Fucked by the FCC

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Buzzmachine's Jeff Jarvis has a wonderfully spirited piece about Howard Stern and free speech in the current issue of The Nation (which safely titles the story "F*cked by the F*CC, thereby not only censoring dirty words itself but putting an extra letter in FCC; go figure).

For the back story on this story–Jarvis pulled it from another mag because he didn't like the edit–go here. For the story itself go here. Snippets:

The assault on free speech isn't coming just from the FCC and Congress. The Federal Trade Commission just stepped up monitoring of media violence, "including complaints about the advertising, marketing, and sale of violent movies, electronic games (including video games), and music." And Attorney General John Ashcroft has launched a multimillion-dollar war on pornography. Says the Baltimore Sun: "Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains." …

What we're really seeing is the final nail in the coffin of the mass market and of one-size-fits-all media.

Advertising Age says that the new Puritanism will drive the young and desirable edgy elite to satellite and cable, raising the average age of TV's audience and tearing apart the mass audience. This will hasten a fundamental shift in the center of gravity of American media. Broadcast TV and radio will become (even more) boring, old, predictable and safe and will keep shrinking. Younger audiences–along with the advertising dollars and creative talent aimed at them–will migrate (no: stampede) to cable, satellite and the Internet and then to on-demand delivery over high-speed wireless. These alternate media won't become moral cesspools, for they've already sown their sexual oats: Look at how HBO started with tittering flashes of tit but now produces the leading edge of entertainment; look at the shrinking market-share of sleaze on the Internet. The audience will continue to fragment in slices of slices as even the Internet creates new markets (witness the blossoming of blogs). News and commentary will be delivered via every angle of the political prism. Media will internationalize as never before. Since there will be no more mass medium, advertising will become laser-targeted. The people formerly known as the audience will gain more choice, more involvement, more ownership of their media. The greatest cultural change agent of recent history turns out to be the remote control, which gave us command of our media and took it away from the national nannies. That's why they're in such a panic. …

Stern is an antidote to all the overpackaged, smiley, phony, condescending pap of personality in American media and entertainment. In an age of predictable news (shouldn't news be just the opposite?) and political correctness and numbing national rhetoric, Stern cuts through the crap and says what he thinks–and what many of us think. And that is incredibly refreshing. No, it's liberating.

Let's be honest: We don't all talk like Hallmark cards and human resources directors. When we sit in the bar with friends, we gossip about people we hate; we joke about sex. And on our couches, when we watch the news, we think thoughts we won't admit. Stern admits them. Is he sexist? By many definitions, sure. But unlike many a wolf in sensitive-man clothing, he's straightforward about it. Is he racist? No. He has racists on the show, and he ridicules them because idiots are entertaining. Admit it: When you watch reality shows, you love to make fun of the fools on them, and that's not necessarily something to be proud of–but making fun of racist bozos is. Stern gives us credit for knowing they're offensive; he doesn't have to explain that to us or protect us from it. The nannies and the PC police only insult our intelligence when they think they need to save us.

Stern shies away from no sacred cow. He is a positive force in American media. Just as weblogs tweak big media to keep them honest, Stern pushes the line to keep politicians and celebrities and his audience honest. So I like to listen to him. If you don't, fine. Listen to something else. I won't stop you. Just don't stop me….

It's a wide-ranging, interesting, and important piece that touches not simply on government regulation of speech, but PC attacks on the same, and the changing nature of the mediascape. Read the whole thing.

NEXT: Fallujah Side-Step

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  1. hey, david: i read that transcript and i thought it was funny; i think stereotyping is funny. what’s funny about the article you point to is that at the bottom some activist/journalist/website guy admits that there’s nothing particularly offensive about what stern said — it’s just that it makes nonwhite people feel so bad in that it reminds them what a struggle it is to gain acceptance in this country, etc. the dude resorts to invoking some general idea that americans are intolerant or something in order to justify his original outrage at how terribly racist stern is, which, due to a transcript inconsistent with his knee-jerk imagination, he is forced to retract. (i feel it might help me avoid being labeled racist if i identified myself as a nonwhite person.)

  2. Now I know how to say the worst possible things about “hater” and his ethnicity and get away with it.

    I’ll just label it “stereotyping”.

  3. well, david, if you were motivated “to say the worst possible things” about me &/or my ethnicity (nonwhite’s about as specific as i can get for ya), then i think a relevant inquiry is why you would want to go and do such a thing. in your case, i imagine it would be to teach me some kind of a morality lesson. but it’s certainly not because you hate my ethnicity and you want to instill in society a sense that people of my ethnic persuasion are inferior, 2d class citizens. so in my judgment that’d be just fine. go right ahead & say your worst.

    in stern’s case, i imagine that his motivation for saying “the worst possible things” about this or that ethnic group is to make fun, to encourage laughter & enjoyment of his radio program. i don’t think he wants to deport the mexicans, or imprison the blacks. i think that’s important to note.

    maybe it’s difficult to suss out the distinction between someone who thinks hasidim are silly to dress like it’s the 19th century and someone who thinks the government ought to do something about “the jewish menace”. after all, jewish people themselves often have trouble distinguishing between dissent about israeli/palestinian policy and anti-semitism &/or self-hating jews. similarly, someone who actually thinks black people talk funny, is making an ignorant generalization, whereas someone who hates the blacks and tries to run some over with his pickup ought to be jailed (for the attempted vehicular manslaughter, not the motive, by the way). these are important distinctions, and i would suggest that you ought to begin at least to attempt to see them.

