This Truthout piece on Pacifica radio
made me feel a tad nostalgic for the days when I listened to Pacifica radio. That was a long
time ago, kids.
Frankly, those stations in California were infuriating precisely because they weren't
politically engaged: As Rush Limbaugh was becoming a powerhouse, "progressive" radio would counter with the tinkling of Indonesian folk music. Such politics as one could find tended to be the politics of identity -- black, Latino, feminist, gay -- about which I didn't care. Sorry if that attitude offends you, but I wanted to hear about...well, about the kinds of things covered on this
blog. I wanted politicians and spies and skullduggery, not endless harangues about whether Bo Derek had a right to wear cornrows and whether all heterosexual sex was rape and whether we should pass a law to forbid the eating of meat.
So now we learn that the audience has dwindled to the point that only 700 people are listening to KPFK at any given time, even during peak hours. And that's in one of the most liberal parts of the nation.
There's a massive faction fight over what little is left. Kissinger's famous dictum -- "University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small" -- applies here. There is talk of selling off the licenses, which are quite valuable. Maybe the time has come to pull the plug.
The most interesting question is this: Why is progressive radio such a perpetual loser?
The radio world is dominated by right-wing talk radio these days. The liberal station Air America died out years ago. Even in liberal areas such as Boston, progressive stations - such as 1510: The Revolution - have died out and been replaced by right-wing stations.
Amy Goodman is still going strong, but she is a rarity. Otherwise, people who stand to the left of center prefer books and websites to the sound of their own voices. Audio ain't our thing. Why is
I'll offer a few thoughts:
1. Lefties dig footnotes. That's why we prefer to get our politics out of books and blogs.
2. All progressives presume that they could do any job involving creativity. Thus, any time one prog develops media skills, other progs become envious and the backstabbing begins.
3. Progressives prove their purity by showing total disdain for D-v-R party politics. As a result, the purest among them have nothing to say about the daily stories that everyone else is talking about.
4. The purists hate liberals more than they hate conservatives. You don't build an audience by insulting potential listeners.