Jack boots and SLAPP suits
I have recounted in a number of previous posts that Coulter-wannabe Melanie Morgan is one of the more noxious creatures to be found on the airwaves. She and her AM-radio partner Lee Rodgers specialize in spewing right-wing venom during their morning talk show on San Francisco's KSFO.
Unless you're as wacky as they are, listening to Morgan and Rodgers is a stomach-churning experience. Few sane people are strong enough or dedicated enough to listen at length and to document the egregious rhetoric of KSFO's dismal duo. One hero who has done so is the blogger known as Spocko. Working diligently on his own, Spocko captured audio files of Morgan and Rodgers issuing threats (how else do you interpret “putting the bull's-eye on” Nancy Pelosi?), gleefully slandering minorities (all Muslims are basically evil, did you know that?), and recommending the torture of prisoners as sound practice for correctional officers (or merely summary execution for journalists who displease the administration).
For a one-man show, Spocko was remarkably effective, persuading some of KSFO's advertisers to pull their commercials from the Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Show. Last month the Visa credit card company yanked its spots, a big win for Spocko over the forces of evil.
Recently I was trying to help Spocko out a little bit by making inquiries concerning the California Teachers Association's incomprehensible practice of running ads on KSFO during the Rogers & Morgan talk show. One of my former coworkers, who has experience at the highest levels of California public education, agreed to ask a CTA leader of his acquaintance why the organization was spending advertising money on a program whose hosts who hate unions, despise public school teachers, and multiply that rancor together when they denounce teachers' unions. The CTA leader replied
CTA generally chooses stations based on the demographics of the listeners to get out whatever message it is that is being sent to the intended target group. I will ask specifically about KSFO and the background rationale.I wasn't expecting to post anything until we got a more specific response, but events overtook us. KSFO finally noticed that Spocko was more than an annoying gadfly: he was starting to get significant results. He had to be stopped!
In retaliation, ABC Radio (the owner of KSFO) set their lawyers on Spocko, insisting that he was violating the station's copyright on its transmissions. They him hard with a SLAPP—strategic lawsuit against public participation—and shut down his blog. Ha, ha! Victory for the bad guys! No one will ever remember Spocko and his quixotic crusade!
Actually, however, the blogosphere is starting to take note. Spocko's blog is down for now, but his voice is still being heard. In fact, let him fill you in on the details of what happened.
ABC Radio Lawyer tells Spocko to Shut UpThanks to his friends in the blogosphere, Spocko is getting a little bit of recognition and a growing amount of support. Mike Stark at Daily Kos has now picked up the story and Juan Cole posted a comment at Informed Comment. When the big boys and girls begin to notice, you're not along anymore.
Three days before Christmas I got a Cease and Desist letter from ABC Radio regarding my use of audio clips from KSFO radio hosts Melanie Morgan and Lee Rodgers on my blog, Spocko’s Brain.
KSFO is a Disney affiliate whose radio hosts broadcast violent rhetoric directed toward journalists, liberals, Democrats, Arabs and Muslims all over the SF Bay Area and to the world via the Internet. I commented about the content of these host’s broadcasts on my blog and informed KSFO’s advertisers about what they were supporting by letting them listen to the exact audio quotes from the hosts.
Why the C&L Letter Now?
In mid-December I got confirmation that a major national advertiser, Visa, pulled their ads from the Melanie Morgan and Lee Rodgers show, based on listening to audio clips I provided them. I also think that FedEx, AT&T and Kaiser are considering pulling their ads. Visa isn’t the first advertiser who has left KSFO, multiple advertisers have left the station, especially from the Brian Sussman show. In July of this year when KSFO lost MasterCard as an advertiser someone from KSFO “outed” me on a counter-blog (which I won’t link to). This same person has also threatened me with local and federal criminal action for using the audio (which I clearly used under the fair use portion of copyright law). And because they have suggested violence toward me (in addition to talking about suing me “for everything I have”) I have chosen to remain anonymous.
As Thers has said, 95 percent of blog fights don’t mean anything, but I think this one does since KSFO is using the full weight and force of an ABC/Disney lawyer and copyright law against a private citizen blogger. I dared to use the audio content in question for nonprofit educational purposes (I don’t even have ads on my blog!), and thus under the protection of the Fair Use Doctrine set forth in Section 107 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.§107.
It’s about Money not Ideology
Talk Radio is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is also a regulated industry because the public gave the broadcast airwaves to radio stations. There are rules. First there are FCC rules with fines of $325,000 for obscene and indecent speech, thanks to the Christian Right. Interestingly, the radio union (which KSFO hosts hate so much) worked very hard to stop those fines from being directed to individual radio hosts. So the corporation will bear the burden of any fines. Next, there are guidelines at the local station level, the network level and the parent company level. So even if the inciting of violence and hate speech is ignored by the FCC, the continued violent rhetoric has been, and continues to be, approved at the station level (KSFO) the group level (KGO-KSFO) the company level (ABC Radio) and the parent company level (Disney). They are ALL aware of this speech, and because they have not acted in a meaningful way, they all are giving approval for it to continue.
