A confession: On occasion, at times in my life when I was forced to endure long, spirit-wrecking commutes, I would frequently flip over to conservative talk radio programs—if only to spit and rage and steam at something other than the sad sardine cans inching down the road alongside me.
But when I wasn't shouting at the radio, or wishing someone would drizzle hot pee on Sean Hannity, I found myself admiring the genius of what seemed to be an impressively efficient propaganda machine, and fascinated by the "unfiltered animus" of "real Americans" from flyover states I have rarely, if ever, visited. (Also, Rush Limbaugh is kinda funny. And, for the record, I find big-media talk radio from the other side of the spectrum just as canned and irksome.)
Anyway, so you can imagine my shock (I'm being a bit hyperbolic) when I learned this: Those "real Americans" and their "unfiltered animus"? PAID ACTORS, at least some of 'em, courtesy of the Clear Channel subsidiary that syndicates many of Red and Purplish Red State America's favorite shows. An article posted today in Tablet Magazine includes interviews with one actor who auditioned for the service, called Premiere On Call. It's good work, if you can get it. As in, like, $40 an hour, with at least one hour guaranteed every day.
“Premiere On Call is our new custom caller service,” read the service’s website, which disappeared as this story was being reported. “We supply voice talent to take/make your on-air calls, improvise your scenes or deliver your scripts. Using our simple online booking tool, specify the kind of voice you need, and we’ll get your the right person fast. Unless you request it, you won’t hear that same voice again for at least two months, ensuring the authenticity of your programming for avid listeners.”
The actors hired by Premiere to provide the aforementioned voice talents sign confidentiality agreements and so would not go on the record. But their accounts leave little room for doubt. All of the actors I questioned reported receiving scripts, calling in to real shows, pretending to be real people. Frequently, one actor said, the calls were live, sometimes recorded in advance, but never presented on-air as anything but real.