More Throat Clearing


The Instapundit made some comments recently dismissing the notion that the latest Howard Stern/FCC action is politically motivated. I think he's correct on this, though I must note that the Instapundit is well past thirty and—I would hope—able to come up with better pejoratives than junior-high chestnuts like "lame" and "juvenile."

I would caution against taking at face value Howard Stern's claims about a vendetta by the Bush Administration, because it's unlikely even he takes these claims seriously. I don't get much time to hear the radio, but I listen to Howard whenever I can, and it's news to me that he's not supporting President Bush. The last time I heard him discuss politics was when he and Robin were arguing about some favorable comments he'd made about Howard Dean, but Stern said several times that he wouldn't vote for Dean over Bush. It's always a bit surreal when non-listeners start talking about the Stern show. In this case, you'd think that he's some diehard foe of the Bush Administration; as far as I know, he had high praise for Bush after 9/11, supported the Iraq war, and has only occasionally griped about the economy. In other words, he's like the vast majority of an electorate that appears likely to re-elect Bush in a couple months. Though I hope he succeeds in turning himself into a political cause, anybody who listens to the show knows that Howard isn't nearly dumb enough to have strong political convictions.

The Instapundit also chastises Stern supporters for failing to "quote [the controversial comments] verbatim," but does not quote them verbatim himself. I didn't hear the show, and can't find anything on the usually reliable This Hollywood Reporter article gives the following combination quote/paraphrase:

In the interview, Stern and Solomon discussed how Solomon "banged" Hilton and a 15-year-old Drew Barrymore; at one point, a caller asked Solomon if he had "ever bang(ed) a famous nigger chick? What do they smell like? Watermelons?"

Clearly offensive; reasonable grounds for dismissal by an employer or (in this case) syndicate. But this was a call to the show, not a quote from one of the cast members (though it's true that Howard walks a fine line between endorsing fan misbehavior and abetting it). I'm an interested party here because we run a web log with an open comments forum, and try to police it as little as possible. I'd hate to endure the righteous fury of the Instapundit over some reader comment that sneaked through our blood-and-iron decency software.

Finally, I believe giving a voice to freaks, maniacs, and misfits is an ancient, honorable, vital job—and Howard Stern does it better than anybody else in contemporary media. When I hear the Does the future of freedom really depend on letting somebody say nigger and watermelon on commercial radio? argument, my answer is a definite maybe. So I propose a reasonable compromise: Howard fires Artie Lang (a cancer on the face of comedy) and in return the FCC leaves Clear Channel and Infinity alone.

[Update: In the comments section, one reader notes that Stern has been making fun of Bush on many points for a long time. Another says that he said on the day in question that he was an "Anybody But Bush" guy. The former point I don't think changes anything—Howard is in the business of making fun of famous people. The second does color the situation somewhat—just shows what you miss if you miss a single action-packed epsiode of the Howard Stern Show!—but I maintain that Howard's political ideas go no deeper than a layer of dust.]

NEXT: My Milkshake Brings Allah's Boys to the Yard

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  1. The more I look at this whole FCC sleeping giant waking up thing, the more I think the entire issue is one of subculture social competition.

    The ability to violate another’s cultural taboos, especially in a shared public space, is a profound statement of dominance and power. When power is balanced, everybody is polite, but when one group dominates another they express this by intentionally transgressing against the less powerful groups sensibilities.

    The battle over school prayer illustrates this. The secular left sought its elimination as a statement that secularism dominated society and government. Rightwing social conservatives seek to return payer to schools expressly to convey to children and everybody else that the religious world view is dominant.

    Social liberals dominate popular media. They incessantly push traditional boundaries, breaking taboos. Partially, they do so just to make money but a significant motive is their statement of cultural power. It is their vision and cultural mores that gets pumped out over the public airways. That they can do so and social conservatives cannot stop them no matter how angry they get demonstrates who has the power and who does not.

    I think the palpable anger over the whole Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction sprang not from the revelation of a mediocre tit but rather from the utter contempt for the socially conservatives in the audience that the act symbolized. This anger has been building for several years and Jackson’s act was just the final straw.

