The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

14 November 2007

Variety Claims Rush Limbaugh Is Fueling Anger Behind Writers Strike


Talk Radio-Bashing Reaches New Heights Of Stupidity

*** NEW: Reformist Air America Programmer Quickly Canned ***

Are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other talk hosts fueling the anger behind the ongoing writers strike? In its coverage of the contentious labor conflict that is paralyzing Hollywood, that's the bizarre allegation made by Variety.

Though it took your Radio Equalizer a few passes through this piece to make sense of its point (and we're still not 100% sure), it appears to argue that Rush, Sean and others have created a larger environment of mistrust against the mainstream media, which has led strikers to lash out at Variety and other publications covering the walkout.

Apparently, picketers see the publication as a "corporate tool" thanks to the new cynicism toward the media, which has supposedly changed the tone of American politics.

From the piece, see if you can follow this twisted logic:

Amid the emotions surrounding the writers strike has been vitriol from some scribes toward any news outlet failing to echo their position — a “blame the messenger” attitude vented at coverage by Variety, among others.

Scanning message boards and blogs uncovers all manner of allegations about kowtowing to corporate interests. The assumption is that those not fully following the Writers Guild’s script must be bowing to pressure from their ownership or currying favor among advertisers, with journalists lacking the spine to bite the hands that feed us.

In this way, strike rhetoric is oddly mirroring modern politics, where partisans now filter straight-ahead reporting through an “us vs. them” prism, seeking out accounts that buttress their views while shunning those that might challenge them.

This represents a relatively recent dynamic, fueled by the Rush Limbaugh era of talkradio, cable news and the Internet, which barely existed during the last strike in 1988.

It’s an especially poisonous environment when applied to this fracas, since talent and the studios must eventually reunite once the saber-rattling and marching ends, whereas political combatants (or at least their public mouthpieces) are now locked in a state of perpetual warfare, the better to spice up the give and take on “Hannity & Colmes.”

The fallout from this in politics is the tendency to dismiss anything contrary to one’s ideology as being tainted at the source. On the right, the familiar cry is the “liberal media.” The left has countered by deriding the “corporate media” — a charge that quickly crept into the writers’ rants.

Of course, those who refuse to entertain competing viewpoints can hermetically seal themselves in bubbles more easily than ever. Unfortunately, the air inside those cocoons soon becomes pretty noxious, which is fine if you’re spoiling for a fight instead of fishing for solutions.

Aren't we officially at the point where talk radio- bashing has moved straight into Bush Derangement Syndrome territory? It's simply impossible to believe Limbaugh, Hannity and others are in any way promoting tensions in the WGA strike.

Limbaugh has addressed the walkout at least twice, but his digs have been reserved for empty- headed hosts and anchors who can't function without a team of writers. Here's what he had to say yesterday about CBS joining the strike:

Writers Strike Could Spread to CBS News

RUSH: You know this writers strike? It may spread to CBS News. CBS News writers could be joining their entertainment colleagues on the picket lines. The writers are members of the Writers Guild of America East. They are expected to vote unanimously Thursday to authorize the strike on both the national and local levels. They've been working without a contract since April of 2005. "It doesn't mean there will be a strike immediately, but it gives us the authority to call one," said the guild's spokeswoman, Sherry Goldman. Oh, this is a shocker to me. I thought CBS had guys like Bill Burkett writing their news stories. Well, Burkett cannot possibly be a member of the union, so they still have his services, unless he went over to HDNet with Dan Rather. But how's this going to affect the reporters?

Is this not an eye-opening thing? Stop and think about this for a second. You have all these highly paid and really high-reputation talk show hosts, comedy guys, funny men. I don't need to mention the names, you know who they are. Their shows have gone into reruns because they don't have any writers. I know some of it is respect and not wanting to cross picket lines and so forth, but really, wouldn't it make more sense to have people who can talk without writers to do a talk show? We don't have writers here at the EIB Network. It really is kind of interesting to me. Everybody has these impressions of these guys who show up and tell the jokes. "Wow, how funny are these guys," blah, blah, blah. I guess it's not a big secret. Johnny Carson had like 12 or 18 writers to do a ten-minute monologue every night. I mean, I know it's tough, don't misunderstand.

