Tuesday, October 20, 2009


OK, I'll play. David Frum posted this on Saturday:

... Suppose an agent arrived in the offices of Limbaugh/Beck/Hannity/O’Reilly etc. with an offer. "I can guarantee you a deal that will pay you twice as much -- bring you twice as much fame -- and extend your career twice as long -- if you'd say the exact opposite of what you are saying now.” Which of them would sign?

My nominations: O'Reilly accepts for sure. Beck likewise almost certainly says yes. Limbaugh would want to think it over, but would ultimately say no. Mark Levin: certainly not. Sean Hannity would need the offer explained a few times. Ann Coulter -- that one puzzles me -- but probably no. Roger Ailes? Do you even need to ask?

Steve Benen agrees that Ailes, Coulter, and O'Reilly would take the offer, but that Beck wouldn't ("he seems more motivated by the voices in his head than financial rewards"). Levin and Hannity? No. Mori Dinauer at Tapped seems to doubt anyone would switch:

I'm skeptical. Some of the people [Frum] name-checks probably started out as opportunists, but there had to be a kernel of belief that motivated them to become conservative rather than liberal entertainers in the first place. And now they've moved beyond opportunism into full-fledged conservative brands. To accommodate the switch they would have to engineer a full-fledged public political conversion that, frankly, would be impossible to believe.

I think most of these folks, if not all of them, would reject the offer -- largely because they wouldn't believe that our side could deliver.

I don't think it's an either/or question -- Are they true believers or are they opportunists? I think nearly all of these people are sincere right-wingers who became professional right-wingers in part because they're opportunists. I think they believe that, if you're a professional right-winger, the money's always good (while it never seems nearly as good on the left). Even Limbaugh, who's regarded as a talk radio pioneer, had the success of people like Joe Pyne, Bob Grant, and Morton Downey Jr. to model himself on -- radio talk has always skewed right, hasn't it?

I think these guys would happily go apolitical -- Ailes ran the precursor to MSNBC (and hired hosts such as Charles Grodin), Beck was a shock jock, Limbaugh was a Top 40 DJ (and later tried fottball color commentary), O'Reilly hosted A Current Affair -- but I don't think they'd go left-wing because they'd doubt that the money and fame would really be there. Why switch? Right-wing audiences are fanatical. And if the audience disappears, there's always serious foundation money, right?

I think these people would happily tack within conservatism -- just watch, as the midterms approach, how Beck and the other Foxsters suddenly start saying nicer and nicer things about the Republican Party -- but tack all the way left? Nahhh. They just wouldn't believe it was a good move, even with the hypothetical agent's ironclad guarantee. Once you succeed with a wingnut audience, you're set for life.

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