Liberal Blogs Attack Conservative Radio Station
Those not fortunate enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area might find it hard to believe that this liberal community sports an extremely conservative radio station. Conceivably less shocking is that in recent weeks, it has come under attack from liberal bloggers unhappy with its content.
For those unfamiliar, KSFO is a Northern California broadcaster of radio programs hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dr. Laura, and Mark Levin. In the Netroots’ crosshairs are local conservative personalities such as Melanie Morgan (who should be familiar to Fox News watchers), Lee Rodgers, and Tom Benner (AKA Officer Vic), all of the drive-time “Morning Show.” Also under attack is Brian Sussman, a former local weatherman turned radio host.
(Update: The New York Times published its own take on this issue Monday.)
The Vinyl Frontier
The troubles for KSFO began in 2006 when a fifth-tier liberal blogger from San Francisco, hiding behind the pseudonym “Spocko’s Brain,” started sending the station’s advertisers complaint letters. Such correspondence included cherry-picked audio clips and mini-transcripts from previous broadcasts. One such letter, as posted by Daily Kos contributor Mike Stark on January 3, began:
To: Wendy Clark, VP-advertising, AT&T
Dear Ms. Clark:
Thanks to radio hosts from KSFO your brand is being associated with torturing and killing people. Would your marketing people be happy to hear your commercial ran after Lee Rogers [sic] said this about a black man in Lincoln, Nebraska?
"Now you start with the Sear's [sic] Diehard [sic] the battery cables connected to his testi*les and you entertain him with that for awhile [sic] and then you blow his bleeping head off. " [sic] (Audio link)
You should know the person calling for the execution and torture of the black man in that clip READS THE AT&T commercials on the air. Right now on KSFO Lee Rogers [sic] is THE VOICE of AT&T to the SF Bay area. (Audio Link)
That’s Vulcan Illogical
Unfortunately, Spocko’s conspicuously brief transcript and audio link conveniently ignored and eluded the context of this discussion. Here is a more complete transcript of this segment:
Rodgers: You couldn’t make this up. This time he was breaking into cars. His name is Kevin Holder, he’s 41 years old. He’s been arrested 236 times. His crime history, his rap sheet is 43 pages long going back to 1980.
Now wouldn’t you think at some point, in what’s supposed to be common sense, middle-America, somebody would ask, “Why is this guy running around loose?” What kind of idiot judges have repeatedly set up situations where this guy could be back out on the street? Actually, in a common sense world every judge who has ever sentenced this guy to any kind of circumstance that would allow him to get out of jail, every one of those judges ought to be in prison for life.
Officer Vic: Sure, this is Montana.
Rodgers: This is what passes for law enforcement in the criminal justice system in the United States of America these days and it’s just, well it’s just disgusting.
Morgan: Clearly we need a three strikes law at a national level.
Rodgers: Yeah, some SOB like this, lock him up, throw away the key.
Rodgers: Better yet, put a bullet between his eyes and get it over because he’s never going to be worth a damn, never going to be anything but a criminal anyway.
Morgan: Well, that’s a bit of a harsh judgment, Lee.
Rodgers: No it isn’t, no it isn’t. No, it’s only common sense. What does the guy do? He’s demonstrated two hundred some odd times where he’s been caught. This doesn’t even count all the times he’s gotten away with crimes. So what the hell is the point of letting some creep like this live? What is the point? Now you start with the Sears DieHard, the battery cables connected to his testicles, and you entertain him with that for a while, and then you blow his bleeping head off. Thank you very much.
Morgan: That’s what I like about you. You’re so temperate.
It’s a bit different when you find out that Rodgers and Morgan were discussing a felon that had been arrested 236 times, and were thereby using the Sears DieHard image to mock the justice and penal systems for his continued presence on the streets. Wouldn’t you agree?
Context is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
Please also note that the color of Holder’s skin was not addressed by any of the radio personalities involved in this segment. Yet, in his letter, Spocko implied that race was an issue in the broadcast in question.
Liberals are great at tossing out the race card when it furthers their agenda, aren’t they?
