Department of They Did WHAT On A Clear Channel Station?

True confessions time: I have a thing for bad hip-hop, Kelly Clarkson, peppy morning DJs who watch American Idol so I don’t have to, and generally listening to pointless trash in the A.M. these days before turning on the world’s horror on NPR. Go ahead, make fun, you bunch of liberal elitists, you. You just don’t understand my Real American soul.

So I often tune in to these guys first thing, because listening to them is like sitting around a dorm room at 2 a.m. listneing to your shitfaced floormates talking about who did what to who for how many cookies last weekend, and it’s amusing. But every once in a while their shows take a really wild turn. Once, they solicited calls from men whose girlfriends or wives tried to trap them into marriage by becoming pregnant. Instead they got about two dozen calls from women saying their significant others were the ones who wanted children and wanted to stay home with them, while the girls wanted to keep working and go out with friends and had no interest in babies. It was a fascinating reversal of the usual stereotype, and what I loved was that the hosts went with it and talked about changing roles and income pressures and other things that affected who works and who stays home. Say what you like about goofball morning pop-radio DJs, their opinions are heard by more people than talk screamers or newspaper editorial boards ever will be.

Last Wednesday when I tuned them in, sitting in the kitchen waiting for the coffee, the lunatics were talking about this story. And then Drex, who’s said a number of times that he’s a liberal and has no love for Bush, did something that had to have his producer clawing for his eyeballs. He asked veterans and anti-war people, both, to call in. And he patched them through to each other and let them talk about the war.

Keep in mind, the audience for this morning show is like David Brooks’ wet dreams: young white suburbanites and wannabe-hipsters, people who live in communities where crime means a really big bike got stolen, people who give their kids breast implants for Christmas. The deepest thoughts they usually voice on this show have to do with what synonyms for penis are in vogue this week. These are people who listen to Destiny’s Child’s “Soldier” and don’t think about the irony of young dumb kids rapping about getting symbolic purple hearts while actual kids are getting them pinned on empty sleeves. These are the people for whom the war barely exists.

It was uncomfortable. It was raw. Nobody spoke in talking points; hell, hardly anybody spoke in complete sentences. Real people spoke about their opinions and actually listened to one another and responded. The callers argued with each other, the hosts argued amongst themselves. Everybody agreed: we should be doing more for veterans. One Iraq vet called in and said he couldn’t get health benefits and knew his buddies were getting their arms and legs shot off. Drex ranted about the lack of money available for care while Enron gets rich and the vet agreed, but said that an anti-war listener who called Bush a moron should respect the office of the president. Mel T asked if this war was so great, when the Bush girls were going to enlist and Joann said sarcastically that they were “too precious” to do that. They used the word “lying.” They used the word “betrayal.” And they let people call in and tell them to shut up if that’s what people wanted to say.

It was one of the the most extraordinary things I’ve ever heard on radio, all the more so because it came from the most unlikely place. If I could find audio of it, I would post it everywhere I could, because it was a conversation in the way the whole country should be having one: spontaneous, in an environment where people spend their ordinary days. It was people who specialize in the trivial rising above that triviality, and it was thrilling to hear America talking to itself, about what was really going on.

I sent the DJs a note, because I’m sure they’re going to get shit for this; this is a Clear Channel station. I told them while I enjoyed listening to them mock J. Lo on a regular basis and they always made me laugh, I was incredibly impressed at the way they made me think that morning, and let their audience talk back, and I appreciated the limb they went out on to do that. I said I hoped they’d do more of it, because we need it, and not just from supposedly “serious” news sources. We need to talk about what matters everywhere.

If you heard that show, if you know what I’m talking about, drop them a line at drex@kiss1035.com. The wingers are good at sending letters of protest and faux-outrage. Let’s get good at sending letters of encouragement.

A.