Take squawk radio, please!

My girlfriend and I usually agree on most Republican angles during our morning solve-the-world’s-problems chat. This morning we disagreed in a major way on the value of right-wing radio. She’s concerned Obama will demand reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, while I think abandoning the culture of squawk radio will save the Republican party.

Rush Limbaugh hit the airwaves in full force for the 90’s. By the early 2000s it became known that his talk didn’t match his walk. Drug addiction and revolving wives from the guy spouting family values. This happened in sync with the decline of the Republican party’s popularity.

Locally we’ve survived Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling (who I renamed Psyches and Bellering). Again, they can’t seem to get their ideals to match their personal realities. That doesn’t keep their techniques from doing damage on the blood pressure of a few acquaintances I have, though. They listen to these guys like an addiction.

I’ve listened to snippets on podcasts, but never successfully listened to either squawker’s show from beginning to end. I prefer discussions that move along at more than one topic an hour. For the life of me I will never understand how SE Wisconsin is so slow as to appreciate a talk show host that has one unique idea a week, and that was usually taken from the blogs.

Another beef I have: they label decent Republicans RINOs at will for the purpose of feeding the beastly appetite of the far right. In Wisconsin, Republicans were sucked into the manufactured internal conflicts of the last decade, and it cost us. (If you haven’t noticed, all three branches of Wisconsin government are now controlled by those Poor Democrats Who Don’t Have Talk Radio.) Only the squawkers and the radio stations won.

It’s ugly, but if you really want to see the inside of squawk radio, you need to read this. Don’t discount the content because it’s sour grapes. There’s something to be recognized in Dan Shelley’s airing of dirty laundry. Squawk radio is a business.

Yes, these celebrities (for that’s what they are) make money off provocation. Shelley points out what works. He also identifies what the go-to plan will be if something doesn’t work. Labels are a big squawker go-to technique. In reality squawk techniques are no different from the Rules for Radicals we reviewed prior to the election:

The first rule of power tactics is: power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this. They can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.

Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

The threat is generally more terrifying than the thing itself.

In a fight almost anything goes. It almost reaches the point where you stop to apologize if a chance blow lands above the belt.

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

One of the criteria for picking the target is the target’s vulnerability … the other important point in the choosing of a target is that it must be a personification, not something general and abstract.

The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.

Sometimes these are used against Democrats, but it’s easy to find examples of when these techniques have been used against Republicans. I think the rule, “The threat is generally more terrifying than the thing itself,” applies to the method by which squawkers effectively harness listeners.

Republicans, if you want to see your party succeed, dump Limbaugh and Sykes and Belling. The party slammed into oblivion on the squawkers’ watch. You’re smart enough to put the two together, aren’t you? If you really nod and clap at everything these guys say, then go ahead. If you find that you’re reaching for the antacid mid-show, maybe there’s a reason.

How many more voters are you willing to lose? The success of the Republican party demands that moderate Republican voters are not defined by the damage produced by far-right celebrity squawkers.


  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. To bring back the Fairness Doctrine would be a large step backwards for the First Amendment and free trade. If you feel as you do about any individual or show–don’t listen to or watch it. But wanting them removed because you disagree with the message or messenger is both petty and extremely anti-1st amendment. I have never felt or believed Rush Limbaugh or any national broadcaster speaks for either party. However, I do believe Limbaugh and Hannity espouse the conservatism that is a part of my life. You will never find a straighter shooter than Hannity. Married once, an Irish Catholic and a hard worker who is a true conservative. But had he been divorced I would still respect him for what he does.
    Your argument comes, it seems to me, at an odd time. We have just seen the Republican Party beaten badly, promoting a candidate exactly as you describe, politically. Socially his views and beliefs were troubling to conservatives but should have had great appeal to moderates. Conservatives stayed home by the millions because they felt they had no true candidate. If McCain had not chosen Palin we might have witnessed a beating not seen since McGovern. He did as well as he did because of her, not in spite of her as some would want us to believe. Conservatives did not lose the election, Republicans did. The McCain campaign was run as dismally as the Obama campaign was run sucessfully.
    Your stance that Limbaugh’s divorces and being addicted to prescription drugs in the past contributed one iota to the Republican’s situation is just laughable. Not only did he recognize he had a problem, Limbaugh faced it and got the help necessary to overcome it. Many view that as a sign of strength. Use the same standards for your bloggers and you would lose a minimum of 50% of them.
    Going to the center will assure the Republican Party of certain defeat, as the recent election just illustrated.
    You criticize Hooters Restaurants without ever having been to one. Now you accuse Rush Limbaugh of almost personally sabotaging the Republican Party without ever listening to a complete broadcast of his. And from this you conclude the Fairness Doctrine is a good thing?

  2. BRAVO Cindy,

    Your not a moderate and it is a good article to get conservatives excited. Reverse psychology. Bravo!

    Keep up the GREAT work.

    Paul- Berry Laker

  3. Some random thoughts on this subject –

    I would say that before you remove something from operation that you need something to replace it. Where is the conservative presence? On what media?

    I believe the audiences of talk radio are relatively small when compared to MSM media outlets. The great majority of the public stills gets their “news” from the MSM. The MSM has there own demonstrated bias and the people see what the MSM wants them to see and, by omission, what it does not want them to see.

    There is already a movement to re-establish the “fairness doctrine”. Why would conservatives want to aid the socialists in suppression of first amendment rights?

