The Daily Stern: Taps for the First Amendment

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.

  • miguel

    have you actually ever seen that howard stern movie “Private Parts”? I wonder if you would still be a fan afterwards?!

  • Colleen

    I wouldn’t call my self a Stern fan, per se, but I actually came away from Private Parts liking him more.

  • shark

    Spare me the hysterics. You’ve gone off the deep end even worse than Stern has (PS- He said he’d quit when that bill passed, why is he still on the air today?)

  • jeez, I am a fan of Howard and I support his cause but I can’t tell if he really supports it anymore. His only goal is getting Bush out of office, but that won’t solve the problem at all.
    Howard has betrayed himself, he has betrayed what makes him great. He is no longer honest. After supporting going into Iraq for the past year+, he now says it was the wrong thing (and Robyn parrots him). After saying that he didn’t care about WMD’s in Iraq he is now asking where they are. After supporting the troops and America he gets in bed with Michael Moore, who roots for the Iraqi insurgency. Remember the way Howard ripped Moore for his “Shame on you Mr. Bush” speech last year? Now Moore is practically a saint. Howard’s brilliance was his honesty, now he’s just a phony.

  • John

    Stern wants everyone to vote for Kerry instead of Bush. Yet it was Kerry who voted to fine Stern. Go Figure!

  • JohnO

    If free speech is stifled, as you say, then how does the History Channel get away with airing “Band of Brothers” unedited complete with expletives, including airing it before 10pm? Same goes with (I think) TNT which aired “Aliens” unedited including numerous expletives before 2pm on a Saturday.

  • Can a suit be brought against the government? You’d have to think the Judicial Branch may need to take a look at it.
    C’mon, Jeff. You know people with money. You know people with influence. Make the calls you know you need to make. I know you know people you can get something going.
    We can help, somehow.

  • Mike

    Wow Jeff, maybe you need to lie down somewhere this morning and calm down! I didn’t realize that 99 of our Senators were religious fundamentalists!
    And by the way, you wrote the S-word!! Breaking you own rules to prove a point? Really is that the example you want to use? Saying “shit” on the radio? Stern, your god, has never fought for that right and he actually explains his position about using language like that on his tapes “crucified by the FCC”. You can come up with a better example than that.
    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.
    Are you kidding? That will never happen and you know it. You would think Stern would stick around and fight, rather than tuck tail and run.

  • So does this mean that Stern will now turn on Kerry, who managed to show up this time, and voted for a bill aimed directly at Stern? Is he gonna tell his legions to just stay home, or is it Nader’s moment now?

  • Angelos

    You commenters are really missing the point, focusing on Stern.
    He’s merely today’s lightning rod.
    This is much larger than Stern, this is what you watch, listen to, and read.
    Dozens of classic radio songs are still off playlists, because of maybe one iffy word. College radio stations, the last bastion of new and interesting and sometimes bizarre and crappy music (at least it doesn’t come from a corporate playlist), are hammering down on live shows.
    All this because there are no official guidelines, just the raving lunacy of some letter-writing bible-thumpers, and 2 cowards in DC who apparently have been given carte-blanche to be judge, jury, and executioner in what is essentially an extortion racket.
    Do you really want Powell and Copps, or their successors, deciding what is “good” and “bad” for you?

  • Tim

    A dumb mob exercising their right to free speech. It’s always the same thing with you guys…”Free speech for me , but not for thee” hyocrite !

  • Ed

    What I find indefensible is that even Howard Stern’s company – Infinity Broadcasting – has refused time and time again to challenge the FCC and its imposition of fines. And that was with Mel Karmazin running the show.
    If the man’s own company doesn’t take a stand, what message does that send to everyone else?

  • you know a lot of stern fans are starting to see through his bullshit. forums are full of threads about how howard is out of line on much of this, and how hes let his big ego get the best of him, and his constant hypocracy. sure theres the lemming supporters, you know the ones who would smell howards ass on command, defending him. but for the most part people who can think objectivley see this as howard being very much the selfish prick he is. id really love to see him rationalize his support for kerry now that hes voted against stern will howard put up a bunch of conspiracy kook crap about kerry on his little website now?

