At times, the KSFO special radio afternoon was uproarious and side-splitting. At other times, it was darkly disturbing. Sometimes, it was both at the same time.
Unfortunately, "honest," "serious," and "relevant" aren't adjectives that immediately spring to mind after listening to KSFO hosts Melanie Morgan, Brian Sussman, "Occifer Vic" and Lee Rodgers engage in a three hour session of desperate and defensive damage control.
What is most unfortunate is that desperation almost invariable leads to more lies and distortions. Let's examine a few...
In this segment, Lee Rodgers makes the offensive and disgusting claim that the Yale glee club that was assaulted in the Bay Area last week were beaten up by "lefties" for singing the Star Spangled Banner. The truth, as usual, is much more mundane:
In the end, old-fashioned jealousy and a rivalry between two prominent Catholic preparatory high schools, St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral, may have been the triggers, according to both the party hosts and parents of the injured.
The alleged assailants were party crashers who reportedly organized the attack as the choir -- tired of repeated taunts, including ``fag'' and ``homo'' -- headed outside after singing their trademark sing-along National Anthem.
The party was hosted by two St. Ignatius graduates at the home of Dawydiak and her husband, both lawyers and San Francisco police veterans. Dawydiak, on disability leave from the police force, and her husband, now retired, have a rocky past with their police bosses.
Dawydiak recounted how one of the taunters called friends via cell phone to direct them to the party. As the choir went outside, several young men jumped out of a van, throwing bottles and pummeling singers, who witnesses said did not retaliate.
Dawydiak and others called them thugs with a history of troublemaking, who'd been drinking earlier and were jealous that young women at the party were giving their attention to the coat-and-tie-clad songsters.
This was to be the order of the day. The KSFO hosts undertook to unfairly, dishonestly and, with a subtle air of desperation, demonize their opponents. The only time during the show that this strategy wasn't followed was when the KSFO hosts unfairly, dishonestly and with a subtle air of desperation sought to defend their irresponsible rhetoric and blatant hypocrisy.
For example, Melanie Morgan decided to read a critic's email on the air. In "Jay's" email, he spoke of Melanie Morgan's effort to keep Michael Moore's movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, from being screened in theaters. As part of the campaign, Move America Forward, the controversial and shadowy group that Morgan chairs and that is funded in part through the Department of Defense, "launched an electronic campaign, both via e-mail and through its Web site," that encouraged theaters not to play Moore's film.
Morgan purposefully and completely distorted the nature of her activism in such a way as to lead her listeners to believe that she did nothing that could be construed as attempting to limit Moore's freedom of expression. Put simply, Morgan lied.
The people that called in to the show were every bit as entertaining as the hosts, but that should have come as no surprise. When I spoke with Morgan, she admitted to sending an email the night before the show to over one million conservatives, asking them to call the show to support her. It is little wonder that almost every caller they spoke with was sympathetic/sycophantic towards the hosts.
The real issue, however, is Morgan's unrepentant lack of integrity.
This show was a damage control effort aimed at reversing the flight of their advertisers. Morgan's co-hosts defended her email blast by saying that the show streams to thousands of people that listen on the Internet. What the hosts did not say is that advertising is not broadcast on the internet stream. The callers from outside the immediate Bay Area listening area will never hear a KSFO advertisement without travelling to KSFO's broadcast range. As such, Morgan's email served only to jam their phone lines with a self-selected conservative activist constituency. Dissenting viewpoints never had a chance to get through the busy signals.
Maybe that was for the better. In the end, we got a better idea of exactly who KSFO's target audience is.
One caller compared liberal bloggers to Iraqi terrorists. When Lee Rodgers asked if any of his co-hosts had anything to add, one spoke up, "nothing except to underline it, maybe."
Another caller weighed in shortly later. At first, "Gary" was supremely entertaining. He suggested that the hosts were doing a great job and that, like the hosts, he was always going to speak his mind. He didn't care that his outspoken nature had already cost him two jobs - he just was not going to stop speaking his mind.
