Racial Jokes Rampant On Radio

Eric Deggans, sptimes.com, Jul. 6

Russ Rollins says it is All in the Family-style humor, an attempt to poke fun at those who would invoke racial stereotypes.

On The Monsters, the syndicated radio show he has created, those attempts at humor often include jokes that use words most radio programs avoid—derogatory terms for people of color and homosexuals, such as “jigaboo,” “spic,” “nigra” and “fag.”

The Monsters, which originates in Orlando and also airs in Jacksonville and nationwide on XM Satellite Radio, has taken over the 6 a.m to 10 a.m. spot once held by shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem on WXTB-97.9 FM (98 Rock).

Clem was fired by Clear Channel in February after incurring a record $755,000 fine for indecent speech, which involves sexuality. In early June, Clear Channel settled all indecency complaints by negotiating a $1.75-million payment with the Federal Communications Commission.

But the FCC hasn’t cracked down similarly on profane speech—which is offensive, nonsexual language—amid free speech concerns. And a Clear Channel spokesman said the company’s “responsible broadcast initiative,” instituted in response to the indecency fines, doesn’t cover racial slurs.

The instances of such language on The Monsters show include:

On March 9, the show featured a fake female voice (apparently one of the program’s on-air staffers), saying, “I would like to know if sometime in the near future, we can make fun of jigaboos,” invoking a racial slur for black people.

On June 23, the show aired a parody song, Mark and Greg on the Open Road, referencing the California Highway Patrol and including the lyrics: “Two chocolate CHiPs is on our a—/They’re just monkeys with helmet hats/Their big ol’ lips can’t s our load/We’re Mark and Greg on the open road.”

The song continues with the duo seeking a “spic whore”: “Hey, senorita, you’re quite a hottie/We need a place to dump the body.”

On June 29, the show featured what seemed to be a fake call from a female listener and a male companion fighting, in which the male asked, “Who is this on the phone line? . . . I think it’s her nigra boyfriend.”

And on June 30, the show offered one of its regular features, in which one of The Monsters crew imitates Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback Byron Leftwich, who is black, playing him as a slow-witted, stereotypically venal character.

Their “Byron” said this about serving as a grand marshal for a NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway: “They say wear a jersey so everybody knows who I is. I go out there and say, “Gentlemens, crank down the engines.’ . . . Then I go, like, “Vroom.”‘

Moments later, he asks Rollins to borrow $22.49. Why? “You can’t buy fireworks with food stamps. I be scamming. . . I ain’t spending my money on no Kraft singles.”

Rollins defended the race-based humor, calling it “the Archie Bunker-type mentality . . . an example of two stupid rednecks” striving to push buttons with listeners.

But later in the same interview, he added: “It’s not meant to satirize. . . It’s meant to make a certain portion of the audience laugh. Your delivery truck guys and your maintenance workers . . . that’s the way they talk. They consider that their reality. And we pick on rednecks and white people as much as we pick on blacks or Puerto Ricans.”

The same week Clear Channel fired Clem, it instituted a “zero tolerance” policy for indecent content they called the Responsible Broadcasting Initiative, which involved companywide training for staffers and automatic suspension for anyone found violating FCC indecency rules on air.

Community outrage also can make a difference. When personalities on three Clear Channel radio stations encouraged listeners to hit bicyclists with bottles and open car doors, bringing a deluge of criticism, company officials took action.

All three stations eventually apologized, as did Clear Channel chief executive John Hogan. The company also donated $10,000 and broadcast time for education on bicycle safety, according to the Associated Press.

But there is no similar apology planned for The Monsters’ use of racial slurs. A Clear Channel spokesman said there have been no public complaints.

Dan DiLoreto, Tampa vice president and market manager for Clear Channel, refused to talk last week, hanging up the telephone in mid conversation.

“I’m not going to comment on that. . . The show originates from Orlando,” said DiLoreto, who oversees the eight radio stations Clear Channel owns in the Tampa market, including WXTB. “You guys continue the witch hunt.”

Clear Channel’s senior vice president of corporate communications, Lisa Dollinger, didn’t return phone calls.

Rollins said The Monsters show did s airing a song about oral sex after the FCC fines but hasn’t moderated its material regarding race. “From what we’ve been told—and we’ve had many meetings—you can still say things that are offensive, you just can’t say things that are over the line when it comes to sexuality,” Rollins said. “You can still offend and say things that are racial. That’s not under the policy at all.”

According to an FCC fact sheet, both indecent and profane speech are prohibited between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on the nation’s airwaves.

In the convoluted language of FCC definitions, indecent speech is “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community broadcast standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”

Profane speech “denote(s) certain of those personally reviling epithets naturally tending to provoke violent resentment or denoting language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.”

“Most of the limitations that stations put on their on-air staff (are) not because of the FCC,” said Orlando, the singularly named program director and morning show personality for hip-hop station WLLD-98.7 FM Wild, a competitor of The Monsters owned by Infinity Broadcasting.

“Most of the time, people put limitations (on personalities) to fit their listeners’ comfort and the (advertising) clients,” added Orlando, who declined to comment specifically on The Monsters’ work, saying he hadn’t heard their shows. “You can say the n-word and not get fined. But if you’re making your listeners and the clients you serve uncomfortable . . . it gives you more harm than help.”

Some experts say the problem in such cases remains an unwillingness by broadcasters to take responsibility for content beyond addressing issues that anger the public or federal regulators.

