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Howard Rosenberg Animals Agenda

Pulitzer Prize winning media critic for the Los Angeles Times

The following was a full-page article in ANIMALS AGENDA, written by Pulitzer-Prize winning LA TIMES media critic HOWARD ROSENBERG.

Los Angeles, the nation’s sunshine and media megacenter. We got it all, and yup, we’re pretty proud. We got Hollywood and movies. We got television. We got radio. Do we ever have radio, a boing-boing, bada bing, bleeping festival of it. We got your talkers, we got your blabbers, we got your screamers, we got your political clowns, we got your demagogues, we got your phonies, we got your true believers, we got your pleaders and we got your bleeders, a legion of them hemorrhaging cockamamie chat all over the airwaves. Until Jan. 28, 2001, Super Bowl Sunday, though, we didn’t have this: “We are here to transport the meat industrial complex to a vegan world.”

Say what? Was this the voice, the divine hallelujah from the heavens that animal activists had been awaiting? Or was it an excerpt from George W Bush’s worst nightmare?  None of the above. It was the host of Go Vegan! with Bob Linden, a kickbutt new AM radio show on KRLA 870 in Los Angeles, a city where vegans and other animal activists are given access to the airwaves about as often as it snows in Disneyland.

Linden’s pro-health, pro-animal hour of interviews, humor, and preachy factoids (“Over a million will be murdered for food just during this show today”) airs at 10 a.m. Sundays on a commercial station whose regular lineup of programs is about as progressive as Vlad the Impaler. How was Linden able to infiltrate this inner circle of Big Macs? Money.
His show works much like a TV infomercial. He buys the time from KRLA and personally sells its nine commercial minutes to vegan and cruelty-free sponsors, writing the ads himself, and reading them on the air.
Linden says Go Vegan! has been sold out since its Super Bowl debut when he interviewed PETA founder and president Ingrid Newkirk and ridiculed ” 22 guys knocking themselves out over a dead pigskin.”

And if he keeps paying the station, he’ll remain on the air, notwithstanding the tightrope he walks by wickedly satirizing such meaty KR-LA advertisers as McDonald’s and Wendy’s, which he has renamed “Wen.. .dies.”
Go Vegan! can be heard everywhere via the station’s web site ( Linden says response has been pouring in from listeners as far away as Israel, none of it negative.

Linden is glib, funny, and outspoken-happily without being hysterical–as he does his best on the air to erase a stereotype of vegans and animal activists being “people with purple hair.” If his hair wasn’t purple, his prose was when he attacked Madonna for her animalistic fashion statements, deployed his wit against the carnivores of CBS’s Survivor, grazed darkly on mad cow disease (“It can’t happen here,” he said with sarcasm), and decried “the cult of the corpse eaters:”

Linden is 49, the ex-son-in-law of a butcher and a 20-year veteran of juggling a career in radio, mostly at jazz stations, with his passion for animal activism. It wasn’t always easy. There was the time he worked for a Seattle station that decided to accept fur advertising even while collecting towels for cleaning otters victimized by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. “That led to a vocal conflict, and I was asked to leave,” Linden said. “They also thought I was running too much environmental news:”

Later, he faced a similar dilemma at a station in Washington, D.C., over its decision to run fur ads. “I had a yelling match with the general manager,” he says. “They decided to run the advertising, but said they would make an equivalent donation to the animal rights groups of my choice.”

The personal conflicts didn’t end there. “When McDonald’s is the advertiser, you hate to press that button for the commercial,” Linden said.

As an alternative, he began producing vegan festivals, the last of these, in San Diego, becoming the genesis of Go Vegan! While he was promoting the festival on another KRLA show, its producer, Suzanne Lishon, suggested he do a radio show of his own about animal issues. KRLA had an hour available, and voila!
Lishon is now producing Go Vegan!, which has welcomed not only guests with impressive pedigrees in animal activism and health-related fields, but also Kirnxni, the fish-eating self-titled “vegetarian” of Survivor who was present for the show’s notorious pig slaughter episode.

“Thank you, thank you, Survivor, for showing the true nature of meat,” said Linden on another occasion, while lamenting that the episode softened the butchery by cutting away from the kill. Meanwhile, his show goes on, always with a point, as when Linden took the mike for an hour of exploring meat-eating, vegetarianism, and Judaism. “I believe vegetarianism is Biblical,” he said. “Remember, `Thou shaft not kill.??

Howard Rosenberg is the Pulitzer Prizewinning Television Critic for the Los Angeles Times.
May/June 2001 The Animals’ agenda.

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