No Management Action
When Keith Olbermann and Media Matters ran Melanie Morgan’s comments about “putting the bull’s-eye on” Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, management did nothing. Morgan did a jokey non-apology where she never even mentioned she used the term bull’s-eye.
I’m guessing Lee Rodgers may have gotten a memo telling him to stop talking about burning people alive, torturing them and blowing their brains out, because on November 30th, he defiantly said to management and advertisers, “Nobody is gonna tell me what to talk about or not talk about or in what fashion on this radio program. It ain't gonna happen!”
ABC/Disney acted only when they lost revenue. Then they went after ME with a cease and desist letter.
Why me? I’m not the one saying journalists should be hanged, thieves should be tortured and killed, people should be burned alive, stomped to death or have their testicles cut off. I’m not the one saying that millions of Muslims should be killed on the presumption that they are extremists or just because they live in Indonesia. I’m not the one who says that lying is as natural as breathing to Egyptians and Arabs or demanding that a caller “Say Allah is a Whore” to prove he is not an Islamist. I’m simply documenting this speech and providing it to the people who are paying KSFO hosts on commercially supported broadcast radio.
They have Lawyers, Guns and Money. I’ve got a 5th-tier blog and no money
Because I and some other listeners hit right-wing talk radio in the pocket book, they are acting like wounded animals and brought out the big guns, Corporate Lawyers. Am I scared? Hell yes. They can easily squish me like a bug and tie me up in legal battles for the rest of my natural life (and Vulcans live a long time), not to mention that unlike KSFO radio hosts, I’m not getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and generating millions of revenue for a multibillion-dollar parent company. If I pursue this further I expect the next step is a “CyberSLAPP” suit.
I don’t want to consider the possibility of Morgan’s good friend Michelle Malkin deciding to publish my address and real name so that her minions can send me death threats or “white powder” in the mail. Chad Castagana, was charged with mailing more than a dozen threatening letters containing white powder to liberals. He got the idea from someone that journalists, liberals and Democrats were the enemy and deserved to die.
Brian Sussman proudly poses with his handgun in KSFO publicity shots and says that he thinks that everyone should have the right to have a machine gun. Maybe I’m over reacting, why would they attack me? I’m not famous, I’m not an elected official, I tried very hard to be accurate about what THEY said BY USING THEIR OWN WORDS.
I tried to help companies protect their brands from being tainted with the violent rhetoric and anti-any-religion-but- right-wing-christianism speech. I wanted to help the VPs of marketing avoid being associated with Lee Rodger’s “testicle talk” or Sussman talking about cutting off a finger and a penis of an Iraqi in his imaginary torture sessions.
It’s about Brands: All the Blessings, None of the Taint
I have found out that KSFO is sold to advertisers as “a Disney affiliate” with all the associated family-friendly connotations. So KSFO is getting all the benefit of the Disney name as well as the massive infrastructure of ad sales at the national level. Clearly ABC Radio doesn’t want KSFO hosts’ horrific comments to actually reach advertisers. Advertisers are kept in the dark so KSFO can benefit from the Disney brand glow (ABC Radio News creditability glow?).
Advertisers should be able to decide if they want to keep supporting this show based on complete information. We already know that management at ABC and Disney support these hosts, which means that the ABC/Disney Radio brand now apparently includes support for violent hate speech toward Muslims, Democrats and liberals.
But instead of directing the hosts to refrain from violent rhetoric and hate speech, they go after the weakest person with the fewest resources. It’s cheaper and easier.
Bottom line: ABC/Disney is supporting and profiting from this violent speech, they should at least also accept any negative connotations or financial impact it might have to their image.
What can you do?
I’m open to other ideas too.
- 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.
- Crank this up around the blogosphere, if you have a blog please post about this.
- 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 Associated Press 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.
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.
- Donate to groups who would defend bloggers, journalists and others that Morgan, Rodgers 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.
- 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.
As always, be polite, let them know what they are supporting and how it is impacting their brand in your eyes. They often times have their own stated values that they want to maintain, you may want to ask if their corporate values align with what is being said on KSFO (often times the hosts are the VOICE of their brand in the Bay Area, so it’s not just the fact that their ad is run right after some violent hate speech, but that the person who is reading their copy is the person who is spewing the violent rhetoric.)
I’d like to thank everyone who has written letters to advertisers, especially PTcruiser, BP, and Zeno. Thanks, Online Blogintegrity folks for the forum, and special thanks to El Gato Negro.
Good luck, Spocko! (And perhaps soon I'll have news on CTA's plans.)
Spocko e-mailed me the content of the above message, which he originally sent to several bloggers and was able to post at Online Blogintegrity. When I visited the original post, I noticed that he had been nice enough in the version he sent to me to to insert my blog name in the list of people he thanked. You're welcome, guy, and I wish I could do more!