Here's another point: why have Air America Radio hosts felt the need to have writers? Other radio talkers would never resort to reading their shows from a script.

The bottom line is this: blaming talk hosts for almost any inconvenience or conflict has now become routine, in the same way our "progressive" friends look to play the political blame game whenever there is a fire, hurricane or earthquake. Could they be any more irrational?

UPDATE: Rush addressed the topic today on his show:

This most recent manifestation I am holding in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers. It is from Variety [the entertainment industry trade publication] and it's by Brian Lowry. The headline of the story: "Strike Fight Rages on in a Bubble." This is about the writers strike, the Writers Guild of America, the Hollywood writers strike. The last time there was one of the things it was 1988, and it was long. But it eventually got settled. I'm not going to read the whole piece to you. Let me read to you just a couple of relevant paragraphs. "Amid the emotions surrounding the writers strike has been vitriol from some scribes toward any news outlet failing to echo their position -- a 'blame the messenger' attitude vented at coverage by Variety, among others." See, right here is the truth. These scribes are upset that news outlets are not just following along against management, promoting the labor side of an issue like they always used to.


The whole premise here is, I must admit, at first when I saw it, I thought, "This is absolutely nuts. They're blaming me for it?" Then I got to thinking, they may have a point here, as I was just saying. In 1988 and prior years, the left got whatever they wanted. There was no opposition. I mean, there was opposition, they didn't get everything they wanted, but I mean it was pretty much rubber stamped, what they wanted to do. The way the media covered things was never challenged. What the media covered was never challenged. What they didn't cover was never challenged. Now all those days are gone, and the left doesn't know how to deal with it. That's the reason for the anger in this country and that's the reason for the partisanship. The anger and the partisanship's not us. We're just equal time. We're just showing a different way. We're just highlighting different news. We're quoting people the Drive-Bys won't quote. We're actually telling you what liberals say. We play sound bites where you actually hear them say it.

In the old days, amnesty would have happened. In the old days, the wet DREAM Act would have happened. In the old days, Spitzer would have gotten his driver's licenses for illegals. That's why they're mad. They're not getting what they want. There is opposition. So there has to be somebody to blame for this. It can't be them. It can't be that their ideas stink. It can't be that their ideas are unattractive. It can't be that nobody wants what they want done. Can't be that, their arrogance and elitism will not permit them to accept the fact that their ideas are no good. There has to be somebody to blame. And who is it? It is always me. I didn't bother printing this out, there's a climatologist, scientist out at University of Arizona who I highlighted. He's written a book. He's somebody that doesn't go along with the consensus of science. The Arizona newspapers are castigating this guy simply because I highlighted his work and spread his work beyond the university and academic arena in which he worked. Once again, I am to blame.

So, the way this works here, the reason I am to blame for the writers strike is that because the Rush Limbaugh era has created this perpetual argument that never gets solved, this constant bickering and partisanship, which never ends. It's infected both sides, and so essentially what we have here is an argument over the issues in the writers strike, and they see no end to this because the fight is what it's all about now, not the solution. There is a solution to all of this. If you people on the left will just realize how wrong you are, give up. But by the same token, we talk about principles and compromise. Well, when they talk about compromise, they conveniently leave out principle. Come on, you have to compromise, they always say that to us. Now we're saying it to them. If you won't compromise, we're going to beat you. After all, that's what they're trying to do to us. They're trying to beat us; they're trying to ruin us; they're trying to impugn us.

In the old days we just gave up, we didn't mount much of a fight because we didn't have the numbers, we didn't have the power. Now we have a few more numbers, a little bit more power, and we're not compromising on our principles. Well, some of us aren't. It just boils them mad. They're just enraged. Then they come out with this kind of stuff: Limbaugh responsible for the writers strike. May have a point. There may be some of this, not specifically about the writers strike, but the fact that the Limbaugh era of talk radio, cable news, and the Internet has presented an entirely new paradigm for the left to have to work in.

Mr. Snerdley just asked me over the IFB, "Is there anybody upset over this writer's strike?" It's an interesting question. Well, the picket line marches are going on, but I don't see the public marching outside David Letterman's studio demanding fresh shows. I don't see people marching outside wherever they do the Jon Stewart show, demanding fresh shows. I don't see anybody demanding fresh episodes of the stuff that runs at night in prime time.

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