These shows can always be found on the radio, no matter where you are, but their popularity seems to wax and wane. I know that Father Caughlin was one of the first big radio superstars, way back in the 1930s, and maybe you'd want to classify Walter Winchell as right wing as well, although I'd just say he was cynical. Most people will equate this term with more modern broadcast personalities such as Gary North, G. Gordon Liddy, and the Godfather of modern conservative radio, Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh's show became popular around 1990, when Republicans were becomming disappointed with the lack of effectiveness seen in the Bush administration as compared to his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. Bush was percieved as knuckling under to a liberal Congress, and starting an oil war in an attempt to compensate for his inadequacies. Unlike other talking heads, Limbaugh was the first conservative pundit to really lay into Bush for failing to fill Reagan's shoes, and he gave conservatives critical of Bush someone to listen to.

It didn't hurt that he used all sorts of tasteless gimmicks to fill out his shows. Early in his career, people who disagreed with him would get 'caller abortions', in which the phone would get cut off to the sound of a running vacuum cleaner. He would also court racist stereotypes in his characterizations of certain minority leaders. Specific examples elude me at this time.

Of course, the unwashed masses, feeling their needs unmet by the Bush administration, ate it all up. And when Bill Clinton won the election in 1992, Limbaugh's career really took off. At the peak of his power, Limbaugh claimed 20,000,000 people tuned in to his daily show, a number previously unheard-of in talk radio.

The power of these shows was based on the fact that they were so mindlessly opinionated that logic, fact checking and taste went right out the window. If you loved Rush, that was great. If you hated him, that was also great, because usually your complaints would end up sounding like the 'liberal whining' that was discussed on the shows. Groups like FAIR put together extensive lists of Limbaugh's inaccuracies (which can still be found on www.fair.org), but in this noder's opinion, they were missing the point, since they helped Rush use the common tactic of claiming that the rest of the news media has a liberal bias. (When asked if he believed in equal time for opposing views, Rush's response was "I am equal time!!").

The only way to hurt a host like Rush was to either not care what he said, or to remain calm and unmask him as a buffoon. In an appearance on the David Letterman show (one of his few appearances outside his own radio studio), Rush was asked by Letterman "Do you ever lie awake, late at night, and think 'God, I'm just full of hot air?'". As the audience roared with laughter, Limbaugh was speechless.

Limbaugh's popularity seemed to attract a criminal element to radio journalism: soon both G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North had their own shows, both irrational in their own special ways; Liddy is famous for instructing his listeners to 'aim for the head' when the BATF comes through their door, and I myself caught North railing against the United States Constitution itself (namely, the concept of checks and balances) when a Federal Court judge overturned a school voucher plan.

How did intelligent conservatives take to this? Well, those pundits that didn't offer faint praise just kind of ignored these people, and tried to treat the phenomenon in the same way that, say, Maya Angelou might treat Oprah Winfrey; as somewhat dim and embarassing populists that might lead a few people to read their books.

The talk show fad hit its turning point, or more accurately, its downfall, with the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. When it was discovered that right wing extremists were the people behind the attack, many of the chickens set flight by Limbaugh, et al, came home to roost. Suddenly, the whining done by Democrats that Limbaugh, Liddy, and North were just mean-spirited and destructive seemed a lot less trivial. Since that date, the number of listners has steadily declined, and today, almost no one takes these people seriously. Time will tell if we see a resurgence of the popularity of these talk shows in future decades.


A statement such as, “He (Rush Limbaugh) would also court racist stereotypes in his characterizations of certain minority leaders. Specific examples elude me at this time.” Yes, I guess examples do elude you; because they don't exist. The most oft-heard conversation about Limbaugh and his ilk goes like this: “Oooo, I hate that bastard!” Question: “Have you ever listened to him?” Answer: “No, of course not!” Question: “So how do you know you hate him?” Answer: “NPR and MSNBC tells me all I need to know about him.”

Yeah, sure they do. Several people reading this get their news from NPR, MSNBC, Jon Stewart,etc. And I sometimes think it's hard for those folks to comprehend that half the country gets their news from radically different venues. (This November, I'm hoping it's 50.1%, at least.) For folks like me who spend a lot of time on the internet, it's not hard at all for me to remember that the other half is out there. I also know that a lot of you are too lazy to actually get up and go vote. And I thank you for that.

