All of this puts Visotcky in an extremely vulnerable position that's exacerbated by his role in the airing of Stern's quotes. Why? The Peak could have easily prevented Stern's Columbine jokes from being heard here: Because the program is run on a tape-delay basis, snipping the offending segment would have been a cinch had a Peak staffer been checking the recording for potentially problematic content. But even though Stern has received at least $1.715 million in fines from the Federal Communications Commission--more than any other person--no such early warning system was in place. Visotcky has now instituted strict policies regarding Stern's show and has done what he can to make the Peak seem like a responsible member of the broadcasting landscape, launching a blood drive and raising money for Columbine-related charities. But that hasn't prevented Jacor personalities from mercilessly ripping the Peak. Most hysterical thus far has been Steve Kelly, a morally superior boor on KOA who on April 27 got into a shouting match with a caller who dared to say he wasn't offended by Stern's remarks, then quizzed the station's legal expert, Dan Caplis, on the odds of successfully suing Stern over what he said. Caplis admitted that such a suit was doomed to fail before adding his voice to the chorus calling for Stern's head.

As of the 26th, Visotcky didn't know if the Peak would resist the pressure to sack its star attraction: "I'm talking to people at my company and CBS and looking at all the facts, but we haven't decided on anything yet," he said. But listeners who consider Stern a major contributor to the deteriorating quality of Denver radio should think twice about celebrating if the Peak caves. Although scapegoating Stern may make Denverites feel better temporarily, he's no more guilty of complicity at Columbine than the bands whose CDs may have turned up in the killers' homes. Howard Stern may be a symptom of what's wrong in today's society, but he sure ain't the disease.

Like Stern, Marilyn Manson and Rammstein have also been tagged with part of the blame for the Columbine High massacre. By the evening of April 20, the day of the attack, mainstream media types armed with a handful of highly suspect anecdotes were reporting that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two students identified as the primary perpetrators of the bloodshed, were fans of these two bands, both of which were scheduled to showcase in the Denver area in the weeks and months ahead. Before long, untold thousands of observers benumbed by the images of chaos with which they'd been bombarded were convinced that although Harris and Klebold did the actual killing, their marching orders came in part from rock stars cynically spewing anti-social messages for their own profit.

The widespread acceptance of these totally unscientific, utterly specious theories has prompted some predictable fallout. To wit, the Manson concert slated for Red Rocks on April 30 has been canceled, and a turn by Rammstein set for June 14 at the Fillmore Auditorium (formerly the Mammoth Events Center) may not occur, either. In addition, a number of conservative politicians have stepped up their attacks on the music industry, laying the groundwork for arguments in favor of further regulation and/or de facto censorship. That Tipper Gore, the woman who helped spearhead the pro-regulation Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) during the Eighties, was among the dignitaries at a Clement Park memorial on April 25 isn't a good sign.

The Manson date was to have been sponsored by KBPI-FM/106.7; it was advertised as the station's annual "birthday bash." But Don Howe, vice president and general manager of Jacor, which owns KBPI, claims that the decision to call off the performance was unrelated to the press's linking of Manson's music with the Columbine gunmen. "It was no different than what the sports teams in town did," he says. "This was no time to be whooping it up at a Rockies game or an Avalanche game or at a concert. I've seen the reports that have associated goth music and the goth lifestyle with where these kids were coming from. But really, regardless of who we had scheduled up there, we weren't going to have that show."

Clearly, this argument strains credibility: After all, the Rockies and the Avalanche (as well as the Denver Nuggets) didn't play games within 48 hours of the Columbine massacre, but the Nuggets were back on the McNichols Arena court on April 23, and the Avalanche rescheduled a playoff game with the San Jose Sharks for April 28. Furthermore, spokesmen from the mayor's office were publicly calling for the gig to be deep-sixed specifically because Manson was involved. Howe, though, denies that Jacor made its move because of the heat. As he tells it, he was never contacted by any city official and adds that Jacor would have axed the appearance a full day sooner than it did if details involving Ticketmaster, the ticketing service overseeing the event, hadn't delayed the announcement. But none of the sports franchises he cites had similar logistical problems, and while Howe asserts that Manson's songs weren't pulled from KBPI rotation as a result of the Columbine incident, the singer's profile on the station is currently all but nonexistent.

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