: Isn’t it ironic that at the the same time Clear Channel kicks Howard Stern off their air, it sponsors a screening of Mel Gibson’s Passion, a movie that is being condemned in many quarters for stirring up anti-Semitism.

I’ll defend Gibson’s right to make the movie, anyone’s right to show it or see it, and Clear Channel’s right to sponsor a screening.

But let’s note that many of the same people who are flocking to the movie who are complaining about Stern.

I know my pointing that out will drive some of you nuts so consider that stipulated. I just could not resist pointing out the irony. (And thanks to the reader who brought it to my attention.)

: Jay Rosen says in comments below that whether Clear Channel succumbed to government pressure is a “reportable story.”

Not sure I agree. Clear Channel is not going to acknowledge publicly that it acted sheerly for political reasons and to give it lobbying juice. Nor is anyone in government going to brag about censoring media directly.

But we do know that Clear Channel bumped Stern the day after its executives where called to Woodshed, D.C. to testify before Congress.

We do know that executive acknowledged to Congress that Stern has not changed his act at all but that Clear Channel has decided to change its rules.

And we know that Stern says Clear Channel told him they were doing this because of government pressure.

So sometimes, all a journalist — and, more important, a journalist’s readers — can do is put two and two together. Clear Channel pulled Stern the day before the testimony before Congress and the testimony before Congress comes after the Janet Jackson breast flap and that’s the only thing that has changed; Clear Channel acknowledges that Stern hasn’t.

It adds up to government pressure and a government-induced chill on speech to me.

: Glenn Reynolds (who also rocks) says I am over the top on Stern. Well, I think Glenn’s over the top on the Second Amendment. Different things push our buttons.

Glenn seems to think that this just a matter of a media company deciding to kill a show I like. But it’s not. It’s much more than that. A media company can kill shows anytime — but Clear Channel didn’t. Again, the company acknowledges before Congress that Stern hasn’t changed a thing. The company decided to pull the show only after it came under the thumb of government pressure.

I do not want the government deciding what I can say and what I can hear. Period.

Government interference in free speech does put me over the top. You bet it does. This is not about poop jokes. This is about nothing less than protecting the First Amendment.

You have your amendment, Glenn, my friend. And I have mine.

: Howard Kurtz says: “Does anyone detect a pungent whiff of hypocrisy?”

: UPDATE: Motley Fool agrees with my analysis out of the whole Stern et al flap: Buy satellite stock.

  • Dan McWiggins

    First-time reader of your blog. Glenn is right. I’m not impressed and I won’t be back. Too much good stuff out there to waste time here.

  • Where’s the irony? Howard is axed by Clear Channel, while Mel is ostracized by Hollywood, distributors, the press, and academia. (If you ask me, Mel is *more* put upon than Howard right now, not less).
    Meanwhile, Howard is still on the air and still has fans; and Mel’s movie is playing at tons of screens and getting lots of viewers. This scores negative on the ironic-o-meter.

  • Well, if you want to point out irony, when Opie & Anthony (or the Greaseman, or any other fired DJ) got dumped from their station(s), did Howard speak out to defend their right to free speech, and condemn the oppressive environment that caused such a firing … or did he merely chuckle at the fall of another competitor? Then there’s the idea that a shock jock who spent a goodly portion of his career commenting on women’s breasts would then blame his recent demise on Janet Jackson’s Boob.
    So, understand why some of us chuckle now. It’s the irony.
    As I’ve said on my site, Live by the Tit, Die by the Tit.

  • “… after the Janet Jackson breast flap …”
    Oh come on, Jeff. She’s getting up there in age, but her breast was hardly flapping. Maybe drooping a *little.*

  • KMK

    Clear Channel lashed out at Stern, ahead of the hearing, to give themselves the appearance of “cleaning up” their airways. “According to Clear Channel, if a host is found to be in violation of FCC rules, “there will be no appeals and no intermediate steps.” The company said contracts with all on-air personnel will be modified to ensure that DJs share the financial responsibility for FCC fines. The company didn’t specify what language, subjects or contents would violate its rules.”
    They came out with this on Monday, 3 days ahead of the hearing. That’s not a coincidence. The show has been on for 10 years and suddenly they’ve seen the light. Next they pull Howard’s show from 6 channels. “Perhaps more significantly, the move came one day before John Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Clear Channel Radio, was expected to testify before the House Telecommunications Subcommittee at a hearing on the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004. The proposed law would increase maximum fines for indecency tenfold — to $275,000 per violation — and could call for revocation of broadcast licenses.” So they don’t want their license pulled. No pressure there right. It should also be noted they pulled Sterns show temporarily. Final decision comes on Monday. Fans aren’t happy Stern is off the air and neither are the advertisers. None of this is coincidence all of it is direct pressure from the FCC and Congress.
    Oh, and about Lena Horne, she told ABC to drop Jackson. When Jackson heard Horne didn’t want her in the movie she resigned – ABC resisted, two producers left also and the project is dead. She wasn’t fired.

