Mr. Programmer, I got my hammer, and I am going to smash my radio

Listening to the new format on one of the local AM radio stations this morning made me wish for a thunderstorm. Loud static would have been more enjoyable

Starts Friday at a drive-in near you. Parental Guidance suggested.

Today’s get-up-and-get-moving jam is from the little-known 1978 disco movie, “Thank God It’s Friday,” starring West Homestead’s own Jeff Goldblum and Donna Summer:

I wouldn’t know the song if it weren’t for Barry Banker, formerly at WHJB (620) in Greensburg, who used it on Friday mornings.

Set in a fictional Los Angeles disco called “The Zoo,” the movie was more or less a box-office bomb. The film was produced in part by Motown Records, and it definitely proved that Motown should stick to records.

Today’s trivia question: What movie critic, reviewing “Thank God It’s Friday,” said, “When you describe it, it sounds like a lot more fun than it is when you see it”? Answer at the end.

Speaking of radio: Over the pandemic lockdown, when I was working from home every day, I discovered that 910 AM in Apollo, Pa., had switched to an oldies format and was billing itself as “Westmoreland Gold.” Believe it or not, even though I do an oldies show, I generally don’t listen to oldies during the week, but I enjoyed what they were doing — which included local newscasts and DJs.

A few months ago, the station and a sister station in Latrobe were sold to something called “Disruptor Media,” which promised to convert the stations to “conservative talk,” because Lord knows, there’s not enough conservative talk radio in the United States.

I punched the station up this morning and caught a little bit of the “John Frederick Show,” where I learned that Hillary Clinton is a Maoist who wants to put Republicans into re-education camps “just like the KGB did.”

(This was prompted by an interview that Clinton did with CNN in which she compared Trump’s followers to members of a cult. “Maybe there needs to be a formal deprogramming of the cult members, I don’t know,” she said.)

Frederick’s guest said, “She’s been spouting Sal Alinsky ever since she was a kid.” I think he meant “Saul,” but who knows, maybe he meant “Sal.” Considering that Hillary Rodham was a volunteer for Barry Goldwater’s campaign and a member of the Young Republicans in high school and college, that information surprised me a little bit, but I continued listening.

Mr. Frederick — who, as it turns out, is the owner of “Disruptor Media,” which is part of the “MAGA Radio Network” — explained that the “fake-news state-run media” doesn’t want you to know about the “Democrat Party’s” plans for Republican re-education camps once they “destroy America.”

(You may wonder why the Democrat Party would want to destroy America, considering the Democrat Party runs the Senate and the White House in America, but I’m assuming it’s because — waves hands — reasons.)

Hours later, while running some errands in the car, I kept the radio on 910 and listened to the Rob Carson Show, which comes from the Newsmax TV channel and is described as “a humorous and insightful discussion of politics, news and culture” featuring “top notch guests, commentary and parody.”

Hillary Clinton, who has not held a single public or elected office since 2013, was the topic there, as well.

Carson picked up Clinton’s comments about cult-like behavior to again allege that she’s going to lock up Republicans in re-education camps. (Wait, isn’t it Republicans who want everyone to attend church and force gay children into mandatory conversion therapy? Ah, I digress.)

According to Carson, Clinton is a “wretched woman” who’s behind the “phony trials” of President Donald Trump. “She collaborated with the FBI to create a fake Russia investigation of President Trump because she couldn’t beat him in an election,” he said, and as a result, Trump is being tried by a “horrible, biased judge” in a “corrupt judicial system.” The judge, he said, is “a jackass in a black robe.”

The reason Clinton wants to destroy Trump, Carson says, is because Trump is “one of us” who’s trying to protect us from being “forced to drive crappy electric cars — and I’ll never drive one, because they’re for poseurs” and take a “mandatory experimental vaccine” and be subject to “experimental hormone treatments and surgeries on children.”

(“Experiments being forced on people! I think someone tried that in Germany in the 1940s! … and guess what, Joe Biden has a mean German shepherd, too, just like that guy.” Also, Clinton is a “Happy American Grandma” — or “H.A.G.,” geddit? This must be some of that humorous and insightful commentary.)

