Fully cocked

Integration, schmintegration: Should media personalities freely and openly discuss the attributes and pitfalls of cultural integration in Sacramento? Where does humor end and insensitivity begin? Is it appropriate for a mayor to use civic cheerleading as a reason for media censorship? And does half-cocked plus half-cocked equal fully cocked?

These are just a few of the many questions raised by the battle between Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo and the Armstrong & Getty Show (heard weekday mornings on KSTE AM 650) in a conflict that appears to be equal parts politically correct over-sensitivity and radio publicity stunt.

It all began on August 28 when hosts Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty talked about the Time Magazine article that had just named Sacramento the most culturally integrated city in the country. As is typical for this pair, “We didn’t really have a main point,” Getty told Bites. “We were just going through the article and making comments.”

Yet one persistent and provocative theme to the comments was questioning whether diversity was really such a good thing, so when A&G got to the part in the article at which a William Land Elementary School student who spoke only Chinese quickly learned to count in English, they were unimpressed.

How much valuable teaching time had been wasted on this Chinese girl, they wanted to know. And is it really a good thing to be mixing English-speaking kids with non-English-speakers, or the homeless, or homosexuals for that matter? Comedy being what it is, pretty soon, they were riffing off the idea and cracking jokes about homeless gays who couldn’t speak English.

Meanwhile, Mayor Fargo and her chief-of-staff Chuck Dalldorf were in the car, driving to an event, appalled by what they were hearing. They were proud Time honored the city’s diversity and mad to hear the show denigrating that distinction, so they called Dennis Mangers over at the Capital Unity Council to suggest a letter-writing campaign against A&G.

Mangers turned the suggestion into an e-mailed call to arms, and letters began flowing toward the station, its sponsors and the Federal Communications Commission. One such letter, from City Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, blasted the “mindless shock jocks” and urged the FCC to clamp down.

Once A&G got wind of the effort last week, they returned fire with both barrels, devoting Friday’s show to blasting Fargo, creating an “Armstrong & Getty Fight City Hall!” section on the KSTE Web site and doing a live remote in front of City Hall on Monday’s show.

Getty is outraged—outraged!—that the mayor would target the show without even being able to cite exactly what she found so offensive. Yet he confirmed Dalldorf’s contention that the station has refused a request for copies of the tape, which Getty said they are considering replaying on a future show.

The Bites take: Fargo and the Capital Unity Council went off a little half-cocked after admittedly hearing just 10 minutes of the show. But so did Armstrong and Getty in accusing Fargo of leading a letter-writing campaign when she has yet to write a letter.

But, with the lively themes of race, censorship and the power of City Hall, you can’t fault Armstrong and Getty for playing this one to the hilt, even if their “outrage” is as much about ratings as principles.

Perspective: During her speech in Sacramento last week, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto mourned what she described as the trio of victims from last year’s 9/11 terrorist attacks: (1) the victims of the attacks and our military response; (2) the image of Islam; and (3) “Democracy, which has been sacrificed for political expediency in my Pakistan and other places around the world.”

It was a chilling and insightful analysis we all should heed. In Bhutto’s country, the military dictatorship has dismantled democracy with our country’s support, just as we prop up repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere and block needed reforms to our democracy at home, all the while mouthing supreme faith in the notions of freedom and democracy.

“America need not coddle dictators to promote its own interests,” Bhutto said. “I urge the government of America and the people to stand for your values.”