  • KMK

    Instapundit also says this :
    “If I had my druthers, I’d let the marketplace handle all of this stuff and put the FCC out of the regulatory business except for technical issues — and maybe not even that.”
    I agree. Completely.

  • CleverNameHere

    The two situations are totally different. Gibson isn’t broadcasting Passion over the airwaves. And why are people so sure this will stir up anti-semitism when it’s the Romans who are tearing him to pieces?
    I think perhaps you went in expecting to see an anti-semitic movie, and your expectations colored what you saw.
    Because you’re coming dangerously close to saying that since an arguably accurate, if graphic, visual interpretation of the Gospel account of the crucifixion is anti-semitic, that Christianity itself is per se anti-semitic.
    Christianity teaches that God gave his Son for our sins, not that the Jews/Romans took the Son away from God. Christianity teaches that the ones to blame for Jesus’ death are all humanity, not just the Jews/Romans. Many, many people will get this. They will see the film and think, “He went through ALL THIS so I wouldn’t be separated from him for my sins.”
    Some people won’t get it, but since when has it been the case that the fact of some people not “getting it” is cause to condemn a film?

  • Paul L

    It’s funny how conservatives are always talking about smaller government when in fact they can’t get enough governement intervention. Not only were they OK with giving Bush a $100 billion blank check -OUR money- to go fight a war in Iraq based on lies, not only do they sit tight lipped like weenies as Bush presides over the largest expansion of governement in American history, they also want the governement to decide what media we consume, they want government to tell us who we can marry and how we’re supposed to think. Conservatives also say they believe in the marketplace but Stern is one of the top rated shows in the country and makes tons of money so this is clearly not a business decision. Howard Stern has been doing his stuff for years. Everyone here in NY loves him. He’s on everywhere in the morning: in cabs, at the barber shop, at the recording studios, in the ad agencies, on the construction sites -everywhere Howard Stern is being piped through the sound systems and everyone loves his show. No one finds him offensive because he is smart and funny and self-effacing and there isn’t a hateful bone in his body. I wish the same could be said of his enemies. We don’t want narrow-minded nut jobs telling us what we can listen to.

  • Franky

    Congrats Jeff
    You’ve drawn flack from a lot of different quarters for your stand on the Clear Channel fiasco, but you’ve stood your ground.
    The more people like you there are, the more confident we can be that freedom of speech will never be allowed to be curtailed.

  • Zymurgist

    Broadcast media utilizes public airwaves. This is what distinguishes it from other entertainment mediums. We as citizens have the right to have a say in what is appropriate for open broadcast, just as we have a right to condemn public masturbation and other deeds deemed inappropriate for public display.
    Anyhoo, as with any other form of regulation, vigilantiism (did I just make up a word?) just isn’t efficient, so we have designated a government authority to enforce the agreed upon standards (think of the nice policeman hauling that public-masturbator out of Central Park). That agency (FCC) has deemed that Ms. Jackson and Mr. Stern have violated the existing standards (or at least issued warnings along those lines).
    It’s all quite simple. You just don’t like the standards. Quit acting like your rights are in jeapordy. Your beef is with American culture, not with the evil government.

  • Andrew X


  • ct

    Among many other juvenile and filthy traits Howard Stern is also very dishonest. The way he is presenting what has happened to his show to his gullible and outraged listeners (like Jeff Jarvis) is laughable. This has been ongoing. His show has been receiving closer scrutiny from his in-house censors for months now. Some lawyer, a private citizen, has been running a crusade against Stern’s show using a letter-writing campaign and it’s been having effect with the executives in charge of the private companies that have every right to reign in this dimwit if they so please to do that.
    Recent events such as Bubba and Janet Jackson have just turned up the volume across the board.
    Stern even changed on a dime regarding his support for Bush to set up this current stance that he’s being crucified because he said some things against a congresswoman and etc., etc.
    You’ve basically got to have his 16-year-old, comic book level intelligence to buy any of it.

