Unfortunate names

by Daniel on April 1, 2004

I don’t often make predictions, but I have to say I’m not optimistic for the survival of “Air America Radio“, the new liberal answer to right-wing talk. I have no real knowledge of whether the presenters are any good, or what the demographics are, but I’ve always thought that you can tell a lot about a business enterprise by the name. Specifically, you can often gauge how much time, effort and intelligence people spent in thinking up the name, and this usually carries over into how they’re going to run their business.

In which context, it is perhaps unfortunate that the “Air America” people have (presumably unintentionally) named themselves after the CIA’s heroin trafficking operation in Southeast Asia (the subject of a movie which, in a beter world, would have crushed Mel Gibson’s career before it took root). The well-meaning liberal radio types must be taking lessons from these guys.

UPDATE: I am told there’s an interview with Al Franken going round the place in which he says they were being ironic … to be honest this seals my belief that they’re doomed as I can think of maybe three people in the world who might find that joke funny and none of them live in America.



jdsm 04.01.04 at 10:04 am

I’m guessing a certain Al Franken might give it more legs than it would otherwise have had. Very dumb name though – the film was the first thing that sprung to my mind when I heard about it.


Russell Arben Fox 04.01.04 at 12:36 pm

Robert Downey, Jr. wasn’t exactly wonderful in that piece o’ crap filmmaking either, btw.


Donald Johnson 04.01.04 at 1:26 pm

The CIA airline came to my mind first and still does whenever I see that phrase. I’d almost forgotten the movie and can’t even remember if I hated it or not. My like or dislike would probably have been on ideological grounds rather than on the quality of the acting.

Maybe they could change the name to the Phoenix Project. Was there a name for the CIA project to destabilize Allende by kidnapping General Schneider? That’d be cool.


harry 04.01.04 at 2:23 pm

On Daniel’s grounds I was always circumspect about The New Party in the US, which I nevertheless joined and put lots of effort into. A bad name regardless of the historical precedent, but one chosen, certainly, by people who had no excuse for not knowing the historical precendent (albeit that it was in the UK not the US).


t whalen 04.01.04 at 2:23 pm

I have a really hard time separating, in my mind, the movies Air America and Operation: Dumbo Drop. I hope I am not alone on this. Heroin, elephants… what’s the difference?


rick 04.01.04 at 2:31 pm

I was puzzled by the name selection, also. And, yes, the movie was crap, but I assumed it was an intentional reference to the CIA actual involvement in Laos and Cambodia, not the movie. Any allegations of drug running on the part of the CIA are obviously false. Next you people will be claiming that since the US military and the CIA have been actively on the ground in Afghanistan, that there is a huge and sudden increase in the herion flowing into Europe and the states of the former USSR. Ridiculous. Poppycock…Or maybe just poppies.


Rv. Agnos 04.01.04 at 2:44 pm

Actually, the name was just changed recently from “Central Air Radio,” which was named after, apparently, a form of built-in house cooling. (Don’t try typing in http://www.centralairadio.com, though, their webpage until last week — you’ll get re-directed to a pro-life advocacy group!)

The first day was actually pretty good (I listened to a lot of it.)

Jeanane Garofolo was better than I expected, with Dave Chappelle as the best guest of the day (Blogger Atrios was also on, and did fine). The show after Franken’s (Randy Rhodes) was great, with special guest Ralph Nader getting attacked for trying to cost the Dems another election.

Franken’s was probably the weakest, seemingly over-scripted, but not terribly funny. They were obviously trying to hard.


dsquared 04.01.04 at 3:39 pm

Randy Rhodes

The guitar player on Blizzard of Ozz? I could have sworn he was dead.


harry 04.01.04 at 4:40 pm

Daniel, he’s long, long dead, and a tragic loss. Being dead, however, is no disqualification from hosting a talk radio show in America, as you would know if you listened. And Randy Rhodes dead beats Rush Limbaugh living, imho.


neil 04.01.04 at 4:41 pm

I agree. I listened to snippets of all the shows, an Al Franken’s was far and away the least interesting. I genuinely wonder why they made him into their flagship show. Randi Rhodes and Janeane Garofalo both have a lot more charisma than Al. Hopefully he’ll learn to stop interrupting his producer, who has more radio talent than he does; but I won’t be listening to find out.


