Citizens for Civility and Accountability in Media (CCAM) is continuing our David-and-Goliath encounter with radio station KMJ. Following the initiation of our ongoing petition drive, the seven committee conveners (Les Kimber, Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, Venancio Gaona, Ellie Bluestein, Dr. Jean Kennedy and Richard Stone) organized a press conference held on May 20 at the downtown Holiday Inn. Joining us were Pastor Shane V. Scott of the Baptist Pastors Conference of Fresno and Imam Seyed Ali Chazvina of the Interfaith Alliance. About 50 supporters were in attendance but -except for KMJ itself-only our “alternative media” (Channels 21 and 49, KFCF, the Community Alliance and the California Advocate) deemed the event newsworthy. Where were Channels 24, 26, 30 and 47? Where was the Bee?
Good questions, getting poor answers. The networks said they were too busy. The Bee, in the words of Managing Editor Jack Robinson, does not consider press conferences as news. The Bee did, however, cover our story the next day as a news item reporting Rush Limbaugh’s misleading accusations of us, issued the morning before the press conference even took place. To the Bee, supposedly Fresno’s paper of record, it appears that what the locals say for themselves isn’t worth the print. Interesting.
In response to our initial letter of concern to KMJ, Station Manager and Vice President Patty Hixson laid out three major lines of defense: 1) we are a small group of nobodies with no right to question KMJ’s magisterial decisionmaking, 2) we had better not interfere with KMJ’s right to make a buck any way they see fit, and 3) their programming is merely “opinion-based entertainment.” We hope to refute each point. For No. 1, we aim to amass thousands of signatures on our petition and dozens of letters and organizational endorsements. For No. 2, we are attempting to persuade certain public institutions with ties to KMJ (most notably CSUF, for which the athletic programs are covered by KMJ) that at least public money ought not to be linked to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ray Appleton. As for No. 3, KMJ’s actions themselves are serving to disprove their words.
For evidence, we point first to the incidents surrounding the recent Fresno appearances of Bill Ayers. He brought with him a certain degree of controversy as a past member of the 1960s antiwar group the Weather Underground, which had a strategy that included destruction of government property. (Ayers was charged with, but never tried on, actions related to the group.) But in recent years-as documented in the film The Weathermen-Ayers has renounced such violence while explaining the desperation that led to it, a desperation also plain in the recently shown film about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. In any event, Ayers came to Fresno specifically to speak as an award-winning professor of education about education to education students. Yet due entirely to KMJ’s “opinion-based entertainment,” several dozen picketers met Ayers’ appearances, calling him a communist and a terrorist. This baseless language came direct from the on-air rantings of Jim Franklin (who sometimes takes on the persona of Reverend Franklin of Cornerstone Church) and Ray Appleton. When “entertainment” provokes such action, is it still just entertainment?
More tellingly yet, KMJ talk hosts like Limbaugh and Appleton slammed CCAM for daring, as they put it, to censor their free speech and even shut down KMJ. (See “Our petition” sidebar to learn what we are really asking.) The result is that our Web site and phone line have been filled with erroneous, vile-tongued and even threatening comments (see “KMJ Listeners Respond” sidebar.) We will let these comments speak for themselves and then you decide: Does KMJ indeed create in our valley an atmosphere of ignorant hate-inspired activism that could conceivably lead to violent acts such as those committed by James Earl Ray (assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King) and the man who flew his plane into the IRS building? And if so, should the station show responsibility toward the community for whose benefit they supposedly use the air waves? (For the impact of reading these comments on one of our convening members, see “Hate Hurts” sidebar by Vickie Fouts.)
If you agree with CCAM’s analysis, there are several ways you can support us: Sign or, better yet, circulate our petition (available at our Web site, fresnostophate.org), make a financial contribution by writing a check to FCNV, memo CCAM, and sending it to 1584 N. Van Ness Ave., Fresno, CA 93728; write a letter to KMJ and the FCC (see box with contact information) or invite us to make a presentation at your church or organization.
KMJ has told us it is No. 1 and beyond challenge. Help us prove that the bigger they are the harder they fall.
Our Petition: What It Is, What It Isn’t
- 1. This is a call for KMJ to diversify and moderate the rhetoric of its programming for the sake of public safety and community well-being.
