In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a listener of "The Howard Stern Show" and I did not hear firsthand what he said that led Clear Channel Communications to drop his show from six of its more than 1,200 markets. And to further disclose, Clear Channel also distributes "The Rush Limbaugh Show."
After it happened, people were stunned when I came to Stern's defense. The uninformed thought that I, as a conservative, must believe that the government should be in the business of silencing smut and regulating morality. But that was a week ago and the story has stretched. Now the buzz is that Stern was not dropped by Clear Channel for violating its decency standards. No, Clear Channel dropped Howard because he had been critical of President Bush. And, as the tale goes, since Clear Channel is reputedly close to Bush, the president called Clear Channel and told it to get rid of Stern.
So are we now going to popularize loony conspiracy theories from the left-wing fringe to defend Howard Stern? All that's missing here is that Stern discovered that Bush had an ancient relative who used to live on Mars and worked for Halliburton there before it destroyed that planet and arrived here on Earth to destroy Iraq by procuring oil for Dick Cheney's portfolio.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday March 22, 2004 Home Edition California Part B Page 11 Editorial Pages Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Howard Stern -- Clear Channel Communications canceled Howard Stern's show on six of its more than 1,200 radio stations, not in six of its more than 1,200 markets as incorrectly stated in a March 7 commentary.
Let me try to restore some reason to this mess. First, Howard Stern was not censored by Clear Channel. He was fired. It happens all the time in radio for whatever reason evil management desires. Just ask me; I was once fired for using the word "therefore" too many times (management said it confused the audience).
Secondly, the 1st Amendment does not guarantee anyone the right to be heard. You can shout all you want but no one has to listen to you.
And a third point: If Clear Channel is firing people for criticizing the administration, then I am next. In fact, I should have been fired two years ago. I have been so critical of the administration's domestic agenda that some of my own listeners have been threatening to abandon me if I don't stop. And I haven't.
From letting Ted Kennedy write the most bloated education bill in history, to the redundant, unnecessary farm bill, to the new Medicare entitlement, I have watched in disbelief as "compassionate conservatism" came to mean "mainstream liberalism."
But what should really concern us is the McCain-Feingold law, which specifies who can criticize a candidate on TV in the days before an election. It prohibits union and corporate funding of advertisements that mention candidates for federal office within 60 days of a general election and 30 days of a primary. The fact the Supreme Court found it constitutional is horrifying.
Yet people are concerned that Howard Stern has been censored? By President Bush?
Stern is not the problem. He is "Romper Room" compared with what we can watch in prime time every night on TV. The difference is that the garbage on TV wins Emmys.
The real hypocrisy here is saying we need to regulate radio but we can't have standards about what appears on TV if it arrives in your home via cable or satellite.
And let's not mention the cultural depravity of much of the music aired on radio today. Artistic expression must be "understood and encouraged." It's the same thing as saying "The Passion of the Christ" is dangerous and anti-Semitic, but a crucifix in a jar of urine is art that we must endeavor to appreciate and not judge prematurely.
If music radio stations can play garbage, if TV can show us filth and museums can exhibit depravity, then broadcasters should have the right to choose what not to air as well, as in the case of Howard Stern. Besides, there are any number of stations free to air his show in markets where it was canceled.
Whatever is happening, it isn't censorship and it isn't George W. Bush. Some may call it reasonable. I call it the free market.
Rush Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host.