The Enduring Spirit of Howard Beale

BealeTalk show host, comedian, attorney, and political analyst Lionel is this week’s guest on Real Politik. He discusses his participation in the origins of contemporary talk radio, a long fascination with political conspiracies, the decline of broadcast journalism, the return of Howard Beale, how courtrooms can resemble comedy clubs, and much more.

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A veteran broadcaster and pioneer podcaster, Lionel has consistently been the Number One rated talk host during his time in New York. Talkers Magazine listed him in the HEAVIEST HUNDRED: The 100 most important radio talk show hosts of all time. He’s also been included in Talkers Frontier Fifty as an outstanding talk media webcaster.

“When I ventured into regular classic terrestrial radio in 1988,” he recalls, “when it was great–when it was really burgeoning and exploding. I was a caller for many years and, to make a long story, very, very short, I was asked to try my hand to just come in and do a Sunday show in October, 1988. [Then in ] January of 1989 I did mid-days nine until noon in Tampa. Seven months later I did afternoon drive. It just was through happenstance that people liked what I did.”

It was in the glory days of talk radio before everybody wanted to be Rush,  or the Wannabes came along–when it was interesting, when you had local. You had people who really did not belong on radio, people who did not have stentorian voices, as did and do I not. I’ve been described as Joe Pesci on helium. My favorite is Curly Howard on Benzedrine. People had personality [and] perspective. And then Rush came along and simultaneously revamped, rekindled, and reinstituted AM radio as a viable commercial property, and simultaneously destroyed it by inspiring all of these right wing Rush wannabes who were talentless, and still are in many respects.

On free speech over the airwaves, Lionel sees obstacles such as the “fairness doctrine” being refashioned to challenge online commentary.

The worst practitioners of stifling free speech are the Left because they were the ones who were responsible for [the Fairness Doctrine]. ‘If you can’t beat ’em, destroy them.’ It is so antithetical to freedom because the answer is, If you don’t like Rush Limbaugh, compete against him! The good news is you will never see the fairness doctrine again. The bad news is you may not see terrestrial and conventional radio in five-to-ten years. But keep in mind, the government is still–irrespective of party–trying to get the genie back in to the bottle, and to go after the ‘internets’–as W once called it.


“I’m still asking the question, How the hell did that happen?” Lionel remarks concerning 9/11. “I still watch–thanks to YouTube–documentary after documentary. Gore Vidal said three things that I think are the most important: Number one, I am not a conspiracy theorist I’m a conspiracy analyst. Number two, It is or will become an article of faith for you not to believe in conspiracy theories in this country. And number three, conspiracy theory has become synonymous with the unspeakable truth; something that’s horrible.”

“When Boston came along–this is how bad it was for me–I said, ‘OK. What do they want for me to believe?’ Not ‘Turn on the news, let’s see what’s happening.'”

lionel2“I’m not saying there aren’t reptilians and Illuminati and HAARP and weather [modification] and vaccines. I’m not saying there’s no truth to that. Some people, though, didn’t read all the chapters. And they’ll just spout stuff. But I say, ‘Give me somebody I can kind of tone down, than somebody I have to wake up.'”

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Since Lionel has worked as both an attorney and comic, and host his own legal comedy show on Court TV, Snap Judgement, he can discern potential comedic elements of the courtroom. “Everyday, in your local courthouse, there is a passion play that’s so fascinating. (And may I suggest to you the best is small claims and misdemeanor–county court in Florida–the best stuff in the world.) Let me tell you something, the most dangerous place for bailiffs–or as we called them, bus drivers with guns–is family court and small claims, because when you see people showing up with an engine bloc …? One time I had a guy who was very dissatisfied with his the bolts on his upholstery and I thought he was going to kill.”

Lionel is the author of Everyone’s Crazy Except You and Me . . . And I’m Not So Sure About You (Hyperion). Newsweek notes that Lionel is “[a]n intellectual known for his irreverent political and social humor.”

More information on Lionel and his entire line of web-based media is accessible at

17 thoughts on “The Enduring Spirit of Howard Beale”

  1. Excellent show, brilliant and refreshing. I like what he says about “intellectual property”. That is precisely what I’ve been thinking about it since it first reared its ugly head.

    Although I’m older than him, I also remember my family discussing the credibility of the news as a normal part of life. Now we must be “believers” or heretics.

    Good job. I plan to listen more to him.

  2. Thank you gentlemen, have enjoyed both interviews, it is refreshing to laugh at how ridiculous it has all become, for sure they would prefer we cower down in the corner, and take those drugs that will make us cry less.

    Being the same age of Lionel, I now understand my questioning attitude and refusal to bow down. My Mother often told me, you are too bold for your own good, simmer down! While she would shutter when I had the nerve to ask for a raise, seems they always came.

    Had to look up Mr. Beale, probably thought the movie Network was too ridiculous back then, but it sure is prophetic now!

    When you are tired of your day job, may I suggest you two collaborate on a book, there is so much material to expand on. O’Reilly and comedian Miller, appear to have great success on their sold out tours throughout the country.

    BTW – Sean Hannity was all over water rights in CA in 2009, wonder why that stopped, the conditions have only gotten worse.

  3. I, too, loved it, and will listen to it again. I had many thoughts, and should properly sift them before commenting. One thing though I can say now: this guy makes James laugh, which is fun to witness.

