News Media Wrestles With Free Speech
It has been interesting to watch the press deal with a New York Post item on Stern about to be given rules to follow by his new management. Interesting and revealing.
The story has been picked up worldwide and has refused to go away. It may be the first time the communications industry has thought so much about the issue of free speech. Our communications industry somehow convinced us for decades they were above the law with the right to withhold information. No such exclusion exists unless we give it to them. If they witnessed a murder and kept it quiet they should be compelled to speak. Period. In recent years the judicial system has realized the press does not have that right, the right to refuse to answer the court.
And this is what I'm hearing: Stern's crew was told about libel and slander laws, child porn jokes and the like. In other words, the law. That's it. But according to the press, Stern does not have free speech on his radio because he can't do child porn, libel and slander. Why else would they be saying Stern is about to be censored? Or has been? What can we surmise from those that have joined this odd bandwagon? It is clear they feel these subjects are exactly the ones that make it necessary for the FCC to exist. To have government censorship of everything from video games to music. The slippery slopes initial slide has been revealed.
There are civil courts for libel and slander. We don't need the FCC to watch out for that, and they don't. There are federal law enforcement agencies that deal with child porn, we don't need the FCC for that. So why do they think we are granted rights and responsibilities?
Most of the communications industry think free speech if it complies with the ideas of free speech, is only in the printing press. They have been sold a bill of goods. The paper is blank until words appear on the pages, those words come from ideas. Every newscaster is reading. Words on a page. Every website has words on a page. All are starting as ideas, good or bad. If newspapers disappear, that's it? No more free speech?
What happened to us, the audience? Why haven't we thought that the communications media as a whole is free speech?
Our founding fathers granted us nothing. They expressed the view that we are born with rights. So, why do we have limits that spill into every communication? Why do we accept and often act on them?
Many people don't believe in free speech.
They may believe in it for themselves, but many should actually say, "Well I believe in free speech as long as its not embarrassing or makes me uncomfortable", others "well I do as long as it doesn't include political ideas I don't like".
Ever seen the people at a anti-Klan rally? Usually it less than 10 kooks, facing hundreds of people whose aim must be horrible. As they throw rocks and bottles, the projectiles fall on policemen. The policemen who are there to protect the kooks right to free speech. Clearly, the people who in the last anti-Klan rally broke into homes and attacked motorists (how that was supposed to scare racists I still don't know) don't believe in free speech for those that disagree with them. Anymore than a Klansman or Nazi would. They all share, intolerance.
College is where you should hear every stupid idea that is out there. Yet the place for free exchange of ideas is strangled by professors with political agendas and students who would gladly give up free speech to not have to feel uncomfortable. Work is strangled with sensitivity sessions ( that counseling industry has been flooded with groups like Scientology and old EST followers). Counselors with agendas. Courts assign people with DUI's to AA. Even though it is a religious group with a 15% success ratio, which is just about the same as people that don't get any kind of therapy at all. They are assigned by the court to a religious group. And every single one of us allows this erosion to go on.
It may be that the majority of people in this country don't actually believe in free speech. Tough. I was born with it.
Would I yell "theatre" at a crowded fire? The newspapers didn't use free speech exceptions to print child porn. And if they slander anyone they can be sued. So why do we think if the FCC went away all that and more would happen to our communications media? Why do they think there would be a market for slander, and that constant court settlements wouldn't do in the press or media?
If the press and media are silent as the rights are eroded away, then not only do they not understand free speech, they refuse to protect it. If the government tries to censor pay TV and radio, and they want to be "objective" they are actually uniting with those that would take away freedom.
Howard Stern wants what all creative people want. The right to think. From ideas to words.
When our founding fathers sat down to right the rules porn existed. So, how come they didn't include limits on porn?
The freeing of the mind and spirit leads to ideas. Creators take those ideas and turn them into realities. For myself, that means writing and directing plays.
For many this process is chaos. Believers in order also are fans of beliefs like Intelligent Design. Because the opposite is chaos.
In the 1980's chaos theory developed. From chaos comes order, and it isn't just from the math of odds. I suppose improvisers are more aware of this than their audiences.
In our western culture we play chess. Each piece on the chess board has a role, an assigned movement. In Japan, where I was raised, people play go. In chess, you must do movements one way or another. In go however, you can move pieces over and under, sideways and even to other boards!
Want to understand Vietnam? Want to understand insurgent groups? The entire space is a target. Not just one on one in a face off. When I create a show, I use the strategies of go. If I get ads, a space, cards, actors to do the show, etc, I am doing what I think any artist should do in the 21st century. Those who follow chess, however, and do their theatre by the rules, get no press, no pay, no place without payment, etc. They follow the rules like our men did in Vietnam. How did that turn out?
Want to fight terror? Understand Go. Not chess.
Everyone has a cause and mine is free speech. I helped organize F.A.C.T. when the Gore's were trying to censor music, along with the Playboy Foundation and many left wing groups at the time. So I have a record of supporting free speech, that can be traced back to my days in high school when I was booted out for passing a flyer to make ROTC a choice and not a mandatory class which it was in Georgia.
The nice thing about free speech is that from slander to attacks to verbal abuse it is hard to get a rise out of me. Nothing shakes me from my goals. Besides, taunts and stupid reviews are "chess" like thinking. I've already beat you with each goal that is accomplished.
Stern is using the entire industry to express his ideas. He wants the right to think, so he can entertain. A non story becomes major because he sells papers and draws viewers. Expect more of the same. From the press. Stern is playing Go while the industry is stuck in chess. They see chaos, I see new rules and ideas blossoming.
To the press I can only say, what do you believe? When the politicians gather to censor pay radio, HBO and the like, how far will you let that go before you say, "I became a journalist because I believe in free speech. I must support it now".
That question is quickly coming.
The press saw the ratings when Stern made the switch and they want them back. Expect more silly articles.
Make no mistake, however. Stern is by re-creating his medium in a new way, he is an insurgent. This is a revolution. He is right when he says, it started with the technology.
The medium is the message.