Howard Stern was just being Howard Stern when he booked accused Jewish center shooter Frazier Glenn Miller on his show a few years ago. And therein lies a cautionary tale, for clowns and serious news organizations alike.
Part of Stern’s shtick has long included bringing on freaks, for wont of a better term, in order to goof on them, whether that was Miller – a guest in 2010 – or frequent guest Daniel Carver (a Ku Klux Klan member known for saying, “Wake up, white people!”). In theory, it’s all good fun, a way to treat Stern’s radio audience to out-there voices.
Yet the problem with booking people who hold such views is that they are, by their nature, unpredictable. And if they do something terrible – or even just embarrassing – you are linked to them in perpetuity.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean you are responsible for them, and certainly not for their actions. But by giving them a forum, you have associated yourself with them – even if it’s as a source of comedy, or an object of derision. (According to the Daily Beast, Miller was happy enough with the Stern bit to link to it on his Website.)
This obviously goes well beyond Howard Stern. Cable news and talkradio have untold hours to fill, and the screening system for who gets on the air is hardly ironclad. Moreover, the talk programs on both Fox News and MSNBC relish bringing on partisan voices that don’t agree with them, often the more strident, the better.
Small wonder, then, that Miller’s media exposure went beyond Stern to, according to press accounts, Alan Colmes’ radio show and Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie “Bruno” – despite the fact it appears crystal clear that Miller saw the threat from Jews as very, very real.
Stern’s fans will no doubt dismiss the idea that he “associated himself” with Miller, and it’s easy to argue that the host merely exposes the absurdity of extreme views by bringing such people on to ridicule them — assuming that any sane person, particularly one familiar with the show, gets the joke.
Fair enough. But before this story completely fades, here’s a question every booking producer should ask themselves: When the next Frazier Glenn Miller, or some other ideological extremist, acts out in horrible fashion and journalists begin Googling them for whatever information they can find, do you really want the first clip that comes up to be one of yours?