Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: 'Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America's Airwaves' by Bill Press

Review by Susan Gardner
Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America's Airwaves 
By Bill Press 
Thomas Dunne Books 
Hardcover, 320 pages, $26.99 
May 2010
Money quote:
No doubt about it: Talk radio is the most powerful force in the media today. Especially conservative talk radio. It is more powerful than newspapers, the television networks, or cable news--all of which take their cues from the right-wing radio bigmouths.
It's also more powerful than the Internet. For all the buzz about bloggers, none of them yet have the power, reach, or viselike grip over segments of the electorate exercised by right-wing radio talkers Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Back, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, and others.
Conservative talk radio is even more powerful than conservative politicians.
Author: Press has been a talk show host since the 1980s, has served as co-host of an MSNBC show with Pat Buchanan and as co-host of Crossfire and the Spin Room. He also has a nationally syndicated column. But really, he's a talk radio guy at heart, despite his branching out.

Basic premise: Right-wing talk radio is powerful, destructive and saturating. It's a threat to our democracy because the hosts and format disregard facts, scorn reasonable debate and use intentionally provocative language to get attention. Media consolidation and the concentration of conglomerates has exacerbated this trend. Press presents the bios and sketches out the modus operandi of first- and second-tier talk radio hosts.
Readability/quality: Punchy, brisk and lively .. just like the format Press is most comfortable in. A simple, quick read, with frequent section breaks and nice quick sketches of the major players in conservative talk.
Who should read it: Those interested in media, media conglomeration, right-wing rhetoric and personalities, right-wing memes.
Bonus quote:
Old haters never die. They just sign new contracts.
Yeah, pithy zingers like that one, right there. Those are scattered throughout the book.

But the most value found in Toxic Talk from Press's keen eye and long history in the business, which allow him to describe the fine shades of rhetoric and attitude on the conservative talk spectrum, from Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck, from tow-the-party-line guy Sean Hannity to paranoid loon Michael Savage. For those of us who can't handle listening to these guys, the author's serious delineation of defining the personalities and their trademark rhetoric is invaluable as a resource. He also knows the syndication biz inside and out, and his perspective on how the game has changed over the years and how it all fits together now is instructive.

Editor's note: This review was originally published at the Daily Kos, which notes that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified." The original page can be found here. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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