Thursday, June 12, 2008

Racism on the Airwaves

It seems, as the song goes, today anger plays on every station. There is a line between anger, justifiable concern or disagreement protected by the first amendment, and blatant bigotry, racism, and hatred.

On the Monday broadcast of Zeb Bell's radio talk show, that line was irrevocably crossed.

Bell, a conservative radio pundit who leases air time from the Lee Family Broadcasting company based in Rupert, has produced his arrogant, closed-minded ravings from his home in Murtaugh since 2000.

On Monday's broadcast, a broadcast that coincidentally was not taped by Bell or KBAR (the Rupert-based AM radio station), Bell reportedly referred to the Democratic presidential nominee as "black Negroid Barack Hussein Obama" and his guest, one Frosty Wooldridge, referred to Senator Obama's mother as "trailer trash" drawn to African-American men.

This is not the first time that comments made my Bell or his guests have been met with criticism. Bell's controversial tirades have ranged in topic from xenophobic attacks of the Hispanic populations of both Cassia and Minidoka counties; unprovoked denouncements of the public education system; and, the constant belittling and berating of local residents with whom Bell disagrees, does not philosophically align with, or outright doesn't like.

Enough is enough. The people of the Magic Valley who listen to Bell's show, the advertisers who sponsor the air time he leases, and the company that has chosen to broadcast this show for the past eight years are just as much at fault for Bell's racist comments as Bell himself.

Lee Family Broadcasting, the same broadcasting company that only weeks ago was forced to apologize for fueling racial tension at Minico High School when they encouraged Minico students to wear the colors of the Mexican flag in protest of a teacher throwing away a students' Mexican flag in class, has allowed this nonsense to go on for too long and should not allow Bell to continue leasing airtime from their company.

In an area where the Hispanic population is more recognizable than in most parts of Idaho, Lee Family Broadcasting has served as a conduit for hatred, prejudice, and now racism. They have fueled the immigration fire and they are now allowing a man to go on their airwaves, making racial slurs as he continues to feed the proven-false rumor that Senator Obama is a Muslim. This fear-laced, disrespectful attempt at disparaging Senator Obama will not work nor will we stand by and allow for it. Additionally, we should not and cannot allow the usage of any word, Negroid, or otherwise to be broadcast across our public airwaves, reversing decades of progress in race rights and relations.

The first amendment of the United States Constitution may in fact protect those who openly seek to spread hatred, prejudice, and racism through our state and nation, but 'we the people' should not allow it. The first amendment may protect Mr. Bell from any action on the part of the FCC, but it will not protect him from loss of sponsorship.

For those of you who do listen or have listened to Mr. Bell's radio show I have the following comment: You are supporting the spread of hatred in your homes and in your community. You have facilitated a mean-spirited campaign against what is right and good in rural Idaho. Instead of embracing the tight-knit communities we are offered in small Idaho towns, you have created fences higher and more hurtful than any our government could build on our southern border.

To Mr. Bell and his Monday guest I have this to say: We find ourselves in perilous times. Our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends are fighting and dying in a war we shouldn't be in. It takes an unbelievable amount of courage to step up to the plate and offer to lead your country in a time like this. Senator Obama, whether or not you support him, is offering more courage than you, Mr. Bell, will ever have. While you sit at the bully pulpit in your home, spewing this hatred and racism at Senator Obama, African-Americans, Hispanics, public servants, teachers, and anyone else you feel the need to berate, my generation is fighting and dying in a war that perhaps has more to do with hatred, xenophobia, racism, and prejudice than any of us care to recognize. You, Mr. Bell, are a coward for hiding behind your microphone. You are a coward for blaming your guests for their comments, but taking no responsibility of your own.

There is a line between anger and hatred, bias and bigotry. We may dispute when and how, but we cannot dispute that Zeb Bell crossed it.

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