Klavan On The Culture

Messages From Three Conservatives. 3. Lee Habeeb

You probably don’t know the name Lee Habeeb — which, according to Lee Habeeb, is the way he likes it. Habeeb is in the business of making other people famous, conservative radio talk show hosts in particular. He was the co-creator of the Laura Ingraham Show and is now a high-level executive at Salem Radio Network, where he oversees the work of radio greats like Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved and a host of other hosts. Habeeb also writes excellent columns for NRO, as well as other venues.

I’ve spoken with Habeeb on the phone many times. For a while, he even had me as a regular culture commentator on the Mike Gallagher Show, which was a lot of fun. But I met him face to face for the first time at this year’s Restoration Weekend of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Habeeb was on the pop culture panel with me and while, of course, I was far more charming and attractive, he actually had something more startling and original to say.

The way these culture panels usually work, I and other creatives plead desperately for support for the arts with conservatives who generally wandered in by mistake while looking for the panel on the Apocalyptic Muslim Menace or whatever. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only just. My usual spiel: there’s a gray list in effect against conservatives in both the movie and publishing businesses and it allows leftists to use the arts to lie about us and themselves. We need to counter this with think tanks, grants, awards and review venues that support artists like me who frequently get nailed by left-wing censors — those who have been self-appointed to protect a helpless public from ideas and stories that counter the party line.

When I’ve finished this thankless and generally useless tirade (complete with pictures of my wife and children trudging homeless through the snow), I try to end on an upbeat note by pointing out that YouTube, e-books and independent movie funding are giving conservatives fresh voices in a newly democratized field.

All well and good — but Habeeb is thinking much bigger than that; much. Habeeb wants to build a network. As in: a network. First on radio, then on TV. This network would feature — get this — not a bunch of talking heads wagging their fingers at the already-converted right-wing choir, but entertainment, culture, stories, comedy… created by talented people who understand the truth of those original principles of liberty and limited government that actually made America great… until the current set of knuckleheads got their grubby fingers on it.

Habeeb is so radical he actually wants to build this thing so that it makes — wait for it — a profit! And he asks the questions: Why can’t we? Why Fox News and none other? Why do conservatives, who believe in free enterprise, always try to communicate through non-profit venues, while leftists, who pretend to be socialists, create studios and publishing houses that actually make money? Why do conservatives who have successfully built so many businesses balk at show business (which there is no business like)?

After our panel, I was shocked at how many people came up to me to say that Habeeb is thinking too big, daring too much, going beyond what can feasibly be done.

I genuinely think they’re wrong. My money’s on Lee. And if he pulls it off? It’ll be the start of a revolution.