Rally Round the Racist

Why Howard Stern matters

"The professional pornographer[s] . . . tend to be strong, maniacal personalities who can bluster and demand with the rest of them. They're outspoken, brash and as distrustful of the media as only one who is part of the media can be. . . . They are demonized, they are hated, they are sometimes violently attacked. They are freedom."

—Rotten.com Library

You. Yeah, you—you NPR-lovin', Daily Show-quotin', Bush-hatin' lefty, the kind who makes up the majority of the Weekly's readership and staff. You're probably delighted that massive Clear Channel booted radio personality Howard Stern from its stations after a listener called in on Stern's Feb. 25 morning show (heard locally on KLSX-FM 97.1) to wonder if the guy in the Paris Hilton porno had ever had sex "with niggers or spics."

That moment was about right for Stern, the showman who plays rooster crows and an orchestral version of "La Cucaracha" whenever he talks about Latinos; who asks every female guest if she takes it in three inputs or has had sex with a black man; the very guy who advocates bombing the Middle East "into a parking lot" and who affects the same subcontinent accent whether imitating bin Laden or Arafat. Good riddance to the King of All Media, you say: now leave me to This American Life!

But this is also the shock jock who coincidentally, just two days before getting canned, wondered out loud whether President Bush "is a religious fanatic and a Jesus freak" who is "just Hell-bent on getting some sort of bizarro agenda through."

Following the revelation of Janet Jackson's breast—in the shot beamed 'round the world—the federal government has launched a new moral and ideological crusade—again! It's Prohibition, but without the Charleston and speakeasies. Congress—the same Congress that's let an inquiry into Sept. 11 shrivel on the vine—is holding hearings on indecency in the media, threatening broadcasters with license revocations and heavy fines if they don't "clean up" their programs. Unsurprisingly, station owners are now tripping over themselves to adopt new content regulations and canning DJs on both the left and right. Whether Stern's new anti-Bush leanings aided in his axing is anyone's guess, but the timing has media watchers wondering.

Stern is but the most notable victim of the new purges, a succulent lamb Clear Channel executives offered up to Michael Powell to keep the FCC off its ass as the nation's largest broadcaster—a San Antonio, Texas-based conglomerate with close ties to President Bush—adds more stations to its roster of 1,376. Explaining why Stern no longer would be heard on six Clear Channel stations, company CEO John Hogan told a congressional committee on Feb. 26, "Clear Channel drew a line in the sand today with regard to protecting our listeners from indecent content, and Howard Stern's show blew right through it. It was vulgar, offensive and insulting." Hogan didn't mention what Stern was already speculating—that the former Bush supporter's banishment was directly related to his increasingly caustic critiques of W.'s policy.

Stern is offensive. That much ain't in dispute—unless your family routinely follows Scrabble with a game Stern calls Anal Ring Toss. And this is precisely why everyone should support Stern—not because of the roosters and racism, but because in this man's America, he has the right to feature a woman with a pole in her tochis andthe right to, oh, it sounds so naive, but to question authority. It's not a matter of supporting demeaning, racist or just plain moronic comments. It's a matter of supporting freedom—and ass rings.

Stern's demagoguery doesn't improve this country one bit—unless you applaud his constant employment of midgets, stutterers and individuals who can fart a breathtaking 2,000 times in two hours—but he deserves the same right to harangue on the air as you do. We need harangues of all political persuasions and fetishes in this born-again age—especially now, when you begin to sense there are gulags being built in the deserts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The Bush administration just set up an anti-pornography squad to hearken back to the Golden Age of Meese; women in Texas are hauled off to the hoosegow for selling (and even possessing) one too many dildos or vibrators. Locally, news stations KNX-AM 1070 and KFWB-AM 980 (both incidentally owned by Infinity Broadcasting, Stern's employer) are no longer allowing on-air interviews. News stations not allowing breaking news!

Even Rush Limbaugh—Clear Channel's primary moneymaker, Bush-backer extraordinaire and a pundit Stern has mercilessly pilloried as a pompous windbag—is sounding the horn of concern. "I haven't ever heard The Howard Stern Show. . . . I only know it by reputation," Limbaugh announced on his Feb. 26 show shortly after the announcement of Stern's banishment. "But when the federal government gets involved in [censorship], I get a little frightened. . . . If we are going to sit by and let the federal government get involved in this, if the government is going to 'censor' what they think is right and wrong . . ." Limbaugh then paused, as if he needed to calm himself—although it's also a neat trick for when you don't have a coda to your thought.

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