The Spirit of Radio (AM)

The title of this blog entry is taken from the RUSH song of the same name. I find it ironic that a Canadian rock band, deftly puts it’s finger on the beauty of the First Amendment rights we enjoy in the USA, although I am sure RUSH was celebrating the beauty of the medium of radio providing free music (almost free), and not just as an outlet for political news and information. I  celebrated the 4th of July last summer with some Cuban expatriates (naturalized U.S. citizens), who are more grateful to be in the U.S. than most die-hard Tea Party people I come into contact with (another irony). In light of my uplifting experiences on the 4th, and in light of my concern for the US given the current Congress and President, and the upcoming elections, I have been thinking about the way words move us politically. The editorial bent of the medium we get our political news and information from, in large part determines the kind of news we get, how it will be presented, and what insight we actually gain from said news.

For my part, I get about half of my political news and political opinion from AM talk radio, so that immediately tells you something about my ideology. AM radio is my favorite means of broad communication to the public, in large part because it doesn’t have to rely on beautiful people to deliver the message, like TV does, for example. In removing the visual element, the mind may be less easily distracted, and less likely to miss subtle nuances in meaning and editorial intention. I also prefer local, AM radio, for its campy, local color aspects. In Sacramento, California, a politically liberal city and state, I listen to Armstrong & Getty (http://armstrongandgettyradio.com/) in the morning while I brush my teeth or drive to work. The A&G show accurately reflects the kinds of things I listen to, and again, that tells you something about my ideology, and my sense of humor. AM radio affords me a sense of connectedness in my local community that I would probably otherwise miss, but I also enjoy AM radio because it is less socially inter-connected than Facebook.com, for example, even though people of all stripes call in with better or worse commentary on the issues of the day. AM radio allows me to ‘drop in”, at my convenience, and weigh my own opinions about the issues of the day versus the opinions and rants of hosts and other listeners who happen to call in. I think radio is less sticky than the web, which seemingly demands interactivity at its core. On the web, one can be considered a “lurker” for having a social site account and not posting often, or rarely engaging in debate. I am just that sort of “lurker” on FB, where I am surprised to find people’s most dearly held political beliefs often bubbling up, and inciting more or less debate on their thread. (I do enjoy the fact that FB, YouTube, etc., allows everyone a chance to broadcast themselves and their opinions…very democratic!)

I love AM radio for the fact that it is paid for by hard-working business people in my local community who are advertising. The commercials are surely a pain in the ass, but they coincide with my personal, moral/political code, which is loosely, “pull your own damn weight!” The aforementioned commercials are an indication that someone, somewhere, is doing something to make a living. I love that! Radio experiments with more politically liberal-leaning editorial bent haven’t fared well in the free market economy of radio, most notably, Air America (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/air-america-radio-files-bankruptcy). Just in case you are tempted to rub my nose in NPR (which I often tune in to), they are funded, in part, with tax money taken from the US citizenry. I have a sneaking suspicion that liberally bent AM radio doesn’t play well in the market, as the demographic target that may be drawn to the content of liberal radio, probably isn’t waking early to brush teeth, or hurry off to grind out their daily bread. I imagine that those who are inclined towards broader government and more entitlement programs (even the entitlement programs the AARP might endorse), are sitting at home on their political posteriors, watching Brian Williams from the comfort of a couch! Ouch! (Or if you prefer insert your favorite, left-leaning, network news organization here)  (Not too long ago, I gave a withering critique of network news programming while assisting a friend on a post-graduate thesis paper, that critique is reproduced as the first comment under this post for the curious.)

Newspapers, which are generally held to have a more liberal editorial angle, have lost their market to the web, television, and AM radio. Newspapers are mostly dead or dying, and even though I hold words dear, I could care less. The liberal intelligentsia that ran the papers into the ground are effectively pointing out by accident one of the fundamental flaws in liberalism, which is, in my humble opinion, this; “If you can’t sell it, it doesn’t exist!”

The true spirit of AM radio goes something like this, “Welcome to the USA, enjoy our free radio, and our First Amendment while you brush your teeth…then get your ass to work!”

The Bible states a similar truth more elegantly, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Word!

