Talk Radio, R.I.P.?

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by Scott Lazarowitz Reason and Jest

Recently by Scott Lazarowitz: I Fear the Government and the Obedient Sheeple, More Than I Fear Guns

     

It appears that one of Boston’s two commercial all-talk radio stations is being closed down and replaced by another music station. WTKK 96.9 FM, “NewsTalk Ninety-Six Nine,” will cease to be, tomorrow. Last August, Boston’s until-then third all-talk radio station, “Talk 1200,” also ceased to be, and became an all-comedy radio station. The joke’s on us talk radio listeners, though. Now we’re down to just WRKO, which has local hosts Jeffrey Kuhner and Howie Carr, and syndicated hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, for commercial talk radio. But public radio stations WBUR and WGBH are heavy in news and talk, and provide a needed alternative.

I am not surprised with WTKK’s expiring, given the decline in talk radio in general over the last 20 years, and the decline in our culture that used to appreciate a diversity in points of view. But nowadays, the Left, which controls the government education system, doesn’t even want to consider or hear other points of views, and the neocons, who mainly have ruled over talk radio since the early 1990s, also don’t want to hear other points of view, as both sides remain ignorant and closed-minded.

So now, only a small portion of the population listens to talk radio, because it’s no longer very informative or entertaining, and only a small portion listens to NPR or watches TV news or cable talk/news. Mostly people turn on the radio to hear the crappy music that is now offered, and watch boring crap on TV. America is now a nation of unthinking, texting zombies, who vote for corrupt political sleazebags like Barack Obama and Willard Romney, and show contempt for truth-tellers such as Ron Paul.

But I’ve been a talk radio junkie since the 1970s, beginning with Mike Miller on WTIC in Hartford, Bernard Meltzer and Arlene Francis on WOR and Larry Glick on WBZ. Larry Glick took calls from people in many different states, as WBZ’s reach is quite wide, and Glick talked about the “light” topics and was very funny. Arlene Francis had a wider variety, discussing political issues as well as interviewing celebrities. While Meltzer didn’t discuss politics — his was sort of an advice show — he nevertheless cracked me up with his addressing the callers as “honey,” and “sweetheart.” Today he would be called a “sexist” for that. And Pegeen Fitzgerald and her husband Edward were also on WOR, broadcasting from their apartment that also included sounds of the cleaning lady vacuuming in the background, and their gossiping about the neighbors and bickering. What fun they were, the Fitzgeralds.

But it was really Jerry Williams who got me much more interested in the issues and current events. His show on WRKO during the 1980s was #1 in Boston radio for several years, as were most of the other shows on WRKO. Here is the website devoted to Jerry Williams, who died in 2003.

Jerry Williams’s background was in theater and acting, and he had an extremely diverse palette of interests of his to discuss. He interviewed many people from politics and show biz, and the arts and sciences. I don’t think there has been a talk radio talent as good as Jerry Williams. He was an old-fashioned, pro-union, pro-choice “liberal,” who became more populist in the later years of his show, thanks to the corruption of Gov. Michael Dukakis, the New Braintree prison deal, and the rise in tax-thefts in Massachusetts. Starting in 1994, Williams gradually reduced his hours on WRKO, and then fully retired in 1998. He made a brief comeback in December 2002 on WROL in Boston, and then, prior to his death in April 2003, had a “last hurrah” on WRKO on March 1st, 2003.

I kind of hadn’t been as enthusiastic in listening to Jerry Williams maybe starting in the early 1990s, as he seemed to have become obsessed with the seat-belt law and repealing it, and his discussions of the state political “hacks” were endless. In other words, he was becoming a little boring.

And with WRKO’s decline starting around 20 years ago, I would say that the decline of talk radio in general started around then, too. The cultural decline since the early ’90s is related to that. The 1980s gave us Iran-Contra and the Nazi-wannabe Oliver North plotting his future police state, and then the Cold War came to a close. So with those things then-President George H.W. Bush started his war on Iraq to keep the military-industrial-congressional-security-complex going. But no one seemed to question any of that. Bush managed to whine his way to the UN to get that collection of dictators, war criminals, misfits and degenerates to go along with Bush’s Iraq. But thanks to the decline in education in America, the decline in critical thinking, and the increase in State-worship authoritarianism, the American people didn’t question the propaganda.

Since the 1990s, talk radio has been dominated by the neocons. Rush Limbaugh really became popular thanks to Bill Clinton, the Left’s own Teflon President. And now, when you listen to the average talk radio program, you will hear the host spending long segments talking just by himself, and when they finally do take calls, usually it is fellow neocons agreeing with one another and patting themselves on the back in blindly supporting the military and the “war on terror,” and hating Muslims and immigrants. Basically that’s it now. No wonder their ratings continue to decline.

