The move in Congress to deregulate broadcasting could result in destroying the current efforts aimed at persuading the Federal Communications Commission to deny the renewal of the license to the owner of a Dodge City, Kansas, radio station accused of broadcasting anti-Semitic and other racist programs, according to a Washington attorney specializing in communication law.
The attorney, James Weitzman, who has spearheaded the efforts to deny renewal of the license of Nellie Babbs, owner of KTTL-FM, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that this is because the bills now before the House would eliminate the comparative renewal process.
This process, which allows a challenger for a license to demonstrate why the present station is unfit to continue broadcasting, has already been eliminated in the deregulation bill adopted by the Senate.
Weitzman said that after Babbs’ license was challenged last spring, she dropped the two hours of nightly anti-Semitic, anti-Black and anti-minority taped programs supplied by the Rev. William Potter Gale and James Wickstrom, described as paramilitary evangelists associated with Posse Comitatus, the small extremist right wing anti-government, anti-tax group that has been active in the Midwest and the West, and believes all government power is rooted at the county level.
But now, Weitzman believes, encouraged by the expected Congressional action, Babbs reintroduced the racist tapes on September 15, this time not just at night, but labelling them as news broadcasts airing throughout the day and aimed entirely at Jews. The current tapes being aired are by Wickstrom of Togerton Dells, Wis., reportedly the national director of counter-insurgency for Posse Comitatus In Latin, Posse Comitatus means “power to the county.”
URGES STRONG EFFORT BY JEWISH GROUPS
Weitzman urged that a strong effort be made by Jewish organizations and influential local Jews in various Congressional districts to persuade the Telecommunications Committee, where the deregulation bill is now being considered, and the full House Committee on Energy and Commerce, not to eliminate the comparative renewal process. The Jewish Community Relations Committee of Wichita has also urged Jews to contact members of the House Committee.
Failure will not effect just a small country and western station in Dodge City, Weitzman asserted. He said if Babbs wins, “This is going to telegraph a message to other broadcasters in the country who are similarly inclined toward the fringe” and similar type of programs may appear across the country.
In explaining how he became involved in the KTTL issue, Weitzman said that earlier this year he received a letter from Pluria Marshall, chairman of the board of the National Black Media Coalition, who said he had been receiving complaints from small towns in Kansas complaining about KTTL’s broadcasts.
THE IDENTITY MOVEMENT
Weitzman said the station was playing tapes supplied by Wickstrom and Gale, the latter being the founder of the California-based Ministry of Christ Church and the virtual leader of what is known as the Identity movement.
The Identity movement, which adopts its name from a quarterly newsletter published by Gale, shares an “ideological thread of bigotry” with extremist groups including the Christian Defense League, the Aryan Nations, the Christian Patriots Defense League and elements of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi Party, according to the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
In a 16-page report released last summer titled. “The ‘Identity Churches’: A Theology of Hate, ” the ADL described the Identity “Churches” as a “pseudo-Christian movement which holds to the belief that white Anglo-Saxons, not Jews…. are God’s chosen people.”
The ADL reported that the Identity movement espouses the belief that minority groups are on the same “spiritual level as animals and therefore have no souls,” The ADL report added: “Vicious hostility toward these non-white races and relentless vilification of Jews are major components of this movement’s theology of hate.”
COMMON BOND OF BIGOTRY
Wickstrom and Gale, meanwhile, are not strangers to one another and their ties are more extensive than simply sharing a common bond of bigotry. They have appeared together in farm protest demonstrations in the Midwest and have worked together in the Midwest and the West conducting paramilitary training exercises, formally sponsored as “counter-insurgency seminars,” according to press reports.
For example, in a three-day session in Weskan, Kansas, it was reported in The New York Times, as described by the office of Kansas Attorney General Robert Stephan, that 56 participants were trained as “killer teams in hand-to-hand combat techniques, the administration of poisons, night combat patrol and murder by ambush.”
Gale draws on his past military career which included service on Gen. Douglas McArthur’s staff and supervision in guerrilla operations in the Philippines in World War II. He maintained in an interview that he is not a member of the Posse Comitatus because he believes his status as a retired military man was in conflict with that. But he did say he supports the views of the Posse.
Federal officials have noted the similarities of the extremist groups but are hesitant to say to what extent they operate together. One official was quoted as saying “there’s some overlap in members and some similarity of views. But not every member and every chapter of the Posse has the same views as the Klan.”
Meanwhile, according to the ADL report on the Identity movement, in 1983, KTTL broadcast a taped message by Gale which stated in part: “Yes, we’re gonna cleanse our land. We’re gonna do it with a sword. And we’re gonna do it with violence … You’re domn right I’m teaching violence. God said you’re gonna do it that way, and it’s about time somebody is telling you to get violent, whitey.
“You better start making dossiers, names, addresses, phone numbers, car license numbers, on every damn Jew rabbi in this land, and every Anti-Defamation League leader or JDL (Jewish Defense League) leader in this land, and you better start doing it now. And know where he is. If you have to be told any more than that, you’re too damn dumb to bother with. You get these roadblock locations, where you can set up ambushes, and get it all working now.”
SAYS FCC WON’T DEAL WITH RACIST ISSUE
From his experience with the FCC, Weitzman said he knew it would not deal with the racist issue since it would consider this a First Amendment issue. He sought to find someone to challenge the license which was to expire June I.
A Jewish resident of Dodge City, who was sales manager for a competing radio station, agreed to try to seek the license, but a week-and-a-half before his application was to have been filed, he withdrew because his wife was afraid of the Posse Comitatus, which has conducted paramilitary activities in Kansas, according to Weitzman.
COMMITTEES HAVE BEEN FORMED
A local lawyer had been obtained, Naomi Kaufman Gunderson, who along with her husband, was also one of the few Jews in Dodge City, and by May 2, the deadline for applications, she helped organize a committee of 14 persons, known as Community Service Broadcasting Inc which was willing to challenge Babbs and have the KTTL frequency assigned to it, proposing public interest programming.
In addition, a much larger group called the Dodge City Citizens for Better Broadcasting, Inc., was formed to aid in the effort to challenge the license. Weitzman said that his investigations have uncovered numerous FCC violations by the station.
Babbs, in taking a stance common among Posse adherents, has repeatedly been in violation of court injunctions based on her refusal to pay taxes, send her children to school and her general disregard of state and local regulations, Weitzman said.
He complained that national Jewish organizations did not at first demonstrate interest in his effort. But now he believes that the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council has promised its support. The ADL and the American Jewish Committee have both urged the FCC not to renew the license to Babbs. The National Conference of Christians and Jews has also urged the FCC to reject the broadcast license renewal application to KTTL.
In addition, if the FCC does hold hearings, there will be costs to cover. Both Weitzman and Gunderson have volunteered their services up to now but the FCC hearing will take a great deal of work, Weitzman said. Meanwhile, although her license expired June 1, Babbs can continue operating the station until a hearing is held. But if Congress ends the procedure she can hold the license forever, Weitzman warned.