Monday, February 19, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: Some programs stand out more than others and, this weekend, the program that has stood out has been CounterSpin and, specifically, Steve Rendall's discussion with Peter Hart about Air America Radio. I honestly wish this had been a full half hour because there was too much to cover; however, Mr. Rendall noted that an article on the topic will appear in the next edition of Extra! (Extra! and Counterspin are the magazine and radio program of FAIR.)

Air America Radio was sold to listeners, on a wink and a nod, with the claim that they were "left." While signaling that position to listeners, they went out of their way to assure the press that they were only slightly left. The reality is that they told the truth to the press while they tried to put one over on the listeners.

Mr. Rendall cited some hosts, such as Laura Flanders who hosts RadioNation with Laura Flanders, as people who presented a truly left program but noted that those were the exceptions and, too often, Air America Radio was promoting the Democratic Party's talking points.

It was noted that right-wing talk radio was not a recent development. In terms of what stood out to me, Mr. Rendall addressed how right-wing radio pushes the G.O.P. to the right by advocating positions that appeal to the grassroots of the Republican Party but may not otherwise be taken up by the party's leadership.

In a nutshell, that captures the difference between Air America Radio and right-wing radio. AAR has been very happy to promote talking points and to act as cheerleaders and far too hesitant to advocate positions that the Democratic Party has declared "off the table."

Now there are exceptions to that and I would agree Ms. Flanders is one. I would not agree that Rachel Maddow is one due to her attitude on the illegal war expressed regularly on Unfiltered, her refusal to allow peace activists to come on Unfiltered while she all but slobbered over those participating in her Ask A Vet weekly segment, and her attempts to justify Time magazine's cover valentine to Ann Coulter because, as noted here, it was written by a friend of Ms. Maddow. That valentine was called out by left sites and slightly left sites, it just was not called out by Ms. Maddow who offered one excuse after another for it but never informed listeners that she was providing cover for a personal friend.

Ms. Maddow is an open lesbian and, as such, she seems to be thought of as more left than she actually is. Though she will support gay issues passionately, and gay writers such as her friend who penned the valentine to Ms. Coulter, a gay man blathering on about how sensual and sexy he found Ms. Coulter, she has spent the bulk of her air time shutting down debate and discussion of withdrawal from Iraq. For those not familiar with the Ask a Vet segments, they did not feature veterans calling for withdrawal. No, they featured Mommy's Pantyhose and his co-horts advocating that the war must continue.

I was surprised to hear Mr. Rendall cite Ms. Maddow and equally surprised to hear him cite a man whose appearances on Joe Scarborough's television program have resulted in FAIR action alerts. I do not quibble with the inclusion of Ms. Flanders as a voice from the left, I did take exception to his other examples and think he should explain how he came to the conclusion that they are "left." I do not believe that empty shout outs serve anyone or the pursuit of truth.

One name that he did not cite was Randi Rhodes and while Ms. Rhodes often holds positions that are to the right of my own, I do think that she has proven herself to be the strongest voice calling for an end to the war during the week on AAR.

I look forward to reading the article Mr. Rendall has written but I think people would be better served with total honesty. On Al Franken, aka Baby Cries A Lot, Mr. Rendell did not pull punches. He noted that the regular guests are mainstream voices and AEI rejects. He also noted that Mr. Franklin regularly advocates the continuation of the illegal war over the airwaves as well as, recently, in the pages of Playboy magazine.

What the discussion of Baby Cries A Lot most reminded me of was how he was promoted at the expense of all others and how, in the pages of The Progressive, his ego was on parade as he wrongly stated that no one at AAR had radio experience. Of course, I was reminded that one of the weakest voices this side of Senator Joe Lieberman graced the covers of both The Progressive and The Nation.

How does that happen? It is a question that is worth pondering because, yet again, AAR is pinning their hopes on a man. In this case, the man is Thom Hartman whose writing I know from BuzzFlash and have enjoyed. I assume Mr. Hartman will both be a stronger voice than Baby Cries A Lot and a huge success; however, I do question why AAR, yet again, feels the need to promote a man when Ms. Rhodes has proven to be very successful?

I further question why the hardest hitting pieces on AAR have appeared at this site, at The Third Estate Sunday Review, at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and at CounterPunch while much of our left media has instead acted as cheerleader to people that are 'not that left'?

For instance, if Mr. Rendall is examining Air America Radio, how does he miss the fact that women have repeatedly been pushed aside? When the programs first began airing, there were female voices on air. For example, in its first year, there were four more women featured during the week than are currently. How does that go unremarked upon?

I enjoyed the discussion and I look forward to reading Mr. Rendall's article but, in the end, I have the impression that punches were pulled, serious issues were ignored and that even a watchdog like FAIR will only go so far when addressing Air America Radio. Possibly, there is still some vested interest in AAR's success. I have no vested interest in their success. I believe the left has spent entirely too much time trying to rescue the radio equivalent of Senator Lieberman.