By: Frank L. Hoffman
Celebrities are in an obvious position to influence others. Their popularity depends on understanding and taking advantage of this responsibility. Toward this end, Steven Meade, who goes by the radio name of "Willie B", thought of ways to involve his audience.
The Associated Press reported that authorities said that Meade encouraged listeners to bring small animals to the radio station in February, 2000, saying they would be let loose on Interstate 25. If they survived, it would mean an early spring; if they died it would mean six more weeks of winter.
This was an obvious, but cruel and insensitive, parody on Groundhog Day.
We have noticed an increasing tendency to present situations and events that are more "extreme", or more violent, or more immoral than those that have gone on before. The individuals who come up with these ideas are encouraged by the audience who cheer for more and more and more, and by those who profit by such actions.
Thankfully, Steven Meade didn't follow through with the Interstate 25 incident, most likely because of his potential liability for an "accident" caused by a motorist trying to avoid the animals, or the death of a human resulting from such an accident. However, he had no such concerns for the animals. His fear was only of being held responsible, and he most likely never thought anyone would do anything to him about the deaths of any animals.
The effect that a role model can have on others was proven when somebody actually brought a live chicken to the studio. Meade allegedly told an intern to throw it out of a second-story window, which he did. By this time, "Willie B" had involved at least two other people in his violence and cruelty. I believe that evil is just as contagious as good, but because that which is evil is considered more "exciting", it is more openly encouraged by immoral people.
But Meade's indifference to the pain and suffering of others did not end here. When the chicken survived the fall from the second floor window, Meade had the intern throw it from the third floor, about 30 feet up, and broadcast the results. This time the chicken suffered leg and foot injuries. It's obvious by his actions that Meade never wanted to find out if the chicken could fly, or if there would be an end to winter, he wanted to inflict pain and suffering on this and other helpless souls.
Fortunately, Meade was convicted of animal cruelty for orchestrating the stunt in which a chicken was dropped from a third-story balcony to see if it could fly.
And Meade is also facing charges for allegedly encouraging radio listeners to join a destructive "mudfest'' in which four-wheel-drive vehicles churned up 25 acres on privately owned wetlands, but in this case he is not being charged with the destruction of thousands of small animals who called the wetlands home; the charges are for the destruction of private property.
Both of these incidents show Steven Meade's violent nature, which was also encouraged, accepted or tolerated by the radio station management, the advertisers, and his audience, who also share responsibility, even if they are not charged. This is all a part of our collective sanitizing of violence in our society. We're shooting ourselves in the foot and few even realize it.
Role models have a responsibility to both God and their audience, for what they do and say sets an example for others. In the Bible, James 3:1, we are told:
"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment [or greater condemnation]." (NASV)
The conviction of Steven Meade is part of his judgment, but what about the rest of us?
It's time we stop sanitizing violence in our society. It's time we stop shooting ourselves in the foot, and begin to make this world a more loving, joyful, and peaceful place, where patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control prevail.