I did not realize my blog with fewer than 50 readers a day would suddenly go viral on this story with over 3900 hits in one day–and the day is not over. Nor did I realize that Rachel Maddow would pick up on this story. I speculated on what possibly could have been “recurring inappropriate content” as MPB Director Kevin Farrell wrote in an email to a listener as the explanation for dropping the popular show. I looked at one weeks worth of programs, reviews, political commentary because if this was indeed a recurring event than it would have to be, well–recurring.
I raised the question of positive images of gays and lesbians as the recurring theme in that weeks show as a possible suspect. Here in the south, homosexuality is still very much an inappropriate topic. Especially when it comes to gay rights. I asked the question was this the recurring theme that was deemed inappropriate?
I asked this question because homophobia comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of it can be internalized and hidden from view and therefore denied. It is insidious in our society, tucked here and there allowing institutionalized policies to rationalize homophobia as being something else entirely. I have never heard anything on Fresh Air that I thought as inappropriate content, let alone recurring. But maybe because as a gay man, I long for positive gay messages on our airways that when ever I hear them, I leap for joy.
One of the comments that I received stated “It was dropped because someone called the IHL building and was placed on hold. the hold music is MPN/NPR and (they claim) Gross was talking about sex in an interview. So, someone who doesn’t even listen to NPR got it pulled off the air.” I held off on publishing this comment because I wanted to verify its information in some manner. The verification came earlier today via email, the source was an insider at MPB. And it was confirmed by another edition of the Rachel Maddow Show.
But this is not a topic that Terry Gross has on a recurring basis. So that leads me to continue to wonder what else is considered “recurring inappropriate content?”
I received a comment from Unity Mississippi stating my post has damaged both the image of Mississippi and MPB where many are allies to the cause of gay rights.
I do not regret in the least of my speaking out and raising the question. In a state where homophobia and sex-phobia run hand in hand enabling high rates of sexual transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, the question needed to be raised. Homophobia is a powerful oppressor which debilitates peoples lives. To allow one caller, obviously not comfortable with their own sexuality–straight, gay or bi– who does not even listen to NPR is a sure indication of how much power is given to those who are fearful of the other.
Homophobia comes in all shapes and sizes and if those who claim to be allies of the GLBT community cave in to the demands of one caller, then I suspect that internalized homophobia or in this case sex-phobia is also at work. I can not and will not allow my life to be shaped by homophobia in any form, from any source, from my gay friends who claim I have damaged the image of Mississippi ( by reinforcing stereotypes) and gay friendly MPB to those who stridently and publicly work against my procuring civil rights. Nor will I bend towards the tugs of homophobia that society has still lodged within my own heart.
My fervent hope is that after the Board at MPB meets today that they will reconsider their positions and return to the airways of Mississippi one of the best shows on NPR, Fresh Air with Host Terry Gross. That they will not allow themselves to be held hostage by one caller or many callers from offering the best in programming that is available. Shows like Fresh Air offer a life line in Mississippi for so many people who want to be exposed to the vast market place of ideas. It does so respecting the inherent worth and dignity of the person being interviewed. The program shows respect of others regardless of their life stories and that is so needed today.