    So here’s the real reason for me writing just now. We’ve been talking about police murders (well, I’ve not been weighing in–but keenly keeping up), here’s Paul Craig Roberts today (via Lew Rockwell):

    I had already read it from PCR’s site when I saw LRC had linked to it. It’s that important. Watch the videos. Ponder the title of the article.

    Police were once just another job, like florists and green grocers and garbage men. Now, they are people trained to empty a clip into a little kid for no reason at all. This is insane.

      1. As someone who received police training a long time ago; I can tell you when it all started. It was the advent of “shoot, don’t shoot” training. The instructors would put you into one no win situation after another(after running a few laps to get your blood up). Most of the time you would shoot the good guy and get shot by the bad guy(more gray areas as I commented on another post). The moral of the story after each training scenario was: “I go home tonight”. I would bet anyone out there with recent training has heard this never ending police mantra – I GO HOME TONIGHT. Bang! failure! You shot a good guy! You go home tonight though!
        We were shown re-enactments of people who actually shot co-workers in training scenarios(in the USAF we trained while on duty with loaded weapons). This was 25 years ago. Now you have battle hardened vets doing the job, with even more intense training. Its not an accident. Now cops are shooting shoppers picking up bb guns at the store? Sounds like a message to gun owners to me.

      2. Great insight, Rich. I have taken to comparing it to the Andy Griffith Show. Once, most police were Andy Taylor, who didn’t need a gun to maintain the peace; even really bad guys could be dealt with calmly. Now, they all seem to be Barney Fife, except just back from SEALS training, prone to ‘roid rage. They LIKE getting the whole robocop thing going on. Remember that episode when Andy had to be out of town for a couple days, and when he returns Barney has essentially the whole town in jail? Today, the jaywalker could easily be shot, not locked up (much less just let go, as Andy would have done it).

        It’s sad to see that transformation we have undergone. No way to reverse it. Tragic.

        1. Yes, I remember. Otis was very put out by the whole thing. Back then, everyone wasn’t a “Hero” either; a term that I have come to loathe.

    1. [About that Paul Craig Roberts article: I just posted the following comment on the Infowars site:]

      Mr. Roberts, you have to ask yourself how many of these are staged. For example, in the video of the cops “handcuffing a dead man,” the narrator keeps saying the man is dead even while the man is waving his arms around–and, despite all the shots, there is no blood.

      This thus would play into another item on Infowars today, which has to do with a U.N. report condemning the U.S. for violating an anti-torture treaty, because of police brutality and other vicious acts by domestic law enforcement. Maybe the police brutality is designed precisely to cause the U.N. to come into the U.S. with its troops and take over. Maybe this is why the U.N. troops have been training here.

    2. There are so many wrongful, clear cut police shootings of citizens, why did the movie makers choose this one and the Travone Martin case? My guess is they wanted acquittals and O’riots.

      The clear cut cases are more than likely settled out of court with large sums of money, and the lawyers and the plaintiffs go quietly off to enjoy their new lottery bonuses.

      Do not agree with the article you sighted as far as the unbelievable events the officer was first reported to of given. Imagine shooting a person is tremendously stressful and if a 300 lb thug is beating you in your own car, your memory may be flawed and perhaps you fill in the blanks.

      Evidence he does not sight, is that the gunshot wound to the hand was done at close range, his blood was in the vehicle, witnesses testified to seeing this, the officer had visible evidence of blows to the head, he heard on the radio that the large robbery suspect was wearing shorts, yellow socks & a red hat and that is what he saw.

      Wonder how many of the O’rioters are receiving $15 an hour, or maybe they are just happy with bags of the wicked weed. There have been sporadic reports throughout the country of hospitalizations of smokers because of dangerous chemicals the dealers treat their goods with to ensure a ‘good’ high.

  4. Just watched Network for the first time this AM, and it was prophetic, how they have turned “false crisis” into the movie of the week. There are too many examples to name, just wondering how many of these false events there possibly are, again just a firm reminder if the story sounds too ridiculous, absurd, it is fictional and meant to distract or upset the masses. It’s a magic trick, look over here…..I’ve given up on the nightly news and just stick to things I can see for myself, which basically is the weather.

      1. I watched the “clouds” in Southern California get created today, line by line, just in time for the storm front that is forecast for Sun-Wed. I’m not sure, but I think the crap they spray here actually breaks up the storms, keeping us from getting much-needed rainfall. The rainfall we DO get in the L.A. basin, however, isn’t collected, but is directed to flood channels that just send it into the ocean. We can’t collect rainwater, the government’s not collecting it…all the better to let a company like Nestle SELL it to us…

    1. Thanks for referring us to McGowan’s rebuttal, Recynd. There are many other things I hope he addresses, too, not only with the Manson murders (was it indeed fakery? McGowan’s analysis of the photos and Mathis’s reasons would help) but with the Lincoln assassination.

      As we were divining on this website a few weeks ago, looks like Mathis was put out there as a disinfo agent, specifically to muddy the waters on these issues McGowan has researched and written about.

    2. Recynd77,

      That was great!
      Here’s another one:

      By the way your take on So. Cal. skies being painted line by line was right on the money as I watched too.

      Our Thanksgiving “treat” from our beloved Govt. was to destroy the beautiful blue sky that Holiday right in our face. Who pilots all these planes on a Holiday? Drones?

      Then Saturday they sprayed all day as the storm approached.

      Like you, I think they are trying to stop the rain. As far as collecting water run off, they will never do that here in LA. They love the droughts to charge more for water and control.

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