  • Brian

    Howard Stern has commented numerous times that he wants his employer to take the FCC to court to fight the fines. If this new law leads to Stern being fined personally then he will have the ability to fight this in court no matter what the view of his employer. I believe he’d have a good shot at winning in court as I can’t see how the court can uphold such fines when teh government has not defined the rules.
    I’m also a little surprised and saddened by how many people can’t see past the “Stern” aspect of the story and realize that these laws will apply to everyone.

  • Even if the House and Senate get together on a bill the President can sign, I can’t believe this won’t be challenged in the courts. No one can predict how The Supremes might rule but doesn’t the court have a history of protecting speech?
    In any event, this is far from over.

  • J_Crater

    I personally don’t listen to Howard Stern and have exercised my right to turn this whiner off, but I can say that I think your a jackass of the highest order when you make statements like “these ‘protesters’ are following a party line and doing as told.”
    Do you tell Eric Alterman what to say or does he tell you what to say ? This question is as absurb as you statement. This silly notion that people are “told what to say” is demeaning to any discussion of substance. It perpetuates the stupid conspiracy theories that have the Israelis under every bed along with the international bankers, VRWC, One-Worlders, and International Communist Conspiracy. Your now in great company.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    Jeff, I want to say first that I’m pleased to see you directing your ire toward someopne who is actually responsible for part of the problem (Weiner (D) of NY, the various Senators who voted for it) which is the first step toward actually making some difference in what’s being done.
    Now, since you’re the somewhat famous president of a New Media company, how about you do something about it yourself? Especially since you see this asa threat to your business area? What’s the Government Affairs group at doing? Have you guys talked to your DC lawyers or lobbyists?
    You seem to be getting around a lot to blogging conferences etc, why not call up Dennis Miller and suggest the topic. (I’m sure he’s got people….) Maybe you can get some air time? I admit his audience is probably smaller than Buzzmachine‘s, but its a different demographic. Have you written a sharp letter to Weiner? Do you contribute to any political parties? If not, why not? Have you contacted the ACLU? Have you thought about starting a pressure group to counter Brent Bozell? I’ll help set up the web site if you don’t have time.

  • weimdog

    Didn’t Stern recently make a comment regarding Farenheit 911 to the effect that it was the most important movie in the last 10 years?
    Stern has finally and completely “jumped the shark”.

  • Jeff, I don’t understand. Is Kerry part of the religious fundamentalist dumb mob? Because you know Kerry is in the Senate Committee that passed this bill unanimously (as is that well known religious fundamentalist John McCain) and this bill passed the Senate nearly unanimously. I can understand Stern being ignorant of electoral politics and the fact that Kerry had more say over this bill than Bush but why are you ignoring these facts? How is this still Bush’s fault? I feel like this is becoming your ‘gay marriage dealbreaker’ like Andrew Sullivan but as in his case, you’ve got to do an awful lot of ignoring of facts to pull that Kerry lever.

  • Andy Freeman

    > 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.
    Wrong. They merely decided to put some constraints on broadcast media speech.
    Jarvis keeps bleating about political speech, but that’s not what this is about. This is about broadcasting the 11 dirty words.
    The FEC, pushed by the media, has jurisdiction over political speech by the rest of us.
    Given the media’s active role in suppressing political speech by the rest of us, why should we give a damn about how much media types get fined for broadcasting the 11 dirty words?

  • h0mi

    Just a note- Kerry voted for it. 1 of the few votes he’s bothered to actually cast this year.

  • Wayne Moore

    The Senate vote was 99-1. The NAY was Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana. He explains his vote here:

  • get informed

    The commenters here seems to think this bill only affects Howard Stern.
    Find a friend, acquaintance, anyone who works at programming for a tv station, cable channel, radio station. The rules have now changed for everyone. If the Sopranos or Sex and the City were a new program proposed today, there is no chance that HBO would greenlight it in its current form. Not worth the risk.
    Get out of the “this is a dem vs. republican” issue or “this is a I-like-stern vs. I hate stern” issue. Dems and Reps are both complicit. Fact is, the limits have gotten stricter for the first time in 20 years. For everyone. Question is how selectively the administration in power – whether its Bush or Kerry or whomever – will choose to apply it for their political ends.

