Rush on the run? Swell! It just doesn't mean what it once would have
"If WLS really does offload Limbaugh, this will look like a Major League Baseball or NBA team trading away a player with a really large contract."
-- from an item on Tom Taylor's website
It's reasonably well known that Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, the designers of NYC's Central Park, Prospect Park, and so many other public spaces, hated statues, and wanted very badly to keep them the hell out of their parks. However, even when they were around to complain, their wishes weren't always heeded, and of course it's been a long time since they were around.
So what's wrong with statues? Well, statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Columbus are one thing -- and goodness knows we've got plenty of them. (Does anyone think we need more?) But when you start to look at the ranks of once-instantly-recognizable titans of yesteryear and consider how many of the subjects time has rendered largely or completely unknown to us, you realize that even glazing glory fades.
This may be an odd way to start a post about the evolution of Rush Limbaugh, but I'm not sure it isn't the only way.
We're so used to having Rush to kick around that we may not have caught up with the reality that it just doesn't matter the way it once did.
Howie and I count on our radio guru Jack to keep us up to date on developments in radioland, and just lately he has passed along these items from the "Tom Taylor Now" website:
Cumulus tangos again with Rush Limbaugh, this time in Chicago.
The breaking story that began early yesterday morning with Robert Feder’s report headlined “WLS ready to drop Rush Limbaugh” has the feel of a blockbuster baseball or basketball trade that was picked up by a sharp sportswriter, in the moments just before it was to be finalized. Cumulus later said about the story “This is not at all accurate.” But there’s wiggle-room, and perhaps this fits in - DailyKos picked up a most un-Rush-like Facebook musing from Limbaugh this week – “Now that I've outgrown the 25-54 demographic, I'm no longer confident I see the world as everybody else does.” And demos matter, certainly to Cumulus at Chicago’s talk WLS (890). Yearly revenue at WLS dropped from $13 million to “less than $9.5 million in 2014,” says Feder, and that was “a contributing factor in a change in top management.” That’s where Cumulus brought in former CBS-Chicago exec Peter Bowen from L.A., to succeed newly-promoted Midwest regional exec Donna Baker.
By coincidence, Cumulus just signed Jonathon Brandmeier…Now this is perfectly consistent with the rumblings I've been hearing out of radioland over the last year or more: that political talk radio doesn't appeal to advertisers the way it once did. In part we can thank the good work of the various individuals and groups who have made a mission of talking back to the hate talkers, and helped deliver a message to those advertisers. While controversy can sometimes be a good thing, radio-station owners (and their consultants) apparently find that getting caught up in these kinds of controversies doesn't help them sell stuff. And certainly the Rush Resistance movement has helped discourage advertisers.
If Limbaugh leaves the schedule at talk WLS (890), that would let it carry the full three hours of “Johnny B.,” in the market where he’s best-known, Chicago. He’d air 9am to noon, instead of the originally-announced 9am-11am. That would leave WLS with a hole from noon-2pm. One scenario has Cumulus and Premiere negotiating to transfer Rush to Salem’s conservative talk WIND (560). After all, Premiere’s parent iHeart set some precedents by moving Rush off his longtime L.A. affiliate (talk KFI/640) to a sister station, the new avowedly-conservative “Patriot 1150” KEIB. But – Salem has previously displayed little interest in Rush, and this would break that pattern. There was friction between Cumulus and Rush a couple of years ago, when CEO Lew Dickey mentioned a revenue issue at some talk stations. He didn’t name-check Limbaugh, but Rush took it personally. The backdrop here is the three-year-old advertising boycott against Limbaugh whose match was lit by Media Matters, then kept alive by watchdog sites like StopRush.net (February 5, 2014 NOW). What's next? If WLS really does offload Limbaugh, this will look like a Major League Baseball or NBA team trading away a player with a really large contract. Sure sounds like something’s up. Follow Robert Feder’s posts on his website here.
But if you look at the Facebook posting up top, note that the Rush We Love to Hate seems himself to have grasped that Time Marches On. And so my takeaway here isn't quite the same as, say, that of Leslie Salzillo, the author of the above-referenced Daily Kos post, "Rush Limbaugh Admits Defeat On Facebook - 'Talk' Of Being Dropped In Chicago Circulates."
First, note that it isn't just Rush who's lost his glittery-gold luster. Though goodness knows htere's still plenty of Hate Talk Radio clogging the airwaves, it's a seriously declining format. At least as important, and very likely more important in the case of the Rush We Love to Hate, celebrities are perishable commodities. Maybe not like a quart of milk or a loaf of bread, but they have a shelf life.
There's no doubt that Rush himself at the height of his power was a force for evil. That that's no longer so much so, and there doesn't seem any single person exercising comparable influence -- this is all to the good. But getting hung up on him personally doesn't change the reality of where a broad swath of the country is, politically and, er, informationally.
I can't tell you exactly what Rush means when he says that "there are younger people, generationally younger, who have an entirely different view, an entirely different experience." A different experience, sure. But I sure don't see evidence of "an entirely different view." Just because right-wing delusion and obfuscation may not be as salable to radio advertisers as they once were, that doesn't seem to mean at all that their grip on the country has lessened. When I look around, it seems to me in fact quite a bit stronger.
Maybe more than anything it's that the country has become so addle-pated politically that it no longer needs a Rush to make them stupid. So please forgive me if I'm not doing a dance of celebration over his humbling.