Behind shortwave hate radio is a group of entrepreneurial station owners who claim they love free speech
In the anarchic world of underground radio, Allan Weiner is a certifiable legend. Weiner started to gain notoriety in the early 1970s with a series of unlicensed, or "pirate," AM and FM radio stations around New York.
His attempts to sneak onto the air were repeatedly shut down by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — most spectacularly in 1987, when Weiner and a band of radio enthusiasts tried to broadcast alternative rock from a rusty fishing vessel anchored off Long Island.
Coast Guard officers boarded the boat, handcuffed Weiner and shackled him on deck while dismantling his equipment.
Free-speech advocates jumped to Weiner's defense — and many were outraged again in 1994, when Weiner's second attempt at ocean-based broadcasting was routed off the South Carolina coast.
Weiner's memoir, Access to the Airwaves, came out in 1997, with its back cover touting the radio pirate as a "heroic free-speech advocate."
Inside, Weiner struck the noble pose of a liberal-minded martyr. "All I wanted to do," he wrote, "was broadcast messages of peace, love and understanding to the world. Was that such a terrible crime?"
After a 14-year quest to license a legitimate shortwave station with the FCC, Weiner finally succeeded in 1998.
From his farm in little Monticello, Maine, station WBCQ began sending out radio waves that could be picked up in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and all of North America.
At long last, Weiner was beaming out his message of "peace, love and understanding" with the federal government's blessing.
Tune into WBCQ four years later, and you'll hear the message being delivered in the exaggerated accent of an Italian-American New Yorker, to the tune of John Lennon's "Imagine":
Imagine there's no homos. I hate those little fudge-packin' nancy-boy pricks; Manolo, every time I see one, I wanna beat 'im in the friggin' head; You know what I mean? Then I'll rip his heart out, cut off his friggin' little [beeped out]; Imagine all the [gays], oh Manolo, just droppin' dead from AIDS... .
When the song ends, the regular voice of the show's host returns, chuckling. "You don't hear music like that on any radio show, but you hear it here on 'The Hal Turner Show.'"
And the place to hear "The Hal Turner Show" is WBCQ.
Though there are 16 privately owned shortwave stations in the United States, Weiner's is the only one that sells airtime — Monday evening, 8 to 9 p.m. EST — to what Turner loves to call the "most controversial talk show in the world."
But several shortwave station owners sell airtime to radio show hosts with messages that would fit right in on "The Hal Turner Show."
Most owners, like Weiner, argue that they are simply supporting freedom of speech — not making a mint off hate speech.
"It's not a business thing," insists Jeff White, co-owner of Miami-based WRMI, which sends its mostly Latin American listeners a "religious" show that vilifies and ridicules anyone who's not a heterosexual Anglo-Saxon. "The money we're talking about is insignificant."
Not insignificant enough to consistently turn away, however. Other owners are more matter-of-fact about their motives for airing hate-filled broadcasts.
"We do have to stay alive," says George McClintock, general manager of WWCR in Nashville, which claims more than 10 million listeners worldwide.
Besides paying the bills, McClintock says hate broadcasters fill another important — and frightening — role: "They draw an audience."
But Isn't Lynching Murder?
Why would a self-styled peacemaker of the airwaves run the most inflammatory show on shortwave? Questioned by the Intelligence Report, Weiner noted that Hal Turner "has a lot of support and he has people sending him money so he can pay his bills."
But Weiner insists that he doesn't air Turner's show just because he's a good paying customer. It's a matter of principle. "The reason it's on," he said, "is because of a promise I made my listeners [to be] open to all kinds of people."
Turner, a former real-estate salesman in New Jersey who failed in a 2000 run for Congress, certainly takes aim at all kinds of people.
His frequent rants about "f------" are only the tip of the iceberg. Turner talks about "savage Negro beasts," "lazy-ass Latinos ... slithering across the border with wet backs" and "bull-dyke lesbians." He has described Israeli soldiers as "the spawn of Satan" who "deserve to be hunted down and killed."
In the creative revision of John Lennon's classic song, listeners were asked to "Imagine there's no cripples," with the faux-Italian voice adding, "Christ, I wanna kill those goddamn little wheelchair gimps."
Hate murder is a theme of "The Hal Turner Show," which last year repeatedly advertised an imaginary product called the "Portable N----- Lyncher."
"Does the community where you live tend to be getting darker and darker?" asked a voice with an overblown Southern accent. "Are you looking for an evening of entertainment with your friends and family? Well, folks, this is the answer to your prayers. The one and only PNL — Portable N----- Lyncher. Complete with two ropes and custom hand-tied nooses."