    Social conservatives are using their political muscle to reassert their cultural dominance. By penalizing Stern et al they are making a statement that their values and taboos must be respected in the shared public space.

    I can’t really say they don’t have a right to do so.

  2. It wasn’t mediocre, it was awful. Did you see the pictures?…Anyway…

    I am curious, however, to the lack of rightous indignation, and calls for his head from the typical sources you would expect them to come from. The nature of the comments themselves (and even though Stern did not say them, his name is the one on the show, he and his producers are ultimately responsible for what airs) surely should bring cries for his head from the civil rights leaders, and the enlightened “diversity” activists of the left. Instead, it seems that some voices in the media (and on blogs as well) have taken up Stern’s cause only to make hits at the current administration. The lack of integrity displayed here is astounding.

  3. The comments to this article are making me ill. If you’re reading this weblog, I assume you must have at least some familiarity with the concept of open markets. There are few more obvious open market successes than Howard Stern. In every market in which he has an outlet, he is at or near the top of the ratings heap. However, his ability to stay on the air is increasingly threatened as we move to a new Xtian theocracy in the U.S. If you are a rational, reasonable non-theist, and the last few weeks haven’t made you nervous, you’re not paying attention.
    The most depressing aspect of all this is that Stern and Infinity Broadcasting will never get their day in court. The enemies of “indecent” speech know they don’t have the law of the land on their side, so they make a major show of “fining” the offenders, then make it impossible for Infinity to do business until they capitulate. Despicable.

  4. With the exception of Bush’s foreign policy, Howard was always tough on Bush. Howard has ridiculed him for being a light weight, ex-drunk, Christian fundamentalist, rich boy, ne’r do well, etc. But the big criticizm Howard made, repeatedly I should mention, is that Bush a liar.

    The gist of it goes like this:

    You got daddy-o to get you out of ‘Nam but you won’t say so becuase you’re dishonest. You won’t answer the question about whether or not you took cocaine becuase you’re dishonest. I would praise you if you came out and admitted either one, but you won’t becuase you’re a liar. I must have heard these from Howard ten times since Bush was elected.

    Now once again, that’s all paraphrased, but that’s the way I’ve always heard it.

    Regarding whether or not the current pogrom is courtesy of the Bush re-election team, how can we know?

    I suspect some of the things Howard has said about Bush over the last week are actually threats. That is, I suspect Howard is suggesting that if Bush doesn’t do something to take the heat off, then Howard is going to talk about Bush a lot more.

    A little taste from Friday had Howard explaining that having Bush as the president is like having Jesus as the president becuase Bush thinks he gets all of his policies directly from Jesus. Howard must have rubbed it in five times. The president TALKS to JESUS!

    Howard’s threat has been muted because, apparently, a lop sided number of the stations that went dark were in swing states, most notably Florida. Howard claims to have made the difference for Pataki and Whitman. It surely doesn’t hurt Bush’s chances to have a critic muted in swing states.

    But that’s putting the cart before the horse or maybe putting the tin foil hat on the horse. Just because something may be good for Bush, doesn’t mean he planned it out and executed that plan.

    P.S. I really don’t know…what kind of authority does the President have over the FCC. Is it like the Federal Reserve or like an agency under a department?

  5. “Stern and the Passion”, two great tastes that taste great together. What is the issue here? Freedom of religion, freedom from religion? Freedom of speech, freedom from offence? Meanwhile back at Haliburtan and Kerry…

    p.s. I dowdquote ms. love, “power is…polite”

  6. SternFan,

    Stern or any other person in broadcast does not work in an “open market” That’s my major complaint. If Stern had been broadcasting on satellite radio or over the web, then placing any restrictions on him whatsoever would be blatantly unconstitutional.

    But the government selects which broadcasters will have the exclusive use of each segment of the radio spectrum. They do not auction the spectra off but apply highly political standards based largely on a vague definition of “public service.” Broadcaster are like pre-deregulation power utilities. They get spectra basically free, way under what it would cost if it were auctioned off, in return for accepting government oversight.

    In short, the government choses who can and cannot broadcast and those government selected broadcasters chose Stern. He is a private contractor workings as an agent of the state.