The Vulcan Mind Melt
Alas, this wasn’t the only example of cherry-picking out of context snippets to prove a specious point. Here’s another truly ridiculous item from Spocko’s letter:
Because of how ads are purchased, your ad placement agency probably didn't know that Tom Brenner [sic] (the "comic relief" called Officer Vic) regularly mocks advertiser's [sic] products. Listen as he:
· calls Chevrolet's product "shi**y" (audio link)
This one would be really hysterical if not for the seriousness of the situation, and is a perfect example of how the liberal bloggers that jumped on this chance to eviscerate a conservative radio station totally ignored even a modicum of research to validate the accuracy of Spocko’s contentions. Here is the transcript of this segment:
Sussman: Buck McQuillan now, brought to you by Northern California Chevy baby…on this spare the air day I can’t think of anything better to drive. A big ol’ Chevy. See your northern California Chevy dealer today.
Officer Vic: Chivvy.
Sussman: Tell them Suss sent you.
Officer Vic: Chivvy.
Sussman: Buck, how are you doing this morning?
For those phonetically challenged – which appear to be Spocko and all the liberal bloggers advancing his position – Officer Vic was saying “Chivvy,” not “sh**y.” This was an impersonation of folks that mispronounce the name of this automaker, including sportscaster Brent Musburger who was regularly lampooned for his bizarre pronunciations on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Maybe more pertinent, residents of the Golden State know quite well that many California car dealers who run television and radio ads up and down the coast say “Chivvy” and “Chivrolet,” and are regularly chided for this by local media personalities. As a result, a little research by the bloggers who jumped on this might have identified how absurd this vulgarity claim by Spocko was.
Without overstating the point, shame on all those who just took Spocko’s word on this matter without the slightest effort to examine its veracity. This is especially true for the proprietor of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, who resides in Berkeley, and most certainly should have been cognizant of the rather obvious satire being purported by the KSFO crew.
Live Wrong and a Cropper
Moving forward, Spocko ended his preposterous complaint letter to AT&T:
I want to emphasize that if you withdrawal [sic] your ads you aren't limiting their free speech, just removing your paid support of it. Some other company without the values you describe on the AT&T website can support them. You can choose to advertise elsewhere. This is really about YOU. Do YOU want to be associated with these comments? Do you want your company and brand to be associated with these comments?
I urge you to discontinue advertising on KSFO during the shows hosted by Melanie Morgan, Lee Rogers [sic], Tom Brenner [sic] and Brian Sussman.
Comically, Stark wrote the following at DKos: “This has got to be one of the best constructed letter [sic] to any advertiser I've ever read. He hits every point of weakness.”
You might consider pluralizing the word “letter” as you’re gushing over the quality of this correspondence, Mike. Furthermore, throughout this piece, two of the primary subjects’ names were continuously misspelled, as Lee’s last name is “Rodgers,” and Officer Vic’s last name is “Benner.” In fact, the errors in this letter are so numerous that an English teacher of students above the age of fifteen would likely be quite appalled.
Regardless of his literary acumen, up to this point, Spocko’s concerns seemed to be largely falling on deaf, un-pointed human ears. However, quite curiously on December 21, ABC’s legal counsel sent a letter to his Internet service provider asking it to discontinue the use of KSFO’s audio clips without permission. In response to this correspondence, 1&1 Internet, Inc. canceled Spocko’s account.
This raises “Fair Use” questions that have been addressed by a number of bloggers. I too use audio and video clips in my writing, and will do so here. As such, I wonder what legal grounds ABC actually had in sending this letter, or whether the ISP in question should have caved into the pressure.
Threats Are Illogical and Payment Usually Expensive
Regardless of the answers, Spocko’s plight was about to get a lot more attention, as on January 2 of the New Year, he was a guest contributor at Online Blogintegrity where he asked for a call to arms:
What can you do?
1) As El Gato Negro suggested, let’s distribute the audio clips of violent rhetoric and hate speech to multiple locations on the internet so that the ABC/Disney lawyers will have to find and send cease and desist letters to ISPs with stronger policies than the nice people at 1&1.
2) Crank this up around the blogosphere, if you have a blog link and post about this [sic].
3) Let’s see if anyone in the mainstream media cares. Sadly they have a hard time writing about people who want them dead. I would think that at least the PUBLISHERS and MANAGEMENT at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Associate Press [sic] would want to at least defend their own journalists and photojournalists. To date only the LA Times has called Morgan out for accusing them of photojournalist misconduct.. [sic]
Some members of the press HAVE covered this. When Joe Conason at Salon did a story about Morgan and KSFO he got called a hack by Morgan. When Todd Milbourn of the Sacramento Bee did a story about Move America Forward he got called a liar by Morgan.
4) Donate to groups who would defend bloggers, journalists and others that Morgan, Rogers [sic] and Sussman attack. Specifically I’m recommending you donate money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Media Matters.