  • Paul L

    Zymurgist writes:
    >>We as citizens have the right to have a say in what is
    >>appropriate for open broadcast
    If that’s your standard then the people have clearly spoken. Howard Stern is the top rated radio show in the country. Tens of thousands people tune every day from every city in the country. But that’s not really your standard of course. Your standard is what you call “agreed upon standards”. What are those? I surmise they’re not mine, and not those of thousands of people across the country who are not offended by Stern. Who annointed you the guardian of public morality? Obviously what I find offensive is not what you find offensivve. I find it offensive that the public airwaves carry religious programs -clearly violating the separation of church and state and potentially exposing children to religious brainwashing- but I’d never argue that these programs should be banned. I’m also a lot more offended by behaviour than by speech – such as priests molesting children or by Neil Bush -the president’s own brother- traveling to Asia and banging underage, exploited prostitutes. But most offensive of all is the hypocritical moralizing by the people that engage in that behavior.

  • hen

    Jeff i enjoy your blog and i think generally what you say is right on, however, as opposed to applauding you for hanging on (for dear life) to your initial, i believe, hypocritical and wrong outrage, i have to say i am disappointed you haven’t put a little more intellectual honesty and thought into this matter.
    But everyone is entitled to their opinions just the same.
    Were you outraged when Dr Laura’s show got yanked from TV? Or do you only get animated about 1st amendment issues when it’s someone you (and for the life of me i can’t figure out why) like?

  • billg

    Jeff sees Clear Channel’s action as succumbing to government pressure. I see it as corporate types currying favor with Washington. A subtle difference, maybe. But, the difference between taking an order from Washington and toadying up to Washington is real and it’s important. I don’t believe the former happened and I take the latter for granted.

  • HH

    There is a context to both… some appreciate the context of the Passion of the Christ’s violence (and, try as they might, find nothing anti-Semitic about it) who do not appreciate Stern, in any context and find nothing redeeming. Sorry, there’s no hypocrisy here.

  • KMK

    Dr. Laura? The public was responsible for her removal. lobbied her advertisers and got 170 of them to drop their ads on her TV show. She’s still on radio WJR-AM (760) at 10pm.

  • Richard

    Clear Channel is run by nitwits Jeff, maybe you just haven’t noticed before…This seems pretty consistent for them to me.
    Here in Los Angeles their station STAR 98.7 has to edit Sublime songs like “(Love is) What I Got” for such hardcore references as “when my mom smokes pot” and “goes right to the rock” (as in rock cocaine). Been doing it for years. Of course KROQ 106.7 plays the whole song unedited. And I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the f-word in some songs played on KLOS 95.5.

  • hen

    KMK yes i know that it was the public that forced a private corp to dump Dr Laura, but it is that same public that insists that the FCC maintains a certain modicum of standards, thus WE got rid of Dr Laura, and WE scared CC in dumping Stern.
    Good riddance to both

  • CleverNameHere

    If that’s your standard then the people have clearly spoken. Howard Stern is the top rated radio show in the country. Tens of thousands people tune every day from every city in the country.
    Ratings aren’t democracy. Millions listen to Stern? Millions voted for Mondale. Mondale lost, and if we had a direct “election” for whether Stern should stay on the air, he’d likely lose bigtime. We don’t have time for thousands of direct elections on every show, so we have a govt. entity do the work for us.
    find it offensive that the public airwaves carry religious programs -clearly violating the separation of church and state and potentially exposing children to religious brainwashing- but I’d never argue that these programs should be banned.
    That’s your decision.
    I’m also a lot more offended by behaviour than by speech – such as priests molesting children or by Neil Bush -the president’s own brother- traveling to Asia and banging underage, exploited prostitutes. But most offensive of all is the hypocritical moralizing by the people that engage in that behavior.
    And of course, this could not be more irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

  • I am curious, I’m not asking this to bait anyone: Are Jeff and those who concur with him saying there should be absolutely no limitations on any type of speech under any circumstances? If that is the case, it would be interesting given the law on the subject. If no, I would be interested in where you feel the line should be drawn.

  • Hipocrite

    Time, place and manner restrictions are fine, as is current law. Such regulations are content neutral.

