In your opinion, which is worse?
1. Radio talk show hosts revealing the private phone number of an activist on the air, subjecting said activist to extreme verbal abuse from their fans.
2. Radio talk show hosts saying something tasteless (but frankly unsurprising) about a dead celebrity.
If you’re KFI AM 640 of Los Angeles, you have chosen #2. Last week, John and Ken, the popular and game-changing afternoon hosts (some say that they sent Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California governor’s mansion), were suspended until February 27 for saying this about the late Whitney Houston:
At some point you’re just sick of it all, and so is everybody else in the industry. All her friends and hangers-on; everybody who knew had to deal with her.
“It's like, "Ah Jesus . . . here comes the crack ho again, what’s she gonna do? Ah, look at that — she's doin' handstands next to the pool. Very good, crack ho . . . " After a while, everybody’s exhausted. And then you find out she’s dead. It’s like, "Really? Took this long?"
(Audio file here.)
Is that a good thing? Certainly not. No evidence has surfaced that Houston had ever prostituted herself for crack cocaine - and even if it had, it’s just so ghetto to use the word “ho” (unless, of course, you’re playing Santa Claus or a pirate).
However, Houston is dead and thus unable to feel the sting of insult anymore. Not so the Muslims, illegal immigrants, government workers, teachers, Occupy protesters, gays, grocery store cashiers, etc., etc., whom John and Ken have unfairly painted with a broad brush coated in mud. It’s not funny, just painful.
(FYI, I have listened to John and Ken before, most often in the car when there’s nothing else to listen to. Perhaps it’s high time to get an iPod.)
If John and Ken don’t like you, they will get down and dirty, doing deeds that Karl Rove would envy. Last year, they found the personal cell phone number of Jorge-Mario Cabrera, Director of Communications and Public Relations, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and said it over the air several times. Surprise, surprise – John and Ken’s immigrant-baited listeners called with the worst kind of invective. In 2010, John and Ken did the same to Nancy Meza, a UCLA student who was brought here from Mexico by her parents when she was six. Because she was an illegal immigrant (even though it was through no fault of her own), John and Ken also urged listeners to call ICE so Meza could be deported.
This, dear readers, is what they should have been suspended for.
(An aside: it’s stories like this that make me think that it may not be a bad idea to “imagine there’s no countries,” as John Lennon wrote. No countries = no illegal immigration.)
In other words: you can expose non-famous people to harassment, and pin ugly stereotypical tails on all sorts of (usually marginalized) groups, but it’s the stupid joke about a recently deceased celebrity that gets you suspended?
It reminds me about the fable about the scorpion and the frog : “It is my nature.” You hire a couple of guys to piss on things, don’t be surprised if they end up doing it on one of your sacred cows.
(P.S. I know this happened last week, but I haven't posted this until now because my computer time has been limited for reasons I will tell you in the next post.)