Jul 16, 2010

Jesse Thorn bans himself on principle

Jesse Thorn, host and creator of The Sound of Young America, speaks up for humor on public radio by announcing that Mississippi Public Broadcasting can't air his program unless and until it resumes broadcasts of Fresh Air, the NPR talk show that MPB Radio dumped because of "gratuitous discussions on issues of an explicit sexual nature." Fresh Air is "one of the best radio shows in the world," Thorn writes, and its editorial standards have been acknowledged with Peabody and Murrow awards.

"This incident is of particular concern to us here at The Sound of Young America not just because we create a show with a format similar to Fresh Air's, or because Terry Gross is a personal hero of mine, but also because much of our show is focused on humor, and that seems to be the real target of the ban," Thorn writes. Comedian Louis CK, whose recent appearance on Fresh Air reportedly spurred MPB's cancellation, "is, in my professional opinion, the single most insightful, 'meaningful' comic working today, and he is no less insightful and 'meaningful' in an interview context." By dissing Louis CK, MPB perpetuates the "age-old falsehood that the work of a comedian, because it's funny, doesn't 'contribute to or meaningfully enhance serious-minded public discourse.'"

The Sound of Young America, a weekly interview-based radio series distributed by Public Radio International, airs on about 25 public radio stations, and MPB Radio isn't among them. Thorn acknowledges that the statewide radio net probably wasn't even considering carrying his show, "but that won't stop us from snipping any potential consideration of carriage that might occur in the bud, should it happen to unexpectedly appear. WE'RE JUST THAT PRINCIPLED."

Thorn created a Facebook page, "I'm banning myself from Mississippi Public Radio," which has garnered 93 fans since it launched today.

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