The only thing more outrageous than Bill Bennett's racist remarks on his radio show is the fact that... Bill Bennett has a radio show. That is until the suits at the Salem Radio Network realize -- whoops! -- they gave Bill Bennett his own show.
On Thursday one of our greatest living public servants, Congressman John Conyers, called for Salem to immediately suspend Bennett (author of The Moral Compass for Children) for saying, “I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”
Excuse me as I throw up in my mouth while I type this but Bill Bennett should not necessarily be suspended or fired for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech, however ugly and racist. He should, instead, be excessively fined by the FCC.
It's only fair that he be fined. Not just for the words, which he tried in vain to qualify, but also the message.
The comment itself overshadows the underlying meaning of his monologue*. What he seemed to imply was that all black babies will one day grow up to become criminals, while inferring that African Americans are significantly responsible for the crime rate -- one of the most despicable claims made on the radio. Ever. And that’s with Mike Savage still on the air. I would argue that the Republican leadership has far more to do with crime, what with their penchant for stock scams; money laundering; torture; environmental destruction; corporate cronyism; drug abuse; election fraud; propaganda; illegal preemptive war; criminal negligence during a natural disaster; ignoring warnings about 9/11; and leaking classified information to the press for political payback. Or maybe I’m just crazy.
But Republicans have supple pink faces and remarkably crisp haircuts so they don’t seem like criminals. The same goes for their meticulously groomed (though sometimes splotchy) talk radio allies when compared to, say, a long-haired "swarthy" like Howard Stern.
Last year, the Stern show was fined $27,500 by the Federal Communications Commission as part of a $490,000 total penalty partly because Howard Stern discussed something called a “blumpkin” on his nationally syndicated radio show. Now, I listen to Stern every morning and consider myself fairly well-versed in American slang. But I’m not entirely clear on what a “blumpkin” is. I do know that whatever may constitute a blumpkin or a discussion thereof can’t possibly be more fine-worthy than hypothesizing that if you were to abort black babies, crime would be reduced.
The various networks carrying the Stern show have been fined more than $2 million by the federal government -- your government which is sworn to uphold the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States -- over the last ten-plus years due to Stern exercising his free speech.
Most of these penalties were levied as the result of comedy bits about vaginas and fart noises. I’m neither a biologist nor a gastroenterologist, but I’m reasonably certain that we all fart. It might surprise you to learn that George W. Bush and Pope Benedict fart. Likewise, more than half of us have vaginas. It might surprise you to learn that Sean Hannity has a vagina -- I mean, Ann Coulter has a vagina. I’m not sure, though, how many of us wake up in the morning and immediately consider the “aborting blacks equals crime reduction theory” (now known as “Bennett’s Conundrum”). Yet Bill Bennett and the legion of right-wing talkers who constitute his on-air colleagues remain, to date, free of government fines even though they’re responsible for an endless litany of obscene and indecent speech -- far more repulsive than human flatulence, though it sounds the same.
"Some of these babes, I'm telling you, like the sexual harassment crowd, they're out there protesting what they actually wish would happen to them sometimes." Rush Limbaugh on the air. Not fined.
"They've got a big target on there: ATF. Don't shoot at that because they've got a vest on underneath that. Head shot, head shots." G. Gordon Liddy on the air. Not fined.
"We'd save lives because Mexican wetbacks, whatever you want to call them, the coyotes--they're not going to do what they're doing now, all right, so people aren't going to die in the desert." Bill O'Reilly on the air. Not fined.
"[When you think gays] think only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son." Mike Savage on the air. Not fined.
Unlike these conservative hosts, Howard Stern presides over a comedy show. He’s performing comedic satire, while Savage, Liddy and the rest truly believe every word they paraphrase from Karl Rove's talking points. This has a lot to do with the conventional wisdom that Republicans aren’t funny. In the case of Dennis Miller, becoming a Republican literally whipped the comedy out of him. I used to work at the same radio station as G. Gordon Liddy and I can tell you: he’s a deadly serious little man. He ate a rat once just to overcome his fear of rats. Hilarious! Yet comedians are fined while poker-faced (pun intended, Bill) hate speech by right-wing talkers is most definitely not even though the latter is much more damaging as ditto-heads, by definition, believe and repeat as hard fact everything they hear on the air. This succeeds in spreading hate without the shell of innocence and irony that typically surrounds comedic satire.
Had Stern not been fined so excessively for such innocuous bits, I would suggest that Bennett simply be left alone. And when I say “left alone,” I mean that literally and in all ways. Stop listening to him. Not only is he a racist hypocrite, but his show isn’t anything that can’t be heard on countless other right-wing shows hosted by more qualified hatchlings of Phyllis Schlafly and Richard Mellon Scaife. But since our government fines broadcasters like Stern, then in fairness, they should fine the Bennetts, Savages, and Limbaughs because according to just about any definition of morality, the obscenities of racism, sexism, and genocide far outweigh the obscenity found in the human blumpkin.
* It's easy to miss what Bennett was really implying because he contradicts himself (transcript here). Having just stated his disagreement with an idea in the book Freakonomics, which evidently correlates the increased abortion rate with the decreased crime rate, Bennett immediately launched into his, “I do know that… you could abort every black baby,” line, thus agreeing with what he just disagreed with.