P.S. My sons and I saw RUSH in concert 3X in the last 18 months, which was most definitely not free! Rush opened each show with, “The Spirit of Radio”, and gave us our full $$ worth each time! 😉

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About scribblerjeff

wordswurdswirds is the first-time ever blog on words, language, and the culture they invoke, through the eyes, mind, and keyboard of Jeff Jenkins. Jeff is a Christian/outlaw, husband, father, reader, writer, theologian, philosopher, and pre-apocalyptic, pop-culture prophet of the new media, which is the same as the old media. There is nothing new under the Sun. When I am not writing this blog, I am selling commercial janitorial services, though in my mind, I am already at the California Coast with my family and friends. Word! View all posts by scribblerjeff

One response to “The Spirit of Radio (AM)

  • scribblerjeff

    Television: The Pulse of Our Culture A Reflection Paper

    The Evening News: NBC national broadcast at 5:30 PM, Thursday, May 23, 2008.

    I. Intro 60 seconds
    The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams opens with B.W., sitting behind the anchor desk for 30 seconds, teasing the top 4 features to come on the news. He mentions:
    1. Twister in Colorado
    2. Update on legal rulings swirling around a Texas Polygamous compound’s children, who were taken by Texas CPS authorities for suspicion of various kinds of abuse.
    3. First words from Massachusetts Senior Senator Ted Kennedy since brain tumor diagnosis.
    4. Trading Places – Today show news anchor, Anne Khoury, allows cameras to enter into her family’s process of acceptance, grieving and celebration for her father’s life 2 short months after his death.

    II. Opening Titles Sequence – 15 seconds

    After this brief 30-second tease, the main titles hit the screen, accompanied by bold anthem style music with bright trumpet sounds. (The title sequence evokes emotions of pomp, circumstance, and gravitas. The music and graphics signal that the stories we are about to see are of high importance and worthy of serious consideration.)(For future reference, Jeff Jenkins’ reflections will be in parentheses and in italics.)

    III. Body of News Delivery
    Cut Back to BW, sitting behind anchor desk for body of news. In all, 10 “news” features were presented with 3 commercial interruptions. The 10 features synopses are as follows:

