Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guilt By Association?

You can tell a great deal about a person by the people they surround themselves with. I have never been one to subscribe to the notion of 'guilt by association' because I believe our relationships and interactions with others are based on many factors, the least of which can be the issue for which an individual may be considered suspect.

That said, I have watched with interest the public animosity playing out between one radio pundit, Zeb Bell, and his former military analyst, Gary Eller of Twin Falls. Mr. Eller previously served as the sane voice in an otherwise chaotic environment, the radio show of Zeb Bell. He has referred to bigotry as the "domestic enemy" and refutes the claim of a "Mexican and Muslim invasion" often noted by Zeb Bell's callers.

Without going into detail regarding my own relationship with a few of Bell's sponsors, I will say that two of his sponsors are men I have known most of my life, one of whom I have admired every day that I've known him. However, my interactions with these two men who are partially financially responsible for keeping Zeb on the air have been outside of the political arena. In fact, had you asked me before this latest ordeal surrounding the racism and bigotry of Zeb Bell I would not have been able to tell you anything about their political ideologies. I would have simply assumed that like most of Cassia County, they were conservative, family values-type voters.

Unlike these two sponsors, two men I once held a certain deal of respect for, I have come to appreciate and respect Mr. Eller in his departure from and opposition to the antics of Zeb Bell.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Gary Eller served in the United States Army for nearly thirty years. His military career spanned three decades and several continents. Having served in Southeast Asia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, and in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Eller brought to Zeb Bell's show a knowledge of military tactics and the Middle East. Eller, a proclaimed centrist and independent, refused to accept the premises presented by Zeb Bell in reference to minorities, public education, the war in Iraq, and other issues, but offered some small factual base for discussions about the Middle East. Certainly, Zeb Bell's show was greatly benefited by Mr. Eller's expertise and portions of the show that involved Eller were the only stable and grounded conversations taking place there.

In a recent LTE printed in the Times-News, Eller stated:
I recently heard a local radio talk show personality make the claim that Obama is the “precursor to the anti-Christ” because of his Muslim heritage and his African ancestry. (Imagine, horror of horrors, if Obama was also female – my god hide the children!) I don’t care if Obama is Muslim, Mormon, or Martian; I care only that he is competent. I’ve also noticed that he is black, which makes me suspicious of all criticisms that don’t include a policy discussion. Don’t look now, but there may just be a few bigots here in Magic Valley.
Eller has referred to bigotry as the "domestic enemy." Bell has taken to referring to Eller as a "cowardly back shooter." Evidently an intelligent conversation on the issues is beneath Mr. Bell.

Without Eller, Bell has resorted to bringing on like-minded guests who merely serve as reinforcements to the skewed rhetoric being spewed by Bell. Who are his guests? This week alone Zeb will entertain the controversial opinions of Bryan Fisher, director of the Idaho Values Alliance; the racist, David Duke-apologist Frosty Wooldridge; another retired Army colonel, Randy Givens of Texas and the Citizens for a Constitutional Republic; and, ultra-conservative Albion city councilwoman Sharon Hardy-Mills.

Bryan Fisher needs no introduction here or anywhere in the Idaho progressive blogosphere. His quest to force his beliefs on all Idahoans is no news. Frosty Wooldridge was only a short blip on Idaho's radar when he appeared on Zeb Bell's show over a month ago and accused Barack Obama's mother of being "trailer trash" and for having an affinity for African-American men. Frosty denied being associated with David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and finally, after two weeks of continuous denial admitted his association with Duke and accepted the charge that he had (and still does) write for David Duke's website. My familiarity with Mr. Givens is limited, however I know that it was he who tipped off Zeb to the ridiculous story regarding the use of the term 'black hole' in a racially charged manner. It appears Givens' association with the Citizens for a Constitutional Republic is also cause for alarm. The last of Zeb's entourage is Sharon Hardy-Mills of Albion, Idaho. Sharon serves as guest host on Zeb's show when he is out of town and is equally, if not more, inflammatory than Bell. The comments of this woman, mentioned on this site previously, include a disgusting remark about the worthlessness of the Fort Hall tribe--stating in no uncertain terms that American Indians "deserved to be conquered."

I'm not contending that Bell's show was ever appropriate and/or grounded, but it does appear that the show is on a downhill slide as Zeb courts even more radical commentators than himself, a feat hardly imaginable.

KBAR is riddled with these radio pundits; guests, hosts, and callers alike. Following Zeb at the Ranch are similarly hate-fueled shows by Steve Mitton, Jerry Shaw, and others. There are few voices to counter the hate generated and broadcast by these pundits, few minus Benjamin Reed. Despite KBAR's inability to counter the hate speech infiltrating the Mini-Cassia area, the Times-News appears to have a better approach. Three new blogs have been created at the Times website from three political perspectives as a means of offering varying opinions.

Not surprisingly, the Times has tapped into the writing of Gary Eller and invited him to join the political discussion at their site. A man who once informed some political activists (of the Ron Paul variety) that "the real danger is the fear and ignorance that exists in [their] mind[s]." It will be refreshing to hear a more center-of-the-road conservative voice out of the Magic Valley as well as the progressive voice of Dixie Siegel.

I can only imagine how bent out of shape Zeb Bell must be about the space being offered to Mr. Eller for the airing of his opinions.

Despite my hesitance and all out refusal to subscribe to the notion of 'guilt by association,' I have listened closely over the past month to the daily diatribes and hate-filled rants of Zeb Bell and I have come to the ultimate conclusion that the guests, sponsors, and callers on his show are of the same ilk. Their comments, including those belittling American Indians, Hispanics, African-Americans, Japanese-Americans (those interned at the Minidoka Camp following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), women, Muslims, and many others, are dripping with contempt, hatred and bigotry, just as much as Zeb Bell's words.

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