Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rush Limbaugh: A Comprehensive Perspective!!!

The Rush Limbaugh "perspective" will be our final story!

I'd like to remind you again about the brand new song, "Born Again American" that's available on this blogsite. This is a song that is six minutes and 15 seconds long, but when you watch and hear it, you will not get the sense it's long at all. It IS, in my view, simply sensational! If you would like to listen and watch something that will tap into your soul (unless you are soul-less), simply look to the right of this blog where the "Links" section is. Scroll all the way down to the last link which will say, Born Again American. Click it, watch it, listen and enjoy!

And now we'll comment on some things that YOU have been talking about!!!

Pretty good Super Bowl, huh? It was the highest rated Super Bowl (television ratings wise) in history! This game was also (arguably) the worst REFEREED game in Super Bowl history!

Despite that, the game was entertaining!

SPEAKING OF ENTERTAINMENT...

Yesterday, I saw the new film, "Taken", starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace and a whole bunch of bad guys.

WOW, WOW, DOUBLE AND TRIPLE WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The film "Taken" takes you on a thrill ride that's virtually a major adrenaline rush! Liam Neeson plays an ex-CIA agent who has retired so he can be closer to his daughter who is played by Maggie Grace, who plays "adorable" as well as I've EVER seen anyone play "adorable". Famke Janssen plays Grace's mom and Neeson's ex-wife. Janssen is an actress I've had a major crush on forever and she's also an actress who "delivers" when she's given a role and for the life of me, I don't understand why she hasn't had the opportunity to do bigger things, but that's another subject for another time.

Anyway...The Maggie Grace character gets kidnapped after she has taken a trip to Paris. She's on the phone with her father when it happens. It is a kidnapping that the people who are responsible for, will live (then die) to regret it because this Neeson character is one bad hombre.
Again...The film is called "Taken" and you should take yourself to your favorite theatre and SEE this fun thrill ride!

Does anyone ELSE on President Obama's team have TAX problems?!?

Three truer words were never spoken than the three words spoken by President Obama yesterday when he said, "I screwed UP!!!"

There are two things we can take away from what has happened regarding people who have tax problems.

(1) If you're being asked to accept a job working for the President of the United States, you need to let him know immediately if there's any kind of problem with your taxes, because if you don't, someone else will tell him in one of two ways. If it's a friend of this administration, the message will be given privately. If it's an enemy of this administration, the information will be given to someone like Drudge, Limbaugh, Hannity or anyone else who wants to publicly embarrass President Obama.

(2) It is long past time to SIMPLIFY the tax code! I mean, REALLY simplify it! Right now, when people are trying to figure out their taxes (especially RICH people), they spend so much time trying to BEAT the tax system that they often unintentionally miss something that they obviously will have to pay a tax for.

I have been in favor of a "Flat Tax" for a LONG time!!! Do you know who is deathly AFRAID of a "Flat Tax"? Rich people, the tax preparing industry (H&R Block, etc.) and pointy-headed people who should know better.

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was ON to something when HE was advocating a "Flat Tax". Once he brought that proposal up, did you notice who were the FIRST group of his "supporters" who ran for the hills and QUIT supporting Huckabee? RICH RELIGIOUS LEADERS!!!


When are these BANKS going to quit spending bailout money like it's THEIRS?!?

I mean, when is some federal official (maybe with a badge) going to tell these banks who are in financial trouble that if they (the banks) use any MORE bailout money from US, the TAXPAYERS, for bonuses or fancy parties, the person or persons RESPONSIBLE for using our money in that fashion IS GOING TO JAIL!!!

Sudden thought: Because so MANY banks and other bailout recipient types are guilty of believing they can act like it's "business as usual" with all this government money they've been getting, it occurs to me that a nationwide overcrowding jail problem might make it difficult TO put all these people in jail.

Wellll...Because I like to consider myself to be part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem, please be advised that those private torture prisons that the Bush administration was using figure to have lots of vacancies now. Just a thought.

OTHER STUFF AND THEN THE RUSH LIMBAUGH COMPREHENSIVE PERSPECTIVE...

