In the past 10 days, I’ve talked far more than I ever expected to about KMJ losing shows from popular conservative talk radio show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Just how much fuss this would cause didn’t hit me initially.
You see, the day the news broke — that Premiere Radio Network (which owns all the shows) would sever its ties with top-rated KMJ and take its shows elsewhere — was the same day Justin Bieber came to Fresno. I was up to my bangs in Bieber Fever. KMJ, Limbaugh, etc. were just an afterthought. Well, until the next morning, when I woke up to way more e-mail responses to the KMJ story than my Bieber story.
Even then I still wasn’t prepared for what awaited me in the office Monday morning. Not just a full voicemail box, but quite a few doozies. I called people back, one by one, trying to help them understand the circumstances — that it wasn’t KMJ’s decision, that it wasn’t a conspiracy to silence conservative viewpoints, that Obama wasn’t behind it all.
Calls kept coming all day and by the time they stopped, I learned that the Bielebers and Limbaugh diehards had a few things in common: Undying fandom, a dose of delusion, regurgitated viewpoints and a knack for losing control of their emotions.
More than a week — and countless conversations — later, a few things stand out to me about the public response to this fiasco:
1. SOME OF THE STEREOTYPES ARE TRUE
I’m not one of those people who thinks people who don’t like Obama are racist. I also don’t believe that all liberals live off the government. I don’t believe in a world where all issues are black or white, where you align yourself with one party’s talking point or the other’s. I don’t believe we can paint all people who believe _____ based on the stereotypes that correspond with those beliefs. But I’ll be damned if some of these Rush Limbaugh fans didn’t have me re-thinking some of that.
Memo to Rush fans, please don’t try so hard to live up to the stereotypes about you. One angry person said to me, “Who made this decision? Was it a WOMAN somewhere?” Another decried this as the end of free speech and proof that a dictator runs our country. Between this and “Cougar Town” changing networks, obviously.
One gentleman continuously interrupted me as I tried to explain the behind-the-scenes radio stuff that contributed to this move — that Premiere is owned by Clear Channel, the radio equivalent of McDonald’s, and is likely putting the shows on a local Clear Channel station instead of a competitor. His every interruption had something to do with Obama.
Eventually I stopped talking and the guy ranted about about how we in the media want Obama to win the election. So much, in fact, that if we had proof of Obama raping a 6-year-old girl, we’d bury the story. His words. Someone else went on a diatribe about how we in the “lamestream” media are communists. Ya know, while I was being nice and helping him out. Which brings me to the next thing I learned …
2. SOME PEOPLE REALLY AREN’T INTERESTED IN THE TRUTH
I was amazed not just by how many people thought this was a huge conspiracy, but by how many of them almost refused to believe a narrative that didn’t include a conspiracy. Here’s an example of an e-mail I got:
I am sure you will be bombarded with letters such as mine from people who are informed of what the real reason is for this decision. GEORGE SOROS and Multi-Media plus the evil leader of this country have wanted to get Conservative Talk Radio Hosts off the air so only the evil leader of this country will have the only voice…like Nazi Germany having Hitler being the only voice. I am ashamed of you, the owners and management of this radio station that you would acquiesce to this kind of dictatorship.
Guys, this stuff scares me. It scares me as much as about anything currently going on in this country. Have we gotten so divided, so paranoid by that divide and so dedicated to believing in the divide that we fail to even accept the truth when it’s staring at us in the face?
This move was about one thing: money. Rush Limbaugh, being the top talent in AM talk radio, brings in it. So do Hannity, Beck, etc.
Premiere Radio Networks and Clear Channel are simply trying to make sure more of that money is funneled into its pockets. Especially in this era where media companies are finding it harder and harder to survive. In fact, if these angry people were true to their conservative ideology (instead of the fear-pushing talking points of their favorite hosts), they’d applaud the move as an example of a free-market economy at work. Right?
3. LOYALTY COMES AFTER LIMBAUGH IN THE DICTIONARY
I felt bad for KMJ. Legitimately. Which is weird, when you consider that KMJ and The Bee aren’t exactly friends. We’re competitors. KMJ takes shots as us on the air from time to time. So I could have very easily thought, “ha-ha, KMJ, sucks for you.” But after talking to a couple dozen people and reading about the same number of angry e-mails, I couldn’t help but sympathize with the station.
Mainly because of how matter-of-factly people proclaimed they’d ditch KMJ when Rush, Sean, etc. leave. “When Rush leaves, I leave,” was the general sentiment. Geez, what happened to loyalty? Maybe I’m in the minority here, but if a business did right by me for years and years, I wouldn’t be so quick to kick it when down. I have to imagine these same people, just a few weeks ago, would have called themselves KMJ loyalists.
If I can attempt a comparison: Let’s say you had a favorite restaurant. You went there every week. You proudly told people it was your favorite place to eat. You even knew some of the employees. But one day, you found out it wouldn’t be serving Pepsi anymore because Pepsi decided it was only going to serve its products in restaurants owned by its parent company. Would you automatically disavow the restaurant? Now, I realize that some people tuned to KMJ just for Rush and people don’t often go a restaurant just for the Pepsi — but still.
Who cares, you might ask? Well, think of it in broader terms. The situation reminds me of the Pat Hill saga at Fresno State. Remember how quick people were to turn on Hill? Remember how some people villainized him instead of at least celebrating what he did for the football program at Fresno State?
Let’s go even broader: This is symptomatic of one of Fresno’s unfortunate habits. We’re a city of front-runners and what-have-you-done-for-me-latelys. We flock to whichever chain restaurant comes to town, but let our mom-and-pop shops struggle. We celebrate big names like Rush Limbaugh, but shrug off the local guys who actually have something to say about this community.
In the case, we’re talking about KMJ and its parent company, Peak Broadcasting. While Peak is certainly not mom-and-pop radio, it’s not Clear Channel either. I’ve heard some KMJ listeners call the station and say they’d still listen. Good for them.
But the rest? Good luck not getting jerked around by Clear Channel and whatever plans it has for these radio shows you love so much.