Radio for Superpowers and the Super Stupid

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Here’s some more transmissions out of my grab bag of Hudson Valley reception that I started going through in the last post. Reception was solid and the ambient RF noise was quite low. I wish I had more time to receive when I was there. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, the growing political friction between the US and Russia was sure to bring back some flavor of the cold war to shortwave listening. And as you can hear in this first extended clip, that’s already happening.

Voice of Russia – 9480kHz 0206 UTC 08-28-08  62:38

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It’s the Voice of Russia, otherwise known as “Radio Moscow” back in the Soviet Era. For thirty years, they’ve maintained a 24-hour English language radio service, with an emphasis on reaching North Americans. And in this hour or so of the Voice of Russia from late August, you hear news and opinion presented Radio Moscow style– with the leading headlines and featured commentaries focused on ongoing political and military differences with the US and NATO. Of course, the main points of contention are the recent conflicts in Georgia and the two provinces Russia has since sucked away.

And despite all the changes in Russia and the new mob glamor of Moscow, their international English language radio service almost sounds like it’s popped out of a time capsule buried decades ago. The news sounders are ancient, and the announcers all sound so disciplined, clipped and old fashioned. Listen to the political “analyst” who skewers the west in the “News and Views” segment. He has that cigarette-roasted-larynx sound I kind of miss on the radio. You just don’t hear that warm Pall Mall “voice of authority” in amplitude modulation much these days. The AM dial used to be full of that sound. Too bad those smokers don’t live a little longer.

I don’t know enough about hardware or physics to know why, but it seems to me that Radio Moscow (and now the Voice of Russia) has always had a particular “sound” to their signal– a particular texture to the radio waves as they come ashore here. And it seemed to be kind of a closed shop, without much more than a handful of announcers who seemed to stay on the air for decades. I think I recognize a couple from my Radio Moscow listening back in the 1980’s.

And lets face it, any government putting up the dough for an external broadcasting service has a direct hand in the news and information it presents. Typically the slant is subtle, and the news and editorial content is a mixed bag. However the vibe of the broadcasting here is much more like you would have heard in the Soviet era, with unmistakable defiance toward America. I suppose you could get so swallowed up in Putin’s soulful stare that you might just miss that breakaway province-size chip on his shoulder. 

Then in the middle of this hour is one of their many sprawling mythic Russian history/heritage features, of which the Voice of Russia seems to have an endless supply (Who knows how old they are? And I wonder if they’re still producing new ones?) As usual the classical music is thick the voices are rich. When the orchestra is really flying and the boomy baritone guy jumps in, it’s as high fidelity as you’re going to get from five thousand miles away. And when the music is dense on the signal like this, you can really hear the ghostly pulsing of the skywaves rushing in and falling back. This is shortwave radio, done in a traditional style. The way mom used to make it. If they didn’t mention websites and email addresses, you might think it was 1979.

However, right before this side of the tape ends, the ever-chipper Estelle Winters chimes in with an update on all the happenings in fun and fab Moscow (or something like that). Alas, it’s actually 2008 and she just doesn’t have that grumpy Soviet sound.

Voice of America – 7340kHz 0312UTC 08-28-08  18:10

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Officially, the Voice of America is our country’s official propaganda channel on the shortwave dial. VOA fact, it started out as a division of the “Office of War Information” during World War II. Their original mission was to counter the worldwide presence of Nazi propaganda on shortwave (and later as a radio bulwark against the old “Iron Curtain” states). But these days the U.S. Government focuses specific foreign radio (and TV) services to states we don’t like so much (in their native language), like Radio Marti (for Cuba) and Radio Farda (for Iran). From what I’ve heard in recent years, the English language service of the Voice of America sounds rather dowdy and seems fairly apolitical these days (I wonder if their Russian service is more strident?). The presentation is a little dry and sparse, which is fine with me. But it does sound like there’s been some budget cuts over the last few years.

Of course the signal isn’t aimed our way, and the reception is somewhat hollow and fady considering the distance. The scratchy sound you hear in the beginning is me, adjusting the active antenna. It goes away… and comes back briefly as I try to clarify the signal a bit later. A better antenna or radio could have nulled out the other station bleeding in.

This is “Daybreak Africa,” a daily news-magazine program which typically is pretty heavy with news and issues on the African continent, but as the Democratic convention is coming to a close there’s a big focus here on what’s happening in Denver.

