Total Propaganda: From Mass Culture to Popular Culture

By Alex S. Edelstein | Go to book overview
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14
RADIO TALKPROP Using Oldprop for Fuel

If there is a milieu in which our popular culture creates oldprop and uses it for fuel, it is radio talkprop, a melange of programming that became strident and incessant in the 1990s and was credited in 1994 with helping to elect a conservative Republican Congress. Radio talkprop became a throwback to a mass culture, replete with leader figures and the oldprops of hate and demonization. By 1993, talkprop formats accounted for 10% of the nation's licensed radio broadcasters, double their number over a 5-year period, and quadrupled by 1995.1

Market and technological forces coalesced to make talkprop a national force and allow conservative Rush Limbaugh to lead a boom of nationally syndicated radio. Conservative commentator and presidential hopeful Patrick J. Buchanan joined Larry King and Bruce Williams on the Mutual Broadcasting System, giving its syndicate an 18-hour-per-day talk radio format. The controversial former Watergate burglar, G. Gordon Liddy, by mid-1995 was heard on 260 stations nationwide, second only to Limbaugh.2

In 1994 Limbaugh attracted 20 million listeners on more than 650 radio stations, and more than 4 million people watched his television show over 224 stations. His first book sold more than 2 million copies in paperback and his television call-in show rivaled the ratings of late-night hosts David Letterman and Jay Leno. But it was a different audience, predominantly made up of conservative, White, politically alienated men.3

The trend to talk radio was driven by profit and technologies as well as by personalities and events. A single personality that is featured on 200 stations

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Total Propaganda: From Mass Culture to Popular Culture
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