It’s a common belief among those who don’t live here that the SF Bay Area is populated with liberals; open-minded folks who stereotypically embrace all that is considered to progressives as “good” and eschew all that is narrow-minded and, well, “bad.” I’m here to tell you that it’s not quite true. The Bay Area is home to one of the most popular right-wing newstalk stations. KSFO started broadcasting a 24/7 right wing windbag-a-thon in 1994 and has rocketed to the top 5 of radio stations in the 9 counties that make up the Bay Area. One of the most successful hosts is Melanie Morgan.
She was profiled in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle Magazine and I thought it was, to use a term many right wingers have heard for the last 10 years, “fair and balanced.” If you read this blog, you know I’m no fan of The Right, but I found this profile interesting because Morgan is a “convert” to the Right. She was raised in a family that are true-blue Democrats (She sat on Harry Truman’s knee at a family get together when they were singing “The Missouri Waltz”), and for years followed in her family’s footsteps –at least as far as politics goes.
But then something happened…
She started working with her co-host Lee Rogers (another convert to the Right) and his political views became her own. Rogers lives in Arizona and Morgan lives in Marin County (you know, where all the latte-loving, hot tub soaking, organic food buying weirdos live?), and she is married to Jack Swanson who is the General Manager of KGO and KSFO — who describes himself as a liberal.
So, how does this liberal convert to the Right? That was my interest. Was she mugged? Was she passed over for a job because they had to hire a “minority?” Did she grow disillusioned with the Democrats after Jimmy Carter’s presidency? Did she come into a bunch of money and suddenly grew resentful of how “her tax money” was being used to fund unworthy causes? I had to know. What was the tipping point?
Alas, there wasn’t one thing that did it for her. She does come across as a person who loves excitement and controversy. She had a compulsive gambling problem that resulted in high gambling debts and an intervention from Child Protective Services. But like many people in entertainment, they have huge egos and need to be the center of attention.
If you’re a liberal in a liberal area of the country, it’s hard to be the center of attention since you’re going to get a lot of sympathy from quite a few people. You’re safe. There’s no point in trying to be a rebel if the culture you’re ranting and raving in is one that you fundamentally agree with.
With Morgan, I think she believes in the political philosophy she subscribes to, but she’s also in an industry where ratings matter. If you’re going to “ping” on the radar screen of those who agree with you and annoy those who don’t, you’d better come on strong and say things that are controversial so people will listen and talk about you. Morgan knows what she’s doing (Hell, she’s a radio vet, so she better know what she’s doing!), and she plays it up when she needs to. So while she’s a “true believer,” she’s also acting for the audience.
So, while the profile doesn’t really answer the question of political conversion, I think there’s quite a bit that points to Morgan’s desire to be famous that fuels her political ranting. Sadly, her quest for fame comes from fanning the flames of intolerance, hatred, and violence. Madonna used controversy to further her career, too. But at least she had some catchy tunes to offer.