The people protesting outside the Freeman from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday didn’t see Belling continuing as free speech but a matter of “hate” speech. Most of those gathered were students at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and affiliated with student organizations.
Alex Dominguez, speaking for UW-Waukesha’s Organization of Latin American Leaders, addressed the group from the front stairs of the newspaper. He said while Belling did not make the specific comments in The Freeman, his columns have at times been objectionable to minorities.
Former Milwaukee County Board member Kathy Arciszewski, who said Belling attacked her on his radio show during the pension scandal, said too much of talk radio is mean-spirited and ultra-conservative.
She called on The Freeman to drop his column.
“I think the Freeman should consider that because right now the community is fragmented,” she said. “There is so much hatred in the world and all this does is feed that. Just because he didn’t say that in The Freeman doesn’t mean it didn’t affect the community.”
Anna San Diego of Milwaukee, who is club adviser for the campus Latino group, added, “Mark Belling has been insulting for a long time. Not just to Latinos but to Arabs and others. It needs to stop. This is the kind of movement we need to say that this is not tolerable.”
Anselmo Villarreal, executive director of La Casa de Esperanza, Inc., who was out of town Friday, said in a prepared statement, “I want to make clear my extreme distress regarding the hostile remarks made by Mark Belling at WISN Radio, with respect to the negative terminology he used to describe Mexican immigrants.”
Villarreal added, “I believe that at the very least Belling should remedy his inexcusable remarks with an apology and then begin a process of educating both himself and his public on what are extremely unacceptable, discriminatory, defamatory depictions of human beings who deserve dignity and empowerment.”
But not everybody agrees on what is the proper reaction to the situation.
Nathan Johnson of Waukesha, stopped by the demonstration to voice his opinion. When told by the group they did not want to hear what they considered Belling’s racist comments, Johnson said, “Then turn the station. You sit there and say you have the freedom of speech to sit on the corner here and say what you want about it. But Mark Belling, who you can change the station on – it’s very simple, called a radio dial – should not have that freedom.”
Johnson added, “This is your life, running around looking to be offended by something that anybody says … if you don’t like it, turn off Mark Belling.”
He added that the group should have protested racial slurs against white people made on the radio by Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee, Jr.
I love it when wingnuts bring out the white people to ask, “What about us? When are we going to get our own history day and a parade, huh? When’s Hallmark gonna come out with a card for me, huh?” It’s the kind of reverse-persecution complex that could only develop in America, and the familiarity just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Guess what? Nobody’s oppressing Mark Belling. Nobody’s throwing him in jail, nobody’s slapping him in irons and sending him to Gitmo, federal agents aren’t knocking on his door at 2 a.m. to check his papers. He’s free to say what he says. For the 5 millionth time, “censorship” is government restriction of free speech, not Clear Channel restriction of free speech, or for that matter First Draft restriction of free speech. Until the legal authority figures get involved, you’re not being officially oppressed.
And also for the 5 millionth time, the right to free speech is not the right to freedom from consequences of that speech in the eyes of your fellow citizens. Conservatives have every right to go nuts over a TV miniseries and ask its producers to take it off the air. Liberals have every right to get pissed off that a broadcaster is putting out a hit piece on a presidential candidate and lobby for changes. If more people got involved like this there’d be less bellyaching about the state of popular culture from both sides of the political spectrum.
You can disagree all you like with Belling’s protesters’ claims, but you cannot claim that they are trying to “censor” him. If he does get shitcanned from Clear Channel, he’s free to stand on a soapbox in the street and shout as loud as he wants, and if he wants to make money he can charge people a dime to listen to him.
Or he can charge people to throw rotten fruit. That might be more lucrative.