- 2. This is not a challenge to the free speech of KMJ commentators.
- 3. This is not a legal demand for equal time for varied viewpoints.
- 4. This is not a threat to boycott sponsors.
- 5. We do say: KMJ, you are a powerful media voice in the Valley, where is your social responsibility?
KMJ, your programming can no longer be called “just entertainment” when it begins to pose a threat to the lives of individuals and to the social fabric of our community.
KMJ, live up to your claim to serve the public interest-meet with us to find mutually acceptable means to address our concerns about public safety and community well-being.
KMJ Listeners Respond:
A Sampling of What KMJ Encourages
The following quotes are taken from our Web site and online petition. Since coverage of our press conference was blacked out from all major media except KMJ, it is pretty certain that these are all responses to what Rush, Ray and their buddies said that we said.
“Take your heads out of your asses and look around. This country is mostly conservative. People who were previously silent are waking up and demanding action against liberal freaks like your org.”
“Where were you when Obama (our first n***** president) criticized the Cambridge police and made statements about racial inequality without have (sic) the facts to back them up?…You were probably jacking off or f****** some dog.F*** you asshole.”
“Who the hell are you f***wads to determine what is good speach (sic) and what is bad. The listeners decide, not you jerks that just so happen to be f***ing liberal. You asswipes don’t get it, you have become what you are trying to stop!!!! You f***ing censoring Nazi idiots.”
“Get some help before you go to (sic) far and a [Bill] Ayers on the other side comes to your world. This is not a threat from me it is an observation about how certain unstable individuals act when they get frustrated by hypocrisy.”
“I was thinking of posting your address and email on craigslist inviting people to help you make bombs and blow up conservative talk show stations. What do you think of this novel idea?
Lick my balls you f***ing lib Bastards! F*** you!”
“Why do communists always want to silence the opposition when they cant (sic) handle the truth? Thats (sic) what you are being is communists.”
“Get off the web you big dope! Take your liberal watch dog BS and shove it up your rear! That’s right I said it!!!!”
“Thank you KMJ for enlightening and entertaining our citizenry.”
By Vickie Fouts
One of the comments on our Web site petition states, “KMJ does not advocate hate and violence but they do enable hate and violence to flourish.” As the person, who receives the e-mails from our Web site and checks on our online petition, I am learning firsthand the effects of hate speech.
Reading all the comments from KMJ supporters has had a great impact on me personally. Besides the pain I feel from the ugliness, it has caused me at times to lose faith in myself and our cause. It makes me feel like maybe they are right and I am wrong. It is as if I am taking all this hatefulness and internalizing it, seeing myself as less than.
Then there is the fear factor. One of KMJ’s listeners called me at home and said he was able to get my phone number, e-mail and home address from our Web site domain information and even told me how to get it removed. I haven’t heard from him or anyone else since, but the first few days afterward were pretty scary.
You can tell me not to take it personally, but some of us just can’t do that. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can hurt just as much. Offensive, hurtful, threatening comments do have an impact on a person. It seems that I am now a victim of their hate.
To Contact The FCC
Here is contact information for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). You can bring their attention to the biased and hate-inducing practices of KMJ. Their address is: Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, 445 12th St. SW Washington, DC, 20554, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send a copy of your letter to KMJ AM-Radio, 1071 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno, CA 93711, Attn: Patty Hixson, Station Manager; and a copy to us at CCAM, 1584 N. Van Ness Ave., Fresno, CA 93728 or email@example.com
California Legislature Takes a Stand Against Hate Speech
On June 21st, the California Assembly passed Senate Concurrent Resolution No 58 addressing hate speech. Passed by the California Senate in 2009, the resolution reads: “The increase of hate speech in media, in addition to lack of diversity in the media, media consolidation, and media concentration, are having a profoundly negative impact on the civil rights of Latinos and society as a whole. The Legislature condemns the increase of hate speech and demands accurate and fair reporting as well as equal access to counter one-sided hate speech in the media.”
Alex Nogales, NHMC President & CEO stated: “Hate speech in media targets not only the Latino community but also other communities of color, women, the disabled and [the GLBT community] It is a cancer in our community and needs to be addressed. We are hopeful that [passage of this resolution] will inspire other state elected officals to do the same.”