    1.Twister – 2 Minutes, 20 Seconds – Video footage and field reporter on site in Colorado, where unusual storm activity has generated damaging tornadoes. Liberal use of man/woman on street interviews, lots of footage of property damage, specifically highlighting a destroyed school where children were evacuated in time. (I am reminded of the old news adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” We are immediately brought to attention by a tale of property destruction and human woe in the wake of the storm. The story pulls the heart strings of fear of loss, the capricious will of nature, human frailty in the face of nature, and also the theme of human fortitude in the face of extreme situations.)(I feel immediately emotionally manipulated.)
    2. Custody ruling on Texas polygamous cult children who were seized by state CPS authorities. – 2 Minutes -Texas appellate court rules that children were taken without ample evidence of imminent threats to child safety. Footage of court steps, childless cult mothers in prairie dress eagerly awaiting children’s return, and video of children playing in protective custody site. Text excerpts from the ruling inserted, as well as woman on the street blurbs from FLDS cult mothers. (The national mood appears to be, “The government shouldn’t be able to wantonly remove children from parents custody, even in the case of a non-mainstream, Mormon cult. The cult women are given “sympathetic” video shots, demonstrating their fugue over loss of children and their relief at the prospect of children coming home. It is interesting to note that in this case of “children potentially being sexually abused” vs. “the government should not be able to yank our children”, the national mood, and this broadcast, lean on the side of “less government involvement in families”. In the era of heightened paranoia surrounding child predators, this is an astonishing piece of social commentary. As Americans, it appears we are still more afraid of unchecked governmental power than we are of child predation! Very reminiscent of the original U.S. values of small government powers and checks on governmental authority. We are still a fiercely independent people, even as government involvement in our lives slowly creeps towards totalitarianism with the advent of more and more government initiated social projects.)
    3. Ted Kennedy’s First Words – 2 Minutes, 20 Seconds – Senior Senator Ted Kennedy diagnosed with brain tumor. Video of Kennedy boarding a sailboat near the Kennedy compound. Sen. Kennedy reflects on childhood importance of the ocean and sailing on the entire Kennedy family. Kennedy acknowledges the well wishes of colleagues, and praises the professionalism of his caregivers. (A perfect example of how current news programs gloss over fact based reporting, i.e. no mention of the medical facts, the treatment plans, or the prognosis for the patient, or even discussion of potential political ramifications should Kennedy die or give up office, in favor of what is often referred to as “The Cult of Personality”. We are basically getting a “biopic” of yet another Kennedy. The ailing Senator is shown sailing. Is this programming aimed at showing us how “healthy”, “spry”, and “optimistic” the terminal man is? Naturally, there is also archival footage of JFK sailing near the compound. Hard news surrounding this powerful man is avoided, while the celebrity of the Kennedy tribe is exalted again. Americans are still fascinated by the celebrity of the Kennedy’s more than they are concerned with their politics as a family or as individuals.)
    4.Troop Reductions in Iraq – 45 Seconds General Patreaus (#1 Military Commander, U.S. Ground Forces Iraq) reports to Congressional committee that there is potential for a slightly broader troop draw down, due to less sectarian violence in key locations within Iraq. Reference is made to Iran’s de-stabilizing influence on the region through “covert” funding and support of various terrorist organizations in the region. There is a brief mention at end of story of House and Senate final approval on 72 Billion Dollar war funding for remainder of G.W. Bush’s term. (This brief segment contains the most egregious examples of “glossing” and “non-reporting”. First, it is the shortest segment so far by more than a minute, although it is arguably the most important and truly “national” of the stories so far! (War! The stability of our national interest in the Mid-East, the possibility of troops coming home from an unpopular war, Iran’s involvement in state-sponsored terrorism, and a huge spending bill for the war.) The roar from what is not said is deafening! In the last example, 3 second mention is made of the fact that a Democratically controlled Senate has just passed a bill ordering more money for a war that Republican President George Bush has grown hugely unpopular for. Admittedly, Congress also has it’s lowest approval rating in history, but I smell the reek of a liberal press glossing over the fact that the war in Iraq was authorized by, and is currently being funded by, a liberal and Democratic Congress. Ironic!)
    5. Carl Rove Subpoenaed – 30 Seconds Former Bush white house aide and political operative, Carl Rove is subpoenaed about involvement in the firing of 9 U.S. attorneys, over a year ago. (A 30 second cheap shot at a known enemy of the political left in America?)
    6. Campaign Trail – 2 Minutes, 20 Seconds Barak Obama and John McCain trade barbed words over Obama’s criticism of McCain’s refusal to sign an aide package for U.S. soldiers, broadening benefits under the GI bill. McCain (a Viet Nam era soldier and POW) refuses to even entertain critique by a fellow member of the Senate, who “never put on a uniform and served”. Brief reference made to McCain refusing the endorsement of John Haggee, controversial Pastor of influential Texas church, due to comments made in an old sermon which were considered anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic by some. Obama reassures Jewish voters he will not negotiate with Hamas terror group. McCain addressing homosexual marriage on the “Ellen” show, with noted gay rights activist, Ellen DeGeneris. McCain states he is for civil unions and equal rights, but opposed to instituting marriage for gays. (The Haggee endorsement flap is, in my estimation, a rebuttal from Democratic political fixers, trying to counter weigh the Reverend Jeremiah Right, Black-Liberation theology flap of a few weeks ago. Haggee is referred to as an “evangelical”, when in fact his views on Israel and Catholicism place him somewhere in the aberrant or near-heretical border zone. The setup piece on McCain vis a vis gay marriage is interesting, because McCain is made to look out of step with popular culture, where there is a pro-gay image or reference on TV in almost every program. It is also unfair to McCain by virtue of the fact that Senators Clinton and Obama hold exactly the same view as McCain in regards to civil unions instead of marriage for homosexuals. As a final push from the pro-gay news media, Ellen is pictured with her ravishingly beautiful girlfriend, actress, Portia de Rossi, and it is noted that the two desire to become legally married. This is cast in a very sympathetic light.)
    7. California Fires – 2 Minutes – Video of air and ground forces fighting fires in the Santa Cruz area of California. Shots of property being lost and people being evacuated.
    8. Ford Production Cuts – Ford to lay off thousands of workers as fuel prices stifle the consumer demand for Fords best sellers, SUV’s and trucks. (There is no discussion of the impact on the broader market, the consumer, or loss of US auto production capabilities, which in times of war can be converted to weapons and military vehicle production.)
    9. NBC In Depth – Children in the Crossfire – Several minutes – A story detailing the threat of drug cartel warfare jeopardizing children who are US citizens, living in Mexico border towns, who cross into the US daily for school. Lots of video splices alternating between children with backpacks getting on buses juxtaposed with US border agents dressed in riot gear, repelling cartel insurgence onto US soil, as well as handling regular border patrol duties. (This story is the worst kind of barely veiled liberal media bias. What is not addressed in the story is why all these little US citizens cross the border every day and are therefore at risk. The simple, but politically loaded answer is that the children, who live in Mexico, but school in the US mostly, are probably citizens by virtue of their mother’s crossing the border illegally, just to have a child on US soil (constitutionally making the child an automatic US citizen), availing themselves of US taxpayer funded medical care. No mention is made of any of the politically loaded bunny trails this topic could lead into. It is also worth mentioning that for the entire editorial segment, anchor Brian Williams, was out from behind the anchor desk, standing to intro and outro the story. The implied message of BW’s posture is that “this is a stand up and notice” issue. I believe the editorial bent of the story portrays US officers as storm troopers, and sweet little children as victims. What is not hammered home enough, is that the violence the children face is all on the Mexican side of the border, where corrupt Mexican police and military clash with equally corrupt Mexican drug cartels.)
    10. Trading Places – A human interest piece about reporter Anne Khoury’s family, and the way they came to terms with the passing of the family patriarch, Anne’s father. (Needless to say, this is not really national news, but it is interesting that it would have broad appeal to many families experiencing the same range of challenges as the baby boomer generation gets old and dies, and Gen X is left to bury them and carry on. The story is given incredible time (several minutes). With all due respect to the Khoury family, this segment was almost purely sentimental and entertaining, rather than informative or a serious sociological study of a family meeting mortality and coming to terms with it.)

