You remember the Janet Jackson incident during the Superbowl, right? If I have to refresh your memory, you've been living under a rock. But have you also been paying attention to the recent Congressional/FCC hearings regarding indecency in broadcasting? Congress has been putting the screws to broadcast professionals such as Viacom's Mel Karmazin and Clear Channel's John Hogan. Both Hogan and Karmazin have stated that they're going to clean up their act. Viacom has issued a zero-tolerance policy on dirty talk on public - which means that they'll be fired if they start. Clear Channel went as far as to drop Stern from several of their radio stations over an "indecent" incident on his program.
What's happening in radio studios across the country, whether your favorite DJ mentions it or not, is that broadcasters are equating these new indecency standards with Hitler ordering the extermination of the Jews. You'd think the world has come to an end. That you can't say anything about anything anymore. Look at the Oscars over the weekend. They used a five second delay to cut out anything indecent, and the stars were on their tippy-tippy toes making sure they didn't say anything bad. Robin Williams and Jack Black were just two of the Oscar attendees who had to censor themselves during the red carpet interviews, for example.
DJs are saying the First Amendment is under attack. They think that they should be able to talk about women's body parts and fart jokes until the sun goes down everyday. That's how they used to do their shows. That's what they were hired to do, too. The mea culpas being voiced by men like Karmazin and Hogan don't ring entirely true to anybody who's in the broadcasting business (such as myself). They knew exactly what guys like Stern were talking about; they paid them big bucks to talk dirty - as much as they could get away with. To suddenly throw up their hands and say they had nothing to do with it, that they are as shocked as we are, that they must act to protect our children - there's one word to describe it all, but if I use it I could be accused of being indecent.
Whether or not the First Amendment is truly under attack is debatable. Honestly, our freedom of speech doesn't mean we can talk dirty on the radio; it means our free political speech is protected. But over the years activists who think we should be able to shout "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater have corrupted what our freedom of speech stands for. Radio and television broadcasters having to censor themselves isnít a issue for anybody except those in that field, and itís just something theyíll have to adapt to. If Congress goes so far as to restrict broadcasters to the point where they can't say anything "shocking" or to get a rise out of the audience, which can be applied to political talkers such as Rush Limbaugh, then we have an issue. But we're far from that. And I think we all know the difference between free speech and garbage speech.
Then again, if the First Amendment ever comes under serious assault, just remember: the Second Amendment is there to make sure that doesn't happen. Because ultimately you can't restrict the freedoms of an armed society without taking away the arms first.
Brian Evankovich lives in California where he's in dire fear of being attacked by angry midgets for no apparent reason. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org