During a KBGA board meeting in early March, Missoula Current owner Martin Kidston marched onto the University of Montana campus, stormed into the University Center, swung open the door to KBGA’s offices and barged into the meeting, barking baseless threats of lawsuit against KBGA’s student staffers. Kidston then whined about information that didn’t even broadcast on KBGA’s airwaves and left his business card on the table, ostensibly to show us all that he really means business.
Apparently Martin Kidston thought Missoula’s college radio station was somehow responsible for outing him as Montana’s Gomer Pyle, or for revealing his characteristic errors and outright fabrications that earned him that title in the first place. It seems as though Martin “Gomer” Kidston thinks that free speech rights guaranteed by the 1st Amendment only apply to him, and him alone, but with none of the caveats or consequences associated.
Gomer’s temper tantrum made us wonder why such a prestigious publication like the Missoula Current would lower itself to bullying volunteer DJ’s at a nonprofit College radio station. And how is it that a former Marine could be tough enough to withstand the Crucible, but just too much of a wussy to deal with the honest criticisms of his own bumbling blunders?
They say you’re not supposed to punch down, and one wouldn’t think that criticizing one of Missoula’s only two newspapers would qualify as punching down. The Missoulian and the Current both represent establishment viewpoints. But Kidston reveals himself to be such a petty nincompoop on such a regular basis that one almost feels bad condemning his false facts, revealing his fabricated quotes and laughing at his unhinged conspiracy theories.
Almost. That is, until you realize how Gomer weaponized his publication by deliberately misquoting people, stretching events, and sinking to outright libel, in order to spin a narrative favorable to those who benefit from Missoula’s ongoing gentrification nightmare.
Old “Gomer” was at it again this March. Only this time he resorted to intimidating some college kids to make himself feel better. And who can blame him? Who doesn’t threaten children from time to time to blow off some steam? It sure can make a man feel powerful. There’s a very special high that comes from the fear radiating off of terrified youngsters. But I hear that the taste of their terror is especially sweet when your threats aren’t even based in reality. Bon Appétit, Kidston.
Point of Order: KBGA has never aired anything libelous or even critical of Kidston, either during the Outer Limits broadcast or otherwise. As the Outer Limits has taken this story, we respectfully protected KBGA from any potential backlash by preemptively leaving these stories off of their air waves entirely. Indeed, Kidston may be offended by content offered on this website that reveals beyond a reasonable doubt what a lying hack he really is. But said content has little to do with KBGA, as none of it has ever appeared on their airwaves.
Perhaps Mr. Kidston was unaware that our editorial team is separate from our performance team. We have writers and we have actors. And the members of our team that handle the KBGA broadcast are not the same folks publishing content, nor are they the same folks writing said content. This fact was grossly overlooked by both KBGA staff, as well as the deranged goofball who threatened them.
Regardless of these inconvenient facts, Martin “Gomer” Kidston demanded the names and phone numbers of the Outer Limits team. Thankfully, our station managers had the good sense not to provide that kind of information to such an overbearing lunatic without our consent.
Nevertheless, Gomer’s threats and intimidation sufficiently frightened the impressionable kiddos currently staffing KBGA. And the anxiety-driven confusion now clouding their judgement has caused them to preemptively pull the plug on the Outer Limits Saturday afternoon broadcast indefinitely.
Evidently, the mere threat of hypothetical cases seems to be all it takes to kill a radio show with no questions asked. Not because someone has sued, but merely because someone might.
How could Gomer’s fear-mongering overwhelm KBGA’s reason like this?
Because Kidston seems to know that the University’s policy with lawsuits is always to settle. Always. Lawsuits hurt the University’s enrollment, especially if ongoing, and it’s much cheaper in the long run to just settle and concede, no matter what the plaintiffs allege. Remember how the University rolled over and paid Jordan Johnson $245,000 merely for threatening lawsuit?
But what could have ever possessed Gomer to freak out on college kids with such threats?
