Lynching photo on KDVS website sparks outrage among campus and Davis community

  • Ciera Pasturel

DJ Joaquin Chavez posts graphic photograph of 11 African Americans being hung to promote radio show

Earlier this month, KDVS 90.3 FM DJ Joaquin Chavez sparked outrage among the UC Davis campus and community when he posted a graphic historic photograph of 11 African Americans being hung from a tree on the radio station’s website in promotion of his heavy metal radio show “Unspeakable Cults.”

Chavez, also known by his DJ name “Malefactor”, hosts the weekly radio show, which attempts to bring dark art to the radio through the combination of sardonic and ironic commentary and music-related imagery.

KDVS general manager Dynn Javier defends that Chavez’ intention was not malicious. Javier explains that the radio show’s darker tone when providing social commentary was the reasoning behind the photo.

“[Malefactor] is a heavy metal program on KDVS that’s been around for quite some time. It is on the less pretty aspects of sociology, human culture and history,” Javier said. “Joaquin is very keen on being didactic, instructive and educational…It was a fairly embracive image, but I do believe in the context of Joaquin’s show and the experience that he has and the persona he puts on to teach. It was a decent choice. I wouldn’t have made the choice to post the picture up myself, but the university doesn’t censor KDVS.”

Members of the Davis community responded in outrage to the photo. Well-known Davis attorney Bernie Goldsmith sent out emails to KDVS and UC Davis officials shortly after the photo was posted to express concern over the content.

“I had no idea that UC Davis hosted radio programs with such incredible, hateful content,” Goldsmith stated in an email. “Did [Chavez] think exploiting such images would be a great way to promote the ‘extremeness’ of his show?”

Andy Fell, News and Media Relations associate director at UC Davis, said the university has no involvement with the KDVS website and that the radio station controls everything they post.

“The university doesn’t take a position on what KDVS posts on their website,” Fell said. “We offer advice, but ultimately they make their own decisions.”

Although Fell did not take a position on the issue, he mentioned that he “can see why people would see it disturbing.”

In the wake of the controversy, Chavez took to the Unspeakable Cults Facebook page to issue an apology regarding the controversial photo, which has now been taken off KDVS’ website.

“I regret that I did not necessarily succeed in my intention to explicate the picture, which I posted in an attempt to engage with the harmful legacy and continued effects of white supremacy,” Chavez said. “When it was reposted on social media devoid of context and mischaracterized as an expression of racism, I recognized that I had a responsibility to limit its use.  Some people expressed a concern that this particular image was potentially triggering, and I take those concerns seriously, so I erred on the side of caution.”

Following the incident, Chavez said that he will continue to use images on air to convey his political stances and intentions.

“This is another case of musical culture pushing boundaries that are not generally tested in polite society. Because heavy metal does not shy away from extreme imagery, it is capable of facilitating a discussion about violence and oppression in a way that most of us are not comfortable doing in our everyday lives.” Chavez said. “My show is fundamentally about music, but music can not help but engage with the broader culture, and I think that this has encouraged me to continue to be both reflective and radical in my programming.”

Photos by Ciera Pasturel.