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March 11, 2004
Almost Shameless

In the mood for 5000 words about sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and porn? Then check out this feature I wrote for LA Weekly about the life of a longtime roadie named Jef Hickey.

Posted by Greg Beato at 07:28 AM
March 08, 2004
Silver lining

The Bush Administration's getting a lot of grief over hiring actors rather than real fire-fighters for a recent campaign commercial - but let's face it, doing it the Bush way wasn't only cheaper and quicker, it created two new jobs for the ailing economy!

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:36 AM
Howard's Turn

One of my favorite parts about the Howard Stern controversy is the genesis of his new political engagement: he read Al Franken's Liar's book. Now, sure, I'm glad that when Howard finally decided to read a book, he didn't choose something about Ann Coulter or David Limbaugh or Mona Charen or whoever...

On the other hand, it's kind of amazing that, boom, after years of not really being interested in politics and sort of superficially embracing the powers that be, it took only one book to turn Stern into a liberal firebrand.

But I guess that's how people generally get the faith; George W. Bush was a Stern-like hedonist for decades, drinking and carousing, and then all the sudden he wasn't anymore...

In any case, given Howard's new political engagement, I don't quite get his pessimism regarding the future of his show. The FCC's going to shut him down, but it can really only do that if he continues to violate decency standards.

Like federal obscenity laws (which apply to media that doesn't make use of the public airwaves), broadcasting indecency laws are vague: they outlaw "obscene, indecent, or profane language," meaning we could argue forever what constitutes obscenity and indecency. (Profanity seems a little more clear-cut.)

But if Howard really believes he's being persecuted for his newfound political beliefs, it'd be pretty easy to force the FCC's hand on that - all he has to do is stop talking about tits and lesbians for a while, and start talking about licking Bush in the next election. And he could also start campaigning to revise broadcasting indecency laws to make them more specific, or to do away with them entirely.

Of course, he might lose audience share if he suddenly becomes a lot more political than he's been in the past, but who knows? Maybe they'll be right there with him. For years, religious conservatives have been working hard to make pop culture conform to their wishes, and the millions of people who enjoy the kinds of media the conservatives want to eliminate haven't been doing a whole to ensure their rights to read, watch, and listen to whatever they want. Now it's time to fight back, and Howard could be a huge part of the fight if he wants to be.

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:20 AM