June 15, 2007
I don’t really fit in with anyone’s plans for a fascist state. If you want to put a label on me
I suppose you might call me an old fashioned patriotic American.
Memorial Day, May 28, 2007
A Page of Links about The humble Farmer's radio show.
You have great taste in music. But I tuned in Friday nights to hear music, not to hear someone force their political beliefs on me. I am able to make my own decisions. I'm sorry your music is gone. I'm glad your mouth with be replaced.
You are absolutely right, Bob. Thanks for listening for so many years. Come down and have supper with us when you can.
Your Buddy humble
June 15, 2007
I don’t really fit in with anyone’s plans for a fascist state. If you want to put a label on me I suppose you might call me an old fashioned patriotic American.
Memorial Day, May 28, 2007
June 14, 2007
To Maine Public Broadcasting:
Congratulations. I don’t really know what you’ve won, but evidently you won something. You’ve silenced the humble Farmer.
In reality, we've all lost. The MPBN network has lost the integrity that comes with freedom of speech, a concept that seems to escape management.
I'm very disappointed in Maine Public Broadcasting.
The listening public has lost a very entertaining program. humble‘s humor sometimes left us scratching our heads, but more often laughing on the floor. It’s truly a Maine style of humor. Other people tell jokes and put on a phony Maine accent. humble is the real thing.
So what if humble’s humor occasionally bordered on political? He’s a humorist, not a politician. Most of his humor is not on a political line, and it is probably less political than the jokes told among staff in your office. Much less. Other humor programs broadcast on your network contain political remarks, but I’ve never heard of any efforts to force “codification” contracts on programs bought from other NPR entities. In fact, you pay large sums to the entities that produce them, while humble worked humbly for a quarter century, for nothing.
I cannot imagine what purpose your “codification” of program standards serves. How on earth did you manage to broadcast humble’s program for nearly 30 years without them?
The bottom line: What we’re looking at here is a network that I cannot support. If what you stand for is censorship, then you are on the wrong road, and not on my radio.
Free Speech on the Public Airwaves
Robert Skoglund – “The humble Farmer,” as listeners know him – was right not to accept the new guidelines imposed by MPBN station management last month to severely limit what he could say on the air. That this principled gesture cost him his show, ending his nearly 30-year tenure on Maine’s public airwaves, ought to raise red flags for anyone who cares about free speech.
MPBN’s own mission statement expresses a commitment to “fostering an informed and active citizenry,” and to “providing a forum for a broad spectrum of opinions and perspectives.” How can these noble goals comport with speech guidelines that instruct the station’s creative staff not to “include content or showcase views and opinions on sensitive or controversial issues?”
As The humble Farmer recognized, such a vague and broad category of forbidden speech would constrict his creative freedom, acting as a constant reminder to choose his words carefully. He refused to sign the guidelines on principle, knowing he would probably be fired, setting an example for his colleagues and standing up for his listeners, who deserve public radio programming that truly keeps them “informed and active” and includes a “broad spectrum of opinions and perspectives.”
MPBN’s leadership maintains that the station offers a clearly designated forum for political discussion, and that for the rest of the day, its hosts are meant only to “entertain.” Clearly, this scheme leaves no room for a Maine original like Skoglund, whose humor and insight ranged over many issues, and – like all good humor – sometimes tested the limits.
MPBN says it’s only trying to achieve “balance” in its programming, but the idea of “balance” is meaningless in this context. Humor and entertainment can’t be “balanced,” and commentary is worthless if it’s always reduced to “on the one hand and on the other.” The attempt to achieve balance comes at the expense of insight, creativity, and freedom, and will produce only bland, inconsequential programming. Nothing is more “balanced,” after all, than silence.
The National Coalition Against Censorship
In case you're curious, here's what I said that "tested the limits." This letter from a radio friend in Maryland is what got my show pulled off the air.
If anyone told you that reading this letter would get anyone pulled off any radio station anywhere, you would have said that it wasn't possible.
