Wednesday, July 23, 2008


As I have learned about the recent statements made by shock jock Michael Savage about autism, I have been thinking about how shock jocks have evolved over the past 30 years and what their appeal has been with their audience.

Growing up near Washington DC and having my first FM radio station choices as being WASH and DC 101, I must admit that DC 101 had more appeal to most teenagers I knew at the time because WASH was pretty boring (soft rock just isn't just isn't).

Howard Stern gained notoriety as the morning DJ at DC 101 during the mid-to late 1970s. The station was also home to Don Imus at around the same time. Howard Stern left his post and made room for The Grease Man who was every bit as shocking as Howard though his humor added a touch of subtlety to his crudeness.

All three of these men have been fired from jobs for going too far with who they insulted and how. I don't think any of them were what most would consider tame 30 years ago, but certainly today the tolerance level described as "too far" is higher than it was then and more gets tolerated.

In order to maintain their audience, I think it was necessary to continually strive to go a little further with their insults of any and all types of people they saw as vulnerable easy targets.

I just learned about who Michael Savage was this past week when he made his outrageous insulting comments about autistics, their parents, and several other groups.

My best guess is that Michael felt that his audience may originally feel some discomfort about his statements but agreed that there was enough validity in what he was saying to be accepting of his typically rude and crude nature.

After all, his audience expects to be shocked by what he says. Too often I hear people's comments about such speech sounding like, "I agree he went too far and how he said it was wrong, but you have to admit that what he says is all too true." That attitude is all too prevalent in today's society, and I find it very upsetting.

I see Rush Limbaugh as having the same hold on his audience as Savage does on his. It seems to me to be a type of guilty pleasure that accompanies an all too cavalier attitude toward very serious issues that are seen as "all too true" when really they are seen this way only because of the spin that they are described with.

This is my message to Savage about his comments concerning autism:

Mr. Savage,

Your insensitive, outrageous, and absurd insults about autistics and our families have angered many in the autistic community.

You're speech has been amplified, and you're right to it has been protected by the public who have chosen to listen to your show. What you may not have thought of is how many autistics and our friends and family are part of the public that purchases what your sponsor's offer.

While you may feel that it is your responsibility as a shock jock to continually find newer and more offensive ways to insult those whom you feel are inferior, you may have underestimated the resilience, strength, and influence these people have.

Choosing to find ways to validate your exclusionary, survivalist methods of self gratification and the ways by which you intimidate your listeners into emulating your behavior with attacks on those whom you choose to see as inferior targets before you all get attacked by those you define as superior will never elevate your status on the imaginary ladder that you all have been disillusioned by.

While you may see yourself as a defender and promoter of goodwill, I hope you will reflect on the ways you have been disrespectful to the autistic community and find better ways to express yourself in the future.

If the sponsors of your show and the public who are consumers of their products and services are not able to discourage you from making further insults, I hope you will at least remember that even you will eventually reach a point where you are unable to meet the unreasonably exclusive standards you attempt to set for others.


At 12:41 AM , Blogger Sharon said...


Really, well said Ed. This is the hardest and yet most polite ;) assessment of the guys hateful words I have read. This man, unknown to me and probably most outside the US, has spoken way out of turn.

At 1:06 AM , Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction) said...

Difference between Stern and Savage: Stern was a good shock-jock, but Savage is just crass.

At 5:37 AM , Blogger Ed said...

You don't know when to quit do you.

Thanks ever so much for your kind and gracious evaluation of my writing.

You never fail to be anything but considerate and cheerful.grrrr....:/

At 6:14 AM , Blogger Ed said...

Hey David,
It's really good to hear from you.

I think Howard Stern is the best at what he does. No one does it better but that may be because no one else does it. His style is very unique.

I think his influence is really negative. Among the minorities that he chooses to insult are the disabled. I remember him being very liberal with the use of the word retard and told the worst insults about this population. I remember many people openly repeating his "jokes".

The overwhelming popularity that he claims to have had back at DC 101 is much like I remember it.

At 10:20 AM , Anonymous Bad mommy said...

Very cogent analysis of what happens with these people. I've been thinking about the rise of the talk radio extremists, as well. I would agree that their popularity appears to be based on the insecurity of their audience and the audience's deep-seated prejudices. When someone else says these "Un-PC" things about those other groups, it validates what the listeners feel deep down, but know that they aren't allowed to express. In that way, it coarsens public discourse, encourages what is basest in society, and serves no good purpose.

Not the sort of "free speech" that the Founders had in mind, but more of a pandering to the lowest common denominator. Failure of the American education system, indeed.

At 8:25 AM , Blogger Ed said...

Hi Bad Mommy,

I had to look up cogent. Thanks.

This sums up well how I see this also. Pandering to the lowest common denominator describes this well.

At 7:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mike Savage,

If you would stop acting like a brat and grow up, you might start to exist again. Until then, I'm sorry, but being a figment of your own imagination does not qualify you for realness.


lastcrazyhorn (someone who, contrary your unreal belief, does actually exist)


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