Joe Biden has also “forbidden” us to talk about certain topics, Carson said: “Forbidden! Or is that ‘verboten’! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We’ll all be driving our government-approved electric cars … our volks-wagens, as it were.” (Again, I thought I heard something about Republicans wanting to remove certain books they don’t like from libraries, but I digress.)

Anyway, within the first 10 minutes of the show — actually, more like five or six minutes, before the first commercial break! — listeners were treated to a discussion that included:

  • comparing Joe Biden to Hitler multiple times
  • bashing transgender people and comparing them to Nazi experiments
  • mocking COVID vaccinations
  • claiming electric cars are “crappy” and for wimps
  • lionizing Donald Trump as an exemplar of the common man, and
  • several minutes of misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton

Now, you have to admit, that’s impressive. He crammed every right-wing paranoid talking point into an impromptu six or eight-minute monologue. It’s like getting “Yahtzee” on your first roll.

I looked at the website for 910 AM, and the advertisers include nutritional supplements making some surprising (some might even say “dubious”) claims; schemes for turning your 401(K) retirement plan into gold; survivalist rations (I guess for after the Democrat Party destroys America, but before the re-education camps are ready) and — naturally — “MyPillow”:

Some of the ads on the 910 AM website.
These are all perfectly cromulent dietary supplements, I’m sure

A lot of people point fingers at Fox News for the current completely insane political climate in the United States, and Fox News is objectively nothing but right-wing propaganda, but its peak audience is about 2.5 million people.

Meanwhile, Sean Hannity’s radio show averages 16 million listeners per week.

About 50 million people listen to talk-radio per week.

The big radio syndication networks in the U.S. program about 2,570 hours of conservative-leaning talk hosts per week, versus about 250 hours of left-leaning talk hosts. So, roughly a 90-10 split.

Outside of New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles and San Francisco, in fact, virtually no talk radio stations pick up any left-leaning talk-show hosts. What passes for “liberal” talk radio in, say, Pittsburgh is “Democracy Now” on WRCT and maybe some other shows on other college radio stations.

You’ve probably never heard of “John Frederick” or “Rob Carson” or a lot of other conservative talk hosts, but there are a thousand hosts like them, all over the United States — cut-rate Rush Limbaughs, unfettered by fact-checking or accuracy.

And just because you haven’t heard of them, it doesn’t mean that the guy in the next car isn’t listening.

Talk radio has been pumping this sludge into 50 million people’s ears on a daily basis since the mid-1990s, when the FCC lifted the monopoly rules and allowed large companies to build massive chains of radio stations, free of any restrictions on content or requirements for community input.

Hillary Clinton has always had a talent for saying things that can be taken out of context and used against her. But when people are wearing identical clothing, taking up weapons to defend someone else’s cause, following a charismatic leader from place to place, alienating themselves from their families and friends, and risking their own personal safety to benefit a movement … well, I’d call that cult-like behavior. Wouldn’t you?

I had a neighbor who drove around in a car with a decal of Trump in the back window, so that it looked like Trump was riding with him. He also had a life-size stand-up cutout of Trump on his front porch. The only other figures who get that kind of treatment are religious icons.

If Trump is being treated like a religious icon, doesn’t it follow that he’s leading a religious-type movement?

I took Clinton’s comment about “deprogramming” as a joke. Not a funny one, but it’s clearly an exaggeration. Actually, I don’t know if Trump’s followers need to be “deprogrammed,” but I know this much: A lot of the radio stations in this country need to be re-programmed.

About 30 percent of this country is engaged in cult-like behavior, and nothing has played a bigger role in making that happen than talk radio.

Trivia answer: The critic in question was the inimitable, late, great Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ebert in 1978

“The movie, in fact, isn’t as much fun as a night at a disco, because the editing is so nervous that we never get one sustained musical number that’s allowed to build to a satisfying climax,” he said. “During ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ audiences have been known to dance in the aisles. During ‘TGIF,’ they only really seem to have a spring in their step on the way to the exit.”

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