CALLER: With the new fines, I wanted to see your take on Howard Stern, because he’s equating all these new regulations to Bush directly and he’s urging his listeners to vote against Bush and vote for Kerry, and I’m concerned that, you know, that his listeners aren’t really educated and what we can do to, you know, find out what really is going on and get the truth out there.
RUSH: You know, let me tell you a little story. How do I do this? It’s not that Stern’s listeners aren’t educated enough. How educated do you have to be to go to vote, except in Florida? The problem is.. There aren’t that many… It’s something way overblown here. We’re not talking about that many people nationwide, #1, but that’s not the point. Last Thursday — a little store here — last Thursday, right about ten o’clock in the morning, a week ago yesterday, I’m sitting here. I’m minding my own business; I’m bothering nobody; I’m getting ready for an exciting show, and I get an e-mail from a woman on the op-ed staff of the Los Angeles Times, and she says, “Um, we would be very interested, and we haven’t asked you in a long time, so we really think we’re owed one.”
She was nice, don’t misunderstand my tone. “But we would love for you to tell us what you think of this FCC crackdown and Howard Stern,” and she gave me three options: “Is it the FCC finally catching up to where it should be, is it something else, or is it Bush trying to silence Stern?” I looked at that. Bush trying to silence Stern? What the hell is this? So I thought about it for about a half a — she needed it at nine o’clock Friday morning. I said, “Well…” I thought about it, and I thought about it. Normally, I would have said, “No, not have enough time. Don’t have enough passion about it,” but something made me say “yes,” and I still don’t know what it was.
So after the program last Thursday at three o’clock, I jotted down what would be, in common parlance, a very rough draft just to get my initial thoughts down, and then I e-mailed those notes to my home Mac G5 dual processor computer. And then I put it aside, had to do some things. Got home a couple hours later, and I fired up my Mac G5 supe-processed computer, dual-processor computer, and in those two hours — you know, I have a bunch of filters on the Internet that send me news from certain sectors, segments, names and so forth, and it comes to my e-mail address, and I was loaded — there was all this e-mail in there from search engines.
So I go through it, and, lo and behold, there’s a new twist to this whole Stern-FCC thing. And the new twist is — and it actually happened Thursday morning but I don’t know about it because I have never listened to Howard Stern and I couldn’t now if I wanted to because he’s been taken off the air down here. That’s another misnomer too. He’s just lost stations here, he can get others if others want to carry it after the contract period expires. Nevertheless, there’s this whole new twist, and the twist was that “It was Bush, that Bush had decided he didn’t like being criticized by Stern and had called Clear Channel management it and told them to get rid of Stern.”
And I said, “You know what? I have been entrapped here. The LA Times knew this because it was the last option they gave me of the three.” I didn’t know it when I said yes. I was prepared to do a thing here on indecency and abridgement of free speech and all this stuff, and I threw out all those notes. I merely threw out all those notes and I started from square one, because, folks, I’m just going to tell you this — and this is what I wrote in this LA Times op-ed that ran Sunday. [Speaking to webmaster] I tell you what. Koko? Link to it, because this is the first time I’ve talked about it. It’s in the Houston Chronicle. It’s been running all over the country now in their syndicate. You may have seen it.
Let me give some full disclosure here. In the first place, Clear Channel Communications syndicates this program, distributes this program, on 600 stations here, and about 125 of them are Clear Channel-owned. The majority of the stations I’m on are not Clear Channel owned. Clear Channel owns more than 1200 stations in the country, and what was it, 1400, something like that. Howard Stern is on six of them. Six! Six! And there were all these calls of censorship? There was no censorship! He got fired. It happens in this business all the time. Management can fire people for any reason whatsoever. Ask me. I’ve been fired for using the word “therefore” too frequently. Management told me it “confused” the audience, didn’t “promote communication clearly.” This was in Kansas City.
I’ve been fired for playing “Under My Thumb” too many times by the Rolling Stones, and there nobody started making my case that I’d been censored or any of this sort of stuff. When I heard that the latest theory is that Bush is behind this, I said, “Now, this has gone too far. This is an absolute crock and a piece of BS.” Because if Clear Channel is firing people for criticizing Bush, I should have been fired two years ago, and you people know it because you’ve been mad at me because I’ve been criticizing Bush on the domestic side of his agenda as long…
Well, from the first time I heard that Ted Kennedy went to the White House to watch a movie and eat popcorn. And then here came the Medicare bill, and then here came campaign finance reform. That’s what we ought to really be worried about. If we’re going to start worrying with censorship, if we’re going to worry about loss of free speech, campaign finance reform, folks, is it, because the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law abridging…” blah, blah, blah “…freedom of speech,” and they have. It’s called McCain-Feingold. This business that Stern has been aced out by Bush? I mean, the theory is that Bush actually picked up the phone and called Clear Channel, and said,
“I don’t like what this guy is saying, get rid of him,” and all these left-wing fringe lunatics believe it!
