"I do lament the gradual disappearance of small, quirky local [radio] shows due to the trend toward national syndication. And I often get bored and impatient with the same arch-conservative message being drummed out 24/7. But let's get real: Liberals have been pathetic flops on national radio -- for reasons that have yet to be identified. Air America, for example, despite retchingly sycophantic major media coverage, never got traction and has dwindled to a humiliating handful of markets. The Democrats are the party of Hollywood, for heaven's sake -- so what's their problem in mastering radio?
Instead of bleating for paternalistic government intervention, liberals should get their own act together. Radio is a populist medium where liberals come across as snide, superior scolds. One can instantly recognize a liberal caller to a conservative show by his or her catty, obnoxious tone. The leading talk radio hosts are personalities and entertainers with huge rhetorical energy and a bluff, engaging manner. Even the seething ranters can be extremely funny. Last summer, for example, I laughed uproariously in my car when WABC's Mark Levin said furiously about Katie Couric, "What do these people do? Open fortune cookies and read them on air?"
The best hosts combine a welcoming master of ceremonies manner with a vaudevillian brashness. Liberal imitators haven't made a dent on talk radio because they think it's all about politics, when it isn't. Top hosts are life questers and individualists who explore a wide range of thought and emotion and who skillfully work the mike like jazz vocalists. Talk radio is a major genre of popular culture that deserves the protection accorded to other branches of the performing and fine arts. Liberals, who go all hushed and pious at Hays Code censorship in classic Hollywood, should lay off the lynch-mob mentality. Keep the feds out of radio!"Camille Paglia
Salon magazine, January 14, 2009