Is Howard Stern "delightfully immature," or a worthless liberal cause that "springs from the national crotch"? Readers ponder the FCC's indecency crackdown. Plus: The debate over Nader rages on.

Salon Staff
April 17, 2004 12:11AM (UTC)

[Read "Howard Stern Unplugged," by Eric Boehlert, and "First They Came For Howard," by Dan Savage.]

I'd hardly consider it a "scary misuse of government power" for the FCC to regulate the airwaves the American people sold to radio for a pittance, with the understanding that regulation would occur. I have no influence whatsoever over Clear Channel, Infinity Broadcasting, et al., so I'll take it as a victory for democracy that the FCC still responds to community complaints, whether Stern's defenders like that community or not.


Maybe there should be regional regulatory bodies, to ensure that the FCC sticks to prevailing community standards as they vary, but community standards do exist, and they're not established by Howard Stern on his own. The E! channel waits until 11 p.m. to broadcast Stern's show. Radio should do the same -- Sterns' unhygenic, uncouth listening audience can learn how to control their swamp butt and be discreet after my kids are in bed.

-- Jody Timmins

The most important thing about Howard Stern is not his obsession with lesbian sex, but the fact that, with Howard, you can't hide behind your title or celebrity status -- everyone is a slob in Sternville, all given to the same sticky biological processes and dark defense mechanisms. With Howard, there are no sacred cows.


My theory with shows like Howard Stern and, say, The Man Show, is that their chauvinism is ironic (not necessarily inauthentic, but definitely meant to be ironic). But they eventually become the thing they're commenting on because a lot of young, white male listeners/watchers actually share those feelings. In that way, Howard Stern and Adam Corolla are unapologetically honest. They're OK with me because they aren't mean-spirited and hateful -- just really libidinous and, well, delightfully immature.

The religious right, on the other hand, is just plain hypocritical and opportunistic. Ironic, because that's exactly the kind of disingenuousness that Stern has always challenged. That Stern's troubles appear really to be a result of his anti-Bush musings, makes the attack by the right even more awful. Loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh have total freedom to say whatever they want because the religious right agrees with him. And that's the right's only litmus test -- that you fall into line with their own worldview.

-- Kay Hansen


I am as alarmed as Dan Savage is over the treatment of Howard Stern by the FCC. I've never been a Stern fan, but I am a staunch supporter of the First Amendment. I am disgusted by the "we must protect the children" excuse of the would-be purveyors of decency. If FCC Chairman Michael Powell is really concerned about the quality of what's on radio and TV, he should stop giving our airwaves away to a few big media corporations.

-- Anne Castro


After the Columbine shootings, Howard Stern made jokes about why the high school killers did not also have sex with some of their victims. He found the images of high school girls running, terrified, from the carnage in the building with their arms over their heads to be stimulating. He lost me as a listener. I never listened much to Stern before that broadcast, but I never listened to him again. I know the neighborhood around Columbine, so perhaps I was particularly sensitive and outraged to hear a radio personality advocate rape. But when Dan Savage suggests that we should rally around Howard Stern as some sort of free-speech icon and sexual educator it is actually more disturbing.

I heard similar rallying cries for support of Stern on Air America Radio. It is astonishing to me that in the current political environment we are able to find and promote an issue so repugnant that it actually motivates many liberals to support conservative positions. There are so many more important issues that need to be addressed that it is destructive, distracting and just plain stupid to make a martyr of Howard Stern. The Bush administration and other right-wing groups would like us to believe that liberals are just a bunch of elitist, self-indulgent, amoral and perverse fringe groups. Making Howard Stern into a free-speech issue just plays into their hands.

There are liberal positions that do not spring from the national crotch. Who tells us about these? We are involved in a war which was launched from shaky premises, things are not going well, we seem to have no plan for moving forward and the effect on the rest of the world and the future may be grave. We have an economy in which individuals and small businesses are under profound stress. We have a tax code which penalizes blue-collar work and rewards investment by the rich. Why are the free-speakers not taking to the airwaves to educate us on these issues?


When Stern made his comments about Columbine, I sent an e-mail complaining to the network that owned several stations that carried his show. I got no response. So then I sent another email pretending that I was in an investor group which was about to sell off its stock in response to Stern. That one got an apologetic response -- and I think that's more obscene than any of Stern's remarks.

-- Tom Woehrly

Given that the FCC is on an indecency rampage, it's useful to remember that one of the Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin, wrote a book called "Fart Proudly." (It's available at Amazon.com) Franklin claims that farting is an exercise of freedom, and that it's not healthy to stifle it. My bet is that Franklin would support Howard Stern. So what would Michael Powell say about Benjamin Franklin?