  • Ed

    Get informed:
    The legislative and executive branches are the ones pulling the strings on this issue – both Democratic and Republican.
    If this is going to be fought, it has to be fought in the courts. That’s where constitutional issues are supposed to go, anyway. All this chest thumping about Bush or Powell or Weiner or Kerry is laughable. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s a constitutional issue. And that’s why when Infinity Broadcasting spent years and years refusing to fight this out in the courts, it simply paved the way for this day to arrive.
    Although, the whole thing does make it easy for knee-jerk, mindless, Jerry Fallwell-template criticisms of “religious freaks.”

  • Andy

    FCC Rules allow potty mouth after 10PM and before 6AM. The restrictions apply only to broadcast not cable or subscriber paid services. Private citizens are still free to say whatever they choose on the streets of the nation. Free Speech is still free.
    Commercial speech is fettered. Just as advertising has limits imposed by the FTC on what can be said-implied-insinuated-intimated regarding product.
    Howard is a product.

  • Jeff,
    As a Libertarian, I appreciate your concern for free speech rights. By the same token, I’m not exactly horrified by the FCC’s and the Congress’ recent actions.
    An NPR program had one of the FCC’s sharks on to discuss the levying of fines and what would be considered over the line. As an example, they played a comic bit about being at a party and walking into a bathroom where someone had left a huge turd sitting in the bowl unflushed.
    The shark said that while the bit by itself might be subject to question, its use in a program discussing censorship would almost certainly be considered appropriate for broadcasting.
    The bottom line, political free speech [the important kind that is specifically protected by the First Amendment] and freedom of the press [the important kind where facts are reported and discussed – also specifically protected by the Constitution] will not be affected by the FCC’s new regulatory mindset nor by the increased fines.
    Explicit acts conducted for the sole purpose of being explicit or shocking are going to be affected.
    My personal preference would be for the airwaves to be almost totally unregulated. But if we have to have an activist FCC, this one doesn’t bother me all that much.
    My preference for morning radio humor is the Bob and Tom show out of Indianapolis. And while they are making a big fuss like you, the fact of the matter is that the quality of their show has dramatically improved after it became clear that their previous penchant for exploring in great detail all things related to rectal orifices and their function would no longer be acceptable.
    There are bigger problems that need our attention.

  • Tom Chiasano

    Stupid jackasses – everyone had to vote for this because it was attached to a military spending package. If they voted it down, then at election time they would be accused of not “supporting the troups.” The whacko religeous right has more pull in the GOP than the Moore/Chomsky crowd has with the Democrats.

  • shark

    Where was all of this after McCain-Feingold passed?

  • shark

    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.
    Um….that would be HOWARD shutting himself up…
    Look, you know what will make me support Howard and this fake crusade of his? I want him to swear on his daughters, on air that if FCC actions continue against him under a Kerry administration, he will immediately work as hard as vocally to remove Kerry as he is working to remove Bush.
    I want that on record and distributed on a soundbite/quote to all major media outlets.
    THEN I will support him. And not a moment before

  • Chuck C

    Tom Chiasano wrote:”Stupid jackasses – everyone had to vote for this because it was attached to a military spending package. If they voted it down, then at election time they would be accused of not “supporting the troups.” The whacko religeous right has more pull in the GOP than the Moore/Chomsky crowd has with the Democrats.”
    Wrong. The 99-1 vote was on including the amendment, not the whole defense bill:
    ( see senate record, p S7130)
    Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays on this amendment. This is the decency amendment that has been widely discussed.
    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
    There appears to be a sufficient second.
    The question is on agreeing to amendment No. 3464. The clerk will call the roll.
    The legislative clerk called the roll.
    The result was announced–yeas 99, nays 1, as follows

  • David Martin

    Keep up the good fight. It ain’t over yet since the last time I looked it still takes both houses to pass a bill. Now is the time for each person concerned to contact any and all of your elected feds and make your case. FYI – shame on the person who used the good name of Tom C. above, coward!

  • Mike

    David, too bad the house already approved a form of this bill. Now they just need to reconcile the two and send it to the President. Way to be current.

  • paladin

    If there was ever a thing that needed to be “chilled” it is free speech. Thanks to the activist Warren Court, the First Amendment is one of the few that has not come under judicial review. As such, “free speech” has become a parody and is completely out of control. Most people are tolerant of “free speech”, but then, some @ss has to go too far, and “the masses” push back. Welcome to Push Back, Howard Stern, etal. Next up, the press, and their addiction to “unnamed sources”, which releases the press from any accountability. A new day is coming for all forms of media and it can’t come too soon. Howard Stern and his ilk are just the first casualties. Power to the people!