The U.S. Presidential election is big news around the world this time around, especially in Africa where many in the Sub-Saharan region feel a literal kinship with Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya. There’s a short feature from Senegal about how locals there view the U.S. election. The guy says he’s doubtful Americans would accept a President with African ancestry. Another man watches Obama speak a couple times a week on TV, and he thinks he’s both an eloquent speaker and a gentlemen. (Personally, I think the fact that our President for the last seven years is neither has everything to do with all the international interest in the election. Even more than Obama’s racial profile.) But of course, beyond the worldwide antipathy toward Bush and Cheney there’s a real excitement around the world that a member of an oppressed minority in America possibly getting the high office.

While VOA is official U.S. external radio service to the world, the unofficial (and much more prevalent) American radio services to the world comes from the vast number of Christian broadcasters, on both American soil and stationed around the world.

And while I’m there are a number of shortwave broadcasts from every continent featuring religious content, Christians far outnumber any belief system on American radio stations– local, national or international. And while it’s hard to begrudge “evangelists” (or whatever they are) from communicating or communing with their radio “flock,” there is an element of “fleecing” the weak and ignorant for money that’s distasteful (but hell, it works for public radio…). The really extra-creepy business about Christianity on the radio is the “missionary” factor. They’re out to convert everyone. Which is not only crass (if not gauche) in practice, but also a divisive mindset that is both anti-culture and anti-intellectual. And their mythology and anti-enlightenment rides atop the vast majority of short radio waves bouncing away from our continent into homes around the globe.

One of those afternoons upstate, I made a cup of coffee and turned on the shortwave radio and heard the following conversations. And maybe I’m more sensitive these days, but instead of chuckling off these two clowns, I found who the discussion both strange and depressing. So I started a tape, to share with you.

WWCR Nashville, TN – Warning with Jonathan Hansen 12160kHz 08-29-08  2028 UTC  7:34

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This clip features a couple of these defacto ambassadors of U.S. intolerance. Although the host and his guest bemoan the loss of “Judeo-Christian values” in America, make no mistake about it, these guys are authoritarian WASP trash. Period. The use of the word “Judeo” may be a polite nod to the Jewish roots of Christianity, but they don’t like the Jews any more than they like Catholics or Buddhists or thinkers. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in their minds the best elements of Judaism just gradually begat the Bible Belt-style Protestant movement of the U.S. of A, thanks to Jesus and the Pilgrims (and that swell bible King James wrote…)

What you’re actually hearing here is a radio/TV show called “Warning.” The host– Jonathan Hansen, a bush league doomsday evangelist. Of course, he’d rather you just call him a prophet. And if Protestant prophesy is your game, you gotta get out there and call for the painful and messy end to humanity.

A strong cult of apocalypticism that runs through Protestant America. It’s bad enough that they can’t quit talking about blood and fear and martyrdom, but the fact that guys like this gets a constant hard on by talking and thinking about suffering all the time should tell you everything you need to know. Although it’s an old game (or fetish?), there’s something particularly American about this strange and viral brand of Christianity. It all dovetails with the isolated xenophobia of pale-Americans and their old-fashioned heartland jingoism. Ultimately is that special American spirit, that we’re just better than everybody else, especially if you’re a Christian. And you get extra points if you become a follower of a doomsday nutbag, like Hansen. (If you’re a glutton for punishment, you might wanna check out his website. However, he doesn’t call it "Warning" for nothing. Watch out. Hansen is out to "shake you with a shake that has never shaken you before!" Sounds a little shakey…)

And finally, notice that same paranoia about the coming New World Order I discussed in the last post. While it’s equally as dark as the new high-tech paranoia of Alex Jones disciples or the UFO/alien obsessed, the Christian fear of the New World Order is even more bizarre in that they actually looking forward to more wars and famines and natural disasters. Things just never quite bad enough for these folks, the want more DEATH until sweet Jesus steps out of the sky to save the day. Or is it that they float up in the sky to meet him? I can’t remember how that all works.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes I think that the more you think about that garbage, the more you encourage them. Or perhaps get a little infected by the stupidity yourself. But the main thing, is that these people want to tribalize the world. The USA Jesus tribe versus everyone else: The foreigners. And the apostates and heathens and demons. And the Muslims. And especially all the brown people, everywhere.

