Speaking of freedom, a freedom of speech battle is playing out on your A.M radio dial at Talk 650 KSTE. Popular morning show hosts Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty of The Armstrong & Getty Show were unexpectedly absent from their live show today and replaced by a pre-recorded ‘Best-of’ broadcast.
Local news is reporting that on Monday, the duo risked inflaming the violence resulting from earthly depictions of the prophet Muhammed, including the recent murder of four American diplomatic personnel in Libya . Here is a 45 second clip from the show in question where they are discussing this incident. The controversy is a seemingly off-the-cuff remark by Armstrong that someone should “make an anti-Muhammed ad and post it to Al Jazeera.” Someone (A&G??) states on a new Facebook page that media outlets are repeatedly misrepresenting their words. As this happened today, details are still unfolding.
For readers who are not familiar with A&G, it is important to note that they are by no means “right-wing shock jocks” à la Hannity or Limbaugh. They are clearly right-of center, but both generally approach politics and current events with an earnest and serious tone tempered with humor, unlike the wacky morning DJ trio at their main competitor, 98 Rock.
This issue is more complicated than a simple freedom of speech argument. Do A&G own KSTE? No. They are ultimately responsible to their employers for their statements and must respect a host of laws as well as the corporate policy of Clear Channel. Since 1998, however, KSTE has tasked them with being controversial and thought-provoking in their show and to challenge their audience to both interact and to react. This is the magic of live radio, the working “without a net” that sometimes fails spectacularly and with unintended tragedy. Remember Hold Your Wee for a Wii?
While I frequently disagree with their political opinions, I am not inclined to think that they are as careless as to invite violence upon themselves or their employers by insulting select members of one of the world’s most practiced religions. If their words are being taken out of context and require more than a soundbite to understand the radio hosts’ intent, I hope that full transcripts and/or recordings of the show come to surface. I can’t believe that someone, somewhere does not have the ability to produce this, and I hope that doing so will clarify the situation. If their actions were illegal or violated their contract, let them be handled in those respective arenas. If they said something stupid, insensitive, naive or inflammatory, let’s have a public discussion about it on the show and hopefully increase our collective knowledge on the subject. Personally, I hope more attention is drawn to the murdered Americans who seem to be forgotten in the political hoopla about freedom of speech and cultural sensitivity.
Stay classy, Sacramento.