On Wednesday, radio listeners in Chicago, New York and San Francisco will be greeted by a group of new voices espousing familiar ideals. It is Air America Radio, a "progressive" (see liberal) radio network that will fall flat on its face.
Progress Media Inc., Air America's parent company, promises a new outlet for progressive ideas to counter the mainly conservative gabbers out there in radio nation. While I am a champion of the marketplace of ideas, I can do nothing but applaud these blind pioneers in their quest and hope to catch them when they fall. They are fighting a dragon with a butter knife.
Liberal radio is a concept that cannot work. Radio is not tailored to host liberal arguments, as they are complex and branching, requiring bulletpoints to give ground for reasoning and not the ever important soundbyte that conservative hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Martin Savidge utilize and rely on.
The voice of liberals, and the information that comes out of them, are viewed poorly in our world. Not only by the right, but by the non-politicos as well. Limbaugh can steamroll over causes and boast of conservative might, and Hannity can derail and condemn anyone who does not follow the piper from Texas. They are considered at worst loudmouths, and their response to any criticism usually follows the lines of "So what? I'm right."
Liberals, to be honest, sound like whiners when they protest or speak of their beliefs. It is because at the root of the argument, the liberal stance is compassionate and not entirely self-serving. It thinks more about others and in turn is viewed as too huggy and wanting. Conservatism is selfish. Welfare is the active supporting the lazy, and the downtrodden and helpless are the sad remainder in life's equation. As stated earlier, it's cut and dry. Abortion? The taking of a life and a sin. Terrorism? You're with us or against us. Cut and dry. Good soundbytes.
To truly survive and prosper, Air America must take a page from conservative radio's playbook and attract the opposition (labeled in radio as "lurkers") who will bask in countering arguments and call in, vocally proving their participation in the programming. Perhaps they will bring some of their furor from the right of the dial to the left. Air America can over time claim them as a valuable demographic, pimp them out to advertisers and sustain their airtime. Since liberals know what they believe, and don't require their beliefs to be reinforced day in and day out, they are most likely not going to tune in when out of an automobile on the way to work. The ever mobile conservative, tight knuckles and teeth gritting, will be the fuel by which the liberals burn.