You can also support the journalists who are doing their jobs and are threatened with death from talk radio hosts.
5) Write the advertisers of KSFO. I have a list of SOME of the advertisers who advertise on KSFO. Drop me a line at spockosemail @ gmail.com and I’ll send you a link to an updated list.
The following day, Mike Stark published this entire posting at Daily Kos with some of his own marvelous imagery: “I've got visions of Micky [sic] Mouse with his snapped neck caught in a mousetrap of Spocko's making. Spocko took on a giant and so far, is winning.”
Nowhere am I so Desperately Needed as Among a Blogload of Illogical Liberals
Of course, the name “Mike Stark” might be familiar to many conservatives, as he is the blogger that pushed a George Allen supporter at a campaign event in late October (video available here), and ended up getting wrestled to the ground as a result. Stark claimed that this was completely unprovoked, and was the toast of the liberal blogosphere, as well as a guest of Keith Olbermann’s (video available here).
To be sure, Stark is no stranger to going after conservative members of the media. As Wikipedia notes in his biography: “Stark's first brush with nationwide notoriety came after he called conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly and mentioned MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann's name on air.” This led to O’Reilly saying:
You know, we have his — we have your phone numbers, by the way. So, if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit.
In fact, it appears that Stark makes a habit of this kind of thing. Rick Marshall of Albany, New York’s, Metroland Online introduced an article he wrote about Stark:
In the ideological battle to win the hearts and minds of American voters, Mike Stark is a political sniper. Armed only with a telephone, enough facts to support his positions, and the patience to wait as long as it takes to get on the air, the self-described “Albany gadfly” has become a frequent caller on right-wing radio and television shows around the nation. So much so, in fact, that the best measure of his success might not be the number of calls he’s made, but the type of enemies he’s making along the way.
To say the least, Rick.
Fascinating is a Word I Use for the Unexpected; In This Case, I Should Think ‘Interesting’ Would Suffice
Immediately following the Allen incident, Stark was hired by the ultraliberal radio network Air America. Cenk Uygur, the co-host of Air America’s program “The Young Turks,” reported the following at the Huffington Post on November 1: “I am proud to announce that ‘The Young Turks’ on Air America Radio has hired Mike Stark to be a reporter for the show.” The following day, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:
"This job is totally secondary to law school," said Stark. "But the main reason they’re hiring me is because of the void in the media of asking difficult questions of powerful people."
Put it all together, and a liberal law student, who apparently makes sport out of contacting and inciting conservative radio and television hosts – as well as conservative politicians – after being hired by the liberal radio network Air America, decided to take on a conservative radio station thousands of miles away from where he lived.
Judging by the Pollution Content of the Blogosphere, I Believe we Have Arrived at the Early 21st Century
Given the huge membership of Daily Kos, it wasn’t long before other Netroots members joined the party. Prominent video blog “Crooks and Liars” linked to Stark’s DKos post the following day. Netrooter “Firedoglake” entered the fray on January 5. That same day, a video describing Spocko’s position was posted at YouTube, and quickly got linked at websites all over the country.
The next day, January 6, Stark posted his own call to arms at Daily Kos entitled “OH, IT’S ON!! BLOGSWARM NOW! SPOCKO’S ABOUT TO HIT BIG!”: “If you host a blog, please download each of the clips I’ve linked to in this post and host them at your site…Secondly, contact the advertisers listed at the bottom of this post and let them know what offends you the most.”
Stark was good enough to list all of the KSFO sponsors:
Finally, follow up with these folks. I’ve posted phone numbers of many of the advertisers to make it easy for people to contact them, but this should not be the end. On your own blogs, and in the comments below, do your own research. Find addresses and write to the responsible executives. Tell Disney and ABC what you think. Make this activist action a model for those to follow. This is merely scratching the surface of the cesspool that is hate radio. Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Prager and Sean Hannity all have sordid tales of hatred to tell. We’ll work our way up to them, but for now, let’s pick the low hanging fruit that is KSFO.
On January 9, the liberal watchdog Media Matters – the same organization that Spocko had suggested readers contribute money to in his January 2 posting at Online Blogintegrity – published a piece on this subject: “The mainstream media have yet to report on the story of a blogger whose website was shut down after he began spotlighting inflammatory rhetoric common to several talk radio hosts on KSFO, an ABC Radio-owned station in San Francisco.”On that same day, KPIX, the CBS television affiliate in the Bay Area, did a segment on its evening news broadcast concerning this issue (video available here). And, on January 11, the San Francisco Chronicle did its own piece.
