Free Salon

Amusing: is offering free one year subscriptions to its premium contents to anyone on active duty in the U.S Armed Forces with a .mil e-mail address.

Do America’s servicemen and -women get the full story from American Forces Radio and Television? Not according to Eric Boehlert’s Salon cover story on Wednesday. Our soldiers get a daily dose of poison from Rush Limbaugh, who has dismissed the Abu Ghraib horrors as harmless frat-house pranks and denounces even Democrats who served their country (unlike Limbaugh himself, who sat out the Vietnam War) as traitors. Yet the military broadcasting system keeps even liberal commentators — let alone far-left ones who would be the real counterpart to the extremist blowhard — off its airwaves.

The men and women who are risking their lives abroad deserve to fully enjoy one of its essential cornerstones — a free press. But by bombarding military personnel every day with Limbaugh’s incendiary tirades, to the exclusion of all other views, American Forces Radio and Television is ensuring that its vast, uniformed audience is exposed only to the rantings of the far right.

If you listen only to Limbaugh, you hear only of a president who can do no wrong and of a nefarious political opposition that seeks not just to bring down his administration, but America itself. But Salon wants to make sure that those who are putting their lives on the line for America receive a full spectrum of news and opinion. Because that’s the American way.

It’s hard to argue against the gesture–free is free, after all–but do the editors of Salon really think American soldiers don’t have access to information about the war effort? Indeed, pretty much every online source worth reading is available for free to begin with. Presumably, the reason Rush Limbaugh–whose views about Abu Ghraib are in direct contradiction to that of the chain of command, incidentally–is on AFN while his leftist equivalent is not is that he has no leftist equivalent. Limbaugh’s show is by leaps and bounds the most popular talk show on the radio. I couldn’t tell you who the most popular leftist is, but he’s got to be several rungs down the ladder.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sgt Fluffy says:

    Free may be free, but will there be any one in the Armed Forces willing to endure their pub?

  2. Sander says:

    well, The O’Franken Factor is beating Rush in NYC:

    An analysis of recently released figures from Arbitron, the radio ratings service, showed that in New York Air America beat Rush Limbaugh’s station among 25-to-54-year-olds during the period that Limbaugh and Al Franken, the host of the flagship show “The O’Franken Factor,” go head-to-head.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Sander: It wouldn’t surprise me that Franken would beat Rush among the younger demographic in one of our more liberal cities, but that’s not what the story actually says. They’re comparing two radio stations from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rush is on from noon to 3 p.m. They don’t say what comes on in those two hours before Rush’s show or mention during which hours Franken’s show appears.

  4. Sander says:

    Well sure, but you asked for the most popular liberal show, which – based on the preliminary numbers – will probably be The O’Franken Factor.

    On your specific points: It is true that the older demographics are unstated, but America’s servicemen are mostly of an age between 18 and 54 (and yes NYC maybe more liberal than most cities but it is also the largest market). Maybe it wouldn’t surprise you, but from all the cheap shots from right-wing editorials and blogs, I bet they’re gnashing their teeth right now.

    Al Franken is also on from noon to 3. Unfiltered comes on before that. I don’t know which show runs before Rush’s, so I’m not sure which one is more popular.

    Still, the fact remains that Air America radio is a strong competitor to right-wing radio and not several rungs down the ladder.

  5. Paul says:

    Presumably, the reason Rush Limbaugh—whose views about Abu Ghraib are in direct contradiction to that of the chain of command, incidentally

    Other than the fact that Salon completely distorted what Limbaugh said about it!

    He spoke for over 4 hours on the topic and they highlight one sentence. Maureen Dowd would be proud.

  6. McGehee says:

    Sander, Air America has failed in two of its initial four markets and only got on in those four markets by buying the air time.

    Limbaugh’s program has subsisted on sponsorships from the get-go, making it a legitimate commercial success in every market it’s gotten into.

    If Air America were as popular as you seem to believe, they would have gotten on the air the same way Limbaugh did, and been growing consistently ever since — like Limbaugh did.

  7. Sander says:


    First, it did not ‘fail’, there were legal problems with the stations proprietor. Whether the shows sucked big wind or impressed even the angels up above with their sweet, sweet voices had nothing to do with it. Right now they have 14 local stations and 2 national, with at least 7 coming up.

    ‘Buying air time’ has to do with the business model of Air America Radio. Instead of consisting of syndicated shows, it’s a network, and a network needs a radio station. It was a gamble but it seems to have paid off.

    It is now an interesting market for investors, which makes it a legitimate commercial success and it seems to me you are crying foul because you plain don’t like its concept.

    Besides, going from 0.1 to 2 percent in 28 days, like in Chicago, seems pretty successful to me.

  8. Jimmie says:

    From a 2 million dollar startup investment to its most popular host working for free, lawsuits for unpaid bills from two parent stations, and nearly every founding member of its corporate structure gone.

    That’s certainly the recipe I’d write for success.

  9. Billy says:

    Lets see, Rush Limbaugh-600 stations, Sean Hannity-450 stations, Bill O’Reilly-420 stations, Al Franken-6…oh wait…make that 5 stations. Rush has 20 million listeners, Al Franken hasn’t even touched 5 million yet, and yet you try to compare them? Lets say Al Franken has moved up to 14, can that still compare to 600? I gave him 6 months and he is dead in 2, sad really.