Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Michael Grynbaum and three other New York Times journalists (plus an additional one who "contributed reporting") have learned something shocking: There are right-wingers on talk radio, and they said really inflammatory things in the run-up to the January 6 Capitol riot. Who knew?
Two days before a mob of Trump supporters invaded the United States Capitol, upending the nation’s peaceful transition of power and leaving at least five people dead, the right-wing radio star Glenn Beck delivered a message to his flock of 10.5 million listeners: “It is time to fight.”

“It is time to rip and claw and rake,” Mr. Beck said on his Jan. 4 broadcast. “It is time to go to war, as the left went to war four years ago.”

... He told listeners that Donald J. Trump had taught conservatives that “you don’t have to cower anymore, you don’t have to back down when ridiculed into oblivion. You can fight back.”

... Mark Levin, who reaches an estimated 11 million listeners a week, said in a Christmas broadcast that stealing elections “is becoming the norm for the Democrat Party” and called on his listeners to “crush them, crush them. We need to kick their ass.”

Bill Cunningham, a syndicated host in Cincinnati, told listeners on Jan. 4: “I will never surrender and collapse and act as if it’s OK when hundreds of thousands have voted illegally.”

... On Dec. 16, [Rush] Limbaugh — the country’s No. 1 radio host, with an audience of about 15.5 million a week — told listeners that Mr. Biden “didn’t win this thing fair and square, and we are not going to be docile like we’ve been in the past, and go away and wait till the next election.”

“Seventy-four-plus million Americans are not going to shut up, and you tell them that their views don’t matter?” Mr. Limbaugh thundered. “You do not know what you’re creating. You do not know the enemy you are manufacturing.”
Wow! Did you know that right-wing radio hosts talk like this?

Of course you did -- but Grynbaum et al. apparently didn't, or at least they assume that the readers of the Times didn't know it. They write:
Talk radio is perhaps the most influential and under-chronicled part of right-wing media, where the voices of Mr. Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other star hosts waft through the homes, workplaces and commutes of tens of millions of listeners.
Well, if it's "under-chronicled," whose fault is that? Grynbaum and his colleagues work for The New York Times. Every few weeks for the past few years, their paper has sent a reporter to rural diners and other venues seeking the voices of Real Americans. What has prevented the Times from assigning someone to the talk radio beat over the same period -- or, really, anytime during the past thirty years? We would have learned a hell of a lot more about the anger of heartland whites from close attention to the radio shows they listen to than from interrupting them when they're eating scrambled eggs to ask them whether they still like Trump.

Oh, but it's hard to monitor talk radio.
Unlike cable TV, talk radio is difficult to monitor — broadcasts often vanish into the ether and transcripts are scarce.
Have you tried, y'know, recording the shows off the air? That wouldn't exactly require a massive investment in technology. It wouldn't be necessary for a reporter to listen to every episode of every leading show. But would it be so difficult for a resource-rich news organization like the Times to pay attention to talk radio at key moments in our politics? And as for transcripts, Rush Limbaugh has posted them on his site every broadcast day for years, at least when he's not replaced by a guest host. I've frequently quoted from his transcripts.

If Media Matters can monitor many right-wing TV and radio broadcasters, why can't the Times? Or The Washington Post? Or other large news organizations? Do you maybe this is the part of the reason the mainstream political world missed the radicalization of Middle America?

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