Light of Liberty Less than Flattering to Progressivism

Photodegradation is a chemical process by which certain materials -- Vitamin C and some plastics for example -- deteriorate when exposed to light.  Recently, while conducting a kind of experiment of my own, I discovered another material that is highly photodegradable: progressivism.

I have been producing a documentary film series about conservative talk radio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (you can see parts one through four at  The documentary consists of interviews with local conservative talk show hosts as well as some of the area's most prominent critics of the format.

I call it Liberty or Lies?  As the title suggests, it is an attempt to answer the question of whether conservative talk radio in Milwaukee -- or anywhere else -- is a legitimate expression and advocacy of American liberty, or just a bunch of hateful, racist lies.  I am a conservative and a fan of conservative talk radio and have always believed the latter criticism to be baseless. But the relentlessness and ubiquity of the charges have long given me cause to wonder, "What are they hearing that I'm not?  Are they right, somehow?"

Past analyses of this debate have, in my opinion, proven scant, superficial, and disingenuous; so I sought to really penetrate the brouhaha over conservative talk radio and present my findings thoroughly, soberly, and respectfully to as wide an audience as possible.  My goal was to produce the documentary to the broadcast standards of Milwaukee Public Television and submit it to them for airing. 

After viewing parts one through four of the series, MPTV management was sufficiently intrigued to ask if I could edit a two-hour condensed version to accommodate their program schedule.  I happily obliged.  They screened my "made-for-TV" version, saw that -- like the series -- it contained about as much criticism of conservative talk radio from the left as it did defense of it from the right, and deemed it worthy of broadcast. 

"There's little question that conservative talk radio has had a significant impact on political conversation and results in Wisconsin over the past few years," said MPTV general manager, Ellis Bromberg, in the station's press release announcing the show.  "We think this documentary does a good job of explaining, in a balanced way, why that has been the case."

But, alas, "balance" is indeed in the eye of the beholder.  Days before
Liberty or Lies? even aired, I received a phone call from a local Democrat Party activist asking me just what I thought I was doing by producing such a program, and didn't I realize I was "promoting dangerous ideas."  When I explained that I felt my documentary showcased an important discussion about contemporary Americans' understanding of free speech and free markets, he told me I was his enemy and hung up.  An email from another liberal who had evidently previewed my Liberty or Lies? website said, "As a Progressive, I see quite a bit of Right-wing bias in the bring on poor representatives for opposing views."

After the airing, liberal/progressive viewers were furious, as the following excerpts from emails to MPTV suggest: 

*We have no interest in financially supporting such an indiscriminate provider (MPTV) of such glaringly biased promotion.

*Were your guests chosen specifically for their ill-informed views?  Or is ignoring empirical data a qualifier for commentary on your shows?

*I am very surprised that the doc Conservative Talk Radio: Liberty or Lies? was so slanted. I am disappointed.  There was no doubt that it was slanted to the Right.  I wonder what the motivation was to put this doc on.  MPTV is usually not so biased.

*I am deeply disappointed by the documentary you aired tonight regarding Conservative radio.  This was promoted as a topic to be debated and was shamefully in favor of the Right wing.  Living in a city void of Progressive programming, your TV channel further insulted the Liberal part of your viewing audience!

*Let me guess, the producers of Liberty or Lies? are Conservatives, right?  We will not be contributing to MPTV this year.  This program gave at least 80% of the screen time to the Right wingers.  This is not what we expect from public television.  It was not a balanced presentation.

*Please do not bother asking me for any more money.  I just watched the show on Conservative radio in Milwaukee. I was hoping to see an un-biased presentation about Right-wing radio.  Instead I see a very Right-leaning show...I do (or did) expect more from PBS.  I will never watch your PBS station again.

*For heaven's sake!  I just watched the first hour of Liberty or Lies? and am simply astonished that MPTV could run something so clearly biased under the description of 'analysis'...You owe your viewers an apology!

