The most anti-conservative rhetoric against conservative talk radio these days is coming from supposedly free-market conservatives. It's disgusting.
Author Mark Helprin's grenade in The Wall Street Journal stands out. Yesterday, he launched an attack on conservative radio hosts who oppose presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain. Helprin sneered that their "major talent is that, like hairdressers, they can talk all day long to one client after another as they snip."
It's one thing to hear such petty snark coming from the left. Outraged that conservative talk radio has succeeded in the marketplace while liberals have bombed, and unnerved that new media outlets have upended mainstream journalism's monopoly apple cart, liberals have long crusaded against the medium. Bill Clinton blamed the Oklahoma City bombing on the "many loud and angry voices" in conservative talk radio that "spread hate." Democrats continue to deride "Republican noise machines" and are working in Congress to marginalize, regulate and stifle influential talkers -- most recently by threatening to reinstitute the Orwellian Fairness Doctrine.
But now, we have establishment Republicans parroting liberal ad hominem rhetoric: Talk-radio hosts are talentless blabbermouths. Their listeners are mind-numbed robots. Or, as supposed free-market conservative and McCain supporter Phil Gramm put it in his broadside against talk radio in the Washington Post last week: "They say they have principles, but some of it is their ego and power, too. They're well-known, and they're used to having power."
Funny. These trash-talking GOP politicians and pundits had no problem when conservative talk-radio hosts used their "ego and power" to help kill Hillary Clinton's massive government health care takeover in 1994. They had no problem when conservative talk-radio hosts used their "ego and power" to galvanize support for the Republican revolution, two Bush presidential campaigns and the war in Iraq.
In major metropolitan U.S. cities, conservative talk radio offers rare relief from liberal orthodoxy -- and local talk show hosts have spearheaded effective activism. KSFO in San Francisco led the Gray Davis recall brigade. KVI in Seattle was instrumental in launching the successful fight against Hillarycare and in support of an initiative abolishing government racial preferences.
Were they nothing more than empty-talking hairdressers then?