With all the attention given to this matter, KSFO decided to air a special, three-hour program on January 12 to address the criticisms, and allow both supporters and detractors to ask questions as well as voice concerns. All three hours are available here to those interested, and include the supposedly offensive segments in question with thorough explanations by the parties involved.
Conspicuously absent from this discussion was Spocko who was personally invited to attend, but chose to not participate. Even though he did talk by phone with the KPIX folks just days earlier without giving up his name, he somewhat cowardly chose to hide from those he had been accusing of wrongdoing. How utterly pathetic.Logic is a Wreath of Pretty Flowers That Smell Bad
However, Mike Stark did call in. For those interested, you can hear him claim to not be an employee of Air America’s at minute 39:55 of the second hour. This of course goes somewhat contrary to the previously cited statement made by Air America anchor Cenk Uygur, the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, as well as this opening sentence at Stark’s Wikipedia bio: “W. Michael ‘Mike’ Stark is an American author, activist, blogger and commentator with Air America Radio.”
Stark, as a good law student, differentiated the term “employee” from “hired by” in his January 11 DKos posting:
I explained that I am not an employee of Air America [sic] – instead I have served as a free-lance [sic] reporter for them. If I have a story I want to do and I think it fits with The Young Turks radio program, I run it by the show’s host, Cenk Uygur, to see if they have an interest in buying the rights to it
Regardless of this dubious employment distinction, if Stark receives compensation from Air America, even as a 1099 independent contractor, there indeed is a questionable conflict of interest for him to be inciting sponsors to stop advertising with a competitor without apprising them of this relationship. Certainly, Stark would likely find it inappropriate and potentially unethical for me to engage the financial backers of Media Matters in a similar fashion without disclosing my connection to the Media Research Center.
Sir, You Are Employing a Double Negative
Speaking of Media Matters, its CEO David Brock sent a letter to CEO Robert Iger of the Walt Disney Company on January 12 asking him to “stop airing the violent hate speech and racist fearmongering [sic] of extreme right-wing radio talk show hosts Melanie Morgan and Brian Sussman on KSFO radio in San Francisco.” His letter concluded:
It is hard to believe that the same company that brought us Mickey Mouse and The Little Mermaid could be involved in any way with individuals who publicly advocate hate, racism, and violence.
For ABC/Disney and its sponsor companies to continue to fund, promote, and broadcast this program and others like it suggests a serious lack of judgment on the part of one of this nation's trusted media companies, as well as a lack of commitment to use of the airwaves as a public trust, and we implore you to reconsider airing such deplorable content immediately.
It would be interesting to know if Mr. Brock sent a similar letter to Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, concerning recent statements made by Don Imus. As reported by NewsBusters, the following conversation took place on MSNBC’s “Imus in the Morning” on January 3:
Imus: "I was – I tried to imagine how various members of the current administration would behave were they subjected to the gallows as Saddam Hussein was. Um, and I can see Rumsfeld –"
Barnicle: “He wouldn't take it. No blindfold for Rumsfeld.”
Imus: "That's what I was thinking, you know. ‘F-you.' You know, you go to the gallows with the noose you want, not the noose you– or the noose you have, not the noose you want–"
Barnicle: "That's exactly right."
Imus: "Or Whatever. But Cheney–"
Barnicle: "Just as that trap door opens, he'd drop an f-bomb to all of them."
Imus: "How about Cheney?"
Barnicle: “I don't think Cheney would make it up the steps.”
Imus: "Now this is a guy who would, this is a guy – he'd wet his pants and he'd whine and start crying."
Barnicle: "Well, he would order as a last meal 400 pounds of bacon."
Imus: "Yeah, ‘cause this is a guy that got six deferments just to get out of Vietnam because he had, what was that phrase he used – he had some other more important issues to deal with. One of ’em, the last one, was getting his wife pregnant just to keep from having to deal with this."
Barnicle: "Oh God."
Imus: "Uh, who else? Wolfowitz, he'd cry."
Barnicle: "Oh yeah, he'd be shot in the back running away."
Imus: "Yeah, exactly. Yeah, or some of the other key players."
Barnicle: "Richard Perle."
Imus: "Oh, he'd, oh God, he'd, he would soil himself. So–"
Barnicle: "Can't you see him being dragged up by his cap?"
Imus: "Oh yeah."
Barnicle: "Clinging, splinters in his fingernails."
Imus: “A combover of his hanging all down the side of his head.”
