Friday, March 19

Air America, Schmair America

Oh, AA will be good - but dammit, we now have the biggest tuna of them all on our side.

Could Stern's anti-Bush rants shock the vote?

Is "shock jock" Howard Stern -- stripper aficionado, champion of misfits everywhere, all-purpose radio provocateur -- already giving liberals a voice on the airwaves? And is that voice powerful enough to affect the upcoming presidential election?

Since the FCC crackdown on media "indecency" in the wake of Janet Jackson's Nipplegate incident, Stern has transformed his morning variety show into a rabidly anti-Bush talk forum. Every weekday, he has been devoting hours of his broadcast (locally on WBCN-FM, 104.1) to impassioned criticism of President Bush and support of Senator John Kerry. Railing tirelessly against the president, Stern has been attacking Bush's yoking together of church and state, the legitimacy of his National Guard service, his use of Sept. 11 imagery in his campaign ads, his stances regarding First Amendment rights, his handling of Iraq, and his stands on gay marriage and stem-cell research.

"Join me and friends of this show who are outraged," Stern said on the air last Friday. "Vote out every Republican you can find." He has also been urging his listeners to send money to Kerry's campaign, calling him "a good man" and praising his record in Vietnam as well as his later criticism of the Vietnam War.

"With all the talk of liberal talk radio," says Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of Talkers magazine, "we're seeing emerging from the ranks of `shock jocks' one of the most potent and articulate liberal talkers we've seen in years."

Harrison calls Stern's's recent crusade "historic."

His anti-Bush push began in earnest after the FCC crackdown on "indecency" inspired Clear Channel -- which he calls "Fear Channel" -- to remove his show from six cities the week of Feb. 23. And his outrage has boiled to a head with news that Congress is currently considering a radical increase in the amount of FCC indecency fines (from a maximum of $27,500 to $500,000).

"It's over," Stern said on the air Tuesday. "When the Senate passes that bill, it's over. The show is over. . . . We can't do a radio program that's cutting edge . . . if the government keeps second-guessing everything we do."

"When he takes that FCC persecution mantle and wraps it around his political views," says Mark Walsh, CEO of Air America, "and when he implies that it wasn't until he started to criticize this president that he really started getting nailed for `immorality' and `obscenity,' he throws gasoline on the fire.

"If he says, `I'm being stifled because I have the temerity to challenge this president,' and `Remember a year and a half ago when entertainers were chastised for questioning the war and now I'm getting nailed for the same thing,' if he starts pounding that drum, I would contend that a significant portion of his listenership will take that as gospel truth."