Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Latest Shark Attack on Dr. Laura Schlessinger

I used to listen to Howard Stern. I've read his books. I've seen his movie. We even have at least one mutual friend. Listening to his show allowed me to listen to other shows, because of the 20-minute marathon commercial breaks. When he left terrestrial radio for satellite, I figured I would keep up on his show by reading recaps on the fan sites, as I wasn't motivated to pay for radio. Turns out the overwhelming majority of his listeners weren't motivated to pay for radio, either. Turns out I wasn't motivated enough to even read the recaps. In my life, just as in the larger pop culture, Stern's relevance has become a faint shadow of what it had been.

In my case, it can probably chalked up to maturing. Nationally, it is not just his move to pay radio, but also TV shows like Jersey Shore and other "reality" shows essentially doing his show on television. Stern's stuff is very funny to adolescent boys, at least the first few times they hear it. When he was a struggling father and long-married husband who made fun of others for getting drunk, and fought with his boss, people could identify with him. But that all changed. I most enjoyed Robin Quivers' news, and I'm a sucker for parody,so I enjoyed those aspects of the show even as I vehemently disagreed with some of the things Stern said or some of his tone.

There is radio for which I'm willing to pay. I started paying so I could get Dr. Laura’s podcasts, just before she announced she was changing the nature of and base for her show by moving to pay radio.

If you haven't heard yet, Howard Stern's prankster fans did a shark attack on Dr. Laura's show yesterday, apparently trashing the second and third hour so horribly that they weren't podcasted (at least not when I downloaded the first hour). They called with bogus calls, made cryptic and not-so cryptic references to Stern's show, and called Dr. Laura Anglo-Saxon words you can't hear on terrestrial radio because the FCC will fine the broadcaster into oblivion.

Stern has loyal, hardcore fans who, living with their parents and collecting checks from the government, have nothing better to do with their time than play toadie for the bully. If they can get their rude verbal assaults rebroadcast on Stern's show as Stern points out what his toadies did to another show, it is the highlight of their year. If Stern doesn't explicity organize and direct these assaults, he certainly encourages them.

There's no winning this sort of thing. Dr. Laura is on the air fewer hours of the day than Stern. Her show is about helping people, not tearing down others. Her listeners are busy working, loving their spouses, and raising their kids. Stern's toadies (a small subset of his listeners) have a lot of free time, stunted emotional development, and a fixation on insults and offensive disruption.

I'm not sure if there is a way to get Stern to stop attacking Dr. Laura on the air, and thus getting the toadies to stop. Has he made a specific demand? I haven't been playing close attention to Stern for many years now, but based on what he used to say and what scant scraps I've read more recently, my guess is that he attacks Dr. Laura because she teaches things like "It's wrong to kill an innocent human being for any reason other than self-defense", her propogating the ideal of saving sex for marriage, and for her past problems with the content of Stern's show and movie, especially now that she has done what he did – moved to satellite to avoid attacks on advertisers. Stern probably feels like she either should have stuck up for him during his battles in the past or shut up about her battles now.

But there is a difference. Stern's show, and related problems, had to do with pushing racy content for titillation. Dr. Laura's show, and related problems, had to do with instilling morals and ethics. If Stern truly can't see the difference, then he has a serious problem.

I'm interested in seeing how Dr. Laura handles this major shark attack. Is there a way to resolve it without a face-to-face broadcasted meeting between Dr. Laura and Howard Stern? Would Dr. Laura agree to such a thing? I wonder what their "bosses" at Sirius XM think about all of this?

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