THERE IS truly only one way to silence Rush Limbaugh.
Take him out.
But before you call the cops and accuse me of putting out a hit on America's favorite angry conservative, let me explain. The fact that anyone as mean-spirited as Limbaugh will reportedly earn nearly $400 million over the next eight years as he continues to spread his venom should give every American pause. It says volumes about his employer, Clear Channel, which just months ago signed him to a $38 million-a-year deal, then chose Inauguration Day to fire 1,850 of his colleagues.
It also speaks loudly about the 14 million Americans who reportedly listen to the man who actually said he hopes President Obama will fail.
The political pushback from Republicans on the radio to the November election results is obvious. While Limbaugh may not have any official party role, he clearly uses the airwaves to promote the GOP agenda, along with other conservatives like Bill Bennett and Michael Savage, who, although just as conservative, are mild, compared to Limbaugh.
Their daily assaults on liberalism are strategically designed to disarm the Democrats. The party's new (and first black) chairman, Michael Steele, although loyal to GOP principles, would be wise to distance himself from Limbaugh's vile views.
The fact that Clear Channel's mass firings barely got any coverage was also probably by design. The story flew under the radar while the nation focused on the historic inauguration of President Obama. It was a strategically superb move by a company that dominates analog radio. For me, it's personal because I spent many years in radio, starting as an intern at WDAS in 1981, and have seen the industry's decline under Clear Channel's heavy hand.
I recently spoke with radio legend Bob Law, a pioneer in syndicated black talk radio, whose "Night Talk" aired on WDAS for years. Law says President Clinton's Telecommunications Act destroyed radio as it was and today facilitates the spread of narrow views like those of Limbaugh. Clear Channel's priorities don't mesh with what's good for the black community, he says, and the company has contributed to the dumbing-down of radio.
I left my news-anchor job at WDAS years ago when it became obvious that the Telecommunications Act had cleared the way for corporations like Clear Channel to expand their ownership, which has succeeded in marginalizing the industry and eliminating thousands of jobs. That they pay Limbaugh so much to spew his right-wing rhetoric while firing so many is obscene. But apparently the man brings in the revenue, or he wouldn't be making so much.
Another casualty of radio downsizing, Lehronda Upshur, who held down the morning news on Power 99/FM for 19 years, started predicting her recent job loss a decade ago and prepared herself for it. "I saw the handwriting on the wall and went back to school to get my master's degree so I could teach," she told me, relieved not to have to get up at 3 a.m. to anchor the morning-drive news. She now works in human services and teaches at Springfield and Mercer colleges.
Former afternoon drive personality Gary Shepherd, cut from WDAS a few years ago for the syndicated "Michael Baisden Show," prepared himself for changes in the business by building a voiceover and production company called 3FM.
When Clear Channel first entered the Philadelphia market, those of us who could see modus operandi nicknamed the corporation Cheap Channel. True to form, on Jan. 20, the company cleared out 9 percent of its workforce and dropped news all together on Philadelphia's Power 99 and Q102. Industry insiders predict more layoffs will soon follow.
So when I say take him out, I'm not suggesting that we send a hit man to find Limbaugh (I actually think he'll burn himself out).
I'm actually talking about dollars and cents. The only way that anyone as mean-spirited as Limbaugh is has managed to stay on the air for two decades is that he's making a lot of money for his bosses.
So the way to silence him is to stop listening and boycott his sponsors. If they go, so does he. *
Fatimah Ali is a media consultant
and journalist. E-mail her at