Mark Byron 04.01.04 at 6:12 pm

I think Air America went beyond your tale of drug smuggling and covered a lot of undercover movement of various stuff of varying levels of honorability world-wide.


Bill Rehm 04.01.04 at 6:49 pm

I live in America. I think “Air America” is funny and I have great hopes for the new network. First day’s programming was a little rough, but lots of gems in there.

But what do I know? I find most Monty Python decidedly unfunny.


Edward 04.01.04 at 6:55 pm

I took Air America as a stylish tongue-in-cheek attempt to out-Patriot the right-wing airwaves. Its nostalgic ring also harkens back to the golden days of American liberalism.

It’s a worth-while venture, even if it only lasts through the election.


Steve S. 04.01.04 at 7:04 pm

Franken is to irony what leftist fascism is to good governance. That’s hardly a coincidence.


dsquared 04.01.04 at 7:19 pm

steve, if you don’t like “leftist fascism”, then to be honest you’re going to have a hard time enjoying Crooked Timber. However many times you visit, it’s always going to be a left wing site, so why don’t you save us all some grief and not bother, eh?


Arthur D. Hlavaty 04.01.04 at 10:36 pm

It’s about time to get the liberal message across to the vast nonironic, non-reference-getting majority. I like the name.


skippy 04.02.04 at 1:35 am

i think the weakest thing about aa is that franken is their flagship show. both randi and janeane are much much better, more focused, better paced.

i know that my fellow lefty’s will kill me, burn me alive, desicrate my corpse through the streets, behead it and hang it from a bridge, but here goes anyway:

as much as i love franken’s point of view and his success as a liberal voice, and as much as i hate dennis miller’s conversion to the dark side and terrible politics, miller is still a million times funnier than franken ever was.

franken needs a sharp, fast-paced, equally humorous straight man (tom davis, dave letterman, jay leno) in his conversations to be even close to interesting.

he just hasn’t been funny since the early 1990’s, the me, al franken, decade.


Zizka 04.02.04 at 5:06 am

I’ve been amazed by the amount of naysaying about this. Yeah, most liberals don’t listen to talk radio, but this station isn’t for them. And many conservatives won’t listen, but it isn’t for them either.

And yeah, liberals are too good for talk radio, or political power either. Sure. The defeatism and timorousness of many liberals and Dem party pros is almost impossible to describe. Like whipped dogs.

Basically, what the station does is provide an alternative for people who are conservative just because they listen to the radio. A wonderful job has been done of packaging right-wing ideas persuasively and then flooding the market so that people who are not actively political (most people) end up thinking that rightwing ideas are simple common sense. I think that the mere existence of a second opinion, if it penetrates far enough, can pop that bubble. (I HOPE they do go into marginal states like Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, etc. where they can make a difference).

Gore got ~46% of the vote and more of his voters were to his left than to his left. (Pursuit of the marginal voter pulls the Dems right). But almost no one in the national media is even as far left as Gore. There’s a whole suppressed demographic there.

After listening to about 6 hours, I asked myself how often (even in relatively liberal Portland OR) I hear a mainstream person matter-of-factly describe themself publicly as a liberal. It doesn’t happen much. People test each other out first, or meet in special liberal gatherings where everyone is “out”. “Liberal” has become a smear.

And then, consider that I’m a left-liberal, and realize how isolated I am. (Of course, The US still has a moderate ultra-left population, but they’ve mostly resigned themselves to purely symbolic politics and marginalization).

“Air America”: the number of people who care one way or another is insignificant. Ironic, straight, who cares?


Donald Johnson 04.02.04 at 12:51 pm

Zizka, I don’t think anyone was outraged by the name of the station (or anyway I wasn’t). It just seems like an obscure joke if it was meant to refer to the CIA airline. Actually, I thought it was what someone upthread said–an attempt to jokingly outdo the right at chest-pounding patriotism.


Anthony 04.05.04 at 3:06 am

I’m in the US (sort of – I’m in the Bay Area), and I think the name “Air America” for a lefty talk radio network is pretty funny, but probably not the way that Franken, et al, think it is.

But I’m not going to listen to it – if I want lefty radio, I’ll listen to NPR.

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