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HOWARD ROSENBERG

Neo-Nazis Cloud the Utah Air : 'Aryan Nations' to Debut Over Tiny Salt Lake City Station

November 24, 1987|HOWARD ROSENBERG

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Freedom of speech and freedom of hate and prejudice are colliding on the airwaves here.

Consider this:

"Aryan Nations Hour"--a weekly stage for white supremacists--debuts Dec. 5 on tiny KZZI-AM (1510) on your radio dial. The Saturday morning call-in program will be closely aligned with Aryan Nations, a neo-Nazi group with headquarters in Hayden Lake, Ida., and plans to open an office in Salt Lake City or Ogden, where the bulk of the state's black population lives.

Richard Butler, now under indictment by the federal government for sedition, is the leader of Aryan Nations, which is founded on a "Christian Identity" doctrine holding that Jews are satanic and blacks and other minorities subhuman.

This is not a story of neo-Nazis storming--or even creeping--into Utah via the airwaves or other means. Despite recent disclosures of white-power extremists in the Utah State Militia, there is no evidence of Butler's group making visible gains in the state, according to knowledgeable sources. And KZZI, with its relatively weak signal and daytime-only broadcasts, is no ticket to mass exposure.

What the KZZI case does is pose questions about the concept of freedom of the airwaves by showing how easy it is--under the umbrella of the First Amendment--to broadcast poisonous racist propaganda that is not unlawful but that potentially could incite violence.

After all, "Aryan Nations Hour" is arriving shortly after two neo-Nazis were convicted in Denver of violating the civil rights of Jewish radio talk-show host Alan Berg by murdering him.

KZZI is a talk-radio smorgasbord whose call-in shows range from an hour hosted by a psychic to one hosted by the polygamy-preaching "prophet of the eighth dispensation." The execution is rudimentary, the diversity admirable.

Yet how does a racist "Aryan Nations Hour" get on the air? And what dangerous and inflammatory messages does it convey to those listeners who share or could be swayed by its philosophy?

When it comes to "Aryan Nations Hour" getting air time, credit KZZI co-owner and general manager Richard Hinton, 39, who openly denounces white supremacists while selling them a forum. Attribute the show's existence to Hinton's acknowledged dedication--"I'm a businessman"--to making a buck at almost any cost.

Many of the programs on KZZI are "brokered"--the time purchased by the persons producing them, who also can sell their own advertising. "Aryan Nations Hour" host Dwight McCarthy's rate is $100 per hour for the privilege of airing a weekly program on KZZI. That's $5,200 prepaid for a year--a small fortune to Hinton's struggling station.

The 37-year-old McCarthy's new talk program succeeds "Counter-Marxist Hour," a fringe rightist show--but not racist, by all accounts--that he's been buying and hosting on KZZI since July. The new show will have the same time slot and host, but a different title and message.

Media furor over the new program has already begun, putting formerly obscure KZZI on the map and heaping publicity on Hinton, McCarthy and now also Neil Davis, who has been a salaried KZZI talk-show host and advertising salesman. A Jew, Davis is outspokenly at odds with McCarthy and Hinton over "Aryan Nations Hour."

McCarthy "preaches (that) Hitler was a great man, the Holocaust was a hoax, racism is good and the satanic Mongoloid Jews must be separated out of the Aryan nation republic," said Davis, a gray-bearded, balding man who has spent more than half of his 50 years working in radio. "I don't want this message on the air. It plants the seeds of potential violence. It steps on the graves of people who were killed."

Agreeing is the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which has written members of Congress about KZZI, speculating that broadcast deregulation "has opened its door too wide for the bigots and racists."

Those bigots and racists--not four-letter words--are the true broadcast obscenities.

Davis said he felt "used" by McCarthy because he was the one who introduced McCarthy to talk radio, first by having him as a guest on the station where Davis previously worked and then by suggesting that he contact Hinton about buying time for his own show. "Dwight always talked about counter-Marxism, but never racism," Davis said about McCarthy.

Ironically, it appears now that McCarthy will outlast Davis on KZZI. Last week, Hinton ousted Davis from his thrice-weekly afternoon drive-time slot and offered him less exposure--a weekly hour on Sunday and another on Saturday following "Aryan Nations Hour," the very show Davis opposes.

Hinton claims that his only reason for wanting to move Davis was that Davis often neglected to play scheduled commercials. Not so, replies Davis, hinting that the real reason for his demotion may be that he attacked neo-Nazis on the air.

"I will not accept his offer," Davis said. "I'm gone."

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