated Right Wing trash talk. Limbaugh made over $25 million a year for about ten years and now makes nearly $40 million a year, and will continue for another ten years. Sean Hannity and several others make similar amounts of money by trashing the efforts of legislators to bring balance into American Society.

When billionaires are asked to be taxed a little more than the effective tax rates of 16% to 22% that they end up paying, or when corporations are asked to kick in a little bit more than the 7% that they now pay (not the rates…but what they actually pay) into the collective revenues of the country, the billionaires pay Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity their tens of millions to go on the air and call it Socialism, when in fact it is just a small start towards equity in earnings and taxation.

Clear Channel is an avowed Right Wing organization. They put Rush Limbaugh into a large number of their stations by simply dropping him into those that they own and selling advertising in those time periods. The advertisers have cynically accepted the fact that Limbaugh’s lies, distortions and radical Right Wing propaganda are the price they pay for a reliable daily listener base of approximately 14 million. It is a simple media decision, not based on content. But it is cynical and it hurts the average citizen.

For Lowry Mays, petroleum engineer, deep, redneck Texan, and owner of Clear Channel, it is not about anything but making money, no matter what the programming is. Here is what he told FORTUNE Magazine:

“We’re not in the business of providing news and information. We’re not in the business of providing well-researched music. We’re simply in the business of selling our customers products.”

If Lowry Mays were a Liberal, then perhaps most of the programming would be Liberal. But he is not and it is not. He makes the decision. And he made the decision to allow the name Rush Limbaugh to become a household word, and to many Americans a dirty word at that.

About 86% of all programming on Clear Channel is Conservative. Only 14% would be considered Liberal. Of that, much is African-American, directed towards markets where there is a large African-American population and the competition are largely African-American programming and hosts. So it is all about business, with the business being the syndication of programming distributed from one central location to tens or hundreds of stations and making local programming almost non-existent.

The situation is worse on other radio networks. Citadel, Salem and Cumulus networks have no Progressive or Liberal content at all. It is 100% conservative talk radio. So, with people like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage day-in and day-out lying about every single piece of progressive legislation…laws to help the people…it is a wonder than American radio listeners do not revolt. They don’t know that this is all about Lowry Mays and Red McCombs’ bigotry and Right Wing Texas values…like seceding from the Union as their friend Rick Perry, Governor of Texas has suggested.

What these owners want is more. More money, more possessions, and more power. They would bring back segregation in a heart beat. They want to be the handful of those making decisions, controlling the message, and putting fearsome images of terrorists into the minds of the sheep who follow their talk shows. The people who own these networks will do anything to destroy a “Liberal” or a “Progressive”agenda, just as they are attempting now with health care reform.

They have huge, multi-billion portfolios that make millions when stocks go up a point or when they go down a point. When the market begins to drop, they sell out and then use the cash to buy at the bottom of the market. While millions of their listeners are out of work, they merely add to their fortunes.

They have tax issues. They spend their time working with the Republicans every session of Congress to lower or eliminate altogether inheritance taxes. (They only amount to about 15% on average after everything shakes out.) Of course many of those who are the beneficiaries of inheritance taxes have never worked a day in their lives, let alone worked in the companies where their parents or grandparents made their fortunes.

In the Rush Limbaugh parroted version of the propaganda these Right Wingers want you to hear, the children or grandchildren of the rich are not only entitled to tens of millions of dollars…which is fine…it’s how our society works…but they are also entitled not to pay any taxes on it. Meanwhile, the Neoconservative Republicans created an $11 trillion overdraft on the budget. So, their philosophy is: no taxes on the rich, but also spend much more than the revenues that we do receive.

Salem Broadcasting Network, a division of Salem Communications is unabashedly Christian Conservative. In other words, they play Christian Contemporary Music (whatever that is) and say that about 25% of their programming is “teaching” which means preaching their family values, apparently through the words of James Dobson and his “Focus on the Family” programming. Of course this basically tells the morons who listen how to live their lives and how to vote.

When not preaching to their listeners on how not to be homosexual or how not to allow their wives or daughters to have abortions, they have people like Michael Savage preaching hate. Savage is so vile that he is literally banned from Britain. Not his program. He, himself, is banned from setting foot in Britain. The Brits do not like particularly vicious, vile, rude and insulting radio personalities that promote criminal acts like murdering physicians who do not agree with their positions on abortion.

Another is Bill Bennett who failed miserably as Secretary of Education. He comes on and tells you how you should educate your children and how the school system should survive without money, teachers, or classrooms. He won’t preach to you about gambling, however, as he has long had a serious gambling problem.

