Thursday, March 22, 2012

Talk Radio Network: A Savage and Two Masters 2/2

by Nomad
Click for Part One of this article-
If Micheal Savage brand of meanness and bigotry is a marketable commodity, then it is only fair to ask who would choose to market it? Who are the people behind Talk Radio Network?

Mark MastersMeet the Masters
Together with radio personalities like Laura Ingraham and Tammy Bruce, Micheal Savage has found a home on Talk Radio Network (TRN), which specializes in serving up conservative propaganda.
Mark Masters, the CEO and president of TRN, openly takes credit for finding the hidden talents of Michael Savage.
I look for someone who has enough range of personal life experience that they can originate ideas, and do it in a highly entertaining way. Because in the end, talk radio is primarily an entertainment medium. It is show business. Yes, on one hand, it’s analysis of information, but at its core, it’s storytelling, it’s taking data and turning it into meaning in a unique way.
How does he feel about promoting hate? His philosophy is all about social healing through catharsis and the free market principle. 
I think talk radio is an important pressure relief valve for the psyche of Americans. It’s a place where the marketplace of ideas can be fully explored. Half of America is underserved by television, and that part is properly served by talk radio.

I was approached at a seminar recently, and someone said, “Talk radio should be shut down.” And I said, “Who decides who’s allowed to speak?
In the absence of government regulation, the answer is, of course, public consensus. The public should decide by choosing to listen or ignoring- and market forces- advertisers are free to decide whether or not their brands should be associated with the likes of Savage and others.

However, there’s also a strong whiff of hypocrisy about Masters’ remark. When The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) launched a boycott (which, by its nature, demands a public consensus) TRN and their lawyers were quite willing to target websites in an attempt to silence their ability to speak. 
Hate radio is a term that is used to suppress the side you disagree with. So if a conservative disagrees with a liberal, the conservative can say that all liberal radio is hate radio. It just ends debate.
But the debate isn’t what Masters is about. Debate requires a display of respect for those that have an opposing opinion. If anything, what TRN wants is something close to the opposite of a debate. 
At times when listening to the president of the company in an interview, it’s hard to believe he has even listened to his own programming. Take this quote:
The worst thing that happens when people are debating is when you have a real nutcase who’s full of hate. They normally implode and go away, right? Advertisers will not want to stick with them. The people with the best ideas will make their point in the strongest way, and the combination of the best conservative and the best classical liberal ideas makes for a stronger and better country, a stronger and better economy.
Of course, it doesn’t take very long to realize that self-reflection has never been a strong point with the Right Wing conservatives. 
To Masters’ statement, the question is: What if a nutcase implodes a little every day and makes the ratings climb? Or what if the nut-case has been hired primarily because the  ability to implode on air is really his only credential? Many psychotics with ideas make their point in the strongest way but that doesn't mean they deserve the privilege to broadcast to the nation.

Another problem with Mike Masters argument about advertisers making the final decision is that, as we have seen with Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, many of the advertisers buy time and leave it up the advertising directors or general manager of the network to decide where to place the ads. Many of the companies advertising with Rush seemed unaware that their brands were buying time during his show and quickly disassociated themselves upon finding out. 

Despite what Masters may say, it isn’t about free speech or productive debate. It isn’t about what is good for the country or for the economy, it is about driving home the conservative message in the most offensive way and it’s about making money doing it.

Tracing An Old Master
But that should come as no surprise. Mike Masters must have learned much from his father, Roy Masters, the host of the “Advice Line with Roy Masters” That call-in show  was started back in 1960, making it the oldest running conservative radio in America. And his show is still on the Talk Radio Network today.

In fact, Roy Masters founded Talk Radio Network (TRN) and was its president until 2003 when he handed over the reins to his son.

To trace the career of Roy Masters is, for a researcher, at least, terribly interesting. So much of Masters’ past is based on lies or contradictions. It seems as though nothing can be truly certain about the man. 
According to one story, after being called out by Oprah Winfrey on her show, Master managed to throw his entire past into doubt by telling the stunned audience:
I was born in Brooklyn, attended PS 18 and my first job was a door-to-door bagel salesman. After a few years as a beatnik poet in the clubs of Greenwich Village, I traveled the country as a carnival barker..
But.. was this confession the truth? Some have cast doubt on whether the Oprah interview ever took place. His British accent seems genuine enough and there is absolutely no trace of a Brooklyn accent. So, was the lie the truth and the truth a lie? 
Ask Oprah. Maybe she knows.

