The Daily Stern: PM edition

The Daily Stern: PM edition

: First, go read this post, below, about the bigger issues regarding Howard Stern and free speech. See Doc Searls’ insightful argument that the problem is, we’re treating speech as a channel rather than as very personal communication.

Now go see Ernie Miller’s very insightful response, in which he argues that this is precisely how we should hope that content is treated:

On the contrary, the more that we treat speech as undifferentiated cargo, the better off freedom of expression is. When everything is cargo you worry more about how it is distributed than the content of the cargo….

They’re both right.

From a Constitutional perspective — from the perspective of what makes America America — Doc is right: We must remember that speech is personal; it is our dearest right, our greatest value, our unique expression. If you don’t protect our speech, you don’t protect our lives and how we live them. Speech is the most fundamental of our rights.

From a government, a regulatory perspective — what should we do about this? — Ernie is right: Government should not differentiate one particle of speech — whether a bit of data, a dot on a screen, a soundwave, a letter on a page, a brushstroke, or a word shouted from a soapbox — from another. Government’s only job is to assure efficient and open transport of our speech. (Now here Ernie and I might split a bit. I will argue for deregulation of speech in all ways, including business. Ernie will argue, as he does at the end of his post, that government must not abet the creation of monopolies that restrict access to distribution. I would argue, in return, that we aren’t at the point of monopolies and that consolidation is necessary to protect some modes of speech.)

: I am delighted to see this discussion raise to this level. When all this started — when I began covering these issues every day — many tried to drag the discussion down to personal dislikes of the star involved — Howard — or of what each person thinks is offensive or of politics. But the issue is much, much bigger than that. It’s about protecting our Constitution and our most cherished values and our very way of life. If you don’t protect free speech, you will lose it, for there are many who would be delighted to take it away. But that would be unconstitutional. That would be wrong. And that is what the discussion is really about.

  • But who decides when free speech violates the rights of others. Is domestic verbal abuse right?
    All of the Censorship discussion hinges on who defines what is wrong and right. Each person’s view of what’s just or unlawful will be different, every time.

  • Dan Herzlich

    Jeff, then you have no problem with insider trading? After all it’s just cargo, free speech. Let’s see we’re getting rid of the FCC and the SEC… what next?
    Is that your final answer?

  • submandave

    We all know that all speech is not created equally and SCOTUS has ruled before that there are classes of unprotected speech, such as libel, fighting words and obscene language. Basically, the line is drawn where one’s free speech affects others civil rights. The real contention in this matter is where that line is to be drawn (i.e. what is really harmfull). To ask “is ca-ca poo-poo talk damaging, either to civilized society or children in the society” does automatically lead to obviating the freedom of expression viv-a-vis political matters that are much more universally recognized as vital to the democratic process.

  • As long as slippery slope arguments are allowed, let’s try one the other way – you people want to return to the 1950s, when a radio station owner lost his license because someone aired the sound of a toilet flush.
    A toilet flush! On the public airwaves!
    Next thing you know, the womenfolk are going to be having actual advertisements for their female products. I don’t want that on my TV! They should keep it to themselves.
    Also, all umbrellas will be colored black, all men must wear hats, and the standard for enjoyable popular music will be “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” Welcome to Pleasantville, I’m sure we will all love it so very much.

  • Again, though, this discussion will always come back to what is right and wrong according to whom.
    Lines in the sand on a windy day are completely useless.

  • Dan Herzlich

    “Government should not differentiate one particle of speech — whether a bit of data, a dot on a screen, a soundwave, a letter on a page, a brushstroke, or a word shouted from a soapbox — from another.”
    The above statement is so vague (purposefully?) that it has virtually no practical meaning. For instance, it gives free license to the telemarketers & spammers to bombard me with ads on services that I have to pay for. If the gov’t is so inept, why even pay taxes? Get rid of the FDA, FTC, SEC, FCC, all gov’t bodies including the Supreme Court. This thinking is slightly to the right of Attila the Hun and to the left of the most liberal liberal.
    This is starting to remind me of Timothy McVey and his black helicopter gang.
    You say it’s not about Stern, yet you entitle your posts, The Daily Stern.
    This discussion has indeed risen to a level where the atmosphere is rarefied, and maybe it’s just the hypoxia talking.

  • HH
    Stern was fined the usual $27,500… well “I’m going off the air next week” sure got him some publicity. Did Stern ever hear of the boy who cried wolf?

  • $27.5K fine…yep, that put the little perv in his place! No doughnuts in Infinity’s K-Rock snack rooms tomorrow morning, dang nabbit!

  • Well, based on his own words, I guess that means Howard will be quitting in the morning. Uh-huh. And based on this, the new fine is akin to adding a grain of sand to the beach:
    “The Federal Communications Commission has proposed $3.95 million in fines for broadcast indecency since 1990, with half the total assessed to shock-radio pioneer Howard Stern and his employer Infinity Broadcasting.”
    “The FCC sought $1.96 million in fines from the stations that carried the controversial New York-based disc jockey’s show since 1990, according to the analysis.”
    Let’s see, $1.96 million dollars plus $27,500 is … $1.96 million dollars (well, 1.9600275). Yep, I’d quit over that scalding of my free speech.