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In defense of conservative talk radio

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 24, 2004 09:22 AM

The Jacksonville Times-Union comes to the defense of soldiers who want to listen to Rush Limbaugh. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has offered an amendment to the fiscal 2005 Defense Authorization bill, requiring that the armed forces drop Limbaugh’s show or also add a liberal for balance. Excerpt:

There are plenty of liberal viewpoints on AFRTS, including commentary by Jim Hightower, who once was promoted as the “liberal Rush.” Activists don’t want balance. They want one-sided programming.

AFRTS is broadcast to about 175 countries, plus ships at sea. The purpose is to provide America’s military men and women with programming they want but otherwise wouldn’t get to hear while on duty outside the country.

The programs were originally chosen by the troops themselves.

Limbaugh’s show wasn’t on the selection list published by the previous administration, which also complained about Limbaugh’s impact. Yet, so many people wrote in his name that it was selected for broadcast, placing in the top five choices.

The broadcasts serve military listeners, not civilian political activists. Limbaugh is the most popular talk radio show on the air. It would make no sense to drop his program.

If Harkin and the others want to suggest frequent polls on adding and dropping programs, that would be fair enough. Conservative talk radio is popular and liberal talk is failing, however, so they might be disappointed.

Limbaugh has supported U.S. soldiers, and that has to be good for morale. What is wrong with allowing soldiers to hear someone show appreciation for them while they are in a war zone?

Right on!

This actually brings up something related I wanted to get off my chest: P.J. O’Rourke’s snarky article in The Atlantic attacking Rush and conservative talk radio. I adored O’Rourke in my 20s. Now, I find him so very 9/10 and out-of-touch. And there are tons of bloggers who are so much funnier.

So O’Rourke opines that “the number and popularity of conservative talk shows have grown apace since the Reagan Administration. The effect, as best I can measure it, is nil.” Perhaps he should ask the soldiers abroad who voted overwhelmingly to put Rush on their airwaves what the impact of his show is. Or maybe he should head to Sean Hannity’s Freedom Concert on July 8, which raises millions of dollars for military families. Or maybe he should meet Hugh Hewitt. Or maybe O’Rourke should use some of his frequent flyer miles and do some traveling to major metropolitan U.S. cities, where conservative talk radio offers rare relief from liberal orthodoxy–and where talk show hosts have spearheaded effective activism. KSFO in San Francisco led the Gray Davis recall brigade. KVI in Seattle was instrumental in launching the successful fight against Hillarycare and in support of an initiative abolishing government racial preferences.

A lot of cocooned, Beltway conservative snobs like to denigrate talk radio hosts for preaching to the choir. Yes, not all talk radio is very good. But these same critics have no problem using it themselves to promote their own work. And so it was with no surprise that I heard one P.J. O’Rourke yesterday on one of my favorite talk shows, the Laura Ingraham Show, preaching to the choir and trying to sell his book. Laura was gracious, smart, and witty. O’Rourke was flatter than Lara Flynn Boyle’s chest. It’s not as easy as it looks, P.J., is it?

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