Such messages appear to clearly violate Weiner's hate-speech policy, posted on the WBCQ website. "WBCQ Radio shall not broadcast any speech which incites hatred" likely to lead to "physical harm," it promises. The policy goes on to define off-limits hate speech as "advocating or promoting ... killing."
Doesn't lynching count? "Hal Turner doesn't build his whole show around this," Weiner replied. Besides, "Hal does know that I am upset with his program." In fact, he said in all seriousness, he's put Turner on "double-secret probation."
Sad Testimony, Indeed
But soon after Weiner talked to the Report, Turner's show began carrying advertising for one of Pierce's latest brainstorms — "Ethnic Cleansing: The Video Game." This time, the product was real.
A few weeks after the ads started airing, Turner plugged the game with an enthusiastic description:
The media is in a tirade [sic] over 'Ethnic Cleansing' because it allows teenagers to dress up as either a Skinhead or, um, Ku Klux Klan member carrying an assault rifle ... and killing the savage Negro beasts that infest the urban area... .
You are also able to mow down the Third World, savage mongrels, ah, Mexicans, et cetera. Actually, the goal of the game is to come across and capture or destroy Ariel Sharon, the Chief Jew, who along with his fellow Jews are helping to destroy the United States with their sick, perverted multiculturalism.
You heard about it first on the Hal Turner radio show, worldwide on radio station WBCQ.
WBCQ's owner is himself Jewish. But while Weiner calls Turner's views "wacko" and "ridiculous," he contends that we all have something to learn from tuning in.
"I think 'The Hal Turner Show' is a good lesson in people," Weiner said. "It's a sad testimony to the hearts of humans out there."
Helping Your Enemies
Such sad testimony is a programming staple on several shortwave stations based in the United States. Like the Internet, shortwave radio is a medium of choice for the radical right — and for some of the same reasons.
The price is right, with studio equipment running as low as $1,000 and air time around $25 to $250 an hour. With 17 million receivers in the United States and a worldwide audience estimated at a whopping 2.5 billion, that's some serious bang for the buck.
Plus, as William Pierce once explained, shortwave is ideal for the far right because, unlike AM and FM radio, regulations on content are extremely lax.
"Commercial networks are hesitant to take any politically incorrect views," said Pierce, "because they face a lot of pressure from Jewish groups."
Ironically, some of the small number of people who really do have power over shortwave programming — the station owners themselves — are among the very minority groups vilified by Pierce, Turner, and other broadcasters of hate.
The shortwave operators who air the most hate-filled shows include not only Jews like Allan Weiner, but also Catholics and Hispanics.
Take Miami-based WRMI. Founded in 1994 by four men — three of them Hispanic — WRMI's original mission was to air anti-Castro exile programming.
Over the years, the station has broadened its reach with shows of special interest to listeners in Haiti, Brazil, Peru and other parts of Latin America.
More recently, the station has branched out in a different way, broadcasting far-right shows like "Herald of Truth."
Host Robert Hallstrom — call him Pastor Bob — preaches the dogma of the Christian Identity movement, which labels Jews the offspring of Satan, calls for executing homosexuals and deems Anglo-Saxons the real chosen people of God.
People of color, including Hispanics, are viewed as soulless, animals created by God along with the "beasts of the field" as a sort of dry run for real humans.
'Nobody Seems to Mind'
"Pastor Bob is theoretically doing a religious program," says Jeff White, one of WRMI's co-owners. "We do air the program with a strong disclaimer."
Small wonder. In February, Hallstrom presented a program titled "God's Immigration Laws." The pastor from Harrison, Ark., was agitated about "the world's overflow from pagan lands that hate our God."
"By violating God's laws," Hallstrom fumed, "we have now created considerable blocs of unassimilable aliens who have also been given the vote. They hate all the ideals of this land to which they came only to get more money."
Why does WRMI deliver Hallstrom's hatred to an audience that is largely Latin American and, according to White, mostly young?
"I know that many would argue that he is spreading racism behind the cloak of religion," said White, a former public-radio employee who acknowledged that he and the other station owners find Hallstrom's message repugnant. "But we have all types of programs," he said, "and the people can sort it out for themselves."
That philosophy is mirrored by the FCC, which licenses and regulates shortwave stations.
"The FCC cannot prohibit such programming," said Audrey Spivack, a spokesperson for the federal agency.
That leaves it up to the station owners. But their decisions about whether or not to air extremism are anything but consistent.
Though he acknowledges "we've had a lot of [antigovernment] Patriot programming," for instance, White was quick to point out that Hallstrom is the only voice of the extreme right still on WRMI, "the only straggler we have."
"If we had a significant number of complaints about the program," White said, "we'd take it off. But nobody seems to mind."
