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Friday, February 10, 2006

Where we draw our individual lines 

The common response to someone who is offended by certain speech is, "If you don't like it, you can [turn the station off]/[put the newspaper down]/etc."

In an attempt to please their audiences, media outlets have to make decisions about what speech would alienate their listeners, and what speech would not.

For example, POWER 106 would probably not choose to air the views of someone who maintains that rap is Satanic. If they did, a number of people would turn the dial.

However, no media outlet can anticipate what would offend every member of their audience.

Let's take something that happened this morning. I was listening to Bill Handel, who is employed by KFI (more hypocritical talk radio) when I was moved to change the channel.

Was Handel talking about Muslim deaths? Of course not - Clear Channel brands that as insensitive.

Was Handel making Holocaust jokes? Not today.

Was Handel talking about Jesus images in food? Not this hour.

No, the thing that moved me to change the channel was when Handel was repeating a statement from Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley, who was speaking about Neil Entwistle:

He shot Rachel Entwistle in the head and then proceeded to shoot baby Lillian, who was lying on the bed next to her mother.

I changed the channel right there. Didn't want to hear it.

Am I going to picket KFI and its advertisers and demand that they stop graphically describing violence against family members? Uh...no.

"But O," you say, "you wouldn't picket KFI because it would be ridiculous to picket over THAT."

If hundreds of thousands of people agreed with me, would I picket KFI and its advertisers and demand that they stop graphically describing violence against family members? Uh...no.

If a KFI jock advanced the notion that all religions (including my own) are primitive superstitions and believers in said religions were ignorant dolts, would I demand KFI remove the jock? Uh...no. KFI, or any media outlet, has a right to be stupid.

Would I feel differently about a medium other than radio? Possibly. I could conceive of a case in which I would demand that a television network not broadcast something.

What's the difference? The difference is the sensory immediacy of television (and, for that matter, movies). Radio and printed media just don't match TV/movies for their impact on people. In that case, I could see where I would be worried about the damage that TV/movies could do to society, or portions of society, and would request that the TV/movie media company change its programming practices. (And yes, I would do this even though blocking devices are readily available.)

On second thought, I could probably think of a case where I might end up writing a radio station and asking them to change their ways - but it would have to be something REALLY offensive.

Yet in most cases, my course of action would be to change the channel rather than to write a protest letter. If I wrote a protest letter every time I saw something I didn't like in the media, I'd have to quit my job and my family obligations. (Dear Greta, why are you hyping these scandal sheet murder stories yet again?) (Dear America's Funniest Videos, are the clips really so bad that you have to add those inane comments?) (Dear Annika, why don't you post hot tub cartoons every day?)

So, does CAIR protest more often than the average person? Don't know...

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Hot tub posts are hard to do OE. I need to do more, though.

Re: Handel, his morning show is one of the best ever. Only Armstrong and Getty in Sacramento are better, I think.

Thing about Handel is that he respects his audience in this way: if he says he's going to talk about xy&z at 7:30, he doesn't bait and switch you. He talks about xy&z. Also, he never stretches for time with stupid radio-host-isms and teasers until the commercial break, then say "I'll tell you what I mean after the break." I hate being manipulated like that. The best thing he does is his in-depth background stories. I also liked the Saturday legal shows.

Armstrong and Getty are great, if you're ever in Sac, try to catch them. Like John & Ken, but funnier. And both contribute equally to the show, unlike with J&K, where Ken seems to play second fiddle to John most of the time.
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