That’s what all this e-mail was. These lunatics, “Can you believe what’s happened to Stern?” I’m reading this, and I’m beside myself. The only thing that was missing was that Stern somehow discovered that Bush has an ancient relative who used to live on Mars. We discovered as you know that Mars was once habitable, out of water, and that this ancient relative used to work for Halliburton on Mars, and Halliburton destroyed Mars but the people there got out in time and came here and formed Halliburton here, and now we’re destroying America by trying to get all the oil in Iraq for Dick Cheney’s portfolio. That’s all this story is missing.
The idea that people are getting fired for criticizing George Bush is dispelled by looking at me, or anywhere else in this country. That is not what’s going on here, and, you know, there is an important issue here, and I’m not trying to relegate it to obscurity. But this left-wing Looney Toon conspiracy theory that has been evolving, that is to explain — I mean, I don’t know why they don’t stick with it. This is a clear decision that has been made by Clear Channel for whatever reason that they’ve had enough with whatever the content was, and the thing about it that nobody is writing, “What about who the owners or the syndicators of Stern’s show?”
I mean, he can only be censored by government, number one. Number 2 his own company is not doing a thing to stop him, so what danger is he in? So in six markets, in six markets in this country, Clear Channel decided to get rid of a radio program they didn’t like, and for this the world comes to a stop and we’ve got a big controversy? Simple fact of the matter is that once the window of noncompete closes, once that noncompete clause closes any station in these six markets that wants to pick Stern’s show back up can do it. It’s no big deal in the sense, that Bush is… This is just nonsense.
If anybody wants to know what’s driving this — I mean, people are making jokes about it, but it was this thing at the Super Bowl, but it’s not just that, folks. This has been going on for 15 years. Remember when the day after the Super Bowl, I came to this program and I said, “You’re shocked? You’re surprised? Why? Why should you be surprised at this?” It’s like anything else, any other descent to depravity or any other cultural decay, at some point everybody reaches that point. “We’ve gone too far now,” and what always happens, if I can give you this illustration, let’s say that when everything is going…
Imagine a meter, and when everything is going right, the meter, the needle is pointing straight up, 12 noon. But then we start going too far one way. Let’s say we start going (just left or right, doesn’t mean conservative-liberal here), but let’s say we start going too far to the right, where extremism and indecency are on the right. And it goes far enough to the right, and finally we say, “Oops, gone too far, got to get the media back to center,” but we don’t stop at the center. We go back a little farther to the left; we overcompensate in trying to fix it.
And that’s at what we’re doing now. Essentially we’ve got people who want to go back to the Puritan days to fix how far right we’ve been, or how extreme we’ve been, rather than just go back to the center. And this is common. It’s human nature; we do it individually, societies do it, and that’s what is happening here. These fines are excessive. These fines are not going to stay at this level, and there’s a way to avoid them. It’s very, very simple, and it doesn’t mean anybody’s going to be censored. You know, the analogy is it’s the public airwaves and it’s just like being in a mall. You can’t go start shouting all these offensive things in a mall because it’s public, and people have a right to shut you up there, and that’s how the public airwaves are.
Cable, you’ve got to pay to go in there; and satellite, you’ve got to pay to go in there. And so, theoretically — this is another point I made in the column — I mean, there is more cultural depravity on television today brought in into your home via a wire that there is on radio combined.
And it wins Emmys, and it gets cultural acclaim, and we’ve got artists — get this — named Andre Serrano who can put a crucifix in a jar of urine and put it on display at museums, and we are told that it is great artistic expression and that we must not prejudge it and that we must dig deep to understand the artiste’s impressions and blah-blah, all this rotgut.
In the meantime, we have a perfectly fine movie in “The Passion of the Christ” come out, “We can’t have that! We must stop that! That’s anti-Semitism!” Everything is all out of whack here. But if we’re going to let TV broadcast garbage and smut whenever they want as long as it’s on wire, and if we’re going to put absolutely depraved debris — like elephant dung on the Virgin Mary at a Brooklyn museum — if we’re going to say that that’s perfectly fine because people have to walk in there on their own and see it, then broadcasters ought to have the right to not broadcast what they don’t want to broadcast. It’s that simple. I call it the market, and I just hope it remains a free market.