The Divided Dial
The takeover of the Airwaves--and, with them, the minds of many
Leading up to last fall’s elections many of my friends and readers (and, I suspect, many hundreds or perhaps thousands of other locals) received in the mail a DVD of Dinesh D’Souza’s “2000 Mules”. Many (or all?) were sent from a non-existent Spokane northside address by an unidentified person or organization posing as a concerned citizen. “2000 Mules” presents supposed evidence of election fraud. One presumes these DVDs were sent in the hope of bolstering the prospects of election deniers like McCaslin Junior running in the then upcoming fall election.
Watching the DVD is an education in confidence scams. In the film “evidence” of election fraud is presented to a panel of sober, initially skeptical men in a supposed effort to convince them of a scheme of unnamed nonprofit organizations associated with the Democratic Party to illegally collect and deposit ballots into drop boxes. Presented with supposedly incontrovertible evidence, these sober men eventually nod in agreement. This is a confidence game. Few viewers are equipped to question the hocus-pocus of computerized analysis of cell phone location records, so the acceptance of the presentation depends on each viewer’s trust in the ability of these suited men to critically evaluate the presented material.
In my world, the panel of sober “experts” would need to demonstrate real expertise in analyzing the material of the type presented. Clearly, D’Souza chose this panel of sober, nodding men as people in whom many potential viewers of the film would be willing to place their confidence. Tellingly, D’Souza’s panel consists entirely of Salem Radio Network talk show hosts: Dennis Prager, Sebastian Gorka, Larry Elder, Eric Metaxas, and Charlie Kirk. One must ask how these men came to be seen as worthy of trust by a significant share of those who might bother to watch “2000 Mules”.
The answer is presented in a fascinating five part podcast series, “The Divided Dial”, assembled and presented by Katie Thornton of “On the Media”. It is the story of origin, growth, and nationalization (monopolization?) of the AM/FM radio dial (along with the minds of its listeners) by in-your-face right wing radio personalities and “Christian” pastors. Along the way the series touches on the changes in regulation of the broadcast media that started with the Reagan administration and facilitated this takeover, raising the question of the underlying intent, especially considering the outcome. I first heard of the series by listening to Spokane Public Radio’s segment “On the Media”. If you are new to podcasts, this is your chance to learn. The simplest way to listen is to google search “The Divided Dial” and listen on your computer. If listening on a smartphone is more appealing: On an iPhone there’s a “Podcasts” app. Search for “On the Media” and scroll down through multiple episodes to catch “The Divided Dial: Episode 1 - The True Believers”. I expect there’s something similar on other smartphones.
If your interest is piqued I encourage you to check out a post by Thom Hartmann entitled “A Media Ceiling is about to Fall In On Democrats”. Hartmann has considerable experience with fledgling liberal talk radio (anyone remember “Air America”?). His experience interlinks with “The Divided Dial”.
I didn’t find any of this tour of the well-funded, moneymaking, nationalized, right wing propaganda machine uplifting—but it is certainly a wakeup call to us to redouble our efforts to offer the counter narrative to anyone who will listen or read.
Make it your business this weekend to check out “The Divided Dial”.
Keep to the high ground,
Pl.S. In Episode 4 of “The Divided Dial” Katie Thornton reminds us of the murder of Alan Berg, the Denver-based liberal talk radio host who was gunned down in the early days of talk radio in 1984 by a member of “The Order”, a group founded by Robert Jay Mathews at his farm near Metaline, Washington. The Order was a group with multiple tendrils intertwined with Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations in Hayden, Idaho, and multiple successor organizations. This connection to our region made my skin crawl—and made me wonder about what might have been—if Alan Berg were still alive.