    National Issues – Where would any opposition to “global warming” come from? We may be pursuing solutions to a non-exist problem and at the same time imposing crushing regulatory restrictions and taxes at the same time we are going into a depression.

    Local issues- Where would one hear about the “regional transit authority”and the attempt to force choo-choo trains on us. This could have a “sewer wars” type ramifications. Another case of the suburbs paying for what Milwaukee libs want. It will be a little train today for a lot or train and taxes tomorrow.

  4. Randy – my friend is concerned about the Fairness Doctrine. I didn’t advocate one way or the other – though I tend to believe anything that demands a “new rule” isn’t really a good thing.

    PBL – I don’t think I get it.

    Leapin – I didn’t advocate artificially removing the squawkers. My point: they may continue to drag the party down. Is there any chance the squawkers could make way for intelligent conservative discussions? Nope. That doesn’t sell advertising.

    PS – there are these things called blogs and non MSM news sources. Radio stations ARE MSM! and that’s who pays the squawkers.

  5. Tinkerbell says:

    I credit several talk show hosts with important whistle-blowing, muck-raking, and prognosticating. Much like blogs, their presence as a wildcard helps:
    – keep citizens in-the-know,
    – take a pulse on the collective conservative thought,
    – exert influence.
    Although imperfect, they are a useful tool.

    I would like to think that if “The View” doesn’t drag liberals down, talk radio won’t drag the conservatives down.

    Unless the Dems are making databases of dissenters to silence. In which case bloggers and posters of commentary may also be vulnerable. Should we try less traceable old-fashioned means of communication such as holding meetings person?

  6. “intelligent conservative discussions”

    That’s not possible, is it? 😉

    “holding meetings [in] person”

    Wow, that is old-fashioned. I have to leave in my basement and venture into the outside world.

    [Shudder] 😉

  7. well… another blog entry worthy of being read … I cannot think of any two people more useless than Sykes and Belling. Total loud mouth morons. But it’s why it’s called a “show”, because it isn’t a news magazine or really anything presented from a journalistic sense of fair play and debate. They sensationalize things and get people going. Ever try to call in and disagree with a very good point of view? You’ll never make it past the producers – after all … it’s their “show”.

  8. Cindy,

    Randy and Tinkerbell are 100% correct. Talk radio is utilizing a major medium (radio) to get a conservative message out that would normally not be there. I do not agree with everything they say, and most certainly do not agree with how they say it. The reason they are successful, both locally and nationally, is because there is a definitive biased in the MSM, so much so as to create “entertainers” like Limbaugh, Sykes, and Belling.

    You state, in Sykes and Belling’s case, “Again, they can’t seem to get their ideals to match their personal realities.”….what ideals are not matching their personal realities? I get your Limbaugh reference (although I don’t agree with the analysis), but these two?? Please explain.

    Your reference about RINO’s should be touched on as well. John McCain is VERY close to being the quintessential RINO, which in my estimation was a major factor in his loss, and is a perfect example of the type of candidate the Republican Party has to STOP trotting out. The crop of candidates the Republican Party gave us this primary season was full of RINO’s, and hindsight being 20/20, they were destined to lose. Rudy G?!?!? He’s liberal on many social issues, Mike Huckabee, NOT conservative on many issues. John McCain???? Well we saw what happened to him.

    On a statewide level, a very BIG reason we are a tax hell is because of RINO’s in the State Assembly and Senate. When Sykes and Belling “out” these Republicans for who they are, they are doing us a favor. There needs to be more support for the Glenn Grothman’s of the world, instead of Tom Petri or Mary Panzer. That’s if we want to regain a majority in both houses and start leading in a conservative fashion. If we constantly elect people like Petri, Panzer and the like, the State of Wisconsin will continue passing tax increase after tax increase (amongst other things). Without talk radio, those RINO’s would continue getting elected and go unchecked. Who’s going to call them out on their left leaning policies? The MJS, ANY Madison news outlet? This goes nationally as well. The Republicans cannot and should not listen to the moderate wing of their party. They did that with George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and John McCain (and some argue GW is closer to the moderate wing of the party than originally thought) and look where they’re at. A party in disarray, spending (locally and nationally) like Democrats, and fighting like children. We have wandered away from the Reagan policies of the 80’s and reverted back to the Nixon Republican’s. If that’s the way the Republican Party wants to be run, and those are the candidates that they want to put forth to the American public, they are destined to be in the minority – and for a LONG time.

  9. That RINO label is a problem. You say Republicans shouldn’t listen to moderates. I say Republicans shouldn’t rely so heavily on conservatives.

    I may be right on this one. I’ll put a note on my list to explain why sometime this week.

    Why couldn’t conservatives provide a candidate this election? Was Reagan really a conservative or a moderate?

  10. I don’t like the RINO label because first, I don’t like labels. I know I don’t fit into a label neatly so I imagine other people don’t either. Second, even RINO’s are more likely to vote my values than some Democrats so I still would prefer a RINO to a Dem.

    I’m ambivalent about talk radio. I think sometimes (because it is entertainment for ratings) that they go more overboard than they would in normal conversation.

    OTOH, I’m already bombarded by liberal slant from the major networks (except for FOX), public radio, major newspapers and various cultural programming.

    Talk radio is one little island in that sea of liberalism.