More on free speech.
In numerous essays, I have argued that sex has become political, as has religion, which is increasingly a highly political voice against sex.
What this means is that sex and pornography can no longer been seen solely as “appealing to prurient interests.” Sex, pornography, and obscenity are now in the realm of political acts. In this new era, censorship of sex and pornography increasingly touch on the essence of free speech — which, traditionally, is the right to discuss politics.
If sexual issues are now politics, then they are also protected free speech!
Howard Stern was not censored for being pornographic, but for talking about inflammatory subjects. Watermelons, sex, and and the n-word. These are clearly political topics involving popular culture, and sexual and racial stereotypes.
What is inflammatory? Anything someone doesn’t like? Does anyone know anymore? Things have gotten to the point where satire — discussion of the topics themselves — is censorable. But the right to talk about these things is free speech.
I don’t think people realize that what I warned about with blog censorship is part and parcel of a movement which uses sex as a foot-in-the-door. First it’s sex, then it’s talking about sex, then it’s having opinions which might be deemed “offensive.”
Read what Rush Limbaugh, of all people, had to say today:

‘I’VE NEVER HEARD HOWARD STERN. BUT WHEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GETS INVOLVED IN THIS, I GET A LITTLE FRIGHTENED.
‘IF WE ARE GOING TO SIT BY AND LET THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GET INVOLVED IN THIS, IF THE GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO ‘CENSOR’ WHAT THEY THINK IS RIGHT AND WRONG… WHAT HAPPENS IF A WHOLE BUNCH OF JOHN KERRYS, OR TERRY MCAULIFFES START RUNNING THIS COUNTRY. AND DECIDE CONSERVATIVE VIEWS ARE LEADING TO VIOLENCE?
‘I AM IN THE FREE SPEECH BUSINESS. ITS ONE THING FOR A COMPANY TO DETERMINE IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE PARTY TO IT. ITS ANOTHER THING FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO DO IT.’

I’m really ticked off about this whole thing, and I’ll try to write more about it when I calm down.
Bottom line: when Rush Limbaugh goes to bat for Howard Stern, you know something is very, very wrong.
UPDATE: While I see Glenn Reynolds’ point about hypocrisy (free speech is the same for Stern, Schlessinger, or Savage), satire is not the same thing as actual bigotry. If Michael Savage uses the word “fag” the word has a very different meaning than when Stern uses it. I can’t stand Savage, but I would not support FCC censorship of him.
There is a big difference between Howard Stern joking about killing Jews, and Ernst Zundel doing the same thing. The former might be considered in bad taste — and maybe hurtful to certain people’s feelings — but the latter is true hate speech. Not that the government has any business regulating either, but there’s still a distinction.
There is also such a thing as quasi-governmental censorship. I’ve seen it at work for years…..
MORE: A case for complete deregulation of broadcasting? I have long felt that federal regulation of the airwaves was unconstitutional anyway. What bothers the hell out of me is to have other people tell me what I can and cannot hear, and what web pages I can and cannot visit. I would like to make up my own mind without having these choices made for me by corporate cowards intimidated by government agencies. In the case of Howard Stern, the recent decision by Clear Channel came right on the heels of angry testimony before Congress and ominous threats by guys like Michael Powell at the FCC. True, the government did not take him off the air, so there’s no “state action.” But without the FCC and the Congressional hearings, I seriously doubt the company would have taken the same action. Organized letter writing campaigns by angry listeners, threats to boycott the show — that’s one thing. If advertisers pull their spots, and local stations decide to cancel, that is not state-sponsored censorship. But when Congressional and FCC bullying is followed by an abrupt turnaround in corporate policy, well, that’s close enough to “state action” for me to sound off in return.
I think this corporate decision sucks, and I think government pressure was behind it. I think it was about as “voluntary” as the kind of “voluntary compliance” people give the IRS.
Precisely what I mean by “quasi-governmental censorship.”
(Perhaps I should have said “incidents of censorship.”)
IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE: It is only fair for me to point out that I have been a daily listener to Howard Stern (and G. Gordon Liddy) since 1994, and, much as I try to be logical, I may be influenced by my bias. I first saw the heavy hand of government influence radio companies in 1995 when Bill Clinton singled out Liddy by name as having been somehow responsible for the Oklahoma City blast (a connection never explained). Following this a number of stations dropped his show. Now, Bill Clinton did not order him off the air, so there was technically no “state action.” Cass Sunstein thought that taking Liddy off the air after the Clinton remarks was “not a threat to free speech but an exercise of civic duties.” I disagree vehemently. Like Virginia Postrel and Dave Kopel, I dislike seeing the government and its officials behave this way, and I will always condemn it when I see it.
AND HERE’S MORE:

It was the second time in two weeks that the House Energy and Commerce telecommunications subcommittee queried broadcasters about indecency. The first hearing came on the heels of the notorious Super Bowl halftime show that ended with singer Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson’s right breast to 90 million viewers
“Networks are being proactive in the efforts to clean up the airwaves,” said subcommittee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., who has sponsored legislation to increase the maximum fine for indecency from $27,500 to $275,000.
Several broadcasters endorsed the higher fines. John Hogan, president Clear Channel Radio, said the move would “serve as a ‘shot across the bow’ of the industry, putting us all on notice that Congress and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) are serious about cleaning up the airwaves.” (Vid Drudge.)

Might not meet the legal standard for state action, but it sure looks like government involvement to me.
THANK YOU GLENN REYNOLDS: And a warm WELCOME to all readers who came here from InstaPundit!! (Who is more correct in his legal analysis than I am — and who is absolutely right in saying that Jeff Jarvis rules!)
AND EVEN MORE: Glenn Reynolds links to this report by Howard Kurtz, and asks a good question:

Why is this different from what happened to The Greaseman, which didn’t produce any clucking about censorship? Er, except that Stern hasn’t lost his job. Oh, and there’s a Republican in the White House now.

As a matter of fact, I used to listen to Doug Tracht, (aka “The Greaseman”) from time to time (although he wasn’t on the air much in most of the cities I lived), and I liked him.
Never a stranger to controversy, Tracht was fired in 1999:

….[I]n February of 1999, while working at WARW-FM, he made a racially insensitive comment relating the music of hip-hop artist Lauren Hill to the dragging death of Dennis Byrd, the top news story of the day. After a listener called in to the show and complained on the air, word quickly spread of what Grease had said. He was suspended later that day, and then fired the next day. Grease went on numerous TV & radio talk shows to apologize for the incident in hopes of regaining his good reputation, with the help of boxing promoter Rock Newman at his side in support of his long-time friend. Among the TV shows Grease appeared on are ABC Nightline with Ted Koppel, BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley and MSNBC Equal Time with Ollie North. On the latter show, Ollie displayed results of an Internet poll asking “Do you accept the Greaseman’s apology?” which showed that 63% of those surveyed answered “Yes”.

What Tracht did wasn’t different from what Howard Stern did. I think the company got away with firing him because his ratings were not as high as Howard Stern (and because his views tended more towards the right than the left).
I did not like seeing what happened to the Greaseman, but I wasn’t blogging.
For what it’s worth I condemn what happened to him, just as I condemn Stern’s treatment.
Doug Tracht is still on the air. On his flagship Washington DC station listeners can hear him on the Internet, and here are some more:

  • WGOP-AM 700 – Washington, DC (Flagship Station)
  • WWGE-AM 1400 “The Edge” – Ebensburg/Altoona, PA
  • WQZK-FM 94.1 “netRock94” – Keyser, WV (3-7pm)
  • WKMZ-FM 95.9 – Martinsburg, WV
  • WGRX-FM 104.5 “Thunder 104.5” – Fredericksburg, VA (4:30pm “A Piece Of Grease”)
  • His style may not be for everybody (especially those concerned with “insensitivity”), but some of us are less “sensitive” than others, and might want to hear a like-minded soul. I notice Tracht has a following with the military, and I am glad to see he’s still on the air.