In fact, WRMI airs at least two other fringe-right shows, including "Battlecry Sounding," hosted by Gen. James Green, who rails against "liberated, jezebelized and lesbianized" women and has offered on-air "cures" for "the sin of sexual deviation."
White claims that he comforts himself with the hope that WRMI's millions of potential listeners will pay no attention to such messages.
"If you are broadcasting this stuff internationally, I think it goes in one ear and out the other," he said. "I think most of the international listeners barely listen — not only to some of the racist stuff, but some of the other political programming that's targeted at a domestic audience. They don't listen to it."
In Tennessee, a Cornucopia of Hate
It's the best bargain in shortwave broadcasting: For only $25 an hour, you can air an hour's worth of vitriol on one of shortwave's most notorious stations, WWRB.
This leader in fringe programming, formerly known as WWFV, was long nestled incongruously in the gently rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where David Frantz started beaming out a 50,000-watt signal from McCaysville, Ga., in 1996.
Although he has since moved to Manchester, Tenn., Frantz still fills an extraordinary amount of his station's airtime with antigovernment, anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist propaganda.
Even William Pierce, whose infamous "American Dissident Voices" Allan Weiner axed from WBCQ, has a home twice a week on WWRB.
In February, the droning, nasal voice of America's leading neo-Nazi could be heard on Frantz's station, predicting that "more and more young people everywhere will see the Jews for the deceivers and corrupters and destroyers that they are."
"If our race is to live and if our civilization is to survive," Pierce advised his worldwide audience, "we must destroy them and those who work for them."
The destruction of gay people has also been strongly recommended on Frantz's station. "The Black Brigade," co-hosted by Pastor John Lewis from his church in Cambellsburg, Ind., specialized in violent anti-homosexual rants until it went off the air last year.
On one show, Lewis mused: "In Columbus, Ohio, I think there are supposed to be 20,000 f---. Wouldn't that make a real barbecue to feed a bunch of gay sharks out in the ocean?"
Asked about such programming, David Frantz refused comment. "We don't respond to any of your questions," he told the Intelligence Report.
But when his neighbors asked the FCC to shut down the station in 1998, claiming that its electromagnetic and radio waves were a public threat, Frantz did talk to the Chattanooga Free Press.
He called the complaints "a ruse," saying local citizens were trying to "run me out" because of the shows he was broadcasting.
"We have been accused of being part of a militia," complained Frantz, who before his shortwave days had a top security clearance as a federal aircraft inspector. "They tried to get DHS [Department of Human Services] to take our children away, and these clowns actually accused me of threatening the president."
Frantz noted that his station had been "given a clean bill of health" by the FCC. Anybody could buy a time slot, he said, even "blacks, Indians, Jews, or the average person on the street."
Who's Getting the Message?
Though shortwave radio beams in under most people's radar in the media-saturated United States, it is one of the most powerful tools for communicating with a worldwide audience.
Exact audience numbers are hard to come by, since there are no Arbitron ratings for shortwave. But Groupe France Telecom, the communications arm of the French government, published a report last year estimating that at any given moment, over 200 million receivers are tuned in to shortwave broadcasts.
With much of the world unwired for the Internet, the agency concluded, "Shortwave remains the only means of reaching a broad audience anywhere in the world."
Thousands of people tune into shortwave broadcasts as a way to learn English. Thousands of others, living in countries with authoritarian regimes, look to their shortwave receivers for an even more pressing reason: They want objective news sources.
What they will get, if they dial up WWCR out of Nashville, Tenn., might be the peculiar spin of Brother R.G. Stair.
A self-proclaimed "prophet of God," Stair sends out doomsday scenarios from the otherwise sleepy town of Walterboro, S.C., twenty-four hours a day on one of WWCR's four 100,000-watt transmitters.
Much of Stair's airtime is devoted to claiming that disasters — both natural and terrorist — are being caused by America's growing acceptance of homosexuality.
In 1999, he gave this example: "The last two Gay Pride days have resulted in an awesome earthquake that shook the entire Western area of the country and a flood that devastated the entire Midwest."
George McClintock, general manager of WWCR, told the Intelligence Report that Stair's views on homosexuality "are from a Biblical point of view. And according to the Constitution, he has a right to that point of view."
Stair doesn't stop with gay people. He has also targeted Catholics, calling them "Mary worshippers" and labeling the pope "the great w----."
That doesn't seem to phase McClintock, either, despite the fact that he is himself a Catholic.
"Those programs are a relatively small portion of what we do," he said. Besides, McClintock said, "Our job is not to make judgment calls."
What Would Ross Say?