The smiles brought on by the mental image of a borderline personality bus-boy confronting me over my MoveOn.org bumper sticker quickly faded when he went on to suggest that, "Islamofascism is a cancer and only radiation can cure cancer in the end of it." Lee Rodgers' reaction after that caller insinuated the need to nuke the Muslims? "Thank you very much for the call."
As interesting as Morgan's astroturf callers were, another important story is how devastatingly poor the hosts' performance actually was. If this was an effort to save their broadcast slot or to shore up failing advertising revenues, I fear they fell short in their efforts. Way short. Lee Rodgers even went so far as to blackmail his advertisers through implication. After reading an email from a supporter that asked for the names of the advertisers that withdrew support of the station, Rodgers said, "these people who want to play that boycott game... they seem to forget... this is a sword that cuts both ways. We have plenty of people that listen to this radio station that say 'hell, if somebody is trying to shut up the people on my favorite radio station, I don't think I want to give them any money,' so it could work two ways."
I'm no advertising buyer, but if a radio show host suggested that he'd have his listeners boycott my product if I chose not to advertise on his show... well... Let's just say that I'm quite sure I'd be thinking the host was a little kooky and little unworthy of my ad dollars.
Rodgers is the professional though - and according to him, he will not apologize because he doesn't care what we bloggers think.
But what came next was simply astounding... It was Lee Rodgers again, this time displaying his racists tendencies... without apology, in all of their glory, and in the middle of a special broadcast that aimed at showing advertisers how trustworthy KSFO's hosts are and why they deserve advertisers continued patronage!
The issue was Nancy Pelosi's appointment of the first Muslim Congressman in the history of the United States, Keith Ellison, to the Judiciary Committee. When I called the show I asked Rodgers what, specifically, his problem was having Ellison on the Committee. Rodgers denied any racism - he simply doesn't want a Muslim there because, "Muslims will tell you that their faith is inseparable from government and therefore our system of laws and justice would be invalid under Islamic law and he claims to be a devout Muslim, claims he's going to stand up for it..." In other words, according to Rodgers, if a Muslim is to serve in our government, their faith needs to be weak and inconsequential for him to feel comfortable. Does this make anyone else's skin crawl?
As this story enters its second week, KSFO is reeling. Their hosts, try as they may, cannot change their stripes. Finally, through the efforts of an anonymous blogger named Spocko, sunlight is disinfecting one of the darkest regions of the hate-radio universe.
Questions do remain, however... Why does ABC/Disney see fit to profit through the broadcast of snuff-talk? Spocko has damning and irrefutable evidence that the emails he sent to ABC and Disney executives were read and the clips he sent were downloaded.
Will advertising buyers take greater care before placing ads on stations sold under the Disney brand and labeled as "family friendly"?
Will ABC/Disney follow through on their threat to sue Spocko? Will they sue me? Will they sue Air America (claiming that I was acting as their employee, as Melanie Morgan suggested today)?
In the end (though we are nowhere near the end), this is a human drama that involves all of us. It is fairly difficult not to be a "liberal" or a "conservative" or "godless" or a "bible-thumper" or a "hippie" or a "troop" or an "activist" or a "corporate shill" or a "blogger" or a "freeper". For the most part, everyone will find themselves on one side or the other of the political chasm that divides our country. Under these conditions, the invective spit into KSFO's microphones is nothing if not dangerous. And it needs to stop.
At the end of my call, this is part of an email exchange I had with one of the hosts of the program after my call:
Thanks man, no problem about not getting on your show. [ed. yesterday]
Eventually the polarization trend will reverse itself and things won't be so heated - I wish it [ed. our meeting] coulda been under better circumstances too.
But thanks for having me on and digging into the discussion.
Seriously, bottom line, take-away stuff is that I know you guys have to make a living. I think you can do it without being over-the-top... hundreds of other hosts have managed... cut out the execution of liberals, advocacy of torture and borderline racism and we can go back to arguing politics.
I sincerely hope that day arrives soon.