The official story is radically different and seems equally difficult to believe. Born to a Jewish family on 2 April 1928 in London, England, Roy Masters began life as Reuben Obermeister. (He may have changed his name in 1954 though he claims that his father used an Anglicized version for business reasons.) 
According to at least one account, his family were well-known as diamond cutters of the famous Hatton Gardens district in London.

At age 15 he worked at his uncle's diamond-cutting factory in Brighton after his father, Boris, died. Interestingly we see a Boris Obermeister, a dealer in precious stones, in bankruptcy courts in 1941. At 82, he seems a bit old to be Master's dad. Records suggest his father died in 1943 and this matches the proper timeline.  

As a young boy, young Reuben became interested in hypnotism. 
According to his legend, he journeyed to South Africa to begin an apprenticeship at a diamond mine where he also studied with an African witch doctor outside Johannesburg. There he perfected his hypnotic techniques. (Keep in mind, this is supposed to be the revised edition of the story.)

At 18, he served a term in the Royal Sussex Regiment of the British Army. He then immigrated to America in 1949, at age 21, to lecture as an expert on diamonds and gems. In the 1950s, he married and traveled the country for some time, living in Alabama and Texas.

Eventually, he sold his diamond-cutting business in order to devote all of his time as a professional hypnotist. In the 1960s, he founded the Institute of Hypnosis in Houston and conducted classes on meditation techniques based on hypnotism. 
However, Masters ran afoul of the law when the American Medical Association requested he be arrested for practicing medicine without a license. 
He was sentenced to 30 days in jail but served about half that time for good behavior. Following that episode, Masters, his wife, and their four children moved to Los Angeles and in the early 1960s, he established the Foundation of Human Understanding (FHU).

The Foundation
Master’s Foundation of Human Understanding, founded as a 501(c)(3) non-profit church organization promotes a mix of self-help, Christian fundamentalism, new Age, Eastern philosophy with some added Freudian psychology and whatever other nations that Masters chooses. 

Much of Masters’ religious pretensions were tested out on his radio talk show, broadcast on KTYM in Los Angeles, California. Some of the advice Masters gives seems quite sensible but at other times, Masters seemed to become more of a cult leader. 
Here’s an example of how Roy Masters handles criticism to his statements on women.

According to the Los Angeles Times, back in 1978, Masters reportedly said, "I could get people to die for me any day. I've got more power over people than Adolph Hitler and Jim Jones combined because I'm smarter. I know how to push people's buttons." 

Libertarian lawyer and college professor, Jon Rowe, gave this assessment of Roy Masters’ style in this way:
Although he is fairly articulate, moderately well-read and a good "conversationalist" who enjoys to dialogue, he eschews the principles of logical debate, and instead relies on (what I would term, but he wouldn't) a "sub-Nietzchean assertiveness." "I'm right and you're wrong and know you are wrong, period." He's also full of himself and claims that anyone debating him will lose to his "will to power" (again, a term that he wouldn't use) and feel like they've just been hit by "a ton of bricks." He also can be quite rude and insulting to his followers and callers.
And this is exactly the kind of radio talk show host that TRN would admire.

During the next decades, Masters spent much of his time, warning about the coming Apocalypse. When, in 1983, he moved his family and the Foundation from Los Angeles to Tall Timber Ranch in Selma, Oregon, near a town called Grants Pass, he told his followers that the only safe place would be with him. Approximately 2000 disciples joined him at his 378-acre ranch in Oregon. (TRN is  headquartered in Central Point, Oregon about 25 miles away from the Grants Pass) 
A local newspaper in Grants Pass, The Daily Courier, recounted those early years:
Between 1979 and 1985 in particular, Masters urged his followers to move to Josephine County to start businesses, be independent, send their children to his school and the ranch to learn hands-on rather than out of books and be part of the growing foundation community here. Masters had connections with survivalists. He taught that women should be subordinate to men and that it was the mother of a family who was typically at fault for any family problems. He performed exorcisms.
Masters in action, divesting his followers of their parasitic demons.

