American Hate Radio: How A Powerful Outlet For Democratic Discourse Has Deteriorated Into Hate, Racism and Extremism
For over a century we have used the radio waves to communicate with our neighbors. Even today radio remains the primary way that Americans consume media, reaching 93% of the American population on a weekly basis. Radio can be an excellent outlet for news, democratic discourse, community engagement and even life-saving emergency information, and, in many instances, it is just that.
However, something sinister is happening over many of our public airwaves. Something that many would like to ignore: hate, racism and extremism. And as mega media companies have consolidated over the past decade, this hate has grown even more prevalent, and is often syndicated through nationwide station clusters. NHMC’s latest report, American Hate Radio, sheds light on the prevalence and the dangers of American hate radio, chronicling how hate groups and hate crimes have spiked while hate radio’s popularity and reach have risen.
NHMC has demonstrated time and again that hate speech against vulnerable groups is pervasive over radio. This is troubling for many reasons, not the least of which being that hate speech influences society’s behaviors and perceptions, and causes severe psychological damage to its targets, especially teens and children. As hate radio has escalated to a fever pitch, hate groups and hate crimes against targeted groups have climbed significantly. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are 1,002 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. And their numbers are growing. According to SPLC,
"This growth in extremism has been aided by mainstream media figures and politicians who have used their platforms to legitimize false propaganda about immigrants and other minorities and spread the kind of paranoid conspiracy theories on which militia groups thrive."
Moreover, FBI statistics reveal that between 2003 and 2007, anti-Latino hate crimes rose by over 40%. Last year alone, hate crimes against Latinos in California increased by nearly 50%.
Clear Channel’s KFI AM 640 is only one of many examples across the country of a hate radio hot spot. In American Hate Radio, NHMC reveals that between 2008 and 2011, over 240 consumers filed FCC complaints about KFI’s programming. 196 out of the 240 complaints, or 82%, specifically alleged hate-speech or violent speech. All but a handful of these complaints were against current KFI shock jocks. These complaints alleged a whole variety of things, including that:
- During the Democratic National Convention in August 2008, John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou wished that a “skinhead speed freak” would climb into the rafters at Invesco field and take a shot at Barack Obama.
- In May 2009 Bill Handel joked that we should euthanize Armenians to reduce the population.
- In March of 2010 Handel used the N-word to describe members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
NHMC and its long list of allies expect better from broadcasters. In exchange for the privilege of using the public airwaves, they have a duty to serve their local communities, and their communities are disserved with this inflammatory rhetoric. Knowing the harms of hate speech, NHMC calls on all broadcasters to be responsible and civil over their airwaves. If they are not, NHMC will expose them, as it has exposed John and Ken, KFI and Clear Channel for their abuse of the public airwaves.
For more information about NHMC’s campaign against John and Ken, please visit www.nhmc.org
Alex Nogales is President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), a non-partisan, non-profit, media advocacy and civil rights organization established in 1986 in Los Angeles, California. Its mission is to educate and influence media corporations on the importance of including U.S. Latinos at all levels of employment, challenge media that carelessly exploit negative Latino stereotypes, and scrutinize and opine on media and telecommunications policy issues. Learn more at www.nhmc.org. Receive real-time updates on twitter @NHMC.