The latest controversy surrounding radio personality Rush Limbaugh seems to be proof of the old saying, “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.” Or, maybe it’s the other one — “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That’s the only way to reconcile the latest Harris Interactive Survey about ‘news personalities’ with the ratings for those personalities. According to the Harris poll, more than twice as many people (46%) say Limbaugh is their ‘least favorite’ media personality as say he is their favorite (22%). Even among Republicans, he ends up in the negative column. A quarter (24%) call him their least favorite while less than that, a fifth (22%). say he is their favorite. Now, try and reconcile that fact with the fact that he has more listeners than any of the other two dozen personalities in the report. The magazine and website, Talkers, cites Arbitron figures that put him at 15 Million-plus listeners. That’s nearly twice as many people as watch the #1 favorite news personality, ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
The knee jerk reaction of many, if not all, right wing hosts was to vilify and minimize a rather ill defined but decisively moral movement. While making fun of stuff we fear (or don’t understand) never loses its charm, this is a loose movement that many in our audience relate to positively. I think Limbaugh and Hannity were far too quick to tease and stereotype the protesters as vagabond hippies. In actuality, it’s teachers, fire fighters and cops upset by layoffs and the loss of collective bargaining rights, families distraught over upside down mortgages after their tax dollars bailed out the very banks who won’t loan to them and are trying to foreclose on their houses, and college graduates with big student loan liabilities and no job prospects. As Charles M. Blow noted in the New York Times, “[OWS] has energized two groups who are notoriously apathetic and lacking in civic engagement—the young and the poor—and has done so outside the existing architectures of power and politics.”
Jin Sinton — founding president of Air America and now leader of the progressive media aggregator, Progressive Voices — in a column for Like the Dew: