by Robert Kraig, Executive Director
Citizen Action of Wisconsin recently launched “Radio-Active,” a new campaign to break the right-wing radio monopoly.
In response to a Citizen Action email to members earlier this week, right-wing talk show host Jerry Bader penned a blog on Charlie Sykes’s Right Wisconsin website which contains a very important admission.
Bader is the most influential right-wing talk show host outside Milwaukee or Madison. His show blankets Northeast and Central Wisconsin, broadcasting on stations in Green Bay, Wausau, and Sheboygan.
Bader quotes a line from the Citizen Action email: “Without the right-wing radio monopoly, there would be no Scott Walker or Rebecca Bradley!” He then makes his startling admission:
It is true. Without conservative talk radio Governor Scott Walker likely doesn’t survive his recall and Justice Rebecca Bradley would have lost her election last week.
So there you have it. A talk show host who broadcasts an ideological monologue each week-day morning on the public airwaves is bragging that he and his fellow right-wing talkers have the power to decide both who makes the laws and who interprets them.
We might be inclined to write this off as nothing more than hot air from a bloviating radio personality, if we had not all lived through the rise of Scott Walker.
The presidential primaries also provided fresh evidence of the out-sized influence of right-wing talk radio in Wisconsin. As the New York Times documented in a lengthy article last week, they did the dirty-work of the GOP establishment by helping take down Donald Trump in the Wisconsin primary. According to the Times, Charlie Sykes bragged to his listeners: “Can someone win without talk radio? Yes, theoretically. Except no one has.”
As a progressive who shares John Stuart Mill’s belief that the best ideas will win out in the long run if the public is exposed to all sides of an argument, I have no objection to the existence of right-wing radio. However, it is deeply corrosive for democracy when one side has a near monopoly and is able to distort elections by using the public airwaves to spew millions of dollars of free electoral communications.
Jerry Bader thinks he has an answer to that one. He says right-wing radio’s impact on behalf of Scott Walker and Rebecca Bradley.
is testimony to the need for conservative talk to counter the liberal media onslaught that would have felled both of them. It’s hardly an indictment against conservative talkers. And calling the influence we have “a monopoly” is laughable. We’re a sliver of the media compared to the control the “old media” still has in the state.
You may not have realized that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, the Gannett papers, and local TV stations are leading a “liberal media onslaught.”
What’s going on here is that right-wingers like Jerry Bader, Mark Belling, Charlie Sykes, Vicki McKenna, Jay Weber and Jeff Wagner, label anything that provides any information whatsoever that is counter to their narrative as “liberal.” Covering the John Doe investigation of Scott Walker makes you liberal media. Once you break the code, it is clear that anything that is not abject right-wing propaganda is “liberal” to them.
This is how newspapers like the Journal Sentinel, that have endorsed Scott Walker multiple times, can be labeled as “liberal.” This is also why the absurd right-wing rag Media Trackers can assert with a straight face claim that liberal talk radio is flourishing in Wisconsin.
If you agree that it’s time to do something real to break the right-wing radio monopoly, I hope you will join our Radio-Active campaign. The project came from Citizen Action Organizing Cooperative members. We have a two pronged strategy: (1) To track right-wing radio in Wisconsin, and use the evidence we collect to discredit these propagandists and pressure the corporate media owners of the major AM stations to provide balance on the public airwaves; (2) Explore the acquisition of direct progressive access to the airwaves, including community owned radio stations.
Jerry Bader says this can’t work:
the left has tried to take out conservative hosts before, including with counter programming on radio stations of its own. The result? Conservative talk radio is alive and well.
I would submit that the left has had episodic efforts in the past, but has never put together a sustained long-term strategy and the capacity to stay in it for the long haul. That is where Radio-Active is different. The plan is to build the permanent staffing and organizing capacity to develop an effective strategy that adjusts over time and keeps on it until we win.
If you see the energy in our kick-off event for the project, you will know we are on to something here. We will win if we are persistent because the right-wing radio monopoly over the public airwaves is simply indefensible in a diverse large scale democracy such as ours.
I hope you will click here to read more and join the campaign!