Jeremy Lipschultz, a communication professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who has written a book on the FCC and the First Amendment, said community reaction to racially insensitive on-air speech sometimes pushes broadcasters to suspend or fire on-air personalities before federal officials have to act.

In February 1999, Doug “Greaseman” Tracht was fired from Infinity-owned WARW-FM in Washington after joking, “No wonder they drag them behind trucks,” referring to the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas. But other shock jocks accused of racist comments, including Howard Stern and Don Imus, have not been disciplined.

“If the whole attempt of indecency regulation is to protect children from indecent messages, you have to wonder why managers would take this chance (with The Monsters),” Lipschultz said. “It makes you wonder. . . The members of Congress who have been so concerned (about indecency), are they not going to make the same judgment about racist speech?”

Described by the Orlando Sentinel as resembling “a trailer park version of N’Sync,” The Monsters cast includes Rollins, Dirty Jim, Bubba “Whoopass” Wilson, Sexy Savannah, Jeff Howell, Daniel Dennis and Blackbean. The show often features its characters celebrating white rural culture, with jokes about sex, beer, pranks and partying.

Rollins started his radio career in 1993, buying time on an AM station and handling the advertising sales and promotions work. Over the years, he has guided The Monsters crew into the Orlando area’s most popular morning show.

Things haven’t worked out so well in Tampa yet; Arbitron ratings for listeners ages 12 and older show WXTB’s average share of the 6 to 10 a.m. audience has plunged from fourth place during the winter measurement period (January to March, including Clem’s last weeks on air) to 19th place over the late spring (March to May).

But Rollins is confident The Monsters can regain Clem’s audience while contending with Stern (who comes to stations in Orlando and Tampa July 19) and avoiding FCC scrutiny.

And for those who might find words such as “spic” and “nigra” offensive?

“We’re not trying to please everybody, and we’re not trying to water it down,” Rollins said. “There’s a portion of people that obviously it might offend . . . but there’s a lot of people out there, that (such humor) cracks them up. They think it’s funnier than h—. And when you’re trying to entertain on a wide basis, some people get it and some people don’t.”

Comments from Readers

From: Rich

I’ve noticed an increase in racial jokes in comedy lately. Just look at “Chappelle’s Show”, it’s practically all racial jokes. I reckon this is a reaction to uptight liberal types feverish censorship of anything that could be considered “racist” (unless its racist towards whites of course).

If stereotypes don’t have any truth to them then why do so many people find them funny? Could it be that common experience gives them a ring of truth?

From: Jason

Rich,

That is exactly why jokes centered around stereotypes are so funny. Steroetypes are exagerations and broad generalizations that people apply to the majority of a group based on the actions of a small section of that group. Now that my friend is a belief system that is so unbelievable and absurd that its funny. Or sad, depending on which side you are standing on. Do black people act like fools? Yes, but not all of them. Are black people illiterate? Yes, but not all of them. Do black people committ crimes? Yes, but not all of them. Same thing goes for whites and everybody else. I was reading a book by W.E.B. DuBois recently and he was discussing the patterns in which whites and blacks lived in proximity to one another. The observation was made that there are instances where you can divide neighborhoods with a straight line, on one side of which blacks reside, and the other whites. There were also instances where poor blacks lived in “dangerous” proximity to whites, or where there were small pockets of impoverished blacks in an area where there were a mojority of whites. Further you would find more often that low class whites where frequently obliged to live in black areas. One thing he failed to observe were instances where upper-class well to do blacks lived and communed with upper class well to do whites. Granted there were few upper class blacks at the time of this study. In any case, it was a rare occasion that whites and blacks were gievn the opportunity to experience the best that either group had to offer. Hence the proliferation of the stereotypes that this website and others, be it black sponsored or white sponsored, thrive on today.

From: Humpty Dumpty

If “some” Negroes are criminal, just as “some” (far fewer) whites are as well, then both races are the same, right Jason?

If both are the same, why dont you go

1) Walk unarmed through a white or East asian neighborhood.

2) Walk unarmed through a black neighborhood.

Then, if you survive (2), tell us with a straight face that Negroes are not virulently racist against white people, and far, far more prone to criminal behavior, lacking the evolved understanding that other people have rights.

If you say it is only because of “white racism”, go to a place where no or little white presence has ever been felt, like the congo river basin, where African tribesmen are canniballizing the native pygmies, and chopping the hands and arms off anyone in their grasp.

It is in their blood. It was meant to be.

From: Rich

Jason-

I don’t think people laugh at jokes involving stereotypes because they find them unbelievable. If that was the case then you could make jokes using stereotypes that nobody identifies with and they would still be funny. People find these jokes funny because they have experienced these stereotypes to be true at numerous times in their life.

Whenever there’s a discussion about stereotypes I think it’s important to note the difference between a generalization and a blanket statement. You can make a generalization about a group of people without referring to every single member of that group. To me, a generalization is just a statement that acknowledges a common trend within a group. Behaviour is partly influenced by genetics, so it’s not surprising that groups with common genetic ancestry generally exhibit similar patterns of behaviour. Nor should it be considered offensive to point these out.

From: steve risher

What Jason is saying, whether he knows it or not, is that generalizations about any human group are wrong. The intellectually crippling nature of such a mindset should be obvious. For one thing, all the so-called social sciences (which consist of little else but such generalizations) would have to be be abandoned. I think Jason realizes the necessity of generalizations but he is only in favor of “good” or “nice” generalizations.

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