  • Mike Wassil

    Many good points made here and I also think there is a huge pile of hypocricy stinking up Stern’s studio. Every time a Stern wannabe gets fired or yanked from the air, Howard says ‘good riddance’ – I never hear any 1st amendment arguments supporting Stern’s broadacst colleagues- only vitriol and charges of being ‘ripped off’. This controversy is great PR for Howard. If you think he’s mad or upset about it you are quite naive. I am also a listener of his show, enjoy it about half the time, turn it off the other half. But it is a BROADCAST show over the PUBLICLY owned airwaves and this is an important distinction to be made. Why is it that he is very careful to not use the F word or other curse words or explicit language on the air? Its because Howard got in bed with the Govt long ago when he was granted a license to broadcast, and with it came some rules. If Howard no longer likes the rules he’s gotta play by (and they may be arbitrary and out of date) there are many other outlets he can peddle anal ring toss and the rest of the freakshow. Satellite comes to mind. But….. it aint censorship.

  • Hipocrite,
    I’m not an expert on the law on this, but are you saying that something like sexual harassment law is a time/place/manner restriction and not a content restriction? Is it really content neutral? If this argument can be made, how could it simultaneously be argued that “you can’t say x on TV during these hours” is not also a time/place/manner restriction versus a content restriction?

  • Jeff, a serious question. If I read you correctly, you’re opposed to *any* standards whatsoever applied to broadcast media, at least applied by the government. Is that correct? You wouldn’t have a problem with full-on porn broadcast from a local TV station at three in the afternoon? How about a network special goat screwing orgy at 8PM?
    I’m really serious here–are you in favor of absolutely anything being broadcast without fear or a fine or license revocation? The only difference between the acts I decribe above and Stern’s show on an average day is that Stern describes them using euphamisms and acronyms, instead of broadcasting the video.
    Refresh my memory (again, I’m being serious and not sarcastic, I’d really like to know), what was your opinion when Laura Schlessinger (sp? don’t know, don’t care) was run off of television by political pressure groups?

  • Jeff Kocur

    I don’t know what’s happening to you lately, Mr. Jarvis, but between Bush, Howard Stern and now “Passion”, you’re sounding more and more like a typical, whiny liberal.
    Good luck with all that!

  • SM

    Reynolds on the 2nd Amendment – Resolute.

    Jarvis on the 1st Amendment – Dissolute.

    No same/same here.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    I don’t know what’s happening to you lately, Mr. Jarvis, but between Bush, Howard Stern and now “Passion”, you’re sounding more and more like a typical, whiny liberal.

    Great, Jeff. Now they believe you’re a liberal.

  • Shad

    I must have missed the Passion trailer where Jesus asked the Jews whether they thought of watermelons when they were fuckign niggers.
    Oh, wait, no I didn’t. Passion is a movie which realistically (and upsettingly) depicts the violence visited on Jesus by the Romans. Howard Stern is a “shock jock” whose show and ratings is premised on being as offensive and outrageous as possible, as his show is the one that featured the nigger-fucking-watermelon question.
    You’d have to be completely moronic or completely dishonest to associate the two. Or both, I guess.

  • Franky
    seems to me that Jeff was right to look beyond the particular case of Stern and see where the general tendency was going.

  • gib s.

    From Instapundit
    HOWARD STERN UPDATE: Reader Jeffrey Bartash emails:
    As someone who covers the FCC for a living, I can assure you that the pressure for a crackdown on broadcast indecency did not originate in the White House. In fact, critics have accused Michael Powell of being too lax. The main driver of tougher enforcement, at least on the FCC, has been Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps, a former aide to S.C. Sen. Fritz Hollings. In the Congress, there’s been bipartisan support for a crackdown coming from the likes of Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Fred Uption, R-Mich. The White House has not been at the forefront of this issue.

  • angell

    The real irony is that people get bent out of shape because Mel did not portray a PC version of the cruxificion. The reason we have the word ‘excruciating’ is because it was not pretty. And knowing how terrible it really was, why do we sit back and do squat when hundreds are still crucified today–for being Christian. Today some 500 Christians will die-Today, around the world, more than 480 Christians will die. Not because they live in war-torn countries. Not because our brothers and sisters do not have enough food. And not because believers face natural disasters. Instead, Christians are raped, beaten, beheaded and cut down because of what they believe. Totalitarian governments and regimes of hatred persecute and kill Christians in more than 60 countries worldwide simply because they follow Christ. And will you care as much that people are being crucified today as you do about an unpolitically correct movie. No, idiots like Hitchens and Simon accept open season on Christians.
    By: Charles W. Colson
    It was one of the most horrific instances of religious persecution the modern world has ever seen. During a government crackdown on Egypt

  • The conception of two people living together for twenty-five years without having a cross word suggests a lack of spirit only to be admired in sheep.