Perhaps Mr. Kidston felt irritated after he himself was threatened with a defamation lawsuit last week for publishing outright fabrications in his Missoula Current. As we reported last week, Matt Wardell was blatantly libeled by Kidston when the Missoula Current attributed statements to him that were never made:
“One of those speakers, who has protested during public comment several times in recent weeks, admitted that he too has made a threatening video. Like Bryant, he also contends his video was taken out of context by what he described as a digital stalker.”
It strains the brain to ponder how Kidston could write such incoherent nonsense, especially when you see what Wardell actually said during the meeting in question:
“I want to start by saying first, nothing I am saying here, or ever have said, or will say here, publicly, privately, anywhere, should be taken as a call to violence of any kind. I’m a person of peace. I’m a Christian. I’m committed morally and spiritually to nonviolence.
“I also want to address, because I’ve already heard from Mr. Rynearson, the guy whose video led to my friend’s arrest, he’s been looking through my stuff. So I want to let you guys know I’m chronically ill, I’ve dealt with addiction, I hope it isn’t used against me.”
There is nothing about Wardell’s public comment from 24 February 2020 that could even remotely be construed as an admission of making a threatening video. And yet, that’s exactly what the Kidston piece insinuates. And even though he didn’t put his name into print, Wardell knew right away who Kidston was talking about. It was obvious to anyone who attended the meeting, and especially infuriating for Wardell.
Wardell promptly threatened to sue Kidston and the Missoula Current for this brazen attack, a fact that he vocalized at the following Monday’s Council meeting:
“Last week I came and professed a spiritual commitment to nonviolence, and before I had returned to my seat, I was accused of levying a personal attack, by a man who now won’t even look me in the eye. And the next morning I found in the Missoula Current, an article saying that I had confessed to sending the video that Brandon was arrested for.
“I was mortified! I ran to my computer and I looked up the video, thinking I had terribly misspoken somehow. Nothing in my statement could be construed as a personal attack or an admission of any kind by anyone with even a basic grasp of the English language, unless they had intentionally misheard me.
“I came to talk about shared definitions and mutual understandings so that we could build a basis to move forward. And I am afraid now. I’m afraid because there are things just blatantly made up about me and put out in the press. I had to call and threaten this man with a lawsuit to get him to retract. He did quickly. I think he knew what he’d done.
“I want what’s right for this town. I don’t have a fortune to protect or to grow. I want to build a family here, not a business. I don’t have money to make. I’ll leave you alone. Please leave me alone.”
Wardell’s pleas echo a ripple of fear currently spreading throughout Missoula, that citizens who speak out against local government are unscrupulously punished for doing so.
And speaking of being punished for speaking the truth, we return now to the story of how KBGA muzzled the Outer Limits. Because the censorship did not begin recently. It began over a month prior to Gomer’s campus rampage.
On 04 February 2020 we were alerted via Email by the KBGA Program Director of another smear piece written by Kidston, this one against drone whistleblower Brandon Bryant. The Email read as follows:
“A new article from the Missoula Current has been brought to my attention recently. In it a fellow named Bradon [sic] Bryant was mentioned, and after looking at this social media, we noticed that he may be tied to you, your show, and the station in some way. Before KBGA comes out in a statement in regards to his actions towards City Council members, I wanted to contact you to get more information about your connections with Brandon, if he has been on the Outer Limits, and the extent he has been on our air waves. Feel free to let me know and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
KBGA College Radio”
Outer Limits responded in kind:
“Brandon Bryant is the Air Force drone whistle blower who appeared on our Veteran’s Day program last November.
“I wasn’t aware of this Kidston piece, but after reading it, it seems extremely unbalanced – it starts with a smear right off the bat, that Bryant “claims to be an Air Force veteran.” Good God, I’ve seen him on Democracy Now! and BBC Hard Talk and the UN.
“Let me dig into this and I’ll get back to you with something more later this evening.”