Rant # 8. Dear humble, We live near DC and "tax cut" never means better control of pork barrel spending or programs that benefit corporations at the expense of everyman. It always means that the cuts will be in social services, humanitarian efforts, environmental issues, and all those "useless" programs that generally benefit the poor and middle class and not the wealthy. A tax "ceiling" was implemented on spending in nearby Prince George's County. The result - PG County is now one of the worst counties in the nation in terms of student achievement, even though it has had had a huge influx of higher paid residents. The folks who can afford it, even the minority residents, are sending their kids to private schools. Teachers have to buy their own supplies, books arrive three weeks after school starts because the school system's expenditures are slow. Fiscal responsibility is one thing. Tax cuts designed to "red tape" needy programs to death while expediting tax cuts to the wealthy (described as "beneficial to the economy") are another.
Bowdoinham, ME 04008
June 14, 2007
Barry McCrum, Trustee Chairman
65 Texas Ave.
Bangor, ME 04401
Dear Mr. McCrum:
I was quite disappointed when I tuned in to “Maine Things Considered” yesterday to learn that “The Humble Farmer” will no longer be on the air. Imagine my dismay when I learned why.
People look to public radio as a paragon of free speech and open-mindedness. For the station to require its non-news staff to sign an agreement promising not to express their personal views on the air because their shows are merely “entertainment” flies in the face of that. The fact that none of the shows on Public Radio is generic and “dumbed down” – be it news or entertainment – is precisely the reason I have been such a loyal listener and supporter for so many years.
Do you honestly believe that anyone, anyone, listened to “The Humble Farmer” for decades only for the music? We listened for his commentary and his wit; we listened because he was like an old friend, with his own quirks and foibles and, yes, his own point of view. To ask him to promise, in writing, to squelch that uniqueness is like asking him to play only one song over and over forever. It’s absurd and shameful, and smacks of Sinclair Broadcasting, not Public Radio.
For that reason, my husband and I will no longer financially support Maine Public Broadcasting. It’s not so much because we were loyal listeners of “The Humble Farmer,” but because we believed that you were loyal to the cause of Public Radio. I’m sorry that we were wrong.
June 13, 2007. You're an American hero, Robert! Thank you for not signing something you don't believe in. My son (also named Robert) recently refused to sign a parking permit form at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School that said that his car could be searched at any time, without his consent or knowlege, by the administration (not even the police - we're talking about the school administrators - in fact, the South Paris police would require a search warrant) if they had a "reasonable" cause to do so. This pretty much violates his constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure so he refused to sign it and we, as parents, backed him up on it. The principal threatened to tow his car - Rob said, "Go ahead, I'm not signing away my rights." He further made the point that just because other kids in the school might have drugs or weapons in their cars didn't mean that his rights should be compromised when he was clean and minding his own business. The car has not been towed.
I know that story is a much smaller thing than actually losing your radio show, which is a pretty big thing. But you can sleep at night knowing you didn't compromise your principles and that's refreshing in today's world. Will your show perhaps appear on another station anytime soon? We hope so.
Best wishes - Beth
Fascist America, in 10 easy steps
From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.
Yesterday someone mentioned that because MPBN had censored humble, a woman had taken MPBN out of her will.
Half a million?
I now make two shows. One meets the standards for MPBN "guidelines" and the other one is for people.
Another interesting result of the censorship is that two television stations and a newspaper have contacted me and asked me for permission to broadcast the show I make for people.
If you know of any other television stations that are watched by people you might mention this to them.
Last year Nasa's top climate scientist, James Hansen, reported that his bosses were trying to censor his lectures, papers and web postings. He was told by Nasa's PR officials that there would be "dire consequences" if he continued to call for rapid reductions in greenhouse gases.
Neutrality or Censorship?
Written by Gertrud Champe
Thursday, April 19, 2007
There is a little drama playing out at MPBN that should engage the attention of everyone who supports freedom of speech. I would have said “quietly playing out, but in fact, The Christian Science Monitor has picked up the story, so it’s getting around the country.
