One month after the initial earthquakes and tsunamis that struck Southeast Asia, families and communities are still reeling from the effects of the natural disaster that has claimed over 225,000 lives as of Jan. 26. The mortality, desolation and despair that have been brought upon the tsunami victims have been an ordeal, but as many Americans are doing their best to help the victims in need, others are undoing those deeds through acts of foolishness, stupidity and sheer ignorance.
Jan. 18, the “Miss Jones in the Morning” show on New York's KQHT-FM aired a parody of the charity single “We Are the World” that not only made light of the natural disaster but also included derogatory racial remarks and satirized the victims.
That a radio show possessed the audacity to parody the worst natural disaster of our time is saddening and disturbing, and the actual lyrics and content used in the parody are downright frightening and shameful. The song includes references to “screaming chinks” and orphaned children “sold into child slavery,” as well as a verse instructing victims to “Go find your mommy. I just saw her float by, a tree went through her head.”
A statement released by KQHT-FM reported that Miss Jones and the “HOT 97″ morning team was suspended indefinitely for their decision to air the song.
“I apologize to all who have been offended by my poor decision to go along with playing that insulting (to say the least) tsunami song,” Miss Jones said on air following the public outcry. “I should have known better, and I didn't. So I'm sorry and hopefully we can move forward from this, or I can move forward from this being a better hostess, because I am better than that, and I know better than that — and you deserve better radio than that.”
In response to the controversy, several major advertisers have withdrawn their sponsorships from the station, with more companies expected to pull their business. Wireless provider Sprint, fast food giant McDonald's and tax preparation company Jackson Hewitt have all severed ties with the station.
With the exception of Miss Info, an Asian-American member of the show's cast who chose not to participate in the parody because of its offensive content, every member of the “Miss Jones in the Morning” show has proved not only their lack of respect for the victims, but also a sheer misunderstanding of human values, dignity and compassion. It might have been typical “shock jock” behavior, but it was inexcusable nonetheless.
By allowing the song to run not only once, but also on repeated occasions prior to the station's apology, KQHT-FM's management essentially made a statement to its listeners that it is humorous and acceptable to mock the loss of life.
The main issues at hand are the media's infatuation with achieving high ratings and its insatiable desire to make a dollar. Last year's Super Bowl halftime show's “wardrobe malfunction” gave the public a peek into the money machine known as ratings success. Millions of viewers finally discovered the feeling of speechlessness as they openly questioned “Did I just see what I saw?” and KQHT-FM re-established that feeling with its airing of the song.
KQHT-FM deserves to reap the consequences of such reprehensible actions, but it serves as only a small reminder of the prevalent misanthropy and apathy our television screens and radios bombard us with on a daily basis.