I don’t want to go so far as to say religion is a disease. I understand it’s often a comfort and traditions are important to people. But I am convinced that evangelical Christianity is most certainly a personality disorder, if not an outright mental illness. There’s an old adage that used to get a lot more play a few decades ago– "God is Love." Which makes me think of John Lennon, and that idea kind of made sense to me. A god who might be something like "love" seems a lot more reasonable than a higher power who’s just an ill-tempered sky geezer on a power trip. Or maybe I’ve been looking at all this wrong way– taking the phrase literally somehow instead of enjoying it’s full Orwellian flavor– War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength: God is Love. Got it. Maybe that’s what the pope was talking about.

So, let’s end this post on a high note, with some music.

7190 Tunisia RTV 0615 UTC 08–29-08

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Here’s some Arabic music from the north coast of Africa, including a version of Happy Birthday in there somewhere. There’s some fading at one point and I try to adjust the antenna again, adding noise. Then the station comes back. It’s a half-million watts. Hard to stop this signal.

The reception is poor, and then OK again. The music is fine. And the best part? Mr. Hansen and his globetrotting missionary friend would surely dislike this show and this music.  And they’d rather you and I are perpetually unhappy– looking forward to death. So, I say– enjoy the music. Enjoy the noise. Enjoy life until death, for god’s sake. Get a clue.

And did you hear? Bill Maher has a new movie coming out.

Some August Tuning

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

In late August I went away. Not far, but I did get out of the city for a few days. Upstate– an inexpensive rental in the Hudson Valley between the Berkshires and the Catskills. Nothing special, but one of those little free-standing cottage deals that kind of makes you feel like you briefly have another “home” in the country. And as usual, I set up a listening shack in the corner.

While I almost never even touch the ubiquitous television while I’m lodging, the Democratic Convention was in full swing. And big election cycle events like the DNC can actually suck me head first into a cable-enabled television. It’s as close as I get to watching sports crap. And speaking of that, I was really pissed to learn that out of the three channels offered by C-SPAN, I couldn’t find one of them on the cable service where we were staying. I found that troubling. As I kept going through the hundred or so channels they did offer, I did notice one that seemed to be dedicated to replaying tennis games all night long.

rah rah rahSo, I was kind of stuck watching the convention padded with punditry and diversions. Nonetheless, it was somewhat inspiring, and there were good speeches. However, I really do miss Barbara Jordan. She was awesome.

Between the convention, having company come by, and tending the wants and needs of a resident four year old, my quality time with the receivers wasn’t all I hoped. Yet, the reception in general was very good and the hours (mostly late night) I was able to squirrel away were well spent monitoring the world. Armed with my Degen 1103 and it’s nearly identical cousin the Grundig G5, two tape decks and a Degen DE31 active loop antenna attached to the window (which I could switch between radios) I went to work archiving the most compelling amplitude modulation I could sort out of the sky on the fly.

Once I found a frequency (or band) that seemed to have some promise on one receiver I’d start recording that, and search for something else to grab out of the sky on the other radio. I tended to plug the antenna into whichever signal seemed to need the biggest boost. But when I had Australia coming in on the Grundig and found India on the Degen, I had a hard time trying to figure out what to do with the antenna.

As usual when I come back from some time out of the city, I now have a pile of DX recordings to consider. Typically after some thinking and listening I pluck out a few things under some thematic heading and work up a blog post in some logical or topical fashion. However, these things take time, and these days the national and world events that drive information broadcasting are transforming and mutating by the day. So this time, instead of spending so much ruminating and researching some focused reception into a post, I thought I’d just start posting some of the broadcasting I happened to find. Without thinking about it too much.

Recent conversations with David Goren (of the excellent “Shortwaveology” site) have persuaded me to pay a little more attention to the traditional “tropical” bands at the low end on the shortwave spectrum. Largely the domain of third world radio for local consummation, the three bands between three and five thousand kilohertz are reserved for the equatorial zones where routine electrical storms make medium wave broadcasting problematic. Traditionally, most of the stations you find on these bands are located in the third world offering programming for local and national audiences. I suppose that I haven’t spent as much time wandering through these frequencies because there’s not a lot of English language programming to be found down there (except for freaky christians of course, who are everywhere…) As you might guess, there’s not a lot of strong signals on the tropical bands. And like the rest of the SW bandspace, the tropical bands aren’t as crowded or interesting as they once were. But they are still there.

