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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]


Air America Is Unlikely to “Fly”
The Problem? Liberals’ World View
[Carol Platt Liebau] 4/5/04   

This was a big week for liberals in Southern California – as well as those in New York; Portland, Oregon; Minneapolis and Chicago. It marked the debut of “Air America,” the new left-wing radio network.

“Air America” was born from one firmly held conviction. Despite their unquestioned hegemony among the staffs of all the big daily newspapers, at the network news, throughout the entertainment industry and within the academy, liberals decided that their political misfortunes were attributable to the fact that their views are inadequately represented on talk radio – conveniently ignoring the existence both of NPR and Pacifica. Now, presumably, Air America will change all that, and strike fear into the hearts of Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt and all other conservative talkers (who, incidentally, welcomed the new competing network with glee).

But there is reason to believe that, as with so many liberal shibboleths, the institution of Air America may reflect the triumph of hope over wisdom. For there are numerous factors – reflecting liberal thought itself – that suggest that Air America may not enjoy the unqualified success to which its proponents aspire.

First, consider the circumstances of the network’s founding. Unlike conservative talk radio, Air America grew not from grassroots popular demand, but from the sense of several liberal heavyweights (including Al Franken and Al Gore) that America “needed” liberal talk radio. Ironically, even as they attempt to establish a presence in a medium where success is defined through sheer market share, Air America’s liberals revealed either their ignorance of or their contempt for market forces by their top-down, command-and-control approach to conquering the radio market.

But the most significant stumbling block for Air America’s long-term success results from the very nature of the liberal world view. Liberal attitudes toward both the government, as well as toward ideological adversaries, makes it nearly impossible for Air America to duplicate the kind of flippant, irreverent humor and attitude that distinguishes the most successful conservative talk radio.

Think a moment. How, exactly, do liberals view government? Why, (with the exception of the military) as a tool for “realizing the common good,” of course – exemplified by Hillary Clinton’s plan to nationalize one-seventh of the U.S. economy in order to “fix” health care. In contrast, most conservatives see government (again, the military excepted) as an entity that combines the efficiency of the postal service with the compassion of the IRS – and so humor and cheekiness come easily. Although the liberal view of government may be more idealistic, earnest high-mindedness hardly lends itself to humorous critiques of the foibles of government bureaucrats, or lighthearted denunciations of governmental failings – staples of conservative talk radio programs. But guess which produces more entertaining radio?

Finally, contrast the attitudes of conservatives and liberals toward their political opposition. Conservatives think liberals are, for the most part, well-intentioned but silly and often wrong, with their obsession on the left-wing “holy trinity” of racism, sexism and homophobia. It’s an assessment that lends itself to humorous commentary and frequent bouts of poking fun. But because liberals believe that in more government lies the key to a better, more perfect society, then conservatives, who generally oppose such government intervention, cannot merely be silly or wrong – they must be evil. And the appropriate response to evil, wherever it is perceived, isn’t laughter and ridicule; it’s outrage and anger . . . hardly a response with long-term entertainment value and high sustainability.

But don’t take my word for all this – compare the two approaches for yourself. First, look at Hugh Hewitt’s web site – where there’s been an ongoing discussion comparing John Kerry to M*A*S*H’s Maj. Frank Burns, and links to his Weekly Standard piece likening Kerry to Washington Irving’s Ichabod Crane. Then, switch over to Rush Limbaugh’s site, touting Rush’s commentary on John Kerry, called “the French looking Democratic nominee.”

Last, read Al Franken’s message to subscribers of

I take the words of right-wing jerks, and I use those words to heap scorn and ridicule upon them. It’s what I do. And I need your help. These guys say so many stupid and dishonest things every day . . . I need you to be my eyes and ears, so that no right-wing ideologue can ever again safely traffic in distortion and calumny.

Enough said – and heard. CRO

CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA.

copyright 2004


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