The Stern Effect

This week, Howard Stern announced that he’ll move to satellite radio once his current contract with Infinity runs out (2006). Now this was no surprise to the fans who worship Howard. In fact, when you listen to his radio show, 80% of the content consists of Stern rants – complaints against Infinity Broadcasting, Clear Channel, the FCC and its head Michael Powell, and most of all George W. Bush (whom he practically calls “Satan”). Ironically, in the days and months following the 9/11 attacks, Howard couldn’t say enough about his LOVE for Bush. He praised the man for his leadership and often times mentioned that the presidents election was the best thing to ever happen to America. But, that was then.

And this is now. Howard thinks Bush (via the FCC) has been targeting him directly and is trying to take away his right to free speech. Obscenity violations aren’t new to Stern. He’s often been held up as the poster boy of indecency. He has always bucked the system. Fans love him for it. And he usually didn’t get too fired up over the battles he waged against people whom he considered enemies. For the past year though, Howards words have become more venomous. He’s asked his listeners to do whatever it takes to kick Bush out of office. Stern was heard to say that if Bush continued as president, he would eventually be fired from radio. “Silenced”, “Axed”, “Killed off”, “Waxed”, etc. At first he was a little tepid in his endorsement of Kerry, but now Stern has become a full fledged supporter. In fact, Howard has even gone to promoting Michael Moore as a patriot who is finally exposing the lies of the Bush administration. I can’t help but think that Howards hate has lowered his IQ. Frankly, it’s difficult to listen to him today. You get the feeling that his more educated listeners (if they exist anymore) would like to shake him by his shoulders and yell, “Howard, come out of it, get a grip man!”.

But, one can’t discount Sterns reach. He talks to MILLIONS of people every day. Fans are amazingly devoted to the talker, and if Howard says “Don’t vote for Bush”, they’ll follow instructions. They won’t remember any of the important issues, the stakes that are “on the line” this election, etc. They’ll go to the poll with one voice ringing in their head – “Howard said, kick Bush out of office…kick Bush out of office.”

Now that Stern is moving to Sirius, one of two major satellite radio providers, the threat of him losing his current radio job is greatly diminished. Sterns employer, Infinity Broadcasting, wouldn’t dare fire him now. Contrary to reports, they know all too well that the gravy train is about to stop flowing. They need to collect every bit of revenue Howard can produce. Given this reality, Sterns siren calls to “fire Bush or I’ll be fired” suddenly ring hollow. They mean nothing now. In fact, it has been reported that Sterns talks with Sirius started back in February of this year. It’s likely that he began contract negotiations with the company in the spring. All the while, he’s still been threatening his audience. Striking fear in them. Reminding them that at any moment, he could be done in. Constantly saying that “he’s finished.” And he says George W. Bush misled us? Stern has been the one misleading his fans. Talk about being duped!

How many of Sterns fans will now realize the showboating that has gone on in front of their eyes (or ears)? Will any of them wake up and realize the deception? Will any of them vote for Bush now that they’ve been bamboozled by Howard? (Not to mention that soon they’ll all have to fork over hundreds of dollars a year to listen to him on satellite.) Not likely.

I already know what’s going to happen. Sterns zombies will forget to vote in the election (neutralizing Sterns call to arms), they’ll continue to buy products he endorses, they’ll make gobs of money for Infinity (while it lasts) and they’ll make Sirius the biggest company in the world.

And what a world it is.

10/11 UPDATE: Roeper chimes in with his own commentary on the Stern move.

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