*It really just impressed on me all the more the need for balance and government oversight against big money corporations who can buy their way into anything.

Others, however, liked the show. 

*Thank you for airing Brien Farley's documentary Liberty or Lies? on Channel 10 last night.  I enjoyed it so much I'm looking forward to the next showing. I thought it provided a very balanced and in-depth coverage of the topic.

*It will make me consider watching more of the news programs on MPTV and PBS. If only we would hear more of both sides from PBS's NewsHour.  Their Liberal slant is so obvious it shouts at you. Both sides were represented on talk radio show (Liberty or Lies?) ... in their own words.  If only that could happen in local papers, local TV, national TV, and yes PBS in general.  Thanks again for being so brave as to let the Conservative side be heard.

*Thank you for airing Liberty or Lies?  It was well done.

Milwaukee conservative talkers Charlie Sykes, Jay Weber, and Vicki McKenna posted the show on their blogs.  Vicki told me that recent recall election survivor, Wisconsin State Senator Alberta Darling, was "practically gushing" about the documentary.  Conservative bloggers wrote favorable reviews.  

Conservatives embracing a documentary featuring liberal/progressives declaring conservative talk radio a one-sided, GOP talking-point parroting, democracy-damaging forum for hateful and racist misinformation?  What's going on?

What's going on is photodegradation.  With Liberty or Lies? I simply captured the liberal/progressive case against conservative talk radio and the conservative defense of it and laid the two out, side by side, in the plain light of day.  What is fascinating is that in this light it seems the conservative case shines all the brighter while, over the course of the program, the liberal/progressive case deteriorates into a baffling hodgepodge of misconception, groundless speculation and brazen absurdity.  No wonder liberal/progressive viewers are angry.  They don't like what they see in the mirror.  

Revealed here is not (as some suggest) that I have deliberately selected poor representatives of the left's case against conservative talk radio -- indeed they are among Wisconsin's most popular liberal/progressive commentators -- nor that I employed slick production techniques to diminish their arguments; what is revealed here is the fundamental fraud of American progressivism.

Those who would represent progressivism are forced to perform all manner of logical contortions and suspensions of belief in attempts to make their philosophy appear consistent with traditional American values because, in fact, it is not at all consistent with traditional American values.  Just behind the well-marketed folklore of the progressive as the open-minded, uber-compassionate champion of social justice is raw collectivist authoritarianism that believes itself justified in using any means necessary to impose its utopian vision on American society (the "fundamental transformation of America") regardless of the consequences. 

Locally and nationally, conservative talk radio exposes this fraud every day; thus hysterical retaliations from the left like the Media Matters/Sandra Fluke sex farce and the "climate of hate" slander following the Tucson shooting. Instructive in these retaliations is that liberal/progressives seek not merely to expose and admonish those they believe to be wrong or distasteful, but to destroy them via the power of government.  This is not liberal, progressive or American. It is tyrannical.

Herein lies the true value of conservative talk radio. As both creature and advocate of the free market, steadfastly channeling the principles of the American Founding -- limited government, individual liberty, free market economics -- into modern society, it proves an intolerable irritant to the enemies of those principles.  In their zeal to discredit and silence the medium, progressives are drawn forth into the open light where their actions betray the emptiness of their "social justice" rhetoric and their abhorrence of the day-to-day exercise of liberty.   

Many times over the course of producing Liberty or Lies? I have wondered, "Why am I doing this?"   I have a family, a job, and lots of other things I need to be doing.  "All this about a radio format?"  What I have come to realize is that my documentary is about much more than a radio format, and that conservative talk radio is about much more than political talk on the right. They are about my country and whether or not we retain the intellectual and moral capacity to discern, pursue, and secure the blessings of liberty and resist the seductive promises of the utopian.

In the light of liberty, the choice has been made clear: liberty or lies.  The time to decide is now.      

-Brien Farley lives in Genesee, Wisconsin and is producer of "Liberty or Lies? Conservative Talk Radio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin."   For more information go to