On my first night away (Wednesday after Joe Biden’s speech), I went through the 60 meter band, and didn’t hear all that much. Here’s a couple snippets of some far off exotic broadcasting. Some singing first.

Radio Rossii (Kyrgyzstan) 4050kHz 0339 UTC 08-28-08

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It’s only a minute, but the operatic singing is stellar and poignant over the static. And it sounds so ancient, like it’s preserved or fermented or something. Dried flowers perhaps. Or just the acquired taste of an ear nurtured by antique technology. Either way, I think it’s still an attractive moment of sound.

And I admit it’s a guess. This Russian service from Kyrgyzstan seems to be the most likely culprit. And from the downtempo vibe of this music it’s not hard to believe that Russia is somehow behind it. However, if you have a better guess or actually know what this is at 0340 UTC, please leave a comment informing us all below.

Togo… or Tanzania (or some other tropical "T" kinda place) 5050kHz 0350 UTC 08-28-08

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Okay, I don’t know what this actually is. But I believe it’s French with some type of African accent. The reception’s not bad but the signal is kinda crappy. Usually when I’m scanning I narrow the bandwidth, but here I think it was wide so I’m absolutely sure of the frequency. I thought a likely suspect might be Radio Lome at 5047kHz, but David told me he hadn’t heard them for a while, and I find no recent reception reports on them. Another possibility is Radio Tanzania is possible too, but it’s even further with a fraction of the power that Togo is supposed be transmitting.

And it would be swell if a couple of French speaking readers could translate some of this clip. And further information on this broadcast in general would be nice, if anyone has a better clue. 

Not everything on the tropical bands is faraway or sublime. There’s also the bizarre wasteland of American shortwave broadcasting spilling over on the lower frequencies. Like this…

WWCR Nashville, TN – The Alex Jones Show – 0500UTC 08-28-08 (a rebroadcast from the previous afternoon)

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WWCR. Lovingly known as "World Wide Crackpot Radio," but the big "C" is really shorthand for "Christian" (I.e., worldwide Jesus). Last I looked, they had four big transmitters covering the planet from North America. Their time is brokered and almost all the content is intended for believers, of one kind or another.

In all my radio blogging, I’ve resisted writing in any great detail about Alex Jones. Not that there isn’t plenty to say, but for me just initiating a discussion about Mr. Jones and what he does is kind of like stepping in a steaming pile of cultural excrement. But his show is occasionally fascinating. Kind of like looking at gangrene under a microscope.

While there have always been conspiracy nuts, doomsayers and righteous fanatics with microphones ever since broadcasting began, the meteoric rise of Alex Jones and his one-man paranoia factory could only happen in a dystopian political and media environment like the one that is rotting all around us right now. I like to think of it as necromodernism. Our culture, society, and the stories we tell, are overripe– with flavors that are often rich and complex. And tart with rot.

For all his boomy bluster, Alex Jones fancies himself an info-warrior, and is in fact the driving force behind a fear-based cottage industry gone worldwide. He’s not just the host of a daily national radio show and a weekly local TV show, but he also runs a few very popular paranoia websites and continues to pile up an arsenal of dark and denunciative documentaries and assorted viral presentations proliferating across the net.

But all his high-tech machinations, Jones is more of a reboot of the old John Bircher archetype. With a broad appeal toward "patriot" types, gun freaks, and the web savvy Ron Paul set (as well as the kind of folks who follow fringe media for specific new information about UFO’s or Jesus). But instead of calling out commies and the international Jewish conspiracy like back in the good old days, Jones and his followers are at war against "global elites." And from what I understand, the victory sought by Jones and his "infowar" is to defeat the elites from actually putting their evil "New World Order" into effect. Which would be bad. Apparently, worse than the way things are now.

And While I’m not an expert on this New World Order thing, I do know that it would trigger some kind of oppressive "one world" government (which may or may not originate from the UN), and then other bad stuff would happen. If these topics interest you, I’d advise you get a hold of shortwave radio and tune into all the American broadcasts you can find. If you can suffer through all the mind numbing Christian dreck you’ll eventually find out everything that’s known or prognosticated for this coming NWO problem.

Without getting into a mire by offering my opinion on the validity of all the sundry conspiracy theories that are under attack daily by the info-warfare of Alex Jones, not everything you hear on the show is completely ridiculous (except perhaps the windbag in charge). We live in dark times, and that’s the theme of his program. But fact and fantasy and fiction are all interchangeable once you start to accept the conspiracy canon of the Alex Jones, and there’s plenty of bad news out there ripe for assigning blame and calling out scapegoats.