Are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens going to end up in PRISON?!?

Here in the Los Angeles area, there has been a lot of conversation about a woman who has no husband (nor does she want one), she lives with her mother and she recently had 8 kids. Yes, she gave birth to 8 kids. All at once. She requested and was given fertitility treatments. She was given these fertility treatments in spite of the fact she already HAD/HAS six other kids, the oldest being seven years old.

How does she plan to SUPPORT these 14 children? Ahhh, details , details. Right now, those details are whacha call, sketchy. As in, there aren't any. We are told that she would like to "SELL" her story for $2 million. Wouldn't we ALL?!? We're told she wants to talk to Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer. Apparently someone hasn't told this mother of 14 that getting money out of either of those two media moguls will be like trying to get blood from a stone, but if this mother of 14 was a rocket scientist, she wouldn't have had all these babies, but that's another story.

Let's go back to what she says she wants to do. Sell her story. For $2 million. Hmmm...A book deal, perhaps? Because there doesn't seem to be much "there, there" as far as a fascinating or compelling story to TELL about this mother of 14, she will need an eye-catching TITLE for her book. Hmmmm...Got it!!! I AM THE DUMBEST PERSON IN THE WORLD!

I can see THAT title front and center at MY favorite book store right now. And I would probably buy the darn thing.

TWO MORE "LOUSY ECONOMY" ITEMS...

Our economy sucks! You know it and I know it. You and I both FEEL it!!! Every damn day!!!

It ain't just here, folks. I'm in regular contact with several successful women in Russia. From what THEY tell me, it sounds like they've got it worse than we do. A LOT worse!

But they seem to have one thing in common with us. Over the last number of years, a small group of Russian people have gotten very rich. And now, the whole country is in deep doo-doo.

Here in America, over the last number of years, a small (population wise) number of American people got very rich. And now, OUR whole country is in deep doo-doo. We hear know-nothing de-regulation apologists like Sean "Little Lord Fauntleroy" Hannity holler about how President Obama's proposals will result in a massive "redistribution of wealth"!

No, "Little Lord", the "redistribution of wealth" is what has gotten us INTO the economic mess we're in right now. America and Russia. If we're not walking around with our rulers trying to show each other who has the biggest bomb, we're busy showing each other how we can ruin our standard(s) of living. Some people just never get out of high school, do they?

Speaking of people who have redefined the word, "Simplistic", it's now time for the "Rush Limbaugh" essay.

Yesterday (February 3rd), my good friend and LARadio.com publisher Don Barrett printed an essay about Rush Limbaugh that was written by Beau Weaver. A lot of you readers have probably never heard of Beau Weaver, but trust me when I tell you that you HAVE HEARD HIM because he has done thousands of radio commercials and hundreds of movie trailers. You know, the guy who's doing the talking while you're watching a preview of coming events before the film "Taken" starts. Because I spent a lot of time as a radio guy, I was very much aware of Beau Weaver, who before becoming a big time voiceover guy, was a successful radio personality. What I DIDN'T know about Beau Weaver (until yesterday) was his interest in politics, the human condition and Rush Limbaugh. What you are about to read is Beau Weaver's essay about Rush that will also include some references to himself. And it will give those of you who are interested in radio in general, a little history lesson about how things are done, how they used to be done and how dangerous it can be if you forget who you REALLY are!
I hope you find this to be as fascinating as I did and do.

And it starts NOW!

Rush Limbaugh is getting a lot of promotional help these days, though he does not need it, from the preposterous suggestion that he is the new head of the Republican party. This makes about as much sense as suggesting that Kiefer Sutherland should head the CIA. You do know that Jack Bauer is just a character on a television show, right? Just as Rush Limbaugh is a character invented by a radio deejay who had to reinvent himself as a talk show host many years ago.

Mistaking Limbaugh for an actual political authority is not much different from thinking Stephen Colbert is actually a conservative talk show host. You see? The media fun house mirror has distorted our perceptions beyond belief. And, in this confusion, former top forty deejay Limbaugh is in a real way responsible for the complete breakdown of civic discourse is America.