Michael Medved, the one-time Jew converted to Christianity, comes on and describes how everything the Democrats do, all their legislation, all their policies are wrong. He does this by taking 80% of the rationale for a program, leaving out the essential 20%, including the motivation for doing it, and then substituting his own version of the facts and finally tears down his own version piece-by-piece, making himself seem brilliant.

He does have a fine educational background, as did Richard Nixon and any number of Oxford-educated Sheik terrorists and African genocidal dictators. On the other hand Hitler was not well educated, but his distortion of reality, though different from Medved’s distortion of reality, killed 50 million people. So, education may not be the best barometer of what is good information for the People one way or the other.

Oliver North is another screwball Right Wing commentator. An ex-Marine (he would object to the “ex” and probably rightly so) an Annapolis grad, Silver Star winner in Viet Nam, apparently good tactician and undoubtedly great company commander. What he is doing on a Christian radio network is somewhat speculative as his job and the focus of his life…in defense of his country…has been on killing people.

Another heavy among the Salem spinmeister is one G. Gordon Liddy, someone who worked under Nixon and felt that the law was merely a guideline if you were a Republican working for the President and a former FBI and CIA operative. Apparently Liddy has not lost his disdain for the American people when it comes to deciding who will pay him the most…the People or the Corporate interests. The Nixon-era cash-in-an-attache-case days are over, but Liddy is still spinning it for the big corporations against the middle class. And fooling a lot of them.

There are so many other Right Wing radio hosts that it is almost impossible to keep up with it. But one thing is clear. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was supposed to be about a number of other things. But the provision that greatly expanded the number of stations that one individual could own was devastating to free speech. Clear Channel owned approximately 40 stations at that time. Within 2 years they owned as many as 1200 as a result of the expansion of multiple-ownership in each market. Other networks also expanded with literally hundreds of outlets. Once they controlled all those stations and could program each station from one one location, the fate of talk radio was doomed to be conservative. Because that is what the owners wanted it to be.

So this is a war. It is a war to see who will get the message out. In the 1930s the Nazis and Dr. Goebbels won the propaganda war. The Nazi talkers persuaded the German people that suspending the rules was a good idea, that some people in their midst, their long-time neighbors and some of their leaders were traitors. Wars with other nations were necessary, Goebbels said, because of the danger of that era’s version of “a mushroom cloud.” Goering said: frighten the people and they will do whatever you want. Goebbels and others persuaded the Germans that other countries were out to get them, that there were saboteurs among them, and that indeed, that their “9/11,” the Reichstag fire, was set by Communists. (Now we know it was set by the Nazis themselves. ) Propaganda. Scare the people. Then lie to them over and over and over again.

Today, of the 260 or so stations owned by the big five commercial station owners, 91% of the messages getting out to the people are filtered through conservative talk show hosts. Only about 9% is a message from someone who is working for the People and against the 14,000 Washington lobbyists.

Every day 2700 hours of conservative diatribes against health care, against energy policies, against the stimulus and programs to get people back to work are balanced by only about 254 hours of messages on the truth of what the Administration is doing for the people. In other words, for every one hour of someone telling you how hard the Congress is working to create a health care bill, there are ten hours of someone like Rush Limbaugh lying to you about costs and coverage and rationing and government takeovers.

The propaganda war is not over. The Neocon radio talkers have not won yet, although they are in a dominant position now. We have a Democratic House of Representatives, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President. We can change the rules. Many people think that this means we must restore something called the Fairness Doctrine. But that is not the way to do it.

The Fairness Doctrine would say that each station would be required to balance any political talk, particularly those relating to a specific candidate. That would be fine, but that would still allow many of these same people to own as many as 8 stations in one market. There is a better way.

Here are some ideas:

  • The best way to improve diversity in broadcasting is to increase the number of different owners and break up the concentration of radio programming power. No owner of a network should be able to own more than 5% of the national number of stations. If there are 2000 stations, that would mean that the largest owner would have no more than 100 stations. This would allow for much greater ownership and provide for much greater diversity in ownership.
  • Each station should be required to have some minimum staff and a certain percentage of its programming done in and about the local market. Certainly it should be at least 25%.
  • Limit the number of stations that may be owned by any one network in any given market.
  • Limit the number of stations depending on the size of the market as it is done now but reduce the number of stations to perhaps only three in the very largest markets.
  • Take more care in the way we issue licenses and to whom we issue them and how they treat them once they get them. There must be some public accountability.

Once we have put these policies into place, diversity will take hold; owners will seek different programming to suit their markets and people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Michael Savage will go back to the compost heap from whence they came.

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