The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, March 7, 2008

Remembering Rush

Limbaugh in the Valley.

When going through the material on Fred King yesterday, I came across an old WHYN promotional flyer that listed on it "Rush Limbaugh's The 20 Undeniable Truths of Life." I leave you to decide how undeniably true his pronoucements are, but there is no question that Rush Limabaugh was one of the great pioneers of talk radio and also had an impact on talk radio in the Pioneer Valley.

Limbaugh was the first to grasp how to really exploit the repeal of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. This was an FCC regulation that required any radio station that aired a political opinion of any kind to offer equal time to anyone with an opposing view. In theory it was a well meaning regulation, designed to prevent radio station owners from using their stations to promote political candidates through biased coverage.

In reality, it turned radio into a vast wasteland of political blandness. In radio time is money, so any free time that a station had to give out to balance political views meant less time available for regular programming and airing ads. Therefore almost all stations had a strict rule that radio hosts must not express a single political opinion on any subject. Many had the policy that if an announcer accidentally did express an opinion which caused the station to have to give away free air time to opponents, then that announcer would be fired. Therefore the Fairness Doctrine was despised by everyone who worked in radio and anyone who treasured free speech and democracy.

In 1980, a former radio personality named Ronald Reagan was elected to the Presidency of the United States, and delighted every radio worker in America by forcing the FCC to repeal the hated Fairness Doctrine. At last radio announcers enjoyed the freedom that all Americans do of speaking their minds freely in public.

Conservative Rush Limbaugh was convinced that there was a large audience that didn't hear their political opinions on the airwaves. He decided he would become their spokesperson, and build a radio network that would exploit the new freedom that the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine had created. He therefore went around the country signing up stations to carry his show. One of them was Dan Yorke, who was then the owner of WSPR and a local radio pioneer in his own right. Like Rush, Yorke felt that there was an audience locally that was not getting the political news they needed and wanted, and so if Yorke was offering it on the local level, then Rush offering it on national issues would be a perfect match.

Dan Yorke, through his own program and by introducing the Valley to Rush, revolutionized local talk radio. Despite the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, before Yorke it was extremely rare for local politicians to face any critical commentary on the radio. What coverage they received was either fawning or spinelessly neutral in that the politician was allowed to say whatever they wanted on the air without any meaningful challenge from the host. Political coverage also reflected the very strong bias towards the Democrat Party in the Valley, so it was rare to hear conservative or Republican views. When Yorke took over WSPR and began attacking local Democrats while simultaneously bringing in the Rush Limbaugh Show it was like a blast of fresh air blowing away the cobwebs of years of political and ideological stagnation in the local media.

In the late 80's Rush was still new enough so that whenever a new station signed up for his EIB Network, then Rush himself would appear to promote the show locally. So one day Rush and Yorke were down at Baystate West (now called Tower Square) with Rush greeting and signing autographs for the local shoppers. Afterwards, Yorke took Rush to the bar in the Springfield Marriot for some adult beverages. Yorke told me that he asked Rush whether his radio personality was something of a created persona and that Rush admitted to him that it was.

In later years Rush would adamantly insist that there was no distinction between himself in real life and who he was on the air. But his career was almost derailed when it was ultimately discovered that he was secretly a bigtime drug addict. Yet he managed to survive that scandal, and remains an important force in American politics right up to this day.

Oh well, in any case here's the list of "undeniable truths" from the flyer promoting his show when it was new.

Rush Limbaugh's
The 20 Undeniable Truths of Life

1. There is a God.
2. Words mean things.
3. Compassion is no substitute for justice.
4. Character matters; leadership decends from character.
5. Morality is not defined by individual choice.
6. No nation ever taxed itself into prosperity.
7. Progress is not striving for economic justice or fairness, but economic growth.
8. If you commit a crime, you are guilty.
9. Poverty is not the root cause of crime, breaking the law is.
10. There is a simple way to solve the crime problem: Obey the law, punish those who do not.
11. There is distinct, singular American culture - rugged individualism and self-reliance - which made America great.
12. The vast majority of the rich in this country did not inherit their wealth; they earned it. They are the country's achievers, producers and job creators.
13. The Earth's eco-system is not fragile.
14. Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of the 20th century.
15. Abstinence prevents sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy - every time it's tried.
16. Follow the money. When someone says, "It's not the money," it's always the money.
17. Liberals attempt through judicial activism what they cannot achieve at the ballot box.
18. Using federal dollars as a measure, our cities have not been neglected, but poisoned with welfare dependency funds.
19. Liberals measure compassion by how many people are given welfare. Conservatives measure compassion by how many people no longer need it.
20. Evidence refutes liberalism.

Buzzboy Greg Saulmon (above) gives good soundbite on all things New Media in a radio interview you can listen to by clicking here. Hotboy Paolo Mastrangelo has a great series on the clumsy attempts the Hampshire Gazette is making online that you can read by clicking here.

I recently had my own minor run-in with Gazette online ineptness when I tried to send an email to the letters section of their sister publication The Amherst Bulletin. Nowhere on their Letters page did it tell you where to send an email! Nor did it tell you anything about their policies for accepting emails, or for that matter, just plain old letters! I wrote a pissy prelude to the email I eventually sent to the highest person on their masthead, accusing them of not actually wanting feedback from their readers.

I don't really believe that, I just wrote it because I was annoyed. But the truth is unfortunately worse than that, because I'll bet the real reason that there was no information was because no one on the staff had ever been to their online letters page to notice that the information was missing. I suspect most of the Gazette staff is in their ivory tower, clinging to their credentials and thinking of themselves purely as "print journalists" and don't really know nor care what their publications are like online. Okay if that's how they feel, but the financial websites are writing almost daily the obituaries of publications with that attitude.

The worst mistake the Gazette is making is not grasping the essential truth that the business model for newpapers on and off the internet is IDENTICAL. The goal of both newspapers and websites is to attract a large audience and then sell that audience to advertisers. The larger the audience, the more you can charge for your ads. When you put any restrictions on the size of that audience, such as charging a subscription like the Gazette does for its online content, then you are artificially limiting your audience size and thereby lowering the price of what you can sell your ads for. That's not just a bad cyberspace policy, that's a suicidal one.

Today for lunch I went to Earthfoods at the UMass Student Union. Every day it puts its menu for the day up on a board outside the entrance. It lists yesterday's menu as well, since it is usually still available as leftovers. (click photo to enlarge)

Earthfoods has a militantly organic/healthfood menu, with much of the food purchased just down the road from the farmfields of Hadley.

They say that students love junk food (and they do) but they can also be enticed to enjoy healthier fare, as you can see.

Even if you're not crazy about healthfood (I'm not) you have to like Earthfood's positive message.

Check it out next time when you're looking for an extra healthy lunch.

Those maniacs from Amherst's Hampshire College who produce those comedy skits CopDetectives have gone a little afield this time with something tasteless but clever.


P. Mastrangelo said...

Tommy, I really enjoy your historic posts on days past. When I first stumbled upon the the Baystate Objectivist long ago, I was astounded, and as I informed you recently, that email sent to you a few years back inviting you out to have coffee was sent by me, as I felt I just needed to meet who was writing this history.

re:"Hotboy Paolo Mastrangelo." Laughed out loud. thanks Tommy.

Greg said...

Hey, Paolo gets to be "Hotboy" and I'm only "Buzzboy"? I'm jealous! And I need a headshot that shows off my abs.

Well, at least I have my own tag.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just read your Rush post one year later. I notice he didn't follow the points he made about committing a crime.