The only other statement in that previous writeup I'll mention is the author's assertion that after the Timothy McVeigh bombing, “the number of listners (sic) has steadily declined, and today, almost no one takes these people seriously. Time will tell if we see a resurgence of the popularity of these talk shows in future decades.” Not only does half the country take these folks seriously in 2012, right wing talk radio has blossomed into a mega-industry. In this writeup, I'll try to give you an overview of the broadcasters with whom I'm familiar and tell you a bit about their reach as well as my opinion of their wisdom as well as style.

I wrote about Limbaugh back in early 2000 at the urging of my friend Uberfetus. You may not remember Uberfetus, but he was what I'd call the first Noung on E2; a college kid (EE major at Cornell) with conservative views and the ability to write well. His real name was Eric and he, too, was once an admin on this site. He had two main problems: Severe depression and a roommate named Dman. Dman was a good example of what happens when a conservative with a bad temper problem meets the liberal world of the internet. It wasn’t pretty and led to the first kick-banning on this site. I argued for kick-banning at least one of the users who kept poking him with the pointy stick, but I was outvoted on that one. sensei and Uberfetus and I all spent hours trying to talk sense to Dman in order to avoid this scenario. We could not get through to him. Dman was spoiled just enough by his Asian parents that he couldn't accept not having the world his way. It might surprise you to know that sensei was a political conservative. It might also surprise you to know that when Uberfetus was off his meds and feeling frisky he sometimes posted under the sockpuppet account name Interstellar Scrotum.

But back to topic. Let's begin with Limbaugh. Many of the folks I'm about to mention are lawyers. Rush dropped out of college, but he was from a long line of well-known Missouri lawyers. His show airs from noon-3:00PM EST. His listeners number over 15,000,000 per week. I think that would put to rest the “no one takes him seriously nowadays” assertion. Rush's program normally originates from his studios near his home in Palm Beach County, Florida. In the early years of the program, it normally originated from the studios of WABC in New York City (the program's traditional flagship station), which still serves as the home to some of the program's staff and broadcast facilities. Limbaugh now states that he avoids New York as much as possible due to that state's high taxes.

So what are my feelings about Rush after all these years? Well, Neil Peart is still one hell of a drummer. Oh, wait. Limbaugh. I find it hard to listen to him these days. His hearing loss makes the caller interaction less dynamic. He uses less outside sources for humorous song parodies and gags. He tends to repeat himself too much and even though I love what he did in reviving a tradition of “views from the other side,” I usually change the radio dial after ten minutes or so because I'm bored. I still think someone new to Rush would find him educational and entertaining and I wish him well for years to come. But he doesn't need my money any more; he's got plenty.

Sean Hannity. Hannity pulls just over 14,000,000 listeners a week, and he gives full credit to Rush for giving him and others the opportunity for this venue. His program is broadcast live every weekday from 3:00-6:00 PM EST from the studios of WABC in New York City and aired in syndication by Cumulus Media Networks on terrestrial radio affiliates across the United States and the Sirius XM Patriot channel found on both XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio at the same time.

How do I feel about Hannity? I dislike him quite a bit. He's not really all that bright and that's why he depends on guests more than most of his ilk. (Limbaugh almost never has guests.) So listening to Hannity really means listening to the current crop of candidates and pundits. If I wanted that, I'd listen to the Sabbath gasbags on the major MSM networks.

What really drives me nuts about Hannity (and others yet to be mentioned) is his mental checklists of “things to say when Topic X comes up.” For instance, if it's WMDs, there are 7 things that he will say, in the same order every time in order to prove that W was correct in his actions. Any time he begins one of these lists, I change the channel. Plus, how much of Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich can you stand?

Michael Savage. His show is sometimes referred to as “The Savage Nation.” His show pulls 8–10,000,000 listeners a week and is syndicated across the U.S. in over 300 markets, making it the third most listened to radio show in the country. The show is based out of San Francisco, California and is on the air from 3:00-6:00 PM PST.

Savage can be entertaining for a short while, and there's no doubt he's a very smart fellow. But if you wanted to know how Dman would conduct a talk radio show, this would be it. Callers who disagree are often shouted down then silenced, probably accompanied by severe name-calling. It's hard for me to listen to Michael Savage for very long, even though I agree with most of the things he says.

