Is Larry Elder a victim of censorship?

By Gord Gekko
web posted January 1997

I have never heard Larry Elder's radio program, but from what I hear I think I would like it.

Larry Elder hosts a show on KABC 790AM in Los Angeles and describes himself as fiscally conservative, but liberal socially (which really means that he is a little more rational than the average conservative, not more liberal).

Elder has never apparently felt it necessary to muzzle himself out of concern for offending his listeners. Some of his more controversial beliefs and statements on the air include:

  • anyone believing O.J. Simpson was not guilty of the two murders is short a couple of cards in the deck.
  • he is opposed to affirmative action.
  • he believes that racism is not nearly as widespread a problem as the black community would have people believe.
  • he believes that racism is used as a crutch and a cop-out

Not surprisingly, these and other ideas he has espoused in the past have made Elder seem like a white apologist to the black community. One group in particular, called the Talking Drum Community Forum, has started a jihad against Elder in an effort to get him off the air.

The group targets sponsors of Elder's program which has resulted in several withdrawing their support. This has apparently cost KABC quite a bit of money. The group also distributes flyers, conducts a letter writing campaign and runs telephone messages quoting Elder out of context in support of its pogrom.

Many radio stations would support Elder simply out of their respect for the concept of freedom of speech, but in Elder's case, his position might not be as strong. KABC is owned by Disney, a company pathologically worried about its image. Disney fired several of the on-air personalities, virtually minutes after buying the station early last year.

Perhaps the only thing keeping Elder on the air is that he has very good ratings, with a horse race between he and the competing program at KFI-AM.

So who is coming out to Elder's defense? KABC? Publicly Elder has stated that he feels secure in his job, but considering the weirdness that can emanate from the late Walt's house, I would not put too much stock in that. A group long at odds with conservatism (but does do the right thing occasionally) is defending Elder. That's right. The ACLU is going up to bat for Larry Elder.

If you have just said to yourself, "I do not exactly see what the ACLU can do to protect Elder." then you are on the same page as I am. While the ACLU maintains that this boycott does violate Elder's rights, and would step in if asked to, their end conclusion is if people do not like Elder, they can simply turn the channel. Wow...I would not have thought of that myself.

So Who is Larry Elder?

You would expect a man who calls himself the "Sage of the South" to be more blue collar then academic, but Larry Elder happens to be quite an educated man. He was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. He graduated Brown University in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in political science and in 1977 graduated the University of Michigan School of Law. Elder has also been a successful businessman before moving to talk radio.

I have always maintained that in a free society that consumers have a right to avoid those products that they do not wish to buy (I for example, try and avoid products from China because of their treatment of political prisoners and those fighting for democracy). If that is the case, the proper thing to do to protest Elder's program is to simply not listen. Elder's ratings would drop and he would be soon replaced. Elder, though, is enjoying a lot of popularity so clearly he will not be going anywhere unless Disney fails a gut check, which I consider to be a reasonable hypothesis.

A boycott, especially one as irrational as this, directly violates the station's right of free trade and Larry Elder's free speech. One segment of the community is attempting to censor Elder and KABC.

Talking Drum refuses to debate Elder on air. He has repeatedly invited them with no response. It should tell you much about a group that refuses to rationally debate their ideology with someone they consider to be wrong.

Talking Drum is also a group that will not answer requests for an interview. They are a secretive group that apparently believes that they can decide, in Star Chamber fashion, what is an appropriate voice for the black community. It is ironic that years of fighting to promote black voices has ended with Balkan-like battles to quiet some voices while promoting others. The racism of some black leaders is apparently not much of a problem, but the thoughts of a local radio personality evidently warrants a boycott. "No justice, no peace" is a responsible slogan, but any of personal responsibility is not.

Support Larry Elder

So what can you do? Adopt the tactics of the enemy, except do it responsibly. Visit KABC's homepage and send mail to the station's management in support of Elder. From their email page, you can send email to all of KABC's personalities. So send mail of support to Larry Elder, and mail to Maureen Lousard, president and general manager of KABC, and community relations. It's all centralized on one page so it will not take you any time at all. For your convenience, here is a link to the KABC email page. It only takes a few minutes and you will be defending a man's right to free speech. If you are a conservative, you are obliged to do this. If you are a liberal, it is time to see whether all your talk of rights is just that, talk.  

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