The Daily Stern: Taps for the First Amendment
: TEARING DOWN THE BILL OF RIGHTS: Religious fundamentalists, organized as a Dumb Mob, just dealt a deadly blow to free speech in America with legislators, cynical hypocrites, as their henchmen and media standing idly by, the short-sighted quislings.
The Senate has now passed its indecent indecency bill; the House already passed its version; they’ll be reconciled soon and signed by the President. And then anyone — you or me — who utters what the unelected FCC decides is indecent, after the fact, can be fined up to $3 million a day.
The Senate is a stinking pile of monkey shit.
If I said that on radio, I’d be fined personally hundreds of thousands of dollars. If I said it three times — Senate money shit, Senate monkey shit, Senate monkey shit — I’d be fined $3 million a day. I can be bankrupted for making what is, in fact, political speech. The Senate and House just took profane action and they deserve a profane political response. But that’s not allowed on radio or broadcast TV. Such speech is protected in print. It’s still protected on cable or the Internet. But watch out: Cable and satellite and the Internet are next. You are next.
: THE DUMB MOB: While millions of people listen Howard Stern every day, only a few thousand complained to the FCC about him and about Janet Jackson’s titanium.
The FCC will admit, when asked, that almost all of the thousands of complaints they got came from one organization, religious scary man Brent Bozell’s self-appointed Parents Television Council. Now that is their right to organize and protest.
But the FCC and Congress should recognize that this alleged “outcry” is not the nation speaking; it is really just the organized effort of one Dumb Mob.
I call them a Dumb Mob — not a Smart Mob — because these “protesters” are following a party line and doing as told and, more importantly, because anyone who does not understand the vital importance of the First Amendment and free speech to the essence of America is dangerously dumb.
But the Dumb Mob won and we let them.
: THE CYNICAL HYPOCRITES: Well, it’s hardly news that politicians are cynical or hypocritical. But this action is over the edge on both counts.
We did not hear our legislators stand up for the First Amendment or even try to moderate the attack on free speech. They were scared in an election year of an opponent — or a headline — saying they had defended indecency, they had supported smut. They were more frightened of the mob than of the attack on the Constitution. They’re smart people, some of them; they know better. But they took the obvious cynical hypocritical political action.
One result of this will be that Howard Stern will be shut up. He said this morning that the minute Bush signs this into law and he is personally liable for the FCC’s taste, he will play records until his contract runs out or he is run out of the station. He will not talk.
As he said this morning: Congratulations, Democrats. You just succeeded in shutting up one voice for your side against Bush and just in time for the election. Real smart.
Now let me tell you the story of the cynical hypocrite of cynical hypocrites: Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York. He stood up on the floor of the House to defend Stern and the First Amendment. When I saw him at the recent Personal Democracy Forum, where we served on the same panel, I congratulated him for his brave pro-American stance. He said he defended Stern on the floor but then he went ahead and voted for the indecent indecency bill. I was stunned. Why? Well, he shrugged, we already had fines; this was really nothing new. Eric Alterman and I started arguing with him; he didn’t even know the facts; he didn’t give a monkey’s ass.
Weiner spoke up for Stern so he could appear on the Stern show and get publicity. But then when the vote came, he voted against the First Amendment and for the mob. He’s a cynical hyopcrite. He’s another stinking pile of shit. And that’s political speech.
: THE SHORT-SIGHTED QUISLINGS: I’m most angry at my colleagues in the media. They stood by and let this happen because it was happening to someone else — to radio, to Stern.
Other radio and TV stars and stations should have been mobilizing their listeners to make their voices heard in Congress and the FCC, to make them scared of this Smart Mob. But they didn’t because it was happening to Stern and they don’t like Stern and they were afraid of the Dumb Mob.
Cable networks should have protested and lobbied but instead, they stood by because it was another medium, it was only radio, and they kept their heads down because they are afraid they’re next. They are.
Newspaper editors should have been writing editorials protesting this government invasion of free speech because they live by the First Amendment every day; they of all people should be the First Amendment’s greatest defenders. But they stood by because it’s only radio and only Stern and they’re snots.
Internet creators — you, me, anybody who publishes content on the Internet — should have protested loudly and organized our opposition for fear that they will come after us next. And they will. Mark my words: The rationale that is used to go after radio and TV will be used to go after cable and satellite and the Internet because, hey, they all go into the home. A few of us protested and suffered attacks for it but too many remained silent.
So now both houses of Congress and both parties have voted to not just chill but freeze free speech in this country. And we let it happen.