On Friday nights, as part of an evening of jazz, there is a show on Public Radio called “The Humble Farmer.” Our friend Humble, aka Robert Skoglund, alternates spinning jazz platters with commentary about the foibles of the world, ranging from neighbors who don’t return tools they borrow to the making of war. He calls his own comments “rants,” and they are, in fact, sharp cracker barrel humor. Even if you don’t agree with them, they are terribly funny most of the time. But now, for the past few weeks, Mr. Skoglund hasn’t said anything but name of the performer of each selection he plays. Granted, the way he says it is highly expressive, but what’s going on here?
This is what: in a bizarre letter taken straight from a handbook for nightmare bureaucrats, the management of the station has told Mr. Skoglund that he must “maintain political neutrality, real or perceived…” in his program. Apparently, we the listeners have stomachs too weak for political satire. Or is Humble supposed to be an equal opportunity offender, like the Capitol Steps?
We’re becoming a nation of whiners who don’t want to hear what we don’t believe already anyway (this writer being just as bad as anyone else). That’s such a mistake! Disagreement can be a good thing when it breeds conversation, discussion, response. But that can’t happen if everything is neutral (that word means neither one thing nor the other – you know, wishy-washy). The resulting programs may be neutral all right, but the process is bad. It’s called censorship, and supposedly, that’s not the way we do things in America,
The Humble Farmer has opinions. He hates smoking and drinking. Some people who smoke and/or drink may be offended. They may not listen to his show. He has many opinions including political. If his political opinions were similar to those expressed on Fox news, I might stop listening to him. However, I want to emphasize “might” because the music he plays is right up my alley.
It seems to me that the station should not censor him. Rather, if you think he is crossing some line that might cause people to tune out, you might point this out to him adding that if he gets too few listeners, you will take him off the air.
To say that you have to balance his political opinions with the other side can’t be true. If that were the case Fox would have been shut down long ago. I believe that there was, several years ago, a balance requirement that has since been removed.
While I’m writing, I assume Echoes and Hearts of Space are on at 11 o’clock to put people to sleep. There are some of us who are driving at that time and need to stay awake but if as many people are listening to those shows as listen to Humble, by all means keep them on the air and don’t suggest they change anything.
Humble here. For 25 or more years I've been aware that my listening audience breaks down along class lines. Many years ago I discovered that they drove Volvos and had at least two college degrees. You can see this dichotomy in the letters about me to the editor of the PPH. If you find my comments boring, you are either way above me or way below me. It's interesting to consider that when I delivered the same rants on television in Knox County for 8 years, I captured the attention of all social classes. Perhaps not having to listen to music that you can't understand made the TV commentary-only show more interesting. What do you think?
While I was at the Public Radio Program Managers convention in Philadelphia, there was discussion about the many ways we can now get our information and music. Public Radio managers are aware of this and are sweating it. Anyone who wants to hear the kind of music I play on my program can simply tune into one of the innumerable computer channels and listen away. They don't need a monkey to play records for them. The kind of music-only program I now make for MPBN lacks any kind of relevance. Program producers might have already discovered that if you want any kind of a listening audience, you are going to have to pack something in there that will amuse the listener or grab and hold his attention.
Last month, the Alaskan branch of the US fish and wildlife service told its scientists that anyone travelling to the Arctic must understand "the administration's position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues".
MPBN President Jim Dowe was kind enough to offer you the opportunity to say a few well-chosen words at the April 12, 2007 MPBN Board meeting in Lewiston.
Thank you for attending if you did. And thank you for your interest if you you couldn't.
The April 14, 2007 Rockland Courier Gazette reported on this meeting as follows:
"Newman, a teacher at Senior College in Thomaston said that the control of free speech was reminiscent of the atmosphere in his native Czechoslovakia during World War II."
It is important that you and I call and write MPBN President Jim Dowe to let him know that we appreciate his interest in resolving this matter.
I really can't say who, but a board member at MPBN called me on my show on WERU, said she liked the music I was playing, and suggested I "apply for your job". I told them to call me at home, then thought about it for a second, and said, no never mind. Not interested.
You might be interested to know that Santa Claus is richer than Daddy Warbucks because being immortal, the elf employees don’t require health insurance.
Please click here if you feel your life has been enriched by any of this material.
Thank you, from Your Buddy humble
© 2007 Robert Karl Skoglund