After being made aware of these developments, we went to work, not only to investigate and report, but to prioritize this story in place of our regularly scheduled broadcast. KBGA staff effectively tasked the Outer Limits team when Program Director Natalie Schmidt directed our attention to the “new article from the Missoula Current” because Gomer’s errors and inconsistencies were just too blatant to ignore.
The Outer Limits endeavored to de-escalate the situation by debunking the blatant character assassination of a man who many see as an American hero: internationally acclaimed drone-war-crimes-whistleblower, PTSD-afflicted veteran and Missoula TIF-abuse-opponent, SSgt. (USAF Ret.) Brandon Bryant. Like Wardell, Bryant had become a vocal critic of Tax Increment Financing schemes at Monday night City Council meetings. And also like Wardell, his character was smeared by the Missoula Current on behalf of the wealthy cronies exposed to this new wave of citizen criticism.
However, numerous troubling elements regarding Bryant’s situation immediately reveal themselves in the aforementioned Email. From a perceived social media association between Brandon Bryant and The Outer Limits, KBGA staff decided to inform us that Bryant was banned from campus. But the Outer Limits does not have a significant social media presence.
Regardless, this question is completely irrelevant to The Outer Limits as Bryant is not, and has never been, a member of our crew. So why inform us of this at all?
KBGA staff requested we muzzle this, the biggest local news story of 2020, due to concerns of political retaliation by local officials who have a history of abusing their power. We understood those concerns and continued to honor the station’s preference to “hold off” the broadcast.
Unfortunately, while such considerations indeed seem legitimate, their necessity simultaneously illustrates precisely why this information is so important to get into the public eye to begin with. Because Bryant is but the latest casualty in a long line of political abuses that are allowed to continue city wide. And they’re only allowed to continue because of the local media blackout that actively prohibits any critical coverage of said abuses or officials. Since the closure of the Missoula Independent, political watchdogs have been put on the endangered species list here in the Zoo, further allowing and encouraging the cancer of corruption to continue its metastasis unchallenged.
The Outer Limits was one of very few outlets remaining in Missoula’s dismal media landscape with any traction to meaningfully challenge these political and informational monopolies. Maybe our commitment to the truth has painted a target on KBGA’s back, but that isn’t any reason to stifle the First Amendment. The freedom of speech is the freedom to offend. End of story. That’s why it’s first. Priority number one of our Bill of Rights is our freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition.
We are tasked by duty to get the story right, which we have, unlike other local media outlets such as the Missoula Current. When militarized police mobilized the downtown lockdown of 12 February 2020, the Outer Limits reported that the broken window was likely the result of a spontaneous shatter event, which it was, while other publications actively sought the invention of a mass shooting hoax. And when local media were already accusing Brandon Bryant of firing shots at the police, the Outer Limits again set the record straight, illustrating the clear impossibility of such a scenario. And now that Martin “Gomer” Kidston has done exactly what we predicted would happen, smearing more local activists with even more lies and fabrications, the Outer Limits rests its case.
Unfortunately, some seemed willing to publish any rumor they heard, no matter how ludicrous, the most egregious example of which took place at the Hellgate Lance:
“Brandon Bryant, the cause of all of the chaos this past Wed. was arrested and taken into custody on Thurs., Feb. 13… Bryant reportedly shot out the back glass of a police patrol car, fired shots outside of City Hall, and posted a video where he said that he would, “hunt people and exterminate them.”
They couldn’t even get the date of his arrest right. And in the blink of an eye, the entire chronology of the downtown lockdown in-turn betrayed Bryant’s entire reputation and history. That it came from a school publication added insult injury, since Bryant’s mother works for Missoula County Public Schools herself.
It’s called following up, kids. You never go with a story that only has one source; that’s propaganda. Many of the above errors could have easily been avoided with a simple phone call to the Missoula Police Department.
Sadly, Missoula’s schools are abysmally underfunded, in part due to the unintended consequences of the taxpayer giveaway scheme known as Tax Increment Financing which deprives school districts of desperately needed funds; the very reason Bryant, among others, was speaking out. Maybe the Hellgate Lance was unable to follow up with the police simply because the Missoula Public School system literally couldn’t afford the phone bill, ironically due to the long-term effects of Tax Increment Financing, which also negatively affect police departments.
