Tuesday, August 19, 2008

PunditFight interview: A conversation with Sam Seder

PunditFight presents 'A conversation with Sam Seder'
Sam Seder is a liberal talker with a great following on the left blogosphere. He is a pioneer when it comes to integrating and mobilising the online progressive community using the radio medium. He is credited for elevating prominent liberal bloggers like Markos Moulitsas (Founder of The Daily KOs), Atrios, and Digby amongst many others by giving them a regular platform on his show.

During the 2006 midterm elections Sam hosted a weekly segment called 'The Fighting Dems'. Organised with Markos, the segment profiled a range of Military Vets running for office as Democrats. Some candidates ran in Primaries challenging "less liberal" Democratic incumbents. The initiative helped propel military Democrats like Jim Webb into office. Sam was arguably the first national broadcaster to spotlight Senator Webb.

Whilst Sam has enjoyed great support from his audience, he has had a tumultuous career as a talker. He has had 3 different shows on AirAmerica ('The Majority Report', 'The Sam Seder Show' and 'Seder on Sundays') with talks of a fourth. It's possibly attributed to his outspokeness - he's been suspended for calling out a stablemate and received some grief over an on-air feud with a prominent liberal talker. Perhaps it could be something else entirely, The Boston Globe did see it fit to title it's feature profile of Sam "Failure is an option".

In our conversation we discuss the differences between the Liberal and Conservative infrastructure (ThinkTanks/ Talk radio/ Blogosphere). We Talk about the price of being outspoken and his opinion of conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.


A list of notable Sam Seder posts
1) Sam dissects Conservative talkers John Gibson and Armstong Williams (updated: broken links resolved)
2) Sam dissects Conservative talkers Michael Medved and Michael Savage (updated: broken links resolved)
3) Funny segment that involves Rush Limbaugh and regular caller 'Dewey'
4) Sam Seder on Maureen Dowd and the mainstream mediaSam on the turbulence in Progressive talk and his own career
I started my radio career at Air America, that creates some difficulty in and of itself. That whole Ed Schultz thing was blown way out of proportion. I don't think it's helped me in any way. Across the board progressive talk radio is having some growth problems and part of that is a function of the industry as a whole. They don't recognise it as a distinct format. Frankly the industry as a whole has larger problems than progressive talk.
Sam on how his experience at Air America has helped him understand party politics
There have been times in the past at Air America where people's assumptions as to why certain things were done. My losing my morning show for example or Maron losing his show. They project (pause) that dynamic of hearing what the audience thinks is happening behind the scenes. It's given me insight in the way that I as an outsider can see what is going on in the Bush Administration. There's been times where people have sent me emails about conspiracy theories that are taking place in Air America. Sometimes the conjecture isn't necessarily irrational, when people deeply care about an institution, whether it's Air America or the US government, and it's not being responsive to them in some way. They are left to their own devices in terms of creating a narrative to explain it.
Sam on Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and the conservative audience
I don't know what their (Rush and Sean's) perception of reality is because I only know them [from what I hear]. I've met Hannity a couple of times off the show but he seems like as much of a nutball as he does on his show. I don't know the way they perceive reality. They espouse, I don't know that I would really call it a philosophy as I don't think it reaches that bar. There mouthpieces to a certain extent. Hannity is just lame, he's literally almost by definition a 'tool'.

Limbaugh I think has created a worldview that sells. If you want to create a strong and loyal audience it's a smart one. It's preying on his audiences' desire not to have such doubt in their life. It's really not that different in terms of dynamic to say Scientology or any other so-called philosophy that gives you answers and makes it easier for you. You listen to Limbaugh and anytime you're having a dilemma. It's resolved for you very simply and always in a way that makes "You" the winner because everybody else by definition is wrong and that is essentially the conservative ideology. That is why they're going to do so well in the role of the opposition...

I think Limbaugh is good at what he does, it's a very easy formula. If you look in the paper and you start with the assumption that anything you see or read that you don't do or experience on a regular basis is wrong. You'll find it's very easy because everything becomes a story...
Read full transcripts of the Sam Seder interview here

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