    IV. Broadcast Sign off – Brian Williams ends the broadcast with hushed tones that are commensurately somber with the story of one family’s loss, and a subdued version of the opening music is played out.

    (After having really thought about what one gets in the national evening news, I am left with grave misgivings. On a wholesale level, the news is less concerned with reporting useful or noteworthy information and facts, and more interested in pulling emotional strings in the audience, and inserting liberal leaning editorial (either implicitly or explicitly). The production values were all very high with many cuts to and from the anchor, to and from video footage of calamity of human interest, and an overall easy to watch format. Clearly the news needs to be compelling to retain viewers in the era of hundreds of cable channels for competition, but one can’t help feeling that we are not getting hard hitting news that really informs. The national news has slowly devolved into an infotainment program. There is a shallow look at a very limited number of stories (short US attention spans), and a rampant sentimentality and even mellow-drama laced through all the stories. Instead of telling us which areas are hardest hit by a storm or fire, we are shown footage of a wrecked playground or a burned home. Instead of exploring root causes for children being taken by CPS, or caught in a gangland crossfire, we are again given images of kids with back packs or concerned FLDS mothers awaiting their children returning. Instead of an examination of Ted Kennedy’s impact on the political world, or the impact if he should leave his work as a Senator, we are given pictures of him sailing and as a bonus, we get to roll out JFK archival footage too! The news has become a very well crafted entertainment program that is infused with liberal editorial bias on occasion.) The fact that we are absorbing, rather than rebelling against this kind of news format as a culture implies that we too are becoming shallower, more starved for personality and entertainment, and less prone to seriously analyze current affairs and their effect on our lives. We are ultimately becoming a less informed, less critical, and less demanding polity. The trend is disturbing when one considers that as voting members of our own governmental process, we are less informed of what is really happening in our world, and thereby rendered impotent as citizens. Surely this is another step in the decline of our society as we move from being informed and educated, to becoming politicized and pampered!)

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