Judgment calls abound on some of WWCR's programs. While Stair rains hellfire on gays, Catholics and those who tolerate them, Pete Peters preaches the anti-Semitic, homophobic word of Christian Identity with even more authority — and fire — than Pastor Bob Hallstrom.
Peters, who founded the La Porte Church of Christ in Colorado, hosts two shows on WWCR-3, "Healthy Trinity Today" and "Scriptures for America."
On the latter, Peters instructed a caller in 1997 on the proper etiquette to follow: "If you're going to talk about Jews on my program, talk about them as Antichrist Jews."
Though Peters has been a leading figure in the movement for more than two decades, McClintock insisted that Peters "does not" preach Christian Identity.
"He lives out in a ranch in Colo... whatever it is out there in the Midwest, kind of isolated, and I think the worst you can say about him is he's living in the 1950s, kind of a Ross Perot individual."
Perot might not relish the comparison.
Peters' Colorado church first came to national notice in 1985, when it was revealed that several members of The Order, the most violent far-right terrorist group of the '80s (see The Firebrand), had attended during their criminal heyday.
Presumably because of the negative connotations attached to the term "Identity," Peters has recently disavowed the word — but he hasn't changed his message in any discernible way.
"Certain Jews of this day attempt to take the Israel truth labeled Identity and make it into racism, violence, Nazism and hatred in the minds of the populace," he wrote online in 2000.
"Now that the meaning has been transformed by our enemies, it is now foolish for one to call himself an 'Identity Christian.'"
For lack of a better term, Peters has taken to calling himself part of "the restoration movement now underway."
While McClintock is unruffled by Peters' hate-mongering, one of WWCR's most famous clients, the conservative religious group Focus on the Family, professed shock when they learned of the views that Peters espouses on air.
"Gosh," said press officer Paul Hetrick, "the Bible teaches just the opposite. That is unbelievable."
Hetrick said he intended to check into WWCR's programming, since the Rev. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, was airing his daily 30-minute show in English and Spanish on WWCR-1. Less than a week later, Hetrick called to say his research was done.
"We are sending a letter asking them to stop or discontinue airing our program," he told the Intelligence Report. "We want to express our appreciation to you for calling this to our attention."
If station owners conveniently discount the impact their hate-filled shows can have on listeners, then they might want to talk to Pete Peters.
The pastor from Laporte credits radio with indoctrinating him into Christian Identity. As he tells it, it all started on a drive one lonely night, when a young Peters turned his dial to the blaring voice of a preacher.
That voice happened to belong to Sheldon Emry, who carried the torch for Christian Identity over AM radio stations from the mid-1960s through the 1970s.
Hearing Emry on the radio that night changed Peters' life forever.
Another radio fan, Timothy McVeigh, might tell a similar story if he could be reached for comment.
Most people know the Oklahoma City bomber was a big fan of William Pierce, who in addition to his broadcasting efforts wrote The Turner Diaries, the pseudonymous novel that helped inspire McVeigh's mass murder.
Fewer know about McVeigh's other shortwave hero, William Cooper, whose "Hour of the Time" served up global conspiracy paranoia, complete with UFOs, most nights on shortwave stations including WWCR and WBCQ.
When he wasn't concocting a conspiracy, Cooper was recommending remedies: "I think the American people ought to go there bodily, rip down the United Nations building and kick those bastards off our soil," he once proclaimed on WWCR. "We're at war and I don't really care."
Supposedly quoting the Clinton White House, Rush Limbaugh called Cooper "the most dangerous radio host in America" after the Murrah Building was bombed.
James Nichols, brother of McVeigh's co-defendant Terry Nichols, said during a 1996 court proceeding that McVeigh had regularly tuned in to Cooper's programs in the months leading up to Oklahoma City.
"Hour of the Time" came to a halt last November, when its host was killed in a shootout after critically wounding an Arizona sheriff's deputy.
Cooper had holed up in Eagar, Ariz., since 1998, broadcasting relentlessly and claiming on the air that he had been pursued by "Nazi jack-booted thugs" ever since he failed to appear in court on charges that he paid no taxes from 1992 to 1994.
His death came when authorities tried to arrest him on another warrant — this one accusing him of aggravated assault on a passerby.
For more than a month after the death of the shortwave extremist, Allan Weiner aired selections from Cooper's old programs on WBCQ.
While that didn't do much for his reputation as a purveyor of "peace, love and understanding," it did provide still further proof of Weiner's unguarded view of shortwave radio: "You can just about get on the air and say anything you want."
James Latham is the co-founder of Radio for Peace International (RFPI), a shortwave radio station based outside El Rodeo, Costa Rica, since 1987. He is also the host of "Far Right Radio Review," a show that seeks to expose extremists and their hateful programming on shortwave radio.