A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Talentless Hack Fired from Humdrum Radio Station Does Not Violate 1st Amendment

Mankato-area radio DJ Jeremy “Fat Kid” Powell was evidently given the axe this week by his employers at 95.7 “The Blaze.” Fat Kid’s facebook page is awash with comments from fans who vow to boycott the station until he is reinstated. Or at least until they remember that the Blaze is the only broadcaster within listening range that plays their brand of crappy, testosterone-fueled Shock Rock.™

For those of you who don’t hail from southern Minny, Fat Kid is an “edgy,” cookie-cutter radio DJ, another voice in the slew of Howard Stern-wannabes that station execs hired en masse in the mid-90s to capitalize on the angsty, anti-commercial rock music that was, well, commercial at the time. Most of these guys bring nothing original to their profession, and most of them fail to be shocking – afterall, only the richest stations can afford to pay FCC indecency fines – and instead settle somewhere between “annoying” and “grating.”

Anyway, back to the story. Mr. Kid’s side is that he was fired for saying something inappropriate over the waves (he supplied the facebook comment “don’t call cheerleaders fat on air.”). His account of what happened has prompted his crowd of facebook supporters to rage back against the machine. From panicky boys who don’t know whut im gonna listen to now that FAT KID IS GONE!!! THIS SUCKS!, to witch-y little half-wit girls who believe being labeled fat by a radio DJ provides adequate motivation for those other ugly fat girls to lose weight, the kids are pissed. Many have cited the constitution, specifically the 1st Amendment, and the value of Freedom of Speech in America, Or Whatever. And therein lies the problem, boys and girls.

The first amendment protects citizens from government censorship, not from employer censorship. It’s very important for the managers at Wal-Mart to have the freedom to fire the idiot kid who curses at and insults his customers. It’s also very important that the managers can’t call the police and have the same idiot kid hauled away and thrown in jail. People don’t like being insulted, and businesses generally try not to piss off their customers. Contrast this with a society without a first amendment. In such a society, Fat Kid could be imprisoned with no legal recourse, a prospect which I’m sure we’ll all agree is much more horrifying than merely being unemployed. Fat is free to go find employment elsewhere, switch to a more lucrative vocation. I’m sure he’d make a great Tucker Max rip-off.

Bottom line: Fat Kid sucks, the Blaze was never a great radio station, and the first amendment applies only to the government and can’t be wielded against private citizens or companies. So please, go ahead and boycott The Blaze. Not because of Fat Kid, but because there’s better ways to discover and listen to music.


Filed under: Entertainment, , ,

Dumb Idea: Making Cyberbullying a Federal Crime

For those geeks among us that have ever spent any time on internet forums, we know that it’s pretty common to see tempers flare, resulting in mean comments directed towards the n00b asking all the stupid questions. Lightly-moderated boards, in particular, draw a lot of trolls. Teens and adults acting childish? You bet, although I’d guess that most of the profanity-laden cruel language found in these forums is part of the common lingo of such communities. Every member on the site knows that the cranky moderator who uses racial slurs and sexually-loaded insults is really some rotund, greasy, girlfriendless network admin or tech support specialist in real life, and not a grand wizard or a hardcore porn-peddler.

However, it would seem that most people over the age of 40 still don’t understand “teh internets,” including Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA, who incidentally just turned 40 this year). Rep. Sanchez recently introduced the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act,” which seeks to make it a federal felony to “cause substantial emotional distress to a person” via the internet. From Ars Technica:

However, as with many bills of this nature, the murky language and vague standards leave much open to interpretation, which has caused critics to call it the Censorship Act instead.

. . .

…criticism has been building. The language in the bill is so vague, it could be interpreted to apply to practically any situation, including blog posts critical of public officials.

It’s unlikely that the feds would ever be in the business of policing web forums, and this legislation is obviously intended to punish the repeated real abuse of kids and teens. However, it appears that this bill runs into some serious first amendment issues. Telling a n00b to go get hit by a car could be considered a federal offense. Heck, I’ve had things written on my facebook page that could constitute “emotional distress” (e.g. phallus jokes, toilet humor, sexual insults, references to alcoholism, personal threats, etc. You should see the “bumperstickers” we’ve sent each other-thanks Mark and JaLen!). Even the internet’s lowest common denominator, the /b-tards over at 4chan, could effectively be labeled an entire freaking army of felons* under this kind of legislation.

The guys at PFF have released a white paper that compares the effectiveness of regulation and legislation vs. educational efforts.

