Readers weigh in on Clear Channel's crucifixion of Howard Stern, and the rising battle against Bush over same-sex marriage.

By Salon Staff
Published March 5, 2004 11:08PM (EST)

[Read "The Passion of Howard Stern," by Eric Boehlert.]

Howard Stern a martyr? Only when it suits him. Narcissist is a more apt description.

As a Stern listener for going on 15 years, I have always been behind him and his (albeit somewhat misguided at times) First Amendment crusades. He relinquished the right to crusade for free speech, however, with his rhetoric from 9/12/01 through 2/23/04, when he was seemingly more in line with the "if you're not with us, you're against us" mindset than even our own George W.

During this time, he showed nothing but ardent support for the war on terrorism, never questioning any action of this rotten-to-the-core administration, and constantly berated all antiwar speech as un-American. His message to those against war was, "Shut up and get in line behind our president." His reaction was essentially self-serving and narcissistic -- he lives in New York, New York was attacked, so do whatever it takes to kill the people responsible (and if we have some collateral damage, obtain some extra oil, or further the cause of American hegemony, that's a welcomed side effect).

During the FCC media ownership battle last year -- an issue that directly affects him -- he was decidedly noncommittal. His reaction at that time was, "Consolidation worked for radio, so why not for television?" Well, now the FCC, Clear Channel, and potentially Viacom and other villains are crucifying poor Howard.

Realistically I'm glad that his rhetoric has changed and that it might contribute to ousting Dubya, but I'm not willing to give him a free pass just yet. Clear Channel is doing this for economic reasons, some say -- but Howard has just as many ulterior, narcissistic motives. Maybe Howard should stick to the subjects he does best: boobs, strippers, lesbians and bodily functions. I intend to wait before giving him complete absolution for rhetoric of the past several years that was often short-sighted, war-mongering, and anti-free speech.

-- Bruce Cundiff

It is articles like the one you ran today that make Salon worth two times the subscription price. Every other news outlet either ignored this censorship or went with the standard Howard is "raunchy and sophomoric" clichés. Thank you for giving this a thoughtful and thorough look. The stink of hypocrisy and government-sponsored censorship permeates this move by Clear Channel.

-- Gustavo Pena

I was so surprised when reading your article to see the mention of a local radio personality. For years I listened to the station here in Greenville, S.C., that Roxanne Walker was fired from. During the buildup to the war I tuned in one morning to hear her co-host spout the nonsense that those who opposed the war were not patriots! Roxanne was basically saying that that was nonsense ... Shortly after that day I heard that Roxanne was no longer on the show. I did some checking and found out that Clear Channel owns the station and I have not tuned in since.

I suspected why she was gone and now your article confirms my suspicions. I would like Roxanne to know that I appreciated her strong defense of people who held dissenting views and I'm sorry that there are so many rigid thinkers among us to make open and honest debate almost impossible.

-- Rita Vaughn

Whether Howard Stern was yanked from those six stations because of "naughty" words uttered either by him or a caller, or for what he's had to say about George Bush the Younger, I don't see Clear Channel rushing to return the pile of cash they must have made off his back during the whole time they syndicated his show.

If we follow the money, how much of what Howard earned for Clear Channel ended up in Bush the Younger's campaign war chest? Or to put it another way, how much was Clear Channel able to give to the Republican cause as a result of Howard fondling a breast or squeezing some ass? Inquiring minds will be detained...

-- Karen Smith

[Read "Bush's Backfire," by Richard J. Rosendall.]

As a young man who grew up in a Southern fundamentalist Christian household, but who now lives in New York City and has more or less renounced Christianity (at least the bigoted parts), I feel very familiar with the culture wars that Richard Rosendall outlines in his essay. What's more, I'm fairly certain I've never read a more eloquent, dignified dissection of just what the religious right would like to do to this country, given the (continued) opportunity. Anyone who believes in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- however one chooses to define that for oneself -- should rise up in opposition this November to the Republican Party and George W. Bush and send a clear message that the country will not allow itself to be "taken hostage" any longer.

-- Hunter Slaton

Having lived in the Netherlands for the past two years, I find myself continually amazed that, as a noncitizen, I have more rights as a gay man than I do in the United States of America, where I am a citizen. I can get married, I can gain residency based on that marriage, and I cannot be discriminated against in employment, housing or public accommodation based on the fact that I am gay. Many of the Dutch now take these rights for granted.

As an active voter, I have followed U.S. politics very closely while I have been here. I am perplexed by the fear that progressives express over the right-wing backlash to marriage rights for same-sex couples. The backlash would happen no matter how small the gains on same-sex marriage or any other progressive issue. The right wing and its minions have defined our debates for far too long. Now it is the progressives that are defining this issue. Is it possible that "domestic partnerships" would be considered by some conservatives to be a viable compromise if full marriage rights not been on the table as a real possibility?

It is appalling to think that those of us who have been fighting for these rights over the past decade would be intimidated into backing down now. Rather than criticize Gavin Newsom and other allies who have taken risks to advance this issue, we should lend them our full support and urge them not to back down. Same-sex marriage may be a key issue in the presidential election, but the economy, the deficit, and the motivation for the Iraq war also loom large in the minds of a majority of voters. George Bush stands to win or lose this election even if the issue of same-sex marriage evaporates into thin air. It would be pointless to back down now based on a false economy of political strategy, no matter how well intentioned. I believe that if we continue to define this debate by consistently raising the bar, then we will have the luxury of taking our rights for granted in the near future.

-- Robert Earhart

While gays need to be realistic about a potential backlash on the marriage issue, I would like to see a few less nervous nellies on my side.

I remember reading that at the time of the American Revolution, only about a third of the population really favored a break from England. But that didn't prevent the minority from pursuing the issue in the name of justice.

There is never going to be a perfect time for gays to demand marriage rights. While I agree that getting rid of the disastrous Bush regime is crucial on many levels, the right wing was going to push this issue anyway. And by taking a stand on a constitutional amendment, Bush has placed himself on the extreme, leaving the comfortable middle ground of "no gay marriage, but no constitutional amendment" all to Kerry. It's not what I'd like Kerry to say, but it's a winner with moderate and independent voters.

Gays used to describe themselves with the code phrase "friends of Dorothy" -- a phenomenon stunningly appropriate for these days, when a little courage is in order. Like the Cowardly Lion, who was born to be a sissy, we'll undoubtedly learn that we have a lot more courage than we ever thought.

-- Bernard Gundy

[Read this week's edition of "Right Hook," by Mark Follman.]

Gary Bauer was talking intolerant and unscientific nonsense in his claim about the supposed unhealthiness of homosexuality. The study he was quoting was published in 1997, using data on HIV incidence between 1987 and 1992. The authors of that study have more recently (2001) noted that "if we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved ... there has been a threefold decrease in mortality in Vancouver as well as in other parts of British Columbia."

I'm not competent to say whether the original study was any good, but the data have changed so much as to make it useless for any serious analysis of mortality rates. Though clearly not if one's an extremist wanting to make a polemic point.

Incidentally, the study has nothing to do with Oxford University -- it was written by a group in Vancouver. It appeared in a journal published by Oxford University Press, hardly the same thing at all.

Here are references (both papers are freely available online):

R.S. Hogg et al., "Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay men," International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 26(3), pp. 657-661, 1997.

R.S. Hogg et al., "Gay life expectancy revisited," International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 30, p. 1499, 2001.

-- Magnus Ramage

Salon Staff

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