I happened to catch Damien Cave’s article Shock Jocks Booted in Moral Panic in a recent issue of Rolling Stone that discusses Clear Channel Communications’ recent move to dump Howard Stern from its stations and fire Todd “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem. The article more or less finishes up with the following turn of phrase:
…even DJs at independent stations report that it’s now common to spend hours discussing the legality of penis vs. dick, breast vs. boob or funbag
… [says Fred Toucher, the mornining DJ at 99X in Atlanta:] “There’s nothing like seeing a dude in a suit talk in deadpan whether you can say that your balls are the size of canteloupes.”
I have a question. Why are we even discussing these issues at all? Of all the things one can hear on the radio, why do we get to hear Todd “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem vocally simulate sex? Why are we listening to some radio personality talk about breasts, boobs, or funbags with such frequency? This is cheap speech. It is titillating speech. It is the kind of stuff put on the air by people who have nothing else in mind when it comes to radio than making biggest, quickest dollar that they can. Of all the things I could hear on the radio, this is probably the last thing I would want to hear.
It is not as if I am against the First Amendment on this. I don’t want this to become a witch hunt. Yet, I find myself wishing that shock radio had something politically or culturally valid to say. I wish that there was something it had to offer other than titillating sexual details and jokes about bodily functions.
Fifty years ago, radio personality Alan Freed was controversial because he played rhythm and blues (some called it “race music” or “jungle music”) on the air, and hosted live events where black and white kids could mingle and dance together to the music of predominantly black artists. That, to me, seems like something worth fighting for. The ability to listen to women plead with Howard Stern to pay for their breast implants seems an altogether more dubious proposition.