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Air America
Reviewed by Shawn Fisher

Air AmericaAfter the blitzkrieg, after the tanks rolled in, after the allies were pushed back into the sea, when silence and terror occupied the land a lone voice in the darkness could be heard. This was the voice of French resistance radio whose valiant effort during World War II kept the voice of hope alive during a time when hope could not be seen. Now, fast forward in time sixty-seven years later and a continent away.  Another democracy is under attack, this time from within as a more and more corrupt Republican Party forces its way into the White House and our houses. One by one they strike down liberty after liberty under the guise of national security, until only silence and terror occupy the land. After the fraudulent elections, after the Patriot Act, after the Words of Moral Destruction, alone in the darkness a voice could be heard as Air America Radio signed on to the airwaves.

Their journey wasn’t an easy one. Then, again if change were easy the word revolution would be an antiquated term. “We aim to build an important new media franchise that delivers results,” Mark Walsh former CEO. With those words set forth a small group of investors intent on building a liberal presence in the medium of radio equal to the conservatives. All would not be a simple as it sounded though, while there were many qualified warriors of liberty to fill the ranks of the newly formed radio network, money and respect would be another matter. Add to that, the constant attacks by an already established biased right-wing media. 

Signing on to the airwaves in March of 2004 the founders of Air America Radio hoped to instantly provide a balance to the onslaught of right-wing propaganda being spewed at U.S. citizens from the radical fringe groups now in control of the Republican party and the United States Government, with a format featuring a liberal, left wing, progressive points of view and specializing in presentations and monologues, news, guest interviews, and calls by listeners. But much like the D-day landing, our defenders of freedom slammed right into the Atlantic Wall with obstacles and blockades to deter them from their course of action. Signing on initially in three major venues of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles they were quickly knocked off the air in Chicago and LA. Funding had become a problem, without the same vast recourses the right held, it seemed nearly impossible to maintain a constant voice. One studio of an AAR affiliate in Warren, Ohio, WANR-AM was briefly occupied by a group of religious extremists that changed the locks and began broadcasting Christian programming until the police forced them to leave. For every stumble the fledging radio network made, the right-wing followed up with unrelenting salvos of propagandist diatribe. And the worst blow, less then a year after their incarnation, came when the right once again stole the executive election. But the resistance continued on, and gained a foothold in the medium largely due to the internet, by streaming live broadcasts. Finally the executives of the network conceded their intent was good, but tactics bad. A change of command was needed so Mark Walsh left the field of battle and formerly silent partner Danny Goldberg stood up to take charge.
With a new command in place and new tactics set forth the network began to grow. More and more stations were added. They expanded to satellite radio broadcast via XM. AAR even began beating conservative radio goliaths like Rush Limbaugh, proving that their determination was profound enough to overcome any obstacle no matter how enormous it may be. 

Since its inception so many have joined this resistance, but we need only look at a few of these radio warriors to understand the measure of their resolve.  Such as Chuck D renowned leader of the militant rap group Public Enemy, who has helped to reinvigorate the civil rights movement for Black Americans with such thought and action provoking albums like It take A Nation of Millions, Fear OF A Black Planet and Apocalypse ’91…The Enemy Strikes Black.  His group’s soundtrack work on Independent Film Director Spike Lee’s Oscar nominated motion picture Do The Right Thing helped drive home the films message about the continued existence of racial tensions in modern America. Chuck D is now taking the battle for freedom and equality to a new level with his show On The Real.

Al Franken is an Emmy-Award winning comedy writer for Saturday Night Live who traded in his whoopee cushion for a protest sign. Franken went on to author such best selling books as Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.  He was even suedby the right-wing flagship Fox News for use of the phrase “Fair and Balanced” which was part of the subtitle of one of his books.  Fox claimed that Franken infringed its registered trademark rights in the phrase, “Fair and Balanced.” The case went to court and it was literally laughed out by the Judge. When Air America signed on Franken was given the flagship program to host. He initially titled the program The O’Franken Factor “to annoy” Bill O’Reilly conservative host of The O’Reilly Factor. Once he had his fun with Bill the show would change it’s titled to and is now The Al Franken Show.

Radio veteran and winner of the American Women in Radio and Television award for Best Entertainment Programming, Randi Rhodes is a woman so controversial she has even garnered the attention of the Secret Service.  The SS came down on her and Air America in the spring of 2005 when a comedy sketch on her program The Randi Rhodes Show implied that the current President should be shot for his crimes against the peoples of the United States. Ironically this was around the same period that Republican legislators were outright calling for Federal Judges to be shot because they did not rule in favor of the parties’ wishes. Unaffected by the incident Rhodes continues to keep a critical eye on Washington, especially White House politics, and all of mass media checking their facts and pointing out deception.

The French endured a seven-year occupation that left much of the nation scarred and gutted. Our nation will endure no less then eight years of equal hardship perhaps even more. But like the French Resistance so long ago Air America Radio is here to stay, to fight against insurmountable odds and one day liberate our nation from tyranny. “Today is both an ending and a beginning: an end to the right-wing dominance of talk radio, (and) a beginning of a battle for truth, a battle for justice, a battle indeed for America itself…” said Al Franken.



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