Okay, the Alex Jones show does have a certain entertainment value, if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing. And while the program is devoid of wit or whimsey, it’s hard not to laugh now and then at the super-serious vibe of the show and the monster truck persona of the host.

However this sample is less harsh, with DIY filmmaker Jason Bermas (of the Loose Change documentaries) filling in for Jones as he lumbers around outside the convention in Denver with his infowar squad causing trouble (which I gather was also being streamed live on this website at the time). At the onset of this aircheck, Jones calls in to inform the audience that Ralph Nader was coming on the show (a relatively big name and normal guest for Jones). But more significantly there’s discussion at the beginning of the clip of a street altercation between Alex and right-wing media hack Michelle Malkin, which drives home my point.

Michele Malkin (and if you don’t know who she is, that’s good) is a vile right-wing media bitch, in the mode of Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham. Yet as loathsome as she might be, when confronted on the streets of Denver by the info-warrior you almost feel sorry for the little monster. Take a look at this shining example of Jones confrontational activism here or here and see what I mean. Does that sad ruckus make you feel any more informed? Maybe some folks enjoy watching a big rude oaf annoying a nasty scrap of humanity like Malkin, but I don’t. And since Jones’ activist assault of Malkin, he’s been wearing the whole event as some badge of courage. Please

Alex Jones is a clown, an entertainer/activist/journalist/crackpot who seems at first impression an interesting character until you start to feel that just by paying attention to him you might be encouraging him to be even more of an asshole. And while it’s never been more important to take in a wide variety of sources for your media diet, be careful. Pigging out on the dark stream of junk doom churned out by Alex Jones could literally make you stupid.

Arising from the aromatic rot of necromodern culture is a family of conspiracy religions, most loosely based in Christian fear of demons or heretics. And Alex Jones is the self-appointed pope of his "Prison Planet" faction. Jones practice in particular is obsessed with the alleged occult practices of the global elite. Others are more concerned with space aliens or biblical prophesy. Yet I’m sure that the followers and acolytes of Alex Jones would consider the conspiracies that dominate his activism to be of a secular nature, or even a reasoned study of current affairs. That’s when you get into trouble.

Just like personality and gossip "news" that makes a mockery of the whole idea of being aware of the events of the world, looking at every event and issue in the news as a chess move by clandestine evil forces in their efforts to take over the world makes you truly foolish. Somewhere along the line you joined a cult.

I’m not saying that conspiracies don’t exist, or that ugly decisions by powerful people aren’t made in secret. What I am saying is that it’s stupid to believe in things you don’t as a fact. Perhaps comedian Marc Maron (a recovering conspiracy nut and unemployed talk show host) said it best:

"You act the same as a religious fanatic if you are a conspiracy theorist. You pick a series of unprovable "facts" that become dogmatic tenets and you commit your life to it. If anyone argues with it you say, "Well, I guess you just don’t want to open your eyes to the truth. You want to live in darkness. You don’t want to see the light." So, how are they any different?"

Exactly. And once you start dividing the world into people who are for or against the New World Order, it may just be a matter of time before you become convinced that the bad guys are actually shape shifting giant lizards masquerading as human beings.

And if it was just a shortwave radio phenomenon it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But Jones is on a few dozen AM and FM stations, and more importantly he has a huge web presence with daily podcasts and 24/7 streaming. And the sad truth is, people who get on the internet to become more informed about some of the serious issues of our times could easily google their open minds right up to a prime feeding spot at Jones’ sloppy trough of murky fantasies and half-truths.

Just listen to the calls through the hour archived here. A lot of half a brain types proposing half-baked theories proposing all manner of sketchy and shady scenarios. A dose of "chemtrails" from overhead air flights has made a town sick. A cluster of old cold war movies on cable tv is trying to get us to hate Russians all over again. And then there’s Bruce in Connecticut and his "four minute shock treatment." You kind of have to hear it to believe it. Then as a bonus you get some of the quirky advertising of patriot style radio–mostly survivalist and apocalyptic fare.

