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The Bully Boycott

Mark Belling is a bully, and like all bullies, he is afraid of and displeased with something within himself. I don’t believe in karma exactly, but when you throw as many stones as Belling, they’re bound to return to you in the form of an avalanche. Belling’s avalanche finally showed up after his infamous Oct. 27 show in which he accused illegal immigrants of voter fraud and called them “wetbacks.” His radio show on AM 1130 was off the air for a week. Three advertisers pulled their ads. His weekly show on CBS 58, “Belling and Co.” was also on hiatus. Groups protesting Belling include peace activists, gays, Hispanics, Muslims, blacks, union workers, women, and others. A few days before the presidential election, one of Belling’s eagle-eyed listeners exposed the secret liberal agenda of the popular east side restaurant, Beans and Barley. He claimed that Beans was passing out or selling anti-Bush propaganda and employees were forced to wear Kerry/Edwards buttons or shirts. (Those dirty communists! I knew they were cooking up something besides those award-winning vegetarian recipes!) I worked at Beans briefly as a young man, washing dishes. I remember a lot of people working hard in the kitchen, but don’t recall any political platitudes. So I called Peg Silvestrini, one of the owners of Beans. Did they have a Kerry/Edwards placard in the window? “Yes.” Did they force employees to wear Kerry/Edwards pins or T-shirts? “No. They were told they could wear pins of Kerry, Bush or whomever they wanted.” The day of Belling’s show featuring the “Barley report,” Beans received many harassing calls. People yelling things like “You guys suck!” followed by a hang up. On the plus side, it also brought them new, interested customers. The calls, which amused the foodsmiths at first, became annoying, especially when they extended past November 2. One caller offered this shrewd political observation, “Who’s in the white house? BUSH! BUSH! BUSH!” Peg also spoke to a reporter from The Waukesha Freeman (which, by the way, features a weekly column by Belling) who tried to coax some liberal devilspeak from her. “Is this how you try to get customers – by alienating them?” (Apparently serious!) How long has Belling been at this? Michael Horne of milwaukeeworld.com recalls a challenge from Belling about 14 years ago, when Horne was writing for the Shepherd Express.”The issue of the day was AIDS, ” Horne recalls, “and Belling made some absurd and inflammatory charges about AIDS activists. He said, in short, that all AIDS activists were gay activists. This, of course, was preposterous, since many non-gays were interested in controlling the scourge of AIDS. I called his show to say as much. Belling denied ever having said such a thing, and promised me, on the air, $1,000 if I could prove he had ever claimed all AIDS activists were gay activists, and figured that would be the end of it. He ridiculed my wardrobe and appearance for good measure. “As it turns out, AIDS activists Dan and Chris Fons had saved a copy of the Belling show in which he claimed that all AIDS activists were gay activists and gave it to me. I wrote the story up in the Shepherd Express and waited for my $1,000. Of course, I’m still waiting. Eventually, Belling realized that I had trapped him in his lies, and said he’d pay off the $1,000 – a penny at a time. Just another Belling lie.” Belling’s defenders say this is a free speech issue. Notice how quick some people are to point to free speech in a case like this, and how quick to change their tune when they hear a rap song they don’t like. Yes, they’re right – Belling can say what he wants. But people also have a right to protest and tell Belling, WISN, and their advertisers that they don’t like what they hear. Belling should be allowed on air. But wouldn’t it be great if no one listened? Here’s one last Belling bit that says a lot about this whole thing. How does he feel about a commuter rail attaching Milwaukee to its suburbs? “It’s stupid.” Why? “No one (will ride it).” And how could he know this? “My knowledge of human behavior.” With our politically polarized country, I think we should all reevaluate what we think we know about human behavior. And how did Belling evaluate his own behavior? After being off the air for a week he returned the next Monday, where he declared there were “deliberate attempts to silence me.” He joked that he would welcome pickets at the station if they were waitresses from Hooters. He made a joke about Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter. And, to prove that he really had learned nothing, he said, “This show ain’t changing at all.” Not even one little bit? Just what I’d expect from a playground bully.