Think Brock is going to send a letter to GE about this? And where are Spocko, Mike Stark, and the Netroots concerning this kind of vitriol, or any of the vile nonsense regularly being directed at Republicans and Bush administration representatives by other MSNBC employees such as Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and David Shuster?
The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few…or the One
Of course, therein lies the rub, doesn’t it? Media bias is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, and what I perceive to be inappropriate folks like Spocko, Stark, and Brock likely celebrate.
However, the distinction becomes more serious when the supposed biases are being identified to incite an advertising boycott which could negatively impact the livelihoods of those involved. This is possibly even more nefarious if the end result is to quash the free flow of opinions on the airwaves contrary to your own.
After all, it is one thing to point out the conceivably partial comments being made by a member of the media. It is altogether a completely different issue if you are using your position as either a blogger or a media analyst to motivate readers to send complaint letters to sponsors all because you disagree with the views being expressed.
At that point, analysis and observation cross the line into zealotry.
Ah Yes – One of Your Earth Emotions
To be sure, it is impossible for me to be truly impartial about this issue. On the one hand, I am a known conservative, and proud of it. Yet, I am also a fan and listener of KSFO. There is no other radio station that receives anywhere near as much of my patronage, especially during the off-season of professional baseball.
Still, there appears to be a huge distinction between a local radio station and a national television network that is clearly lost upon folks like Spocko, Stark, and Brock. KSFO doesn’t hide the fact that it carries exclusively conservative programs. Quite the contrary, it celebrates and advertises it both on radio and on television. As such, complaining that this station presents right-of-center views is akin to carping and whining about a classical station playing Beethoven.
By contrast, as cable outlets like MSNBC and CNN, as well as the major broadcast networks, don’t advertise or promote themselves as being liberal – in fact, they feign impartiality whenever questioned on the subject – it is significantly more fair and appropriate to point out to viewers across the country when program hosts and guests are allowing their biases to dominate and impact the content of the issues being presented.
For some reason, people on the left can’t see this distinction. In fact, such folk complain whenever a clearly liberal host or guest says anything favorable about a Republican, or utters a statement that wouldn’t be acceptable to Howard Dean, Michael Moore, and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
To them, impartial reporting is continuous, 24/7 eviscerations of all things conservative, with unwavering support of every issue precious to their ilk. As Stark ominously stated in his January 6 call to arms:
But this is our moment. Progressives control both Houses of Congress. They pass the laws that govern the boundaries of what can be broadcast over people’s airwaves.
Scary, don’t you think? It’s 2007, the Internet and New Media are exploding, and people like Stark are hoping the new liberal Congress will control what is broadcast as political commentary over the airwaves. In virtually the same breath, he and his ilk would aggressively defend the New York Times’ first amendment right to publish illegally leaked national security secrets.
Note the Sinister Eyes and the Malformed Ears: Definitely an Inferior Race
But even that is gingerly dancing around the point, isn’t it? After all, what likely is at the heart of this entire issue is how conservatives dominate AM talk radio, and virtually every attempt by liberals to make any headway into this powerful medium has failed miserably.
As a result, it should not be overlooked for a second that Spocko’s chief proponent in the blogosphere is indeed connected with one of the largest liberal talk radio failures in history – the recently filed for bankruptcy protection Air America.
As this failed network desperately seeks new investors, it must eat at liberals across the country – especially those currently or previously involved with the station – that conservative radio continues to thrive, even in a “progressive” area like San Francisco. And, since they can’t succeed in this medium through fair competition, they must feel that sending complaint letters to sponsors is the next best thing.
What should we expect from folks that shout “fraud” and waste millions of taxpayer dollars on futile recounts every time they lose an election?
On the flipside, there is no getting around the partisanship being expressed on KSFO’s “Morning Show.” These folks are quite conservative, and voice strong opinions against the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, et al. On any given weekday, cherry-picked snippets of their four-hour broadcast can easily be isolated and presented as evidence of hate speech to those looking for it.
It seems quite likely the same could be said of any talk radio program in any city in the nation, including Air America. Of course, it is safe to assume that Spocko, Stark, and Brock aren’t sending letters to that outlet’s sponsors.
In the end, this isn’t at all about hate speech, or racist fear mongering. Those are red herrings. This is about ideological warfare, and the liberals aren’t happy that their efforts to control the battlefield known as talk radio, much as they do television, have all fallen by the wayside.
Live long and prosper, KSFO – even if just to continue educating and irritating Bay Area liberals.