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Political Talk Radio's Control

It wasn’t too long ago that propaganda was thought to be ancient history. It was thought of as posters to get people to enlist in the army or to accept a dictator’s regime. This simply isn’t true. Propaganda is more prevalent than ever in this society, the only problem is that we are external image rushmouth.gifunaware of both its existence and it’s impact on us. Propagandists in our society have found many ways to shape our opinions in much more deceptive ways than the methods of yore. One of these ways is political talk radio. Political Talk Radio is a form of 21st century propaganda because the DJ’s argue their opinion in a passionate way without acknowledging the other side, they convince many listeners to do what they wish, and they dominate the radio market leaving no option to reject their message.

Falling Off The Fence...

When you turn on your car radio and hear a loud, booming voice through your speakers like Rush Limbaugh’s, talking about the government controlling you, it becomes difficult to turn to another station. It suddenly makes you afraid or angry, and you will want to hear everything this man says, and not once would you think “there must be another side to this argument.” This is an argument that David Barker and Kathleen Knight make in their research paper “Political Talk Radio and Public Opinion.” In their studies, they have discovered that political talk radio pundits maintain a mostly partisan look on politics. Using Rush Limbaugh as a test subject they studied his talking points for 3 years and analyzed if he had any political bias. They found that Rush Limbaugh maintained a very strong conservative bias and he supported many republican beliefs while he shot down many democratic ideals and politicians like Ross Perot (Barker & Knight, 2000). Barker and Knight claim that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has something to do with this. This act, changed an old media policy from requiring all voices in the media to present both sides of the is
sue, to allowing the pundits free reign over what they can say opinion-wise (Barker & Knight, 2000). This study shows a few things about the way political talk radio is run.
1. Rush Limbaugh and many other political talk radio DJs maintain a strong conservative bias.
2. Listeners of these talk radio shows are not only getting only one side of the argument, but are hearing defamation of the other side of the argument.
3. Because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Talk Radio DJs are given a free pass to say whatever they want.

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Part of the definition of propaganda is that it is an attempt to disseminate information by any means necessary. One mean that political talk radio uses is to only show one side of the story and either omit or desecrate any opinion to the contrary. This makes the listener convinced that this is what’s right and they don’t even need to search for the truth. It seems that in the world of political talk radio, you don’t need to say why you’re correct, you just need say why your opponent is wrong.

Through the Ballot Box...

Suppose you’ve been a big Glenn Beck fan for so long that it’s now you’re only source of news and now it’s election season. If the only way you’re external image glenn-beck8.jpgstaying informed on the election is a talk radio DJ with a conservative bias, you are probably going to wind up voting for the candidate Glenn Beck would want you to vote for. This may seem slightly farfetched, But Sue Wilson begs to differ in her article “Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States.” She discovered that according to Pew research, 22% of all Americans get their news from Talk Radio DJs like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh (Wilson, 2009). This means that these pundits have a lot of pull in our society, and they don’t utilize it responsibly. Wilson writes that because DJs had made false statements about Barack Obama’s healthcare bill, that support for the bill had plummeted to below 50% of the population of Americans (Wilson, 2009). It could be that those false statements made by Talk Radio DJ’s reshaped the thoughts of at least that 20% of the U.S. population to think that health care reform was bad for them even when it was more than likely in their best interest to support the bill. This is a perfect example of Black Propaganda. The radio pundits used the method of disinformation to change the opinions of their listeners to match theirs.
This is why many fans of the Rush Limbaugh show are referred to as Ditto-heads. They are so enthralled by Rush’s show and control that they only respond with “Ditto.” This can have a dangerous effect on our society . What if next election Rush Limbaugh fabricates statements about Barack Obama’s policies to scare listeners into voting against him? This could very easily become the true because as Sue Wilson put it “Tell a lie often enough, and people will believe it” (Wilson, 2009).

...And Into Our Minds

When you tune into a Political talk radio show, you seemingly have the choice to either accept or reject the message. If you accept it you probably keep listening, and if you reject it you’ll more than likely switch to another show. The only problem with switching to another Political Talk Radio show is that it’s more than likely telling you a similar message. According to Carol Costello of CNN ten out of the eleven most popular talk radio DJs are conservative (Costello, 2009). This makes listening to talk radio without hearing conservative values a very difficult task. Costello goes on to interview one of the few liberal talk radio DJs who informs her texternal image PN051707.jpghat 91% of all talk radio shows are conservative in nature (Costello, 2009). When the talk radio market is 91% conservative, it becomes extremely difficult for listeners to hear any other side of the news. One part of the definition of propaganda is that unlike persuasion where the receiver of the message is given a choice whether to accept or reject the message, propaganda doesn’t give you a choice. As we can see here, with 91% of all talk radio being conservative, we don’t really have much choice of what talk radio shows to listen to, therefore we keep getting exposed to the same messages. Eventually, this can turn the people into strong believers and supporters of the conservative shows, which could very easily give you a conservative bias. And herein lies the heart of political talk radio’s propaganda plan. When we are coerced into accepting the messages Political Talk Radio Pundits are presenting, we eventually become mindless supporters of the conservative beliefs being sent to us by Rush Limbaugh and other pundits on the air. We won’t even have a chance to think for ourselves to object against the statements because we aren’t exposed to any other option. And once we are violent supporters of every message they send to us, they can use that to their advantage and get us to support or reject any candidate they want us to support, and then they gain ultimate control over the people of America. The talk radio pundits of America will keep using their form of Agitative propaganda to turn every American citizen into a loud, angry Ditto-heads.


Political talk radio is a form of 21st century propaganda because the DJ’s control the entire talk radio market leaving no room for any thoughts against their beliefs, the control they have over their fan base is immense, and they argue their opinion passionately and don’t even bother to acknowledge the other side of the argument. Hopefully, the 20% of Americans that get their news from political talk radio will open their eyes and see the truth. That political talk radio is biased and coerces you to believe their lies. Either that or there has to be drastic changes done to the way media is carried out in our modern society. Perhaps reinstituting the policies before the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed. That way every pundit would be forced to present both sides of the story so the people would get to make the choice of what to believe. Also it would be a good idea to force the talk radio market to be more balanced as far as programming goes. Another option follows a slightly more critical philosophical approach. This option would make every political pundit announce his or her political bias and opinions before each show so everyone would know the pundit’s standpoint. This way, when you tune into Sean Hannity, you know exactly why he is stating such anti-democratic statements. When the people know a pundits political preference, they will be able to have an easier time choosing to accept or reject the message they tell them. This would change talk radio and every other aspect of media for the better. But until we have a massive reform of our media policies, we will still be in a world riddled with propaganda.
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Works Cited

Barker, D., & Knight, K. (2000). Political Talk Radio and Public Opinion. Public Opinion Quarterly , 149-170.
Costello, C. (2009). Talk Radio: The Outrage Industry American Morning . CNN.
Wilson, S. (2009, July 23). Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States. Retrieved 2011, from Huffington Post: