In his first debate with Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln told the crowd: 'In this and like community, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces (Judicial) decisions. He makes statues and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.'
What Sheila doesn't seem to appreciate is that no one can be forced to hold an opinion. However, those of us who work in talk radio can help to shape opinions the same way that politicians do:
We offer up our opinions, defend them and provide the factual information that justifies those opinions. If we fail to persuade, then at worst we leave the public better informed about the landscape.
Sheila focuses on the people who own the media, and that's the flaw in her argument. Media companies may be owned by the most conservative (Rupert Murdoch, for example) or the most liberal (Ted Turner before the buyout). It makes no difference.
What matters is what sells. Media companies do what every other company does É they sell things. If those opinions offered up by their hosts don't resonate with the public and persuade willing 'buyers' (who make that purchase by choosing one station over another), they get something that does.
Further, Sheila sees a concentration of ownership. Some of that is true. Four or five big companies own most of the radio stations, and the same is true in TV and other forms of media. But the fastest-growing syndicated talk show in the country Ñ with a host so conservative that he makes Rush Limbaugh look positively middle-of-the-road Ñ is the Michael Savage show. (I do some work as the fill-in-of-choice for Savage.)
Savage is owned Ñ lock, stock and barrel Ñ not by a giant media conglomerate but by a tiny syndicator called TRN, with headquarters in the tiny town of Central Point, just north of Medford.
The hottest news Web sites on the Internet are not owned by media conglomerates such as MSNBC or CBS or ABC. They're owned by people such as Matt Drudge and Mickey Kaus.
The thing that seems to gall liberals is that they've been trying to make talk radio and the Internet work for them, and they have not been able to get the public to respond. There's a message in this for so-called 'progressives' who find that their ideas don't sell well in the light of day.
Those liberals, progressives, or whatever you call them, aren't ready to listen to that message just yet, but they sure are listening to conservative talk radio. I know: They call every day!