  4. … tell me that Stern and his cohorts aren’t EXTREMELY ethnically insensitive/bigoted/racist towards Hispanics.

    OK: Stern and his cohorts aren’t EXTREMELY ethnically insensitive/bigoted/racist towards Hispanics. Listen on another day and they’re making fun of blacks. Or gays. Or whites. Or Chinese… People who think there is nothing to make fun of in various groups, are either ignoring all the evidence or they live life with their eyes and ears closed. Unfortunately, it is thin-skinned people who can’t tell the difference between (a) poking fun at stereotypes and (b) actual, malicious, bigotry who are running the debate in this country.

  5. Like I like to say, “I’m not racist, I think all races are equally deserving of being made fun of.”

    Or “I’m an equal-opportunity bigot.” 🙂

    Basically, all peoples of the world have something that’s ripe for humor. If you recognize this and do it in jest, there’s nothing wrong with it. Of course, maybe it’s because I had a racially diverse group of friends where all racial jokes are understood to be completely in jest and offense is not intended. Howard Stern has been doing this for so long and obviously respects people of other races (like say … Robin), so it’s not fair to make a blanket statement.

    Look at the Dave Chappelle show. Very racially based, not really racist, super funny.

    I will leave you with one of my favorite jokes, though this one is all about performance:

    How does every racist joke start?
    {looks around and over shoulders}

    It’s really funny when someone doesn’t get it and tells you to get on with the joke already.

  6. Tell you what guys.

    When someone you identify with and value dies, I and my buddies will do a radio show where we mock the ethnicity of that person and you.

    How’s that?

    The legality of airing such a radio show is one thing. The morality of it is another. My remarks focused on the moral repugnance of that kind of “humor” in that kind of situation.

    Joke in the gutter if you want. Perhaps I’ll even defend your legal right to. But asking me to like it is too much.

  7. Well that’s nice and all, but simply talking about it isn’t going to stop it! People have got to be fired for these things before the F*CC and the DOJ will change their ways.

    Who is going to tell Michael Copps of the F*CC that his constant calls for censorship and government regulation will not stand and that he has to go?

    Who is going to tell that power-hog John Ashcroft and his Taliban-like prosecutors that they’ve abused the US Constitution, violated their oaths of office and that they have to go?

    Do you actually expect either the Democrat or Republican politicians to do this task on their own? If so then I have a bridge to sell you!

    We need to know what steps are being taken to remove these political parasites and opportunists from the taxpayers’ payroll. We need people identified so we can ask why they’re still infesting the government of a freedom-loving nation like the US of A.

  8. Who is going to tell Michael Copps of the F*CC that his constant calls for censorship and government regulation will not stand and that he has to go?

    Who is going to tell that power-hog John Ashcroft and his Taliban-like prosecutors that they’ve abused the US Constitution, violated their oaths of office and that they have to go?

    The fact is that narrow conservative interests have the balls of the country in a vice because they’re organized interests. They always have been, in contrast with a apathetic majority that vastly outnumbers them.

    Articles like this aren’t “simply talking about it.” They’re getting people angrier than they already were. Say what you will about hate, but know that it is the smartest cure for the sort of complacency that has let things come this far.

  9. Does Howard Stern always ridicule the racists who appear on his show? Or only sometimes?

  10. Read this script from a show and tell me that Stern and his cohorts aren’t EXTREMELY ethnically insensitive/bigoted/racist towards Hispanics:

    http://www.west.net/~westcott/selena.html

    You can tell me that it’s his right under the First Amendment, that Ashcroft and his cronies are wrong to go after him, yada yada yada.

    But don’t tell me he doesn’t say extremely bigoted things on his show.

  11. I agree with everything in the article. But criticism of ‘political correctness’ in “The Nation”? Who do they think they’re kidding.

    Also, somebody needs to write an article about conservative groups using the govt to weaken the big three networks, who they see as brainwashing the masses with liberalism – thats what alot of this is about.

  12. But that’s just it: sure get the people mad, but then what? Just let them stew about in their anger? Make them feel even more hopeless and helpless by simply saying that some nameless and faceless entity called “government” has them by the balls and they can’t do anything about it?

    It’s high time the narrow minority lost some jobs. They like pointing fingers and naming names and pushing for people like Stern to go, well it’s time the fingers and the pink slips get pointed back at them specifically.

  13. Who’s asking you to like it, david? Not to sound cliche, but turn the fucking dial if it bothers you. It’s that simple. I like it and so do millions of other people.

    Stern may make fun of blacks or hispanics, but he is in no way racist. Stern may make fun of gays, but I don’t hear many people in mass media who are more for gay rights. It pisses me off how people like to judge him based on snipets of his show without actually sitting down and listening to a whole thing.

  14. It’s one thing when someone really realizes how odious someone is, like Larry Flynt, and defends his First Amendment right to publish his crap. It’s another when the defender actually defends the crap as smelling sweet as roses.

    Jarvis is telling me Stern’s actually a good comic entertainer, even when he and his cohorts spew racist garbage. I think that’s ridiculous. And it’s my first amendment right to say it in this comments box.

    I’m sorry it pains you so.

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