-- Howard Salmon

[Read "The Other Guy Democrats Love to Hate," by Sandeep Kaushik.]

Last election I voted for Nader for two reasons: He was truth-telling and the Democratic Party was scare-mongering. I remember clearly how they sowed that not-so-subtle doubt of "throwing your vote away" among many left-leaning friends. I thought this a pathetic trend, akin to self-censure. Finally breaking rank, voting for Nader became a defining moment for this lifelong Democrat. Gore went on to win my state narrowly, and I was proud I didn't cave in.

Whether I will vote for Nader this time around, I don't know. But every time I read an interview with him I can't escape his logic and rightness on the issue of a third-party candidacy. A general election should be about the voters and not the parties or candidates. It would behoove the Democratic Party to stop pissing off voters, Democratic or otherwise, and affirm the right of voters to decide among as many choices as possible. If it comes down to a razor-thin election I should have the right to choose against a Kerry in the very same scenario as last election if he runs as pathetic a race. And this should frighten the politburo. That's the point. The Democratic Party is afraid of Ralph Nader because at the polls all voters, whether Republican or Democrat, become what is known as the American electorate and have the power to fill in whatever box they choose. It is this the Democrats really fear.


-- Ed Sweeney

I have to say that I'm no fan of Ralph Nader running, or of Bush getting four more years, but I'm also less and less interested in John Kerry because he seems like just another Washington insider. I'm voting for him, but why can't the Democratic Party or Republican Party for that matter come up with a real leader? Someone to take this nation forward on issues like oil dependence and healthcare? America is the greatest country in the world because we are tough-ass people who love our country and are willing to sacrifice for it. Where is a leader to direct that energy?

One of the saddest results of 9/11 was that the best our president could do was start a "Go shopping at the mall" ad campaign. Where was the historic speech that we all needed to band together, make sacrifices and wean ourselves off of the massive oil addiction our country has? Unfortunately, I don't think John Kerry can make that speech either.

-- Matt Harp


Sorry, but I still can't see a Nader campaign as having anything behind it but ego and wishful thinking on his part. Yes, he does raise important questions, and I agree with a lot of his positions, but how will his running for president advance those causes? How will another Nader campaign make this country a better place? What greater good will he accomplish by running for president that he can't accomplish in any other way? Despite his anger at the two-party system, he has done nothing to help change it, as he jumped ship on the only third party that might have gotten even a small boost from his run in 2000, and essentially put the process back to square one (again). And it isn't rational to believe that this candidacy will scare the Democratic Party into a more progressive platform by threatening to siphon off votes from their candidate.

Nader pulled enough votes in 2000 to actually cost Gore the election and the Democrats haven't moved one inch towards a more progressive agenda. The reason is very simple: they know that they can only encompass so much of the political spectrum and still hold a winning voting base. If they adopt a more progressive platform, they may gain some votes from the Naderites, but they know they will lose centrist votes. Nader has done nothing so far to convince the Democratic Party that it will gain more votes than it loses by adopting a more progressive stance on issues like universal health care.

I know that Nader would say he was largely shut out of the national picture by the two-party obsessed corporate media and that if only he could have gotten his message out, tens of millions of dissatisfied voters would have flocked to his banner, and they would have swept into Washington on a wave of optimism, to take back our country. That's a nice fantasy, dreamed of by egotistical fringe candidates with poll numbers in the single digits.

If Nader really wants to do some good, he needs to stop preaching to the choir at progressive love-ins and get out there and educate the unconvinced and the reluctant that his ideas are good for America, as he has done so well in the past.


-- Scott Stoeffler

I know there will be scores of whining letters from liberals denouncing Nader, but the fact is if people didn't want to vote for him, he wouldn't get any votes. When people blame Nader for Al Gore's defeat, they're really saying "Those people who voted for Nader instead of Gore didn't know better. Therefore he should not have run."

I'll vote for Kerry, but I recognize Nader's right to run for president and, importantly, the right of Americans to vote for him if they so choose.

-- Dan Sheehy

It's not surprising that Ralph Nader, in his recent interview with Salon, consistently rejects taking responsibility for his actions. He has this in common with the Greens who backed him in 2000. Nothing is ever their fault; there's always somebody else to blame; and that somebody is usually the Democrats.

We already have a party that represents all these views. They're called "Republicans." We don't need more of them; indeed, we need far fewer of them.

-- Patrick Schmitt

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