Okay, to start off with, two disclaimers: first, I'm a big Sinatra fan, always have been, and secondly, I was too young to swear that this story isn't apocryphal, but if memory serves me right, sometime in 1980, one of my favorite disc jockeys at the time, Jonathan Schwartz, was suddenly taken off the air for making a pejorative remark about one of Sinatra's latest recordings.
Fast forwarding to David Letterman show in June, 2009 and someone who is currently being groomed to be the Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012. I'm not suggesting, for a minute, that Letterman's comment about knocking up either of Palin's daughters wasn't crude, and even a bit over the top, but it wasn't in violation of FCC rules which are already antediluvian, and draconian.
Moreover, the larger question here is -- should any one person be so powerful that they have the ability to force management to pull the plug on a radio, or television, personality? And, what does it say about someone abusing power that they don't really have, especially when that person might, gawd forbid, be the next president of the United States?
Apparently, the far right, and NRA's darling, Sarah Palin, has a bit of a Frank Sinatra complex, meaning when she waves her magic wand, she expects the entire world to shake as it would during a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. In this country, we make politicians of our celebrities, and celebrities of our politicians. Well, Ms. Palin, here's some breaking news for you: you've had your fifteen minutes of fame.
A great English poet once wrote: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." In his defense, Frank Sinatra was born great. Ms. Palin -- well, she has had greatness thrust upon her. She must learn to use that instrument judiciously, or relinquish it along with her crown.
Keep in mind, we are supposed to have a little thing called free speech here. A few generations of Americans paid the ultimate price in defense of it. Well, I thought we did anyway, and today, this being Bloomsday, is as a good time as any to revisit the days when the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses was banned in the U.S., under the Tariff Act, from date of publication in 1922 until Judge Woolsey's ruling in July, 1933 that the novel wasn't "pornography." If you have a copy handy, you might want to take a peek at Ulysses, the greatest novel in the English language, and ask yourself whether Governor Palin might be among those who would still like to see it banned.
You'll recall, in the 2008 presidential campaign, there was a story circulating about how Sarah Palin asked a Wasilla librarian how she might react should she be instructed to remove certain books from the public library, arguably books that might contain passages about young girls getting "knocked up." Well, I can tell you how Judge Woolsey would react -- he wouldn't like it; that's why we have a First Amendment, remember?
So, Mrs. Palin now goes from trying to have books removed to trying to have late night entertainment figures removed.
Or, maybe it's not the Alaska governor, after all, who is trying to force David Letterman to his knees, but his network's management after the show reportedly lost one major sponsor, Embassy Suites.
Those who say that David Letterman should not have apologized are right, but he, too, may have faced the threat of termination like the radio announcer in New York who dared to criticize a Frank Sinatra song.
If anyone needs to apologize here, it's those sponsors who withdraw their support from Letterman's show; those major networks like CNN who give Sarah Palin ammunition by running her impotent claims, and anyone else who supports a climate that engenders censorship, hate, and lies.
Follow Jayne Lyn Stahl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaynelynstahl