Saturday, May 12, 2007

Standards and Practices

People who know me well are a little surprised that I haven't yet mentioned one of the things that is making this Baby Boomer's journey into the Third Third most enjoyable: XM Satellite Radio.

One day, I will wax poetic about XM and what it delivers. One day...but not today.

Today, in a bit of an echo of the Don Imus situation, I am compelled to speak harshly about something that was broadcast on XM this past week.

This is difficult for me because I am such a fan of XM and such a proponent of free speech, so I think I'll begin with this description of the event, posted on the web by someone else:

"Warning: Extremely Vulgar Language. XM Shock Jocks Opie and Anthony engage in discussion about forced sex with the Secretary of State. A studio guest, Homeless Charlie, begins describing the scenario as the hosts laugh and encourage him. Anthony talks about the horror for Rice as the guest is "holding her down" and assaulting her. They invite Charlie to be a regular guest."

If you want to hear this for yourself, and I don't particularly recommend it, you can access an audio clip here. A full New York Times account of the resulting controversy can be found here.

Some people I know, also XM fans, are shrugging their shoulders about this. Just a skit, they say. You could hear the same thing on HBO or Saturday Night Live. Some other shock jocks are expressing alarm, saying that criticism of O&A shows that it is becoming a "dangerous time" to be on radio.

Let's be clear. This was not a 'skit.' This was not a comedy routine you would see on HBO. It was not a segment of Saturday Night Live. It would have been edited out of any program broadcast on any television network in this or virtually any other country.

This was a detailed, profanity-laced discussion about forcible, violent sex - also known as rape - on someone, a discussion that appeared to approve of that act and made light of it.

If someone were to rationalize this away, what is next?

Is it OK to have a similar, approving discussion about, say, slavery?

The genocide of Armenians, Jewish people or others?

A forcible, violent sex attack on a six-year-old child?

This was an abuse of free speech every bit as much as yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater is an abuse of free speech, and - in my opinion - it should be condemned as such.

Back in the '60s and early '70s, the most popular weatherman in New York City, the largest market in the country, was Tex Antoine. One night, his weather report came on right after a news report about a violent rape of a five-year-old girl.

Antoine said, on the air: "With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: 'If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.' "

He was suspended and ultimately fired. His career essentially ended that night.

I don't remember anyone raising free speech issues or complaining that it was becoming a dangerous time to be on television.


Bert said...

It is absolutely amazing that the vast majority of people that have been vocal on this issue view it as a free speech issue. O & A were way over the line in encouraging the rape of women. Judging from their apology, XM's management just doesn't get it: "We apologize to the public officials for comments that we made on our XM show on May 9th." They seem to be apologizing for saying something disrespectful towards a public official. This show went far beyond that, encouraging the rape of women. They need to be sent the message that this is not free speech and it will not be tolerated. If XM's management can't take the appropriate disciplinary action, then perhaps the government should step in and do it for them.

This is in no way free or protected speech.

Rick said...

One might have thought these guys had learned a lesson when they got booted from terrestrial radio with their St. Patricks prank. I find their type of 'show' to be extremely distasteful and place them right with Howard Stern on the 'offensive meter'. What I find difficult to understand is how there seems to be an audience for this. It speaks as poorly for the listener as the 'host', imo. Our society has lost its moral compass.