So far so good with what I've heard of Air America, the new "progressive" radio network. The rhetoric has been more biting and intelligent than the milquetoast media apologias that have plagued liberalism for years. I've long been a fan of Al Franken, and I'm willing to cut him some slack if the first week of his O'Franken Factor show isn't quite as crisp in the humor department as the best of his SNL work, or his best-selling books. I'm confident he'll find his stride.
I don't worry that AA will lack for noble content. What I'm concerned about is that the decision to allow AA in the media marketplace may be a calculated one by Powers That Be, a bone thrown to the "doomed" 40-50 percent who more likely than not will be further disenfranchised by government over the next four years.
The AA station I listen to in Portland is run by Clear Channel, one of George W. Bush's biggest supporters. If the station really posed a threat to Clear Channel's bottom line -- one supported by Bush and perhaps by a politically neutered "President Kerry" -- do you think that would've happened? If Air America constituted a clear threat to plutocratic interests, don't you think there would've been a more organized smear campaign against it, in the mainstream media? Such a campaign might yet happen, particularly if the ratings and subsequent poll numbers show AA being any kind of threat to the media big boys' tax cuts, deregulation and permanent war coverage.
Air America is a promising first step toward reclaiming some true balance in a media marketplace dominated by timid sellouts and corporate shills. But I think the listeners of AA must realize (and the on-air talent should remind them) that it won't be a good thing if the net effect is nothing but liberal listeners feeling good about their pre-held beliefs and opinions. Ultimately some dent must be made in the 45 percent of America who currently reside in the Ned Flanders Twilight Zone, and among those few who control the corporate wealth, or else the radical conservatism espoused by Reagan, Gingrich and Bush will continue to thrive in the political arena. It might suffer setbacks, but it won't get the crushing defeat it so richly deserves.
Al and Janeane and Randi need to get folks out there participating more in the political process, and I hope they will. But the resulting resistance could get ugly.