But if you compare the average hour of talk radio now with discussions that talk radio hosts had during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, you’ll hear a big difference, not just in the diversity of points of view and the talk hosts’ allowing that diversity, but the quality of conversations was much higher then than it is now. For example, you can hear Jerry Williams’s 1965 WBBM interview of well-known atheist Madeline Murray O’Hare (before the O’Hare), who discussed the Supreme Court’s ruling on prayer in public schools and how she had been beaten by the police (interviews are at the end of that linked post).

Or you can hear Jerry Williams interviewing John McLaughlin on WBZ (who later hosted the “McLaughlin Group” on TV) in 1974 while McLaughlin was still a Jesuit priest and working as a Nixon Administration flunky. I think that link is the second hour of the discussion, which is provided by the JerryWilliams.org website. Here is the following hour. (Links open a new media player window.)

And here is a 1972 Jerry Williams interview of then-Democrat Presidential nominee George McGovern. I don’t think they took calls from listeners, but it is an interesting discussion.

And here is Jerry Williams’s 1967 discussion of Jack Ruby’s death and the Warren Commission, from WBBM.

And here is a 1970 interview by Jerry Williams of controversial investment advisor Richard Ney, here and here.

And here is a four-minute audio clip from the early 1970s with Jerry Williams taking a call from a frustrated Marine, who stated that we the people needed to take our country back from the liars who rule over us. Not much has changed since 40 years ago, I’m afraid.

There are some clips from WRKO provided on the JerryWilliams.org website, but they do not seem to be as good as all the shows I remember hearing on WRKO throughout the 1980s.

There have been plenty of times that I have turned on the radio, wishing that Jerry Williams was still on, because on WRKO at that afternoon hour is Howie Carr, who replaced Jerry Williams in 1994. Howie Carr is still on! Some people had already been predicting that WRKO is also on its way to changing formats, as its ratings have also been very poor. Oh well, “Entercom happens,” as Carr would say.

Now, WBZ is considered an “all-news” station, and has good ratings. But from 8 PM until 5 AM they do have talk shows. I suppose former WBZ-TV reporter Dan Rea is okay as the evening WBZ talk host, but you can only hear the Registrar of Motor Vehicles so many times, you know. (It seems every time I tune in, he has the Registrar of Motor Vehicle on.)

But regarding WBZ’s evening talk hosts, Rea replaced the funny and politically-observant Paul Sullivan, who died in 2007 at the age of only 50, and Paul Sullivan replaced the libertarian intellectual David Brudnoy, who died in 2004 at the age of only 64. And even Brudnoy had replaced Lou Marcel, who died at an even younger age. (Hmmm. Could there be something wrong there at the WBZ studios? Also, WBZ radio news anchor Darrell Gould died in 1996 at age 56.)

But early deaths do not seem to be reserved for WBZ, as WRKO talk host Andy Moes died at only age 50 back in 2001. Perhaps there’s something going on with radio electronics or radio waves etc., I don’t know. However, some talk radio hosts still seem to have very good endurance, regardless of what might be going on in those radio studios. Howie Carr, 60, continues on WRKO for 18 years despite the health issues he’s had, and Rush Limbaugh, almost 62, continues his syndicated show of 24 years despite his health issues.

And Jerry Williams was a talk radio host from 1957 until 1998. Now that’s endurance. But how much longer will talk radio itself last, as long as we have a country lacking in critical thinking, and a population of zombies who constantly hold and stare at their cell phones like a second sex organ?

But there still seems to be hope for us, and for talk radio. Despite the neocons and progressives and the biased news media‘s attempts at suppressing Ron Paul’s message of freedom and peace this past year, those ideas have been making their way back into talk radio. Investment and monetary analyst Peter Schiff has his new show which is live 10 AM-Noon Eastern, and can be heard on several radio stations (although quite a few of those stations air only the rebroadcast of the show on weekends).

And economic historian Tom Woods fills in for Schiff quite a lot. Now, Woods is the one, in my opinion, who has the kind of communications and conversational talent and abilities to carry on a great talk radio show. If we can just get the Left-progressives and neocons to try to open their minds a little more to the moral principles of individual rights and non-aggression, and get them to step back and see that the State is not really what it and its handlers present it to be, then maybe Woods and others can rejuvenate the talk radio medium, and make it better again.

And if we can only get the zombies all across America to put down those damn cell phones!

Scott Lazarowitz [send him mail] is a writer and cartoonist, visit his blog.

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