[Marxism] The Passion of Howard Stern

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 4 07:24:25 MST 2004


salon.com
The passion of Howard Stern
The shock jock says radio colossus Clear Channel fired him because he 
criticized George Bush -- and he's sure as hell not going to go quietly.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Eric Boehlert

March 4, 2004  |  From the moment last week when Clear Channel 
Communications suspended Howard Stern's syndicated morning show from the 
company's radio stations, denouncing it as "vulgar, offensive and 
insulting," speculation erupted that the move had more to do with 
Stern's politics than his raunchy shock-jock shtick.

Stern's loyal listeners, Clear Channel foes and many Bush administration 
critics immediately reached the same conclusion: The notorious jock was 
yanked off the air because he had recently begun trashing Bush, and 
Bush-friendly Clear Channel used the guise of "indecency" to shut him 
up. That the content of Stern's crude show hadn't suddenly changed, but 
his stance on Bush had, gave the theory more heft. That, plus his being 
pulled off the air in key electoral swing states such as Florida and 
Pennsylvania.

This week, Stern himself went on the warpath, weaving in among his 
familiar monologues about breasts and porn actresses accusations that 
Texas-based Clear Channel -- whose Republican CEO, Lowry Mays, is 
extremely close to both George W. Bush and Bush's father -- canned him 
because he deviated from the company's pro-Bush line. "I gotta tell you 
something," Stern told his listeners. "There's a lot of people saying 
that the second that I started saying, 'I think we gotta get Bush out of 
the presidency,' that's when Clear Channel banged my ass outta here. 
Then I find out that Clear Channel is such a big contributor to 
President Bush, and in bed with the whole Bush administration, I'm 
going, 'Maybe that's why I was thrown off: because I don't like the way 
the country is leaning too much to the religious right.' And then, bam! 
Let's get rid of Stern. I used to think, 'Oh, I can't believe that.' But 
that's it! That's what's going on here! I know it! I know it!"

Stern's been relentless all week, detailing the close ties between Clear 
Channel executives and the Bush administration, and insisting that 
political speech, not indecency, got him in trouble with the San Antonio 
broadcasting giant. If he hadn't turned against Bush, Stern told his 
listeners, he'd still be heard on Clear Channel stations.

In a statement released to Salon, the media company insists that "Clear 
Channel Radio is not operated according to any political agenda or 
ideology."

Although by far the most powerful, Stern is not the first radio jock to 
charge Clear Channel with retaliation for anti-Bush comments.

"I'm glad he's pissed off and I hope he raises hell every single day," 
says Roxanne Walker, who claims Clear Channel fired her last year 
because of her antiwar views. "I think any time a broader section of the 
population hears about the Bush administration and the Clear Channel 
connection, it's a good thing."

Walker, South Carolina Broadcasters Association's 2002 radio personality 
of the year, is suing Clear Channel for violating a state law that 
forbids employers from punishing employees who express politically 
unpopular beliefs in the workplace.

"On our show we talked about politics and current events," she tells 
Salon. "There were two conservative partners and me, the liberal, and 
that was fine. But as it became clear we were going to war, and I kept 
charging the war was not justified, I was reprimanded by [Clear Channel] 
management that I needed to tone that down. Basically I was told to shut 
up." She says she was fired on April 7, 2003.

Phoenix talk show host Charles Goyette says he was kicked off his 
afternoon drive-time program at Clear Channel's KFYI because of his 
sharp criticism of the war on Iraq. A self-described Goldwater 
Republican who was selected "man of the year" by the Republican Party in 
his local county in 1988, Goyette -- more recently named best talk show 
host of 2003 by the Phoenix New Times -- says his years with Clear 
Channel had been among his best in broadcasting. "The trouble started 
during the long march to war," he says.

While the rest of the station's talk lineup was in a pro-war "frenzy," 
Goyette was inviting administration critics like former weapons 
inspector Scott Ritter on his show, and discussing complaints from the 
intelligence community that the analysis on Iraq was being cooked to 
support the White House's pro-war agenda. This didn't go over well with 
his bosses, Goyette says: "I was the Baby Ruth bar in the punch bowl."

Soon, according to Goyette, he was having "toe-to-toe confrontations" 
with his local Clear Channel managers off the air about his opposition 
to the war. "One of my bosses said in a tone of exasperation, 'I feel 
like I'm managing the Dixie Chicks,'" Goyette recalls. "I didn't fit in 
with the Clear Channel corporate culture."

Writing in the February issue of American Conservative magazine, Goyette 
put it this way: "Why only a couple of months after my company picked up 
the option on my contract for another year in the fifth-largest city in 
the United States, did it suddenly decide to relegate me to radio Outer 
Darkness? The answer lies hidden in the oil-and-water incompatibility of 
these two seemingly disconnected phrases: 'Criticizing Bush' and 'Clear 
Channel.'"

Goyette, who was relegated to the dead 7-10 p.m. slot, wrote, "I was 
replaced on my primetime talk show by the Frick and Frack of 
Bushophiles, two giggling guys who think everything our tongue-tied 
president does is 'Most excellent, dude!'"

Whether Stern was suspended because of his Bush-bashing -- or only 
because of his Bush-bashing -- is open to question. As reported in 
Salon, the media behemoth had another powerful reason to clean up its 
image: In the wake of Janet Jackson's nipplegate, broadcasters faced 
hostile congressional hearings about indecency on the airwaves and a new 
bill that would drastically increase the penalties for it. Indeed, the 
day before it dropped Stern, Clear Channel fired its top-rated Tampa, 
Fla., shock jock, "Bubba the Love Sponge," who had been recently fined 
$755,000 by the Federal Communications Commission for indecency.

Several radio insiders interviewed by Salon are skeptical of Stern's 
inference about his suspension. "I don't think this had anything to do 
with helping Bush," says Robert Unmacht, former publisher of the radio 
trade publication, the M Street Journal. "It had to do with the one 
thing Clear Channel cares about, their bottom line. They're just bankers."

Unmacht also points out that Stern appears in only six markets for Clear 
Channel, so dumping him was a relatively painless way to score moral 
points -- and paint Clear Channel rival Infinity, which broadcasts most 
of Stern's shows, as pandering to indecency.

"Howard thrives when he has an enemy, and this is a pretty good enemy," 
Unmacht says. "Howard will rail against whoever he thinks is hurting him."

full: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/03/04/stern/

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