*Actually, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the /b community is already populated entirely by felons, deviants, and/or sociopaths.

Filed under: Internet, Politics, , ,

US Still Pwns China on Free Speech


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the bloody end to the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing. Reports abound that the Chinese government has blocked several social networking sites in order to avoid a resurgence of anti-government sentiment:

…the Chinese government has begun clamping down on access to popular Internet services in an apparent effort to quell memorials, protests, or any rekindling of the pro-democracy and anti-government sentiments that led up to 100,000 Chinese to gather at Tiananmen Square in the first place. Microsoft and Yahoo have confirmed that access to Flickr, Hotmail, and even Microsoft’s new Internet search service Bing have been blocked by the Chinese government, and reports have access to microblogging service Twitter shut down as well.

I don’t get sentimentally patriotic very often, but seeing that iconic image of the man in the white shirt standing in front of the line of tanks makes me happy that I live in a society that embraces the idea of free speech. I’m not a very politically-savvy person. IMHO, politics is nothing but a ridiculous game and an utter waste of our money. However, with that massive waste of money comes a big government that’s too intellectually divided and, more importantly, too inefficient to ever be able to censor our speech, thoughts, beliefs, and expressions.

Try to imagine an entity of the US government actively regulating content on the internet. The feds are already doing such a great job with medicare fraud, online prostitution, disaster relief, the war on drugs, the financial sector, social security, the budget deficit… need I continue? When it comes to protecting free speech, our saving grace may be that our government is too incompetent and uncooperative to ever become an Orwellian dictatorship. My idea of a realistic dystopian future is less like V for Vendetta, and more like Idiocracy (“paid for by Carl’s Jr.”)

Filed under: Information Tech, Politics, , ,

The Fairness Doct… um, “Standard.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) doesn’t support the 1st amendment. At least, that’s the conclusion I reached when she said she wants to hold senate hearings to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

Asked whether it was time to bring back the fairness doctrine, she said “I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else.”

She tied it to President Barack Obama’s pledge of more accountability and transparency, saying “I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.”

Democrats have been squawking about the FD throughout the election season in a transparent attempt to silence conservative talk radio. Are they really that clueless? Two immediate thoughts: 1) Anyone remember Air America? The liberal talk radio station that ran itself into bankruptcy in only two years? Where was this concern about the Fairness Doctrine back in 2004, before we learned that there isn’t much of a market for liberal talk radio? Do we really need to grant power to government censors in order to give a poorly-managed radio network a fighting chance? 2) Anyone ever hear of the “interwwwebz?” Formerly known as the “Information Superhighway,” there’s no shortage of political banter available to anybody who wants it, no matter what minority (or even fringe) school of thought they subscribe to.

The arguments against reinstatement of the FD are many, but here’s a very brief rundown:

  • While “public spectrum” may be limited (which was the original rationale for getting government involved in deciding what speech was acceptable over the airwaves), public information sources are not. See: the internet.
  • The arbitrariness with which broadcasters could be punished should not be underestimated. Under the old rules, any listener with a political agenda could file a complaint against a station for not providing what they may consider “fair and balanced” coverage, or equal time for equal views.
  • How do we (or rather, government bureaucrats) define “fair?” While there are two major political parties, there are an infinite number of viewpoints that could be represented on any given issue. In a discussion on economic policy, should we really demand equal time for the social democrats, the anarchists, the religious fundamentalists, the jihadists, the Nation of Islam, the National Organization for Women, etc?
  • Most importantly, do we seriously want the government determining what political public information we can have access to? We’re supposedly a nation of educated, hardworking, free people – can’t we judge for ourselves when a news anchor or a guest panelist is bullshitting us? What person with more than three brain cells takes Bill O’Reily seriously?

Talk of the Fairness Doctrine is one thing that seriously gets under my skin. I’m generally pretty non-partisan, because I recognize that the vast majority of politicians must have some serious defects in their brains in order to even enter their chosen profession in the first place. But the FD is an issue where the Democrats are proving themselves to be complete dolts. The level of idiocy required to actually support such a backwards initiative is astounding. Really, you’ve got to be pretty “special” to buy into the bullshit on this one. By falsely labeling it “promotion of minority viewpoints,”  or “accountability and standards,” congressional democrats mask what it really is: state-sanctioned speech.

If any liberal-leaning readers actually have some deep yearning inside themselves for the opportunity to listen to liberal talk-radio, please make your voices heard.

H/T: JPBlanks

Filed under: Politics, , ,


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