Local media outlets have already been forced to concede that the Outer Limits had all of these stories correct from the very beginning, as they have all walked back their previous narratives from their formerly frenzied extremes.
In spite of the fact that our coverage of the Brandon Bryant affair has demonstrated far greater accuracy than most competing “news”outlets, the staff at KBGA just can’t be bothered with the facts. It doesn’t matter that Kidston regularly publishes lies. Nor does it matter that exposing those lies didn’t even involve KBGA’s air. The only thing that seems to matter to KBGA is the fear that Montana’s Gomer Pyle might actually go postal and sue Missoula’s college radio station.
The Outer Limits team have an 11-year history of going well out of our way to protect the interests and reputation of KBGA, prioritizing the good of the station over all else. We regularly veto content based on a wide variety of considerations, both legal, ethical, and moral, including FCC regulations, the business climate of KBGA’s underwriters, and the time limitations of KBGA staff.
So it wasn’t just us who were baffled by KBGA’s extraordinary apprehension surrounding this story. That bafflement is shared by both KGVO and KFGM – two stations that demonstrated the willingness to cover this story with the honesty it deserves.
The preservation of speech rights depends upon people of conscience to publish the truth, no matter how inconvenient it may seem, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel, no matter how unpopular it may be. And there’s a massive cost that we all pay for failing to observe this fundamental law.
As Tavis Smiley brilliantly articulates every January during our annual MLK broadcast, “There’s a huge price that our society pays when we ignore our truth tellers.”
It might seem politically wise to congratulate courage retroactively, awarding praise when the possibility for danger no longer exists. But when the instinct for self-preservation dominates otherwise rational thought to the detriment of the good, we can call it out for what it really is: Cowardice.
Defaulting to the path of least resistance does not inspire excitement or solidarity. When push comes to shove, defaulting to the “easy button” can only betray future prosperity. There is nothing whatsoever to congratulate if we don’t take a stand in the moment when it seems difficult to do so. And the thresher of controversy will separate the wheat from the chaff when those committed to truth and justice distinguish themselves from those too afraid to do what is right.
We acknowledge that such courage seems difficult, especially for folks inexperienced in such matters. But this is a critical moment in Missoula’s unfolding history, and one that we may look back on with great regret if we decide that we were able to help change the deadly tide of cronyism, corruption and abuse in the Garden City, but instead chose to do nothing because it seemed the safer choice at the time. There are never any rewards for playing it safe, and those who would sacrifice liberty for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.
And the same forces threatening to bulldoze everything wonderful about Missoula now threaten KBGA, whether station staffers “allow” this story to broadcast on their airwaves or not. Because yesterday it was Brandon Bryant being silenced; today it’s us; tomorrow it’s you.
Apparently KBGA personnel are not allowed to reveal criminally deliberate instances of journalistic malfeasance as perpetrated by the Missoula Current and other outlets who should know better than to propagandize their audience. Apparently we’re not allowed to clear the name of a man facing a politically motivated prosecution. Apparently KBGA personnel are not allowed to broadcast the other side of the story, because evidently the 1st Amendment doesn’t matter. And astonishingly, KBGA staffers maintain that there is no 1st Amendment issue here.
After we were informed of Kidston’s litigious threats, Program Director Natalie Schmidt nervously told us about our upcoming 6-month leave that was later characterized as a “suspension” but never justified with a coherent reason. Schmidt then asked us how we felt about moving our operation over to KFGM 105.5 FM, despite the fact that there is no reason for such a transfer to take place because we’ve done nothing wrong. So we requested a meeting with the board and left it at that.
But the board never got back to us. The silence on Saturday afternoons became too deafening to ignore, and our listeners were becoming increasingly anxious. Some even called the station. And from those phone calls, it was soon brought to our attention that KBGA staffers were explaining our absence to perplexed listeners by claiming “They quit.”
