By John M Repp, WWFOR Pacific Call Editor
Asking the question “how did Trump get 74 million votes?” requires a look at the mass media in the United States. Many know about the FOX news channel on television, but too often overlooked is conservative talk radio. There are two recent books out about talk radio as well as articles by the book’s authors. (Paul Matzko The Radio Right: How a Band of Broadcasters Took on the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement (2020) and Brian Rosenwald Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States (2019)
Many white collar workers are not aware of talk radio’s existence because they do not listen to the radio while they work like factory and construction workers and long-haul truck drivers.
As television came to dominate the mass media in the 1950’s and music jumped to FM, AM radio stations were suffering. That is when conservative talk radio jumped in and started to grow.
What happened next is not so well known. President Kennedy realized the growing power of AM conservative talk radio, and he used IRS audits and FCC rule of “fair and balanced” to put many of the stations out of business. That accounts in part for the paranoia about the “left” often heard on these stations. And we know that the rule “fair and balanced” as part of the communications law was repealed in 1987. Today it is the cynical slogan of FOX.
Both books, as you can read by their subtitles, think conservative talk radio hosts have more power in some ways than the Republican Party politicians. The hosts have no responsibility to govern and can take positions far to the right of legislators or executives that have to run for election.
Of the 15 top radio talk shows, only one is liberal.
A great cause of current concern that can be partly traced back to conservative talk radio is Covid-19 denialism. How many of the people who will not wear masks and scream about “freedom” are conservative talk radio listeners?
Sadly, many of Trump’s talking points about the pandemic come from talk radio rather than from public health experts. Of all the developed nations in the world, the United States is doing the worst. By far!
What will be the Republican strategy going forward?