Glen Beck. Beck gets about 8,500,000 listeners per week and airs from 9:00-noon EST. He is syndicated on over 400 radio stations throughout the United States as well as Sirius and XM radio.

Beck, like Howard Stern, relies a lot on his staff to help punch up the show with humor and witty asides. But he is also the most religious of the bunch, and he will try to scare the bejeezus out of folks with apocalyptic tales of where America is headed. He talks a lot about Israel and the Bible. Let's just say he's not very hopeful for your future, but I'd much rather listen to him than Sean Hannity.

Mark Levin. Also pulling about 8.5 million listeners per week, this is my favorite. Levin is a mixture of Savage's wrath, Beck's humor and Rush's thoughtfulness and overall politeness with callers (up to a point). Levin served in the administration of President Ronald Reagan and was a chief of staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese. He has a brilliant legal mind, a law degree, and a fervent love for the Constitution. He has written some books you really should read if you actually would like to understand how the “other side” thinks. These would include “Men in Black,” “Liberty and Tyranny, “ and “Ameritopia.”

His show airs from 6:00-9:00 PM in direct competition with Michael Savage, a man for whom he clearly does not care. He refers to him as a “screamer,” not by name, but it's very obvious to whom he's referring.

I've learned a lot from Rush Limbaugh over the years about American history, the way government works and international politics, but I've learned more about the Constitution and foundations of this country from Mark Levin than I would have expected from a radio show.

Bill Cunningham. I despise this fellow, but if you turn to any talk station on Sunday night from 9:0PM to 1:00AM, you'll hear him. He's everywhere in that time slot. His full-time job is hosting “The Big Show with Bill Cunningham,” a local show on WLW radio in Cincinnati, Ohio. But then he took over Matt Drudge's popular Sunday show with “Live on Sunday Night, it's Bill Cunningham,” which is syndicated to over 300 stations by Premiere Radio Networks.

I used to love to hear Matt Drudge in this time slot. He was witty and had interesting guests. He was catty in a slightly gay way (think Will and Grace). For the life of me, I don't understand why he'd give this lucrative spot up to an idiot like Bill Cunningham. Maybe it's because Cunningham is a lawyer. Like Hannity, Cunningham will have his list of “talking points” on any subject. He drives me nuts. But if you turn on any talk station on Sunday night, he's what you get. And he does sometimes have interesting guests.

Another thing he does that drives me nuts is he refers to himself as “a great American.” As far as I know, this was a Hannity phrase which he'd apply to other folks whom he considered great Americans. But Cunningham is so stupid he thinks it's cool to say it about himself. I mean, for fuck's sake, what if you met Arnold Palmer and the first words out of his mouth were, “I'm Arnold Palmer, a great golfer!” Sunday nights are hard now on a talk radio fan.

Michael Berry. This is a fairly new kid on the block out of Houston, Texas. But if you want to paint these guys as racists (as I know you're dying to do) this is your best bet. He goes toe-to-toe with the race baiters in this country and doesn't back down. He's also a lawyer, and he's my new favorite host, mostly because he's feisty and funny as hell.

Laura Inghraham and Neil Boortz have shows on the West Coast. I've not heard either. However; I have heard Laura Ingraham on other shows and I like her a lot. She's sensible and willing to go toe to toe with the enemy.

And, if you thought this was an overcrowded market which surely must not have growth opportunities, let me tell you about late, late night talk radio. There was a time not long ago where all you would hear on talk stations was either Art Bell talking about alien abductions or “Coast to Coast” with George Noory with pretty much the same fare: the paranormal or conspiracy theories. This clique of spooky crap was ubiquitous after hours.

Not any longer. Now in several markets you have "Red Eye Radio" hosted by Eric Harley and Gary McNamara. By the ads they run, it seems as if truck drivers are the target audience. But guess what the topics are? Yep; from midnight to 5:00 AM you have a hearty dose of right wing political chat.

So, to return to the premise that “the number of listners (sic) has steadily declined, and today, almost no one takes these people seriously. Time will tell if we see a resurgence of the popularity of these talk shows in future decades.” I think time has told and the resurgence is resplendent.

If you're interested in sampling any or all of this, try the IheartRadio free app on your smart phone.

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