Over the years, Oregon has become the unfortunate haven for a number of cults. In 1975 Marshall Herff Applewhite, Jr. convinced 20 people from Waldport, Oregon to join their group which later became the Heaven’s Gate. As his cult expanded and became more structured, he preached a religion of deliverance by aliens. Eventually, in 1997, Applewhite (by now a self-proclaimed prophet and messiah) convinced 39 followers to commit suicide so that their souls could board a UFO.

Back in 1984, a leading group of followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh attempted to seize political control of the town of The Dalles, Oregon by launching a salmonella attack on the voting population. 

Admittedly as a cult/religion Masters’ creation seems- at least on the surface to be fairly benign in comparison to Scientology or any of the ones listed above. Some might even say that it was all rather harmless and merely another example of a rather common form of pseudo-religious chicanery. 
According to Professor Rowe, by 1989 Masters claimed to have 150,000 people on his foundation mailing list.
Over 100,000 have purportedly participated in his courses. His meditation exercise is taught on three cassettes and a book for a total cost of $25.00.

Participants in his week-long seminars pay $1,200 and $50 for one-day seminars held across the country. Masters says he wants to be remembered in the same category as Moses, Jesus, the apostles, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.
However, as far as the sheriffs and local government officials were concerned, Masters and his group wore out their welcome quite a long time ago. The foundation’s status as a religion was challenged by the local tax assessors. This began a tug of war in the courts which lasted for years. In 1987, the courts made its decision.
The Daily Courier reports:
Josephine County government — in the form of a succession of tax assessors —resisted declaring the foundation a church and denied tax exemption. A long series of suits and judgments ensued, with flare-ups reappearing as the foundation added other properties and projects through the years. By and large, Masters won that battle in 1986 as the foundation was declared a church and therefore nearly all properties became tax exempt.
In some ways, it was a victory for all televangelists.
In Foundation of Human Understanding v. Commissioner, 88 T.C. 1341 (1987), the Tax Court was faced with an organization that was once purely evangelistic, but, over time, had built a church building and now served a regular congregation of between 50-350 persons. The broadcasting activities of the organization continued to reach approximately 2 million persons, of which 30,000 were regular listeners.

In addition to the broadcasting activities, the organization produced a publication with 5,200 subscribers and an estimated readership of 15,000. Broadcasting activities represented approximately 50 percent of the organization's total expenses. The amount of income attributable to the broadcasting activities was not available because the organization combined the contributions from the radio listeners with that of the congregation. The court was troubled with the amount of broadcasting activities conducted by the organization, but ruled that a congregation of between 50-350 persons could not be considered incidental. Therefore, despite the substantial broadcasting activities, the court held that the organization was a church.
However, the verdict was taken up on appeal and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit finally decided that the Foundation of Human Understanding failed to qualify as a church under Code Sec. 170(b)(1)(A)(i). It ruled that:
The organization's main function of disseminating its religious message through radio, an “electronic ministry” on the Internet, and written publications didn't satisfy the associational test for qualifying as a church.
In other words, a broadcasting tower is no substitute for a steeple. 
Therefore unlike Scientology (which has had some fairly peculiar tenets like mankind's alien fathers and some sinister conspiracy theories told about it), The Foundation of Human Understanding is not a religion and cannot qualify for tax exemption.

New Wine in Old Bottles
If Masters had had hopes that this decision might be overturned, those hopes were dashed last year. In 2011, the Supreme Court declared it would not review that decision of the lower court against FHU and that appears to be the end of the foundation’s religious aspirations.

Thus, retroactive as of 1 January 1998, the Internal Revenue Service revoked the foundation’s status as a religious organization. coincidentally, it was the same year that Masters and sons decided to re-fit its broadcast ministry to become the Talk Radio Network we know today. 
Mike Masters, the president of TRN today, transformed the cult religion into a far right wing political propaganda machine. In an interview he said:

