How uncanny that exactly 40 years after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated during the Vietnam War (and some think possibly because of his opposition to the Vietnam War), we would turn on our radios to hear a Twin Cities radio host re-applying the principles of Hermann Goering to plans for the upcoming anti-war march on the Republican National Convention (RNC). If you listen (here), you won't hear anything resembling "Minnesota Nice" on Chris Baker's show yesterday, the program that comes on before Rush Limbaugh's. His vitriolic, denouncing rants came in bursts between interviews with a Minneapolis Assistant Police Chief and Minneapolis Police Federation President John Delmonico as to how the right-wing radio host "can't stand these protesting varmints", "these spitting, frothing at the mouth lunatics", including his opinion that "protesting is an industry funded by billionaires and communist organizations (and) they are well coordinated and incredibly dangerous."
Baker's tirades were sparked by a Star Tribune newspaper article that reported apparent disagreements between Minneapolis police officials as to whether police officers patrolling at the time of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul should be armed with riot helmets, chemical spray and Taser guns for use on protesters.
The radio talk host demonstrated little effort to engage in legitimate debate on these issues and soon transcended from merely disparaging remarks to something far worse, coming very close to, if not crossing the line, of basically inciting violence against those he called the "stinky protesters."
After Delmonico agreed that "one of the (protesters') main missions is destruction," Baker added, "You must have order, you cannot have a civilized society without order and if that means cracking a few skulls, so be it...a good ole boy network is what you need and hand out some ax handles."
The absolutely worst tirade, however, comes towards the end of the program after the interviews with the police, when KTLK host Chris Baker lets go with this ostensible incitement to violence: "So we've been talking about police protection during the upcoming convention when all those stinky protesters are coming. There seems to be a big debate over whether or not police officers will be able to wear helmets, carry shields, use pepper spray and tasers on this crowd. You know, I'll tell you what works on a crowd like this--a machine gun, that always works very well."
"Mow 'em down, baby!" excitedly adds Baker's co-host "Jordan".
It doesn't take an expert on the First Amendment to recognize that suggesting the "good ole boy network" hand out ax handles and machine guns be used to mow a crowd down comes close to inciting violence. This inflammatory rhetoric looks no different than the reason we are not allowed to falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. I can also speak from personal experience--having worked almost 24 years as an FBI agent--that such remarks would almost certainly elicit investigative concern if the tables were turned and such speech came out of the mouth of someone critical of the government.
At the very least, one can question whether such violent remarks are an appropriate use of public air waves. Should a formal complaint to the FCC be made? Or should KTLK's advertisers be perhaps made aware of Baker's vitriolic comments? Should someone remind Chris Baker of the terrible shootings of college students at Kent State and Jackson State during the Vietnam era?
There are 70 some peace groups in the Twin Cities, many of whose members have regularly participated in anti-war marches in the last five long years as well as during the Vietnam era. The majority are grandparents or great-grandparents (or of that age); sincere, church going types who are motivated by such basic universal concepts as the Golden Rule and "Thou shall not kill." I've never seen any of them frothing at the mouth! Most do not sport oily dredlocks and do bathe regularly. Most, like myself, a retired FBI agent, would hardly consider ourselves "anarchists" or a professional protesting industry. I happen to be on the "Women Against Military Madness" organization's fundraising committee (WAMM is one of the Twin Cities most established peace groups, having been formed 26 years ago) and I've also participated in helping raise funds for the Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. No Communist organization or billionaire has given us any money to my knowledge! Most importantly, I have never heard of any group members (involved in preparations for the peace march and other anti-war displays during the RNC) planning to conduct a "military strike". Launching such a military strike would be totally antithetical for any peace group because that's actually what we're against: military strikes! Especially Bush's favorite kind, the "pre-emptive" military strike. They just kill too many innocent civilians.
If confronted, my guess is that Baker will say he was only joking and wasn't intending to incite real violence on fellow American citizens who only wish to exercise our First Amendment freedoms and patriotic responsibilities to speak out against an unjustified, illegal war and continuing use of torture and other illegal acts. What he probably was trying to do was "just denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism," a tougher and tougher job as the majority of the people in this country--formed shortly after the exposing of Bush-Cheney's lies and "cakewalk" promises--has been solidly against the Iraq War.
But like all their predecessor war-mongers, these talk radio types like Baker do have something powerful that helps them keep this terrible war going. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently described it in this excerpt from (what many consider to be his greatest speech) "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam":
Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we're always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people....
The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.
Speaking for the coalition to march on the RNC, we who oppose the Iraq War are NOT fools, traitors, enemies or even stinky protesters. If all the pro-war radio talk show hosts want to keep denouncing us that way, that's fine. But please note: your mentor, Hermann Goering, advised to "just denounce the pacifists"--he didn't say you had to machine gun them down.