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TIRED OF HATE RADIO? CITIZENS CAN TAKE STEPS TO UNPLUG IT

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MILLIONS OF PEOPLE DON'T even want to act in ways that might muffle hate radio. They love it, or consider it satire, or hope quietly that the plague will pass.

I've heard respectable politicians swapping jokes with sleazy talk-show hosts - an unpleasant performance from several perspectives.I've seen members of groups that have been smeared on radio - blacks, Asians, Jews, Latinos, women, gays, etc. - just shake their heads and change the subject.

There are steps, though, that people can take - as a citizens group discovered in Buffalo, N.Y., after listeners got tired of WGR Radio calling people "spics" and such. Last month, the mouther of such garbage lost his job.

Here are four types of citizen action, all suggested by readers who live here:

1. Complain directly to the radio stations.

Will it help? Probably. And especially when a station is locally owned.

But I'm not convinced yet that complaints alone can reverse a rising tide.

In my experience, the general managers and "producers" of such stations are as likely to respond by questioning your politics, reminding you of "free speech," telling you to lighten up, pretending that words can't hurt - and trying to maintain the audience that likes hate radio.

The reason is obvious. There's money to be made by broadcasting sick jokes, paranoia, toilet talk, out-of-context sound bites, hostility toward foreigners, fear and loathing of homosexuals, contempt for the disabled, ad nauseam.

As for telephoning talk shows and complaining on the air, suit yourself. But the hosts can and often do hang up. They make naive opponents sound like dolts and the hosts always get the last word.

2. Record and analyze hate radio's words.

This requires taping and transcribing: tedious, costly work. But putting the words down in black and white tends to shock ordinary citizens and embarrass even bigots.

3. Complain to the advertisers.

Again, local advertisers may be more susceptible than the national versions.

Since I work for a newspaper, which also depends on advertising, I'm not in a good position to be advocating boycotts. But my paper doesn't peddle hate. And it needs to be reported that one reason WGR in Buffalo cried uncle last month was that the head of the local teachers union organized a boycott of the station's advertisers.

4. Speak out publicly.

People must speak out, says Bruce Joshua Miller, founder of a radio-reforming group in Chicago, because otherwise radio won't change.

But speaking out can be painful. The most irresponsible stations, after all, let their hosts indulge in personal attacks on critics, in fake quotes, provocation, slander and worse. I've heard hate-radio hosts falsely accuse honest critics of common crimes and even treason.

I'll bet hundreds of thousands of people in metro Atlanta have felt dirtied and demeaned by the words they've heard.

And I'll bet if some fight back, others will too. Personally, I feel it's an honor.