The Rush-Bush knowledge vortex
The No. 2 most-listened-to morning radio show these days is National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” According to a story in the New York Times the other day, “Morning Edition” draws some 13 million listeners weekly with its mix of news, features, analysis, commentary and a few odds and ends. (You can hear it locally on 97.7 KUNC.) The story was about a program that New York’s public radio station powerhouse WNYC is launching to challenge “Morning Edition.” It’s called “The Takeaway,” and it promises to be a shorter but somewhat similar program on hot issues and whatever other stories catch the producers’ ears.
I like WNYC and listen to the podcast of their excellent “On the Media” show every week. But what struck me most about this story was something I didn’t realize: The No. 1 most-listened-to morning radio show is … Rush Limbaugh.
I don’t think Limbaugh’s show is available locally (although KNFO in Basalt carries it), but I have heard enough in the past to know that it is essentially a rant-style commentary show ” which is fine. I don’t have a problem with someone finding success tapping into this kind of populist rabble-rousing no matter what side of the aisle they’re on.
What bothers me is that, if more people are spending time listening to Rush ” which is pretty much all commentary and very little reporting from the field ” then the more legitimate journalism taking place on public radio is being overshadowed. Take climate change, for example. In a recent broadcast, Rush said this:
“This is a hoax. It’s junk science. It’s being portrayed as something to make you scared to death we’re all going to die. You’re supposed to vote liberal for this; supposed to make some sacrifices; pay higher taxes; drive a car you don’t want to drive; live in a house you don’t want to live; live where you don’t want to live; use detergent you don’t want to use, all this rotgut stuff …”
Meanwhile, scientists around the world keep filing these disturbing reports that continually support the theory that human activity is accelerating global warming, and that our only planet is under a legitimate threat. This is a global, non-partisan issue with a lot of legitimate science to back it up, but if all you listen to is Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, it’s easy to see why you might think otherwise. His message is to ignore the danger, drive the biggest car you can, crank up the A/C and just continue consuming resources at that good ol’ American rate.
Of course, we also have an oilman president who has dragged his feet for almost eight years on climate change and energy, sticking with the polluting, non-renewable resources of a century ago and dedicating a pittance to research on alternatives. It’s no wonder, then, that a good portion of the country is skeptical and confused about the need to change what we do, even as gas creeps inexorably toward $4 a gallon. How much will it have to be before people reject the likes of Rush and each does their part to cut down on energy consumption? $5? $10?
Some day in the not-too-distant future, people will look back on the fossil-fuel-burning era of human history and be simply amazed as to why and how the societies of an entire planet could be based on non-renewable, toxic energy. People like George Bush and Rush Limbaugh will be identified in the histories as influential voices in slowing the change to more sustainable energy. Their legacies will be that of shame and wrong-headedness, but they still speak for America.
After all, we voted one of them into the highest office in the land twice and reward the other with the top-rated radio show.
Alex Miller is responsible for the editorial oversight of the Vail Daily, Eagle Valley Enterprise and Vail Trail. He can be reached at (970) 748-2920, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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