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Editorial: Shock and Disgust

WQHT a New York Radio Station Plumbs New Depths of Human Depravity by Airing a Hip-Hop Song Mocking Tsunami Victims.

(1/30/2005) Explain it any way you wish: Call it the "dumbing down" of modern culture or the gross insensitivity of the "me-me" generation.

No matter how you paint it, recent broadcasts aired on a New York Hip-Hop Radio station completely crossed the line and managed to irrevocably offend a broad cross section of the world who lost fellow countrymen, friends and family in the December 26, 2004, earthquake and tsunami disaster.

This is Hard to Believe, Even Harder to Swallow

When we first heard the story we marked it off to urban legend; too debased and too depraved to ever possibly be true. However, numerous press reports and an eventual apology on the subject radio station's website confirmed our worst fears.

Starting on January 18, 2005, Hot 97 (WQHT/97.1 FM) a New York City radio morning show, hosted by on-air personality Miss Jones, whose real name is Tarsha Nicole Jones, repeatedly broadcast a hip-hop number entitled "The Tsunami Song" - a parody of the 1985 famine relief song "We are the World".

Warning: You Will Find the Following Paragraph Offensive

According to numerous press reports, the so-called "tsunami parody" contained lyrics that included:

"You could hear God laughing / Swim, you bitches, swim"


And a chorus, sung to the hook chorus of "We are the World" containing:

"So now you're screwed/ It's the Tsunami/ You'd better run, or kiss your ass away/ Go find your mommy, I just saw her float by/ A tree went right through her head/ And now your children will be sold into child slavery."


Our apologies if that offends.

More to the point, our profound sympathies to anyone such rubbish doesn't manage to offend.

Much to the people of New York's credit, the airing of such dribble and rot brought furious reactions. Major advertisers are said to be deserting WQHT like rats from a sinking ship. Politicians are lining up to condemn the broadcast as "reprehensible" a term we find somehow inadequate to describe a song demeaning Asians, making light of over a quarter million deaths and sport of floating bodies and orphaned children.

Overwhelmed by angry protests, petitions and irate phone calls - the Management of WQHT, a station owned and operated by Emmis Radio, has tried to quell the outroar and distance itself from the whirlwind of protest by suspending the on-air personalities involved and publishing an apology on its official website.

From where we sit, a temporary suspension seems little more than a token wrist slap failing in any way to address the level of the slur committed by WQHT's on-air staff and management.

Those who guard the bastions of free speech will not be threatened if the allegorical axe is swung and these talking heads start to roll, hopefully never to sit behind a microphone anywhere again.

An Open Invitation

In the world of the Internet, we're certain that Miss Jones and her motley crew will eventually read our humble take on their crass and moronic on-air behavior. When that happens, we hope Miss Jones will take some of the spare time she's suddenly created for herself and jump on a plane to visit the tsunami affected areas of South Asia.

If she can't afford the ticket, we'll start a collection to that end.

If she needs a tour guide, we'll make sure she has the opportunity to walk the devastated streets of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, where an estimated 230,000 people died.

Perhaps then, Miss Jones, you'll begin to grasp the level of offense you've given by trying to turn an unspeakable tragedy into an object of musical entertainment.

Join the Protest: Let WQHT Know How You Feel

If you share our sense indignation and wish to send WQHT's management and on-air staff a message, forward this editorial to them by using the e-mail forwarding facility and the following e-mail address: hot97@hot97.com