In the early 70's, I had the pleasure of working in the hallowed halls of some of America's big time pop music radio stations in major markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Top Forty is a genre that no longer exists. Rush Limbaugh was a radio jock trying to get there too. He used the air name 'Jeff Christy', and was...well, just not really major market material. At one point, he got out of radio entirely for a sports marketing job. But radio was in his blood, and he found his way back into broadcasting as a talk show host in Sacramento.

Though Rush Limbaugh is his real name, the "conservative blowhard" persona was a character he created, largely to play against his expectations of "liberal Northern California". Contrary to popular myth, California is not a liberal monolith; the Golden State gave birth to Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the John Birch Society, for crying out loud! Confounding the expectations of most media observers, the Bombastic Right Wing act worked. However, in time, El Rushbo forgot that it was just a character. He became it. Or, it became him.

Radio personalities understand this all too well. Just ask Howard Stern's ex-wife, Alison. Radio performers often use their own name, and the on air persona they create is, in fact, based on their own personality, but writ large, with some new fictional elements, and other parts of their actual life edited out. Even though "that radio guy" has the same name as your own, and is similar to you in many ways, it is in every sense a character you have written and developed over time. It is a role which you play on the air every day, but which is most definitely not you.

An actor in a play or a film knows very well where the character ends and he, the actor begins. He takes off the makeup and costume and resumes the use of his own name. For the radio personality, the line is blurred. Soon, the vast majority of the world you live in relates to you as this character. He is the one who gets the accolades and praises if you are successful. He is not you, but, who would blame you for preferring to be him?

In the early 80's, I was an on air talent in Houston. The once dominant but now declining AM station that employed me assigned me to experiment with reinventing the call in talk show format at night. The ratings were so low, there was nothing to lose. At that time, talk shows were mind-numbingly boring, all public affairs-ish and shades of grey. My program director charged me with applying all of the tricks and techniques of radio showmanship to this moribund genre to see if we couldn't make something happen. I achieved a small measure of success.

But I observed something curious. People assumed that since I had a talk show, that I must "be something". At that time, the few talk shows around were hosted by actual experts in some field. But I was shocked at how often I was mistaken for being someone whose opinions might actually matter. I would get a call from someone who identified themselves as, say, the director of the Rice University International Symposium on Middle Eastern Affairs. She would be inviting me to be a guest speaker at their big annual event featuring Ph.D's and Foreign Policy experts. "Well, er, okay", I said. "But do you guys know who I am? You guys know I am just a disc jockey, right? And that my hair is down to my ass, and I am typically wearing a Foghat tee shirt and cut-off jeans?" "Oh, Mr. Weaver, you are just being modest", they would say. No, I wasn't. "Look, I'm telling you the truth here, I'm just a disc jockey, who dropped out of college when he no longer needed the draft deferment." They were not having any of it. "But, Mr. Weaver, we listen to your program all the time, and we greatly respect your keen insights. We realize that the self deprecation is just part of your charm, which is why we would value your participation so very much." Yikes. They were buying my act!

That is exactly what happened to Jeff Christy, er, I mean...Limbaugh. His audience thought he was really that guy. And pretty soon, he forgot that he wasn't. While I was doing talk radio, I also discovered that thoughtful consideration of both sides of the issue did not make for compelling radio. The middle road may be the most reasonable approach to a particular idea, but it does not make the phones ring. I discovered that when I would extend the logical extreme of a viewpoint and exaggerate it for the sake of irony, the phones would explode. The audience did not perceive the irony. Phil Hendrie built a career around this observation. It made for entertaining radio. But when the audience does not understand that you are doing parody, you have a dilemma. Either you go back to the bland, or you start building credibility for something that you know is not truthful. What's more, the more extreme I became the more free media publicity my show would get. A dozen television and newspaper feature stories were done on me. And then the station manager started lobbying for me to make my parody bits into a full time format.

