The Boston Globe recently published an article, by one of its opinion writers, that called Mike Barnicle's politics "Urban Democratic" and Don Imus's politics "Democratic/Opportunistic." I'm sorry, but these two men could be mistaken for good-looking women before they could be mistaken for Democrats. Are the editors at the Globe on strike?
Alex Beam had a great idea for a column: the politics of talk radio. According to Beam, talk radio is cheap. He was referring to production costs, but he obviously enjoyed the substantive metaphor. Local ads can bring in a lot more cash than it costs to pay a large ego with a deep voice, especially if that voice is syndicated. Beam understands that Fox Television's Bill O'Reilly is joining the radio fray in hopes of cannibalizing Rush Limbaugh's market share, and to make more than a few bucks. Beam's column was dead-on until he outlined the talk radio options available to Greater Boston's 4 million radio listeners, organizing each talkjock into a neat ideological compartment. Like all too many mainstream columnists, Beam looks at a population and assumes that it has an ideological bell-curve: left, right and center. On a thumbnail, here's Beam's analysis:
If this were a baseball lineup, then every batter would be hitting from the right side of the plate. To be fair to Beam, and Howard, Stern might switch-hit but only to make sure he could moon the fans on both the left field and right field lines. Stern might be a social anarchist, but a show that promotes lesbian dating for the purpose of attracting a young male demographic doesn't qualify as left-wing radio.
Both Imus and his brother, a regular on the show, have both hearts and brains. And Imus invites both Democrats and Republicans to be guests on his show. Beam mistakes these facts to indicate that Don is a Democrat. Or maybe it's Imus's private plane and stories of pissing in his cornflakes back in his alcoholic years that confused Beam. Alex, Imus's infamous performance at the Washington Correspondents Dinner did not make him an honorary Democrat.
The idea that Barnicle is "Urban Democratic" is urban legend. Mike might have been born in Dorchester, but he lives in Lincoln, one of suburban Boston's most wealthy suburbs, sends his kids to private schools, and sucks up to President Bush worse than Bob Woodward. To build a home in Lincoln you need more acreage than the "Imus Ranch." Mike isn't even a democrat with a small "d".
Beam's description of Howie Carr's politics as "equal-opportunity trashing" is telling. The phrase "equal opportunity" is often a cover for unequal distribution. Howie might have the opportunity to bash the Republicans and Democrats, but he just happens to bash the Kennedys more often than the three Republican stooges that have recently called themselves governor. Carr writes for the Boston Herald, a scandal sheet tabloid that is Boston's version of the New York Post. Howie's vote isn't tipping any election the Democrats' way.
Brudnoy has been on Boston radio since before the Patriots moved to Foxboro. He is a libertarian with strong antigovernment sentiments. Despite being an avid Clinton-basher, Brudnoy has enough integrity for Democrats to respect him for his honest opinions. However, his writing betrays not only his large ego but also his cultural distance from the masses. Brudnoy's recent review of "The Importance of Being Earnest" included this mouthful: "'Earnest" shows how attachment to superficialities, here, among others, to a name suggesting strength of character, fidelity and honor, can and often may well lead to ridiculous folly, albeit—this is, after all a comedy—to eventless folly." Not exactly the banter you would hear from the boys at Doyle's Café, the Jamaica Plain bar frequented by politicians.
Laura Ingraham's peronsa makes Nancy Reagan's look warm. Her voice is only slightly less irritating than fingernails being dragged across a blackboard. If a face truly reflected each of our souls, Laura's face would scare a cage full of apes. Alas, Laura is the product of good genes and poor upbringing. She also is a great reminder that a talk show host should have lived a few years to be able to put life and politics into perspective.
Rush Limbaugh is considered a right winger in Indiana. Need we say more?
The name of Jay Severin's show, "Extreme Games," defines his politics. Jay is far right on virtually every issue not connected to getting laid. When it comes to getting laid, he is a libertarian. Jay is right-wing radio's answer to Wilt Chamberlain. No, not the basketball player, the self-aggrandizing stud.
Beam was right about Bill O'Reilly, he is a "hard-headed" winger. The former Boston sportscaster turned political commentator certainly understands that the people that he appeals to listen to talk radio. Rick Pitino once called this demographic group the "fellowship of the miserable." Rick, the former UMass basketball star, may not have been the savior the Celtics were looking for in a coach, but he appears to have a keen take on sociology.
For some reason, Beam left out the boys on sports talk radio in Boston who like to opine on all things political. The hosts of "Dennis and Callahan," the "sports" show that replaced Imus on the AM dial in Boston on weekday mornings, talk more about the American Taliban than they do Pedro Martinez. There is not a liberal bone in either of their bodies. Their station, WEEI, is so offensive that the Globe does not allow its columnists to go on the station's talk shows. WEEI reeks of homophobia and racism. Former NFL nose tackle Fred Smerlas is its intellectual giant. WEEI is proof that evolution sometimes allows those with the smallest brains to survive.
Beam could have written an insightful piece on the vast wasteland of talk radio in Boston, programming that is so slanted to the right that it calls into question the licensing process of the federal airways. Instead, he wrote a puff piece for the Living section of his newspaper with pictures of each talk show celebrity. Ironically, Alex recently wrote a disparaging column about Internet blogs. It appears he sees no value in their existence. As Stephen Jay Gould explained, advancement of a species often comes with sudden and distinct change. Beam may see Internet blogs as the media runts. Beam doesn't understand that evolution favors speed and intelligence over the status quo, especially one that is old and tired.
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