America, especially progressives and independents, need to hear the conservative views of such media mouthpieces of the right as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Fox News in order to see how partisan and nutty they are.
And, according to several recent polls, the more Americans, in the aggregate, know about these conservatives, the less they like them.
For example, a headline in a Huffington Post story read "Fox News Most Distrusted Name in News: Poll." The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling and showed that in the past year Fox News has become the least trusted broadcast or cable news source, with 46 percent of the population polled distrusting the conservative news channel. This was an increase of four percentage points from last year – a significant change.
The polls didn't suggest why FOX News's trust numbers were down. Perhaps it's a credibility problem, perhaps it was because the personalities were too nasty and strident – uncivil. We don't know if the viewing public in the aggregate thought Fox News had gone over the top, but after the Tucson shooting, Fox News chief Roger Ailes told all the personalities on Fox News to "tone it down.".
If Ailes believed, as Sarah Palin did, that his news team had done nothing wrong, or wasn't over the top, he wouldn't have asked them to "tone it down." Ailes is smart enough to know when to calm down the rhetoric.
Sarah Palin isn't that smart – not even close. She and her staff in essence admitted they were over the top in placing targets on Democratic candidates, including Gabrielle Giffords, because they took down the offending targets the day of the Tucson shooting (except on Facebook, where posted stuff lives forever).
Sarah's approval ratings have also dropped considerably since the Tucson massacre, especially after her nasty "blood libel" video on YouTube.
Also, Glenn Beck's ratings are off this year vs. last year according to the blog TV by the Numbers. People seem to be getting tired of the ranting.
Rush Limbaugh appears to be holding his audience numbers, but we don't know if anyone pays attention to him or if he has any influence. Virtually every candidate he has supported has lost. He constantly trashed Obama, who went on to win in a landslide. Media Matters for America keeps close tabs on Rush and daily calls him out on his lies and outrageous exaggerations and verbal muggings, like his recent mocking of Chinese President Hu's translated speech. "Talk about bad taste!" (a line I stole from Mel Brooks' "The Producers" in reference to the "Springtime for Hitler and Germany" dance number and song).
If Rush, Glenn, Sarah, and Fox News weren't around, middle-of-the-roaders, independents, and progressives wouldn't know what the crazies on the right were saying, they would have nothing to compare their political thinking and reasoning to. They wouldn't know if they were rational unless they could compare and contrast to the irrational.
Let's face it, Rush, Glenn, Sarah, and the Fox News crew aren't journalists, political strategists, or deep thinkers, they are entertainers. They are trying to make a buck by pleasing an audience that likes their form of vaudeville.
I mean, consistently, among the highest rated regular programs on cable is WWE Wrestling. Yes, there are people who believe professional wrestling isn't highly scripted, that it's real – many of the same people who believe that Rush Limbaugh's ideas are real and rational. WWE Wrestling is pure entertainment, as evidenced by the fact that on the program guides and rating results, it is listed as WEE Entertainment.
The highest rated program on cable's MTV is the reality show Jersey Shore, which many people believe isn't highly scripted, that it's real – many of the same people, I suspect, who think Sarah Palin is a smart cookie with good, rational ideas.
The motto of these conservative entertainers and entertainments is KISS, "keep it simple, stupid." They know that if they spout complex, nuanced ideas that their audience will scratch their heads and turn back to pro wrestling.
If Glenn and Sarah's ratings continue to plummet, perhaps these entertainers will resort to mud wrestling – a fit blood sport for them – and watch the TV ratings soar. If I were WWE Entertainment, I'd pay them more than Fox News to get down in the mud and wrestle with each other. Maybe they could have a final encounter with loaded guns on the Fox News Channel.
America would love that.
Until he retired in 2002, Charlie Warner was Vice President of AOL's Interactive Marketing division. Before joining AOL, he was the Goldenson Endowed Professor at the Missouri Journalism School where he taught media management and sales, and he created and ran the annual Management Seminar for News Executives. Charlie can be contacted at email@example.com.
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