Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2003 / 4 Shevat, 5763
Conservatives have talk radio; liberals have everything else
Apparently, the Democratic Party is gravely concerned that its liberal message is not being heard. And the reason Democrats give is that conservatives dominate talk radio, Fox News, and the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.
Because of talk radio, two editorial pages and one cable news channel, liberals just cannot get their message across to Americans.
Full disclosure demands that I acknowledge a vested interest here. I have been a radio talk show host for 20 years -- 16 in Los Angeles and the last four in national syndication (through the Salem Radio Network). So I read with a big smile how influential my profession is perceived to be. But all this begs two questions: why is talk radio so powerful, and why is it dominated by conservatives?
The first question is particularly fascinating. That Democrats chafe at conservative dominance in talk radio is almost incredible -- because liberals dominate everything else.
Liberals dominate television: Aside from some Fox News shows (remember the conservative Sean Hannity is paired with the liberal Alan Colmes), the liberals dominate everything on TV (with the exception of John Stossel's specials on ABC). They dominate CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and CNN news broadcasts, and they dominate all television entertainment.
Liberals dominate the education of our young: The ratio of Democrats to Republicans among liberal arts professors at universities is routinely 20 to one. And the deans, the presidents, the curricula, the speech codes and the campus newspapers are all liberal. Liberals also run the schools of education, the law schools, the high schools and the elementary schools.
Liberals dominate Hollywood: Are the Democrats unfamiliar with Barbra Streisand, Sean Penn, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, and almost every other star who speaks out on political issues? Do Democrats not attend movies, which with almost no exception are liberal, if not radical, in their messages? Have you seen any movies recently with a businessman hero? Any with an affirmation of Judaism or Christianity?
Liberals dominate the public airwaves: National Public Radio has been dubbed National Palestinian Radio for good reason. And PBS has just produced and aired what even The New York Times called "an Islamic infomercial" in its special on Islam. Juxtapose that with its skeptical inquiries into the beliefs of Christian or Jewish believers.
Liberals dominate the biggest foundations: such as the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations.
Liberals dominate almost every major newspaper both in news coverage and editorial page positions: The Wall Street Journal editorial page is conservative as are and the editorial and news pages of The Washington Times. But the liberals have the rest, including The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and the Chicago Tribune.
Liberals dominate virtually every professional organization: the American Bar Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Library Association, American Nurses Association, National Education Association, American Political Science Association, the Trial Lawyers Association, and, of course, every big labor union.
Liberals dominate much of organized religion: the mainstream Protestant churches and Reform and Conservative Judaism; while the liberal social message (with the exception of abortion rights) dominates much of the Roman Catholic Church.
Liberals dominate activist groups: the feminist, civil rights and civil liberties organizations as well as black, Hispanic, gay and Jewish organizations.
But according to Democrats, this domination of virtually all of American public life is not enough to get their message to the American people. Something must be done about the one TV news network, the two editorial pages and the radio shows they do not control.
Which raises the question -- why is it that liberals cannot dominate talk radio as they do virtually everything else?
I will answer this at length in a subsequent column, but the answer can be easily summarized -- liberals dominate where they cannot be intellectually challenged. It is effortless for a college professor to spout leftist rhetoric to naive young people who just graduated from high school. Let them have to defend their radical views in public and they wilt.
That is why many leftist professors refuse to come on my radio show -- they are unused to intellectual debate. They live with, work among, and relate to, fellow leftists. They almost never have to engage conservative ideas. We in talk radio, on the other hand, immerse ourselves in liberal newspapers, debate liberal guests and take liberal callers.
In short, the reason the liberal message is not being heard, despite liberal control of almost all public organs of communication, is that it is incoherent. The message, not a lack of messengers, is the contemporary liberal problem.
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12/31/02: If you believe that people are basically good . . .