Brian Anderson, author of South Park Conservatives, was on the O’Reilly Factor last night in the impact segment. Here follows a transcript of that conversation:
Bill O’Reilly: Thanks for staying with us, I’m Bill O’Reilly. In the impact segment tonight: the media war between conservatives and liberals is as intense as ever and today, the liberal Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed piece and said the liberal radio network Air America is failing. Since the print media has been very generous to Air America, that was unusual. The author of the op-ed is Brian Anderson who also has written a new book called South Park Conservatives: The Revolt against Liberal Media Bias. Wow. Mr. Anderson joins us now. See I’m in the middle of this war here you know and it’s vicious.
Brian Anderson: Sure.
O’Reilly: First of all let’s just walk through the whole thing. What’s a South Park Conservative?
Anderson: Right. Well I use that phrase very loosely to refer to a new kind of anti-liberalism that we’re seeing in the culture. We’re seeing it in comedy, on Comedy Central, particularly with the show South Park, which just goes after the left viciously. It goes after the right too, but it’s something very new to see a program that makes fun of liberals. And I see a lot on college campuses. Both of these things I say in the book are growing out of a pretty big shift in our mass communications. Talk radio, cable news, and the blogosphere all of which are allowing views that have long been excluded from public debate to make their way right into that debate. Basically right of center views.
O’Reilly: So a South Park Conservative would be somebody who, what?
Anderson: Somebody who doesn’t necessarily go along with the right right across the board, but who looks at today’s left and its political correctness, its anti-Americanism, its elitism and says, “That’s not me.”
O’Reilly: OK so a moderate conservative…
O’Reilly: who’s turned off by the Michael Moores and the bomb throwers of the left.
Anderson: Exactly. It’s more of an attitude than a kind of coherent political philosophy.
O’Reilly: But your thesis is challenged right off the bat by the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the network news producers who say there is no liberal bias, it’s never existed. How do you answer that?
Anderson: Well I think it’s just an absurd claim. My book has a pretty thick chapter on examples of liberal bias going back for years and years. A good one is two researchers from the American Enterprise Institute just did a look at newspaper headlines in the mainstream media and AP reports going back, I think to the early eighties, on how they reported economic data. And anytime there was a Republican President, the reports were much more negative whatever the underlying economic data actually were. So the Republicans…
O’Reilly: You can also see something like this Air America, the New York Times has done ten stories on it….
Anderson: It’s incredible…
O’Reilly: nine favorable. And the Radio Factor which has, ummm, nine times as many affiliates… no stories, which is fine with me. But there is no question that the major newspapers and the network news, CNN, tilts left, it just depends how far left.
Anderson: That’s right.
O’Reilly: Um, and you believe that now people have understood this because of Fox and the bloggers?
Anderson: I think Fox, the bloggers and talk radio which I don’t think gets enough attention from elites, but in fact it’s an incredibly powerful medium. You have, I think, the numbers say about one in four Americans or at least one in five get their news primarily from political talk radio now. And the right has flourished there. This is why liberals are complaining so much and they launched Air America.
O’Reilly: Why is Air America not succeeding? They have 50 affiliates after a year. They are losing about $8 million a year according to Ad Age.
Anderson: No. It’s… they’re doing much worse than the mainstream media is actually reporting. They’ve received more free publicity than any network, any, any project I’ve seen…
O’Reilly: Yeah, it’s amazing how much free publicity, and we’re giving them more right now.
Anderson: Look at the latest batch of ratings. Arbitron ratings in New York City. They are down to 24th in the ratings and that means…
O’Reilly: They’re last…
Anderson: They’re just about last, they may be last. They are doing worse than the all Caribbean format that used to be…
O’Reilly: I heard a rumor they’re going to start to do the limbo while broadcasting to try to get that Caribbean back again. But there’s got to be a reason why, there’s got to be a reason that a Bill Bennett launches a conservative radio program and gets a hundred and fifty affiliates right off the bat…
Anderson: A hundred and twenty-four it is, but same period of time.
O’Reilly: Right, and they have fifty. What’s the reason?
Anderson: I lay out several reasons in my chapter of South Park Conservatives on talk radio. The biggest, I think, is the existence of media bias elsewhere which liberals continue to deny, but a liberal, a left wing person can get up in the morning and look at the New York Times, he doesn’t need Air America. But there are other reasons too, one of which I think is the kind of negativism and anti-Americanism and lack of humor that has characterized…
O’Reilly: But these people are all supposed to be funny…
Anderson: They’re funny when they’re doing stand up comedy or writing for comedy shows. They, you know I’ve listened to a bit of Air America, painfully, I have to say, in researching this book and I…
O’Reilly: I think it’s really simple. I just don’t think Americans whether they’re liberal, conservative, moderate want to hear that their country is terrible twenty-four hours a day.
O’Reilly: Which is what the message is, the country’s lousy, all the people running it are bad and how of that can you take?
Anderson: It’s a relentlessly pessimistic message.
O’Reilly: Yeah, and I think that’s the key, that’s the key to it. Now, in the right, on the right, you have a tremendous amount of negativism too, I mean if you listen to some of these far right guys, every liberal is to be scorned.
Anderson: Yeah, sure, sure. There’s , I think if you at who’s really succeeding…
O’Reilly: Are there South Park Liberals? Are there liberals….
Anderson: Sure, sure. There must be. You don’t see them very evident in the media these days. But, you know the show South Park itself goes after conservatives once in a while. But there’s a kind of humorlessness to today’s left an inability to laugh both at themselves and at the world as a whole.
O’Reilly: I think you’re on to something. Limbaugh puts on a funny show, Ann Coulter, as far right as she is, is funny.
ANDERSON: She’s an entertainer…
O’Reilly: She’s trying to be, she’s entertaining.
Anderson: Laura Ingraham is very funny on the air.
O’Reilly: Right. She uses a lot of sound. I think you’re on to something there. The entertainment value is just better on the right. One last question for you…
O’Reilly: Why do the liberals want to kill the Fox News Channel when this is the only television network that gives a traditional point of view. Why? I mean you got seven to one. Why not let the one just exist without trying to kill it?
Anderson: It’s incredible, really the rage directed at Fox which says that it’s having some kind of a cultural impact. I list a whole number of, you know, from Al Gore calling it a “fifth column” and right down the line.
Anderson: I think the difference is that Fox arrived as a news organization, they just didn’t comment on the news, they could also decide what was newsworthy. So, for example, the fact that Richard Clarke had contradicted himself from when he was a Bush official and when he released his Bush bashing book…
O’Reilly: We covered that story heavily.
Anderson: They just covered it.
O’Reilly: Well they hate us, that’s for sure. Very entertaining book, Mr. Anderson, South Park Conservatives, and we appreciate you helping us out.
Anderson: Thank you very much.