When we re-launched the company in 1998, we saw an opportunity in the marketplace where if we used the old barter model, which had been so successful for us with Art Bell (at a time when the other networks charged supplemental base fees with extra minutes, etc.), we could be successful again.
We realized that if we could again create magnet shows with the ability to go viral -- where we can turn on one listener who can turn on five others and over a one or two-year period -- we can build "tent poles" for our affiliates, who then can build their stations completely around our shows, which turned out to be the case.
The results of our efforts have been extremely successful. For example, between 2002 and 2007, we enjoyed an average of 49% annual compound top-end growth -- year to year for each of those years. I believe this is the highest top-end growth of any network radio programming company in the last 30 years.
A kind of Ponzi scheme for radio.
Masters’ mention of Art Bell is an interesting one. Art Bell made a name for himself as a broadcaster of a coast to coast call-in show. Originally the show had a political theme but, as Bell has said,
I was crushingly bored talking about politics 30 hours a week. So one day I said, "The hell with it," and I brought on John Lear, a very outspoken ufologist. The audience just went nuts! The phones lit up.
Bell has called his shows "absolute entertainment" and he is the first to admit that his subject matter is aimed at the night-time audience share.
There's a different breed of person awake at those hours. And the world is a quieter place, with less to distract us from esoteric thought. I think—no, I'm sure—Coast to Coast wouldn't work with a daytime audience.
The less than charitable might simply call that audience “tin foil hat” types. And indeed, Bell came under fire when detractors criticized Bell for reporting rumors that Hale-Bopp comet was being trailed by a UFO. Some thought such nonsense might have led to the mass suicide of the cult members. Others have dismissed that claim.

The younger Masters, following in his father’s footsteps of religious persuasion, has taken the Bell model and repackaged into a highly potent form dealing not with aliens or Area 51 crash sites or ghosts or demons but with politics. Right Wing conservative politics that makes Fox News actually look “fair and balanced.”

About Michael Savage, Mark Masters crosses the line into misrepresentation of the truth:
Michael Savage was an expert in health and nutrition and was a school teacher and has two PhDs and a Masters Degree - he did all of this prior to entering radio.
As we have seen, Savage’s expertise in herbs and healthy living is not what Masters promotes above all else. What people like Masters cherish Savage’s penchant for making incendiary statements like:
"90 percent of the people on the Nobel Committee are into child pornography and molestation, according to the latest scientific studies"
“U.S. Senate "more vicious and more histrionic than ever, specifically because women have been injected into" it”
Or in honor of Martin Luther King day, Michael Savage told his audience, that civil rights were a "racket" designed to steal "white males' birthright." Birthright, it appears, means entitlement. 

And is it possible that Mike Masters would have overlooked the health-conscious nutritionist Savage’s opinions like this? 
"Why should we have constant sympathy for people who are freaks in every society? I'm sick and tired of the whole country begging, bending over backwards for the junkie, the freak, the pervert, the illegal immigrant. All of them are better than everybody else. Sick."
Like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage has lately felt the pushback from Americans who have lost patience with his brand of broadcasting. For example, the website,, has posted a list of advertising sponsors. 
It’s interesting to note that, like Limbaugh's exclusive contract with the Armed Forces channels, the US military has given its support to Savage Nation. The USO, which says its mission is to lift “the spirits of America’s troops and their families” is listed as a sponsor. 

In fact, the non-profit organization does not pay for its ad to run, according to this source, but has also refused a request that its ads not run during the Michael Savage show. Obviously, somebody in charge of the USO believes that supporting the troops means listening to a shock jock calling the president a “usurper” and questioning his eligibility to be the Commander in Chief. Here is a recording of Savage declaring that the President is "a neo-Marxist fascist dictator in the making."

The decision to allow the USO to be associated with Savage Nation would seem, by many people, to be little short of sedition. How destructive to morale is this kind of bellicose bellowing to the military and their families? Who made this decision anyway?

The executives at Talk Radio Network must be looking at the Rush Limbaugh boycott movement with a good deal of sweaty foreheaded anguish. For years, they have been able to push hate- like it was going out of style- and now the tide appears to be turning. Advertisers are now suddenly aware that having their names and products and services (along with the trust that they have spent years building up) associated with people like Limbaugh or Savage or Tammy Bruce or Laura Ingraham is not without consequences. 

But are listeners actually getting bored with hating? Probably not. I am sure Roy Masters who obviously knows human psychology, would agree with that.
So what do you think? Be sure to leave your comment about this post and to tweet, stumble or link as you can. Thanks.