A county commissioner compared Michelle Obama to a black widow spider. A newly-elected state representative stated that he would like to impose a law that would prevent anonymous comments in the Idaho blogosphere and on mainstream media sites. An editor of a well-read site called the Special Olympics a gimmick. And, the President of the United States had shoes thrown at him during a news conference. What in the hell is going on?
In a state where much contention exists surrounding politics and its appearance in the blogosphere, Zeb Bell, host of "Zeb at the Ranch" on KBAR radio, who has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, has decided he might as well start a group of he, his listeners and those who share his views called "Bell's Bigots" Yes, you read that correctly.
Bell, who in less than six months has railed against Proposition 8, gays, liberals, Hispanics, Nebraska's safe haven laws, Japanese-Americans, Barack Obama, Jews and others who do not celebrate Christmas, Muslims, African-Americans, and a number of other minorities, used to say he does not take the charge of bigotry and racism lightly. However, Bell seems to be wearing the label of 'bigot' as a badge of honor lately and his listeners apparently take no offense in being volunteered for his little club.
The problem is that Zeb's little club isn't so little. "Bell's Bigots," whether the mainstream media or the more level-headed residents of Magic Valley care to admit it or not, are a growing problem in this state. It is not simply a southeastern Idaho problem, as so many will quickly point to as a way of saying that southeastern Idaho is now the haven of hate that northern Idaho once was when the Aryan Nations called it home, but a statewide problem. What do the ravings of a mad man in Murtaugh, Idaho have to do with the rest of the state? The rest of the state has turned a blind eye to the ravings of that mad man. We have chosen to take note when he calls the President-elect of the United States a terrorist, but god forbid we care when he says anything inflammatory about any other group.
We have neglected to take note when Bell implies that members of our Hispanic communities, many of whom were born here, do not deserve the same rights and protections of our white communities with which they share the same county and city boundaries. Minus a few cries of injustice and hate from progressive Idaho bloggers, we have ignored Bell's commentary on gay rights, or lack thereof, in this country, simply ignoring his statements that gays should not be allowed to marry and might as well kill themselves. We ignore when he quotes the Bible, interpreting it as he sees fit and always for political purposes, in a way disrespectful and offensive to many Christians, despite his John Wayne Christianity and repeated testimonials of the will of God. We've sat idly by while he has thrown Christmas in the face of Jews, Atheists, and anyone else who doesn't celebrate the birth of Christ, demanding that we utter 'merry Christmas' rather than 'happy holidays' or else. And while he panders to the darkest parts of people, the parts laden with hate, racism and bigotry, we call it a partisan problem and ignore our more humanistic instincts.
There are so many wrongs taking place every Monday through Thursday morning on Zeb Bell's radio show, it is hard to pinpoint just one that flies in the face of human decency and rational logic. As Gary Eller rightly points out in "Domestic Enemies," his latest post at the Times-News' blog, In the Middle, Bell's continued ravings are bordering on insurrection:
My concern with Zeb’s latest rant is that it borders on insurrection, calling on all Christians to replace the Constitution, man’s laws, with the Bible, God’s law. From where I am sitting this is as un-American a statement to make as anything that has ever passed the lips of Jeremiah Wright in his damning of America. When I took my first oath of office, repeating the oath with each military promotion, I never once agreed to defend the bible, it was always an oath to defend the constitution. In fact, it must be remembered that one places their hand on the bible and swears to defend the constitution, they do not place their hand on the constitution and swear to defend the bible. This sequencing alone says all that is necessary in understanding that the constitution, not the bible, is the supreme law of the land. Whenever I hear someone like Zeb Bell suggesting otherwise it makes me feel as though I spent my life combating religious extremists in the wrong countries. The real enemies of freedom now live next door, right here in America.Would I go so far as to call Zeb Bell a domestic enemy? Probably not, but I value Gary Eller's perspective on this as someone who has battled the intolerance, hatred, bigotry, racism and indecency of Zeb Bell for longer than I have. Do I think Zeb Bell is dangerous? Without a doubt. The hatred infiltrating the Magic Valley has been at the hand of Zeb Bell and the people who would not hesitate to be called "Bell's Bigots." The question is no longer whether any of us believe Zeb Bell to be a bigot or racist; the question is, how much longer can we afford to ignore him?
Should we be more afraid that Zeb Bell would concoct the concept of a Magic Valley group known as "Bell's Bigots" and say that with pride on the air or should we fear the laughter his statement was met with both on the part of his caller and himself? It appears as if the latter is exactly the problem in the Magic Valley and Mini-Cassia area and the source of the very hatred we're encountering in this state.