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Howard Stern finally gets his crucifixion
Howard Stern might finally get his wish. After nearly two decades of patrolling the airwaves as the self-proclaimed “King of all Media” and comparing himself to Jesus, he might finally get his public crucifixion. It is hard to believe it has only been seven weeks since the Breastgate scandal. In the fallout of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime performance, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been on the warpath.
Stern, due to his outrageous and uncompromising nature, is an obvious target. Since his show is no less racy or raunchy now than it has ever been, FCC chairman Michael Powell’s timing is suspect.
His tirade against Stern got the show pulled off the air in six stations by media conglomerate Clear Channel. The FCC levied a fine of $27,500 against Stern and company Infinity Broadcasting for “profane language” used in a broadcast three years ago. Why now?
Janet is surely one reason. Her desperate publicity stunt has sent a wave of furor through the American public and the ripple effect has been felt in Congress. The House overwhelmingly passed the “Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004” by 391-22 on March 11. Among other concessions, the bill increases the maximum penalty fine of $27,500 to $500,000. A separate bill, HR 3678, has been proposed to more clearly define “indecency” and specifically those words you cannot say on television.
There is another reason Stern is being railroaded and it is far more political in nature. Consider the fact that Stern was not targeted until his recent spew of criticism directed at the current administration regarding the President’s stance on abortion, gay marriage and his use of 9/11 images in campaign ads. Could the Republican Party be afraid of Stern’s influence? He does, after all, boast an audience of some eight million listeners- no small joke in an election year where “swing votes” in key states will be crucial. Frank Rich wrote in the NY Times that both “Clear Channel’s founder, Lowry Mays, and a director, Thomas Hicks, have long financial associations with George W. Bush, whether as recent campaign contributors or past business cronies (in the Texas Rangers, in Mr. Hicks’s case).” Could there be some political muscle behind the crackdown on Stern? Nah, couldn’t be…
Mike Walker, editor for the National Enquirer, asked Stern if he thought that Karl Rove had pressured Powell into going after him. “First of all, I know that for a fact…I have two sources inside the FCC. They know exactly what is going on…I seem to be making enough noise that people are realizing we could hurt George W. Bush in the elections. So they are trying to figure out at what point do they fine me. So, you are absolutely right.”
It is not like fines are anything new to Stern’s neck of the woods. Viacom, which owns Infinity Broadcasting, has been saddled with nearly $4 million in fines since 1990 that are attributed to his show. The decision to pull Stern from the air and to censor him while he was on were recent actions taken against him. His detractors and opponents feel this is a large victory for “American families” and none of who seem worried by the trampling of the First Amendment in the process. They believe they have found the ideal scapegoat: who is going to sympathize with a foul-mouthed millionaire like Stern?
This latest witch-hunt is a farce bordering on the absurd. The most offensive thing about it is that the people behind the neo-McCarthyist movement actually think they are justified. They have a firm grasp on morality that needs, obviously, to be spoon-fed to others and it needs our government agencies to ensure it is enforced.
It is dogma and it is being shoved down our throats. When did we allow the Bush administration to slip into such a nefarious plutocracy? Since when has this country permitted a vocal, reactionary minority to dictate our basic civil liberties to us? I thought Stern had made the airwaves safe for strippers, lesbians, streetwalkers and naked women years ago. One middle-aged breast (not even a full pair!) at a football game and it all goes to hell. Thankfully in Connecticut, 106.9 WCC still plays Stern- but for how long? Stay tuned.