  • David Martin

    Hey Mike, work on the hill sometime. It ain’t over until it is over, the horse trading is still on, the game still much in play.

  • shark

    Today free speeh was revoked! Watch out, there are roving packs of Jackbooted Right Wing Ashcroftian Brown Shirts and PC Driven Loafer Wearing Pinkshirts swarming around town, ready to throw you in the American Gulag if you say the wrong thing!!!

  • HH

    Stern helped sign his own death warrant, assuming he will do what he says he will do (the idea that Stern can shut up for that long doesn’t pass the smile test)… I remember the claims of “I’m gone in a week or two,” etc. This is a bogus deal (and I mean that, unlike Bill Clinton), but if Stern had made this an ACTUAL free speech thing instead of a Bush-bashing thing, when it was plain as day that this wasn’t formed in Karl Rove’s brain and it had support among Democrats, some of whom introduced it, he might have a lot more support. Pissing off 50% of the audience is utterly foolhardy every time in cases like this.



  • HH

    Dennis Miller has discussed this issue with a panel including Tsing-Loh.

  • David Martin

    Brownback said this afternoon that should the bill not pass (with his amendment intact) he will reintroduce it again as stand alone. Not over until it’s black-letter law folks.

  • Jeremy

    Where was the outrage over the McCain-Feingold bill, which actually did limit political speech?
    It’s only bad when it hurts your side, huh?

  • right on jeff jarvis…..keep on blogging……dk

  • Whatever. The limited broadcast spectrum we all must share is licensed and subject to certain controls. I have no problem with that. It’s a valid argument when applied to broadcast TV and radio. If I want to make money using a public resource then I must observe the rules that the public insists upon. I can’t hold a barbeque in the freeway or dump sewage in the resevoir, no matter how much I want to, and if I’m a broadcaster I can’t say a dozen offensive words. Oh, lament.
    Cut the hyperventilating. The rules in the past have been even more rigid without free speech shrivelling up and blowing away. Somehow the republic survived, even without today’s brave exemplars of freedom shouting “shit” into their microphones.

  • Bartly

    My Dear Mr. Jarvis,
    There was a time in our country’s history when intelligent people were able to communicate without kicking up stinking piles of monkey feculence. I think that, rather than calling the people who’d rather skirt the piles dumb, you might apply the title to those who are so fixated on their four-letter play-words that they have to fill every channel of every media with them.
    The constitution is a beautiful concept and I don’t believe that the framers envisioned this constant wringing of it in attempts to see how much nastiness might drip free. I do have the right to know what I am paying for when I purchase news and entertainment. If a TV or Radio station broadcasts objectionable material that is not a constitution issue at all, they have knowingly delivered a defective product to which they should be answerable just as any other service provider.

  • AndyB

    I want the FCC to sue the brother of Pat Tillman for saying Fuck several times in his speech during the funeral – it was broadcast on ESPN after all.
    Or how about when an athlete mutters some swear after getting poked in the eye.
    Or how about suing someone for doing or saying something when they don’t even know they are on live TV. Let’s go after Bono, someone who is trying to help with debt relief in Africa.

  • AndyB

    And the worst part is – I don’t even mind the provisions against the 7 swear words. Heck, even Stern has no issues with that – he already bleeps the standard swear words.
    It’s when the FCC gets into other “indecent” material that is not defined at all, and they don’t even want to define it – that is my big issue.
    Do you really want to live in a country where the media has to abide by the rule “When in doubt, leave it out?”
    Other issues:
    Fines may be levied against each station that airs the indecent broadcast, regardless of whether there is a complaint or not from that area/community.

  • Donut

    Man, I guess you know now how us gun nuts felt in 1994. Same constitution, fellas.
    Of course, we got a sunset put into that anti-constitutional-right crap bucket of a law. Maybe you need a National Speech Association.

  • Michael

    Fact is, the extreme-right evangelical/fundamentalist Christian wackos

  • Michael

    My wife and I seriously object to the fare on TV. We don