Uppity Radio

Here's To Free Speech, And More Of It.
By Jeff Smith 

THE ONLY RADIO station I know of that anybody I know personally ever spent a dime sponsoring is KXCI community radio, the local "Let's-put-on-a-play-in-the-old-barn" station. That was Mick and the boys at Star Cycle. If memory serves, it was the reggae hour they sponsored. Mick's taste runs to what you call your eclectic.

Smith So after listening to Bob Marley longer than I ever hoped I'd ever have to listen to Bob Marley, I began hearing bits of bluegrass and old Jimmy Rogers blue yodeler stuff and eventually developed something of an appreciation for the mix of music coming out of 91.3 on your FM dial.

I say this not to sound like a disc jockey, but to differentiate your FM radio dial from my FM radio dial. Living out here in the weeds puts me beyond the signal strength of KXCI, but that has not prevented me from dedicating a button on my truck radio to Tucson community radio. Hell, I even went to one of KXCI's evening shouting matches over programming, where the board of directors sits across from some of the more rabble-rousing programmers and tries to keep them from costing the station its FCC license, without sounding like a lot of Volvo drivers from the Sam Hughes neighborhood.

Which they can't quite manage to pull off.

Then on the other hand, some of the rabble-rousing programmers sound like retreads from a '60s UFWOC rally in Delano, California, so it all gets me rather misty eyed and nostalgic. Sal Baldenegro and I ought to get together again and sing a bunch of corridos. They could tape it and Miguel Ortega could run it on Chicano Fist and call me a gringo colonizer and Sal a vendido. After which Sal and I could take him outside and beat the snot out of him. I mean, Sal and I are real old, but hell, there's two of us and we went to Tucson High and learned how to use our feet. You can call me any damn thing you like, but Salamon is nobody you ought to be calling a sell-out.

Not that Miguel actually has. What Miguel and other niche programmers at KXCI have been doing is getting uppity on the radio and making people uncomfortable and unhappy. He even disses The Weekly, which offends me in a fiscal sense because The Weekly provides a major chunk of my operating budget. Otherwise I'm a pure free-speecher and damn near impossible to offend.

But not to amuse. And Miguel's show amuses me. That ought to piss him off. Gringo colonizer sonofabitch that I am.

This particular iteration of the continuing controversy commenced with a phone call from a regular KXCI listener, volunteer, fund-raiser, former radio programmer, a well-spoken man who is weary of hearing what he terms hateful, racist commentary on his favorite community station. He alluded specifically to Miguel's weekly Chicano show, and to other niche programming by feminists, and people of color. (My personal favorite right now is pink, but I've been known to favor blue.) We talked for quite a while on the phone and he had me agreeing that nobody should be encouraging listeners to go out and kill people or overthrow the government (I only nodded kind of half-heartedly at that one, and didn't say anything) and stuff like that. He said he'd send me a tape of a Chicano Fist show that illustrated what he was talking about. I said I'd listend to it.

He did and I did.

And my instincts remained sound: I was amused to hear the debate between Miguel and his talk-show caller--and Miguel's in-studio buddy, who keep trash-talking the caller in the background--but all in all I found nothing that would make me want to pull the plug on Chicano Fist.

I'm getting to be a regular libertarian. (Which, as I may have mentioned before, is merely a libertine with a modicum of sexual self-restraint.)

KXCI is just about the only place on the radio dial where guys can say that Tucson is an occupied cultural war-zone colonized by white European racists who stole it from the indigenous people of the area we now call Mexico. Or where angry women can call Lorena Bobbitt a hero and role-model for daughters everywhere. Or where gangsta rap gets played with nothing bleeped. So to my mind KXCI is obviously the appropriate forum for all of these views. Views which may be controversial, even outright scary and intimidating to the aformentioned white folks living between Campbell Avenue and Country Club, Speedway south to Sixth Street.

But hell, those people are scared of Ford Pintos, too.

I disagree with a lot of what Miguel and his buddy have to say, historically, culturally, politically, but I will defend his right to say it. I recognize that it makes some of the folks at KXCI nervous when anybody says the F-word, or makes comments that might be construed to advocate unlawful or violent acts, but their FCC license is probably still safe.

My feeling is that censorship, even of outright offensive and dangerous material, is way more dangerous than the material it would keep out of circulation. The truth shall make you free, dude. And bullshit eventually is revealed for what it is.

So let 'er rip. TW

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