When we contacted KBGA about this obvious lie, General Manager Elizabeth Wipperman replied: “We offered you to stay off the air for three months, and that after that time to come back to the station and discuss where to go from there.” But this is untrue, since the proposed “break” was not for 3 months; we were told to take a 6 month break. And telling us not to air specific content does not constitute grounds for a “break” at all, especially when we’ve never so much as received a disciplinary “write-up” for anything in over 11 years. But rather than meet and discuss the particulars of this situation, KBGA continues to ignore us, pretending this situation doesn’t exist at all.
This all highlights the unfortunate lack of integrity exhibited by the children running Missoula’s college radio station; children who were all in diapers when we began broadcasting over a decade ago.
And after 11 years of faithful service and uninterrupted programming characterized by awards and celebrations, Schmidt claims that KBGA’s flagship show simply walked off the job after being offered to take a “break” for no intelligible reason.
One lie on top of another.
George Orwell defined journalism as the act of printing or broadcasting information that someone doesn’t want disclosed, dismissing everything else as Public Relations. By getting this story wrong, whether deliberately or not, local media make the situation orders-of-magnitude worse than a mere PR problem. In Missoula 2020, A River STILL Runs Through It. Only now that river is called corruption and it is currently in flood stage.
We couldn’t help but wonder, “What would the Missoula Independent have to say about this if they were still around today?” Then came an awful realization: We actually have the Missoula Current to thank for the death of the Missoula Independent.
That’s right. The justification employed by Lee Enterprises to purchase the Independent involved alleging that the existence of The Missoula Current meant that their acquisition of the Independent did not create a publication monopoly in Missoula.
That’s a cute legal defense, and unfortunately for Missoula, a very efficacious one as well. After all, Nick “monopoly” Checota employed a similar justification several years ago when a regional promoter sued him for “anti-competitive practices”, arguing that he used his companies to “eliminate Mr. Checota’s competition in the Missoula, Montana, entertainment market and to profit personally through his closely held entities.”
At the time, Checota cited competing venues that have either since closed down, or are now controlled by him, as clever deflection against monopoly accusations. There’s always a loophole for those who can afford the lawyers to find it. And in the case of Lee Enterprises, that loophole allowed for a similar elimination of competition. Because just one year after buying it, Lee closed The Independent on Tuesday, 11 September 2018, leaving a giant void where justice and humor once existed.
This now makes two local media organizations killed by Kidston, who has proven himself an effective cat’s paw for Missoula’s ruling elite.
With all of these factors considered together, we can begin to understand why some Missoula locals are now discussing an organized boycott of the Missoula Current and their associated supporters:
1st Security Bank
Clearwater Credit Union
Missoula Market Watch
Sterling CRE Advisors
Birkshire Hathaway (Home Services)
INK Realty Group
Annelise Hedahl Realty
Missoula’s Office City
Contract Design Associates
104.5 The U Radio
103.3 The Trail
Missoula Community Theater
Fish Window Cleaning
Painting With A Twist
Some of the Current’s advertisers have already pulled their advertising in advance of the boycott.
Perhaps Martin Kidston should have thought about what it was he was doing before flying off the handle like he did. He would do well to consider his current predicament with caution. After all, he stands to lose much more than we do.
Because here’s the thing, folks: KBGA is already on the chopping block when the University’s FCC license expires in 2021. And the way the University of Montana continues to cancel programs, fire professors and sell off property, hemorrhaging money the whole way through, it doesn’t seem likely they’re going to keep the radio station around once that happens.
Mark our words.
The only thing KBGA has, is its community support. And KBGA stands to lose some of that community support if it decides to lower itself to censoring journalists. We are committed to the truth no matter where it leads. And it saddens us to think that the same can no longer be said of KBGA.
Showing a volunteer the door because someone might sue is like avoiding relationships because you might catch a cold. You can live that way if you like, but everyone else just thinks you’re paranoid.