On a march larger scale, this is what happened to Limbaugh. I will give the devil his due however; as a broadcaster, Rush Limbaugh is a master showman, using all the tricks of the radio man's art. But Rush's success has almost completely destroyed our ability to have a constructive national dialogue about policy.

The rhetorical techniques Rush uses are primarily hyperbole and mischaracterization. You simply take your opponent's ideas, then caricature them until they are a complete misrepresentation of their actual views. You insist always, that your opponent actually represents the most extreme fringe faction of people who hold their beliefs, then demonize them as being the personification of evil. Not just wrong, but evil. And the root of all evil. Then you stick with that position, repeat it relentlessly and never, ever waver. Never back down. Never apologize. You are always 100% confident that your opponent is wrong, and self consciously evil.

This makes sense for a radio man, trying to create a consistent share of mind for his "brand". His position must be absolute, and without nuance. Just like the radio station whose slogan was "All News All The Time", Rush had to be "All Conservative Blowhard All The Time". The radio consultants told him he had to repeat his core branding position every 7 minutes, because that is how often the audience turned over. This is a great way to position a brand, but a bad way to have a serious discussion about important national issues, which are always full of nuance.

This is the problem we are struggling with as a nation trying to make sense of some extremely complex problems. As Rush became hugely successful in national syndication, radio consultants reduced his act to formula which was imposed on almost all other talk hosts around the country. And, when Cable News Networks had a bunch of hours to fill, they simply imitated the Rush Limbaugh format on television. Over a dozen or more years, this has changed the way we discuss issues, and it does not serve us. What was once constructive deliberation, now resembles the WWE.

The Republicans demonize the Democrats as being Socialists, when they are the ones who vastly increased the size of government and federal power. They accuse the Democrats of being the "Tax and Spend" party, even though they are the ones who put an unnecessary trillion dollar war on the national credit card, and passed out billions to Wall Street with no strings attached. But by repeating the old argument ad infinitum, it persists. You see, this is the top forty dictum of "Play the Hits" that they learned by imitating Limbaugh. Those arguments won for them in the past, so the strategy is to simply keep repeating them over and over, like the Classic Rock stations keep playing Stairway to Heaven over and over.

Limbaugh has taught the Republicans to continue to call the Democrats "the party of big government". Actually, the truth is, the conservatives won that argument many years ago. Even progressives don't want the government to be big; they just want it to be effective. But the Right learned Rush's deejay lessons well. When you have a hit record, you just keep playing it, over and over again. And of course, it must be added that it is not only the Right that has reflexively used these rhetorical blunt instruments. The Limbaugh scorched earth style of engagement has infected and demeaned the entire national conversation, including, sometimes, that emanating from center left. This has to change.

We are in a worldwide financial emergency. For survival's sake, we have to stop looking at everything in terms of the political chess game. We have some really big national problems to grapple with. Like it or not, our elected representatives are going to have to find a way to reinvent the way capitalism works. Our political and economic system is not ideologically pure; It is a hybrid of individualistic and collective elements. The tension between the two will always be with us, and is in fact the genius of American politics. Continuing to demonize the other side as being evil extremists is simply not going to fix anything. The solutions we end up with will be somewhere between the 40-yard lines. We cannot expect our short term emergency solutions to be ideologically pure.

Rush Limbaugh is a compelling radio character. His pig-headed consistency is a brilliant example of effective radio branding. But you have to stop taking the things he says seriously. He is a cartoon! An entertainer! And we as a nation must learn to have a national dialogue about public policy that involves listening, cooperation, collegiality and compromise.

I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Jeff Christy had made it to WLS or KFRC, undoubtedly his dream stations, back in the mid 70's. The world we live in might well be a much more civilized place.

THOUGHTS and or COMMENTS? Please write to me at scottstjames@sbcglobal.net. If you write to the blog, I won't know your email address so I won't be able to respond to you. All letters written to me at scottstjames@sbcglobal.net are answered by me.

THE NEXT BLOG? Barring unforseen circumstances, the next blog will be written Wednesday, February 11 and will be posted early or late that evening.



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