  7. Tim Cavanaugh said –
    “I’d hate to endure the righteous fury of the Instapundit over some reader comment that sneaked through our blood-and-iron decency software.”

    Tits. Cu*t. C*nt. F**k. Ashcroft is Satan. John Kerry is Jesus. M*****F**k. C**t. Osama. C**t. Bin. Karl Marx. Alec Baldwin. F*ck. Laden. Bra malfunction. Lord of the Rings. Britney Spears sex video. Gay marriage. Anal s*x. Mel Gibson sucks. Breast. Kerry is hay -soos. Bill Clinton. Mexico.

    There. That should do it.

    Interested folks can refer to ->

  8. Regarding the “public service” notion of the airwaves, I would venture that a good deal of the public would like to be served Stern.

  9. Shannon Love,

    You are correct that the broadcasting industry is a controlled market, but you skip over whether it *should* be that way.

  10. Who was that comedian who was censored,
    then got so involved in his legal position
    that his comedy act, his claim to fame,
    became his court speech and political position,
    and then he bored people, became scarce, and died?

  11. Mr. Cavanaugh, I frequently read the Instapundit.
    And you sir, are no Mr. Reynolds.

  12. Linda Chavez, President Bush’s one-time nominee for labor secretary, has a new op-ed where she–while dancing around the word itself–makes the case for government censorship:

  13. Hey Tim, I hadnt listened to Stern in some time but I did listen the ‘offending morning’, heard the Salomon bit. On that same morning Stern said he was an “anyone but Bush guy”. Said he supported everything Bush did overseas, but the “Jesus Freaks and censors were getting too much power”, paraphrased. Also Stern complains about Bush’s lack of concern over the environment. Anyway, if you’ve listened to Stern over the years you’d know he does have an uncanny knack for predicting politics far in advance. Stern supporting Kerry is not to be dismissed.

  14. Stern supporting Kerry is not to be dismissed.—Posted by Matt

    Anyone on media isn’t to be dismissed.
    Imus, once for Bush, has waffled over to Kerry,
    who calls in regularly.
    A mention from Imus can make a book a good seller.

    Rush, whether you like him or not, is the same.

    It’s scary to think what influence media has over voters,
    when you think what power the voters have over us all.

  15. “Howard’s threat has been muted because, apparently, a lop sided number of the stations that went dark were in swing states, most notably Florida.”

    Well there were only 6 stations how lopsided could it possibly be?

    Fort Lauderdale, Orlando…in FL possible swing state.

    Rochester…NY likely Kerry country but this is not the city and possibly more Bush friendly.

    San Diego….CA likely not in play even with Ahnuld but SD is probably more Republican than Orange county.

    Pittsburgh…PA…are they still a swing state?

    Louisville – don;t know.

    “Howard claims to have made the difference for Pataki and Whitman.”

    Both were tight races as 2004 appears it might be. And yes, I would say Howard’s endorsement was helpful if not instrumental.

    “It surely doesn’t hurt Bush’s chances to have a critic muted in swing states.”

    Possible…but why is Randi Rhodes still on then? She gets excellent ratings too.

  16. Drudge is giving the Kerry website a hard time now for all the fucks and shits posted by the bloggers there. “Official Kerry Website Riddled With Obscenities”.

    OK, guys. No cussin’.

  17. Shocking statements, juvenile humor and general scum sells. The politics are just on the side.

  18. Shannon, love the social power theory.

    But I think you attribute far too much of the obnoxiousness on the public airwaves to “social liberals” (a screen full of grinding booty chicks is a signifier for the Left?), and to the desire to make a political point. It’s all about the money.

  19. Ryan, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are both swing states.

    “but why is Randi Rhodes still on then? She gets excellent ratings too.”

    Her listeners are already going to vote Democrat. Large chucks of Stern listeners are nonvoters, or tough-guy-anti-pc-“conservatives.”

  20. > Drudge is giving the Kerry website a hard time now for all the fucks and shits posted by the bloggers there. “Official Kerry Website Riddled With Obscenities”.

  21. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/21/2004 06:09:00
    Nature is not anthropomorphic.

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