There's a good reason that Limbaugh made it
The Kansas City Star
It was back in the late ‘80s when I heard about a new radio program coming to a station in Kansas City. As I was driving in my car I heard the station’s announcer say it was the fastest-growing program in the history of radio: The Rush Limbaugh Show.
I was impressed by that, but skeptical. There is such a thing as false advertising. I thought I remembered Limbaugh in Kansas City, where he called himself Jeff Christie. But he got fired, twice I think, and I forgot about him. I did remember pictures of him with a mustache and long hair. I remembered something about how he got fired in Pittsburgh, too, and told to change professions. He was a good talker and his boss advised him he might have possibilities as an ad salesman. Then he worked for the Royals. Then he got a job at a small radio station in the far west and I forgot about him.
So, I thought, is he still looking like a hippie, and maybe trying to play the Top 40 and tell jokes about drugs and getting with the In Crowd, taking drugs and being cool, and trying to be a star like John Belushi? Or is it a talk show with a panel? Or will he have games and prizes? What is he doing that made his show the fastest-growing ever? When the show did start in KC, I listened to it, thinking I might want to jeer.
But I soon learned he had found a revolutionary new type of political news program. He was on the side of Republicans. He was biased against Democrats, and he admitted it!
He was nothing like the mainstream media, like the print press or NBC, ABC and CBS, which pointed out that equal treatment of the two parties was their goal, actually their passion. They hated bias of any kind, and went straight down the line, fair to Democrats and Republicans alike. That was their theme, their foundation and reason for being. They reported to us that’s what journalism is all about, and when you lose your credibility, you lose the people.
After listening to the new Limbaugh, I easily determined he was giving the good points of Republicans, with stories and opinions never heard on the major TV news programs. Pretty soon I started wondering, when he said something that seemed to make sense, what the mainstream media would think about that subject. Turned out Limbaugh was bringing up subjects that never made it to the mainstream media.
I remember thinking in 1960 that Nixon never had a chance against Kennedy, because Kennedy was loveable and dynamic and Nixon was a scowling schemer. Then the results came in, and Kennedy had barely won. How can that be, I thought, when I had heard from all three networks and the magazines I subscribed to, such as Newsweek and Time, report, with right-down-the-line real-professional journalism, that JFK had charm, loved all minorities and was dedicated to his wife and children. Nixon, I knew from the reports, was devious. There could be no case he was dumb, like all other Republican candidates before and after him, because he was tops in his class, but, unfortunately, this rare business of being a smart Republican candidate, also, I learned from the professional press, allowed him to be even more devious. This gave him the ability to fool the American public into thinking he didn’t hate minorities and justice for all, while the mainstream media revealed that only JFK truly spoke for minorities and cared about the little man.
I wondered why that race was so close. And why in a later election Republican Ronald Reagan won so big. I knew from the straight-down-the-line press accounts, that a lightweight B actor, billed below Bonzo, a monkey, had won easily over Democrats, who didn’t hate the poor as he did.
Then I recalled that the dumb Republican president, Eisenhower, actually mostly a jock who would rather play golf than govern, lost to the sophisticated and brilliant Adlai Stevenson. Twice. That was puzzling.
Only lately have I read stories that report there are more conservatives than liberals,maybe even more Republicans than Democrats. It turns out if you’re not writing editorials, broadcasting news, teaching school, picketing or acting in movies, you may be a Republican.
So, sure, Limbaugh built up a good audience. If you were a Republican, you probably would like to listen to a Republican share your views. So you could dial in Limbaugh’s program. You wouldn’t dial in to ABC, CBS, NBC or PBS news, even if they reported their stories were scrupulously fair, not unfair like the Limbaugh show, and so you knew the fair stations actually would mention Republican candidates. There were a great number of brilliant journalistic investigations, all involving Republicans. For example, when Republican Senator Joe McCarthy called for an investigation of communists in Washington, the serious professional press immediately launched a series of investigations – of McCarthy.
But if I wanted to hear a favorable story about Republicans, I could dial only Limbaugh. Suddenly I realized: Everything he says is an exclusive! One scoop after another! Limbaugh, for years, was a man without competition. Some 150 million Republicans in America were hoping to hear somebody say something nice about them. Suddenly, they had found one!
I realized his show isn’t something to jeer at. You listen to him, and you get unique stories, stories Democrats have never even considered; because no Democrat I have ever talked to listens to Limbaugh’s program. All Democrats have listened for only five minutes each, enough to know they never again should tune in. So only a growing number of Republicans, starting to get suspicious about how completely down-the-middle everybody else is, started tuning him in.
But the late ‘80s was a long time ago, and since then Limbaugh has been joined by Fox News, a TV network, that also is biased, never mind Geraldo or Shep or the other tokens cunningly put on Fox to divert the fact of bias. Meanwhile, the professional unbiased stations such as NBC, CBS, CNN and ABC, with an audience made up of open-minded people who prefer to listen to reason, their base, have to split their audience.
So let’s give Rush credit. Anybody willing to go insult-for-insult with so many true professionals, masters of the art, and to grow as they shrink, deserves praise for courage and for, apparently, ability. He also deserves credit for his business plan of saying good things about Republicans and bad things about Democrats. Admittedly, his imagination was not taxed to do so; but he could have gone with the Top 40 and drugs-are-cool and surely made it with the kids. Anyway, it turned out well for him, better than I expected when I was skeptical about how to grow a business and thinking maybe I was hearing some false advertising.