I know, I started out this piece by saying I was going to post some shortwave broadcasting, without thinking about it too much. And then I went on an extended diatribe about conspiracy talk radio. And maybe you wonder why I find Alex Jones and his followers so alarming. Well, there is a personal side to the story. There was a friend I used to have. A good friend.  A journalist of sorts, and a smart and funny guy. Or so I thought.

And we had many things in common, including a somewhat voracious intake of alternative news and opinion on the web. And for years we both shared the guilty pleasure of sampling some conspiracy-style talk radio, like Coast to Coast back Art Bell was still the host and occasionally the more wacky shows on shortwave like Alex Jones or Bill Cooper’s "Hour of the Time. Eventually I began to realize that we might be taking the paranoia radio shows a little more seriously than I was.

And over time, when we would get in discussions about current affairs, he would shift the conversational focus to demons and "global elites" and the Illuminati and Skull and Bones and the Bilderberg Group. Pretty soon we couldn’t discuss politics or the war or almost anything in the news without my friend slopping up the whole discussion with theories and half-facts and rumors and bullshit. And I guess I really must have liked this guy, or I wouldn’t have spent so many hours in sad fruitless arguments trying to counter his non-logic and Alex Jones-style worldview. And when I wouldn’t buy into whatever conspiracy narrative he was pushing on me, he called me "a truth hater." That’s when I actually started to dislike this person, and not just feel sorry for him.

And it just got worse. Every time there was a natural disaster, he say it was part of an international plot (For example, Katrina striking the Gulf Coast was Japan’s revenge for the atomic bombs we dropped). And he’s also rather worked up about how the government spraying us with nano-bots that crawl into our bodies and cause trouble. And on any given day you might find him up on his roof with a video camera, looking for incoming craft. I’m not kidding.

It really does pain me that my charming old friend has become a morbid shell of himself, warning anyone that will listen about the coming New World Order. Perhaps right now he’s holed up in his dark one bedroom, watching Alex Jones doomsday videos. Or just staring up at the sky in anticipation of his own demise. And I don’t even think he’s mentally ill. He’s just really religious. Kind of like Tom Cruise. Just a little more necromodern.

And we don’t talk these days, so I don’t know which global elites are behind the hurricane that about to hit Texas. But that’s okay by me. I’m a radio guy. When I don’t like the show I turn the station. And my life is better for it.

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 9

Monday, February 13th, 2006

Bcl2000_1 My original intention was to get to the end of that medium wave band scan I’ve been featuring the last three bandscan posts, but I’ve changed my mind. I want to get back to talking about shortwave again. While AM DXing is fun, the shortwave bands are inherently more exotic. However, navigating these frequencies something does require something not everyone has these days– a shortwave radio. And just so you know, it’s not nearly as difficult or expensive as you might think. I just received a new tiny shortwave radio the other day that I had purchased on ebay for twenty six bucks. The next afternoon it was sitting on the table next to my computer offering a readable signal of All India Radio out of its little speaker. Here in Brooklyn, with the sun shining through the front windows– I was impressed. The subcontinent really is on the other side of the world.

As with other posts in this series featuring shortwave, I’ll be offering highlights of particular broadcasts, rather than contiguous band scans as I have with the AM posts. The main reason is that while I’ve recorded these listening sessions as band scans the same way, but there are so many foreign language stations, tedious Christians, unreadable signals and a wide variety of static and noise in between the English language programs that I can easily identify (and that you might find interesting). And besides all that, how much Christian propaganda can you handle?

Bcl200_guts So, I’ve been combing through the shortwave radio I recorded while on a weekend trip to upstate New York in September of 2004. And in the process I’ve excised a number of lo-fi radio nuggets for your listening pleasure. As I’ve mentioned before in these posts, late at night is not the best time to DX shortwave. While China, Russia, Cuba and a few other stations offer English broadcasts after midnight, most shortwave transmissions to the US in our native tongue can be heard from late afternoon until 10 or so Eastern Time. And during this trip I was able to squirrel away some hours during that part of the day to listen. Of course, if you wanna hear about the opinions of mythical Jesus and all his miracles, there’s a couple dozen stations here in the U.S. who offer that kind of programming on shortwave every hour of every day, in English and some other languages as well. They want your soul. (What were you going to do with it anyway?)

Tecsun_factory The radio I used to make these recordings was a Tecsun BCL-2000, otherwise know as the Grundig S350. While not perfect, it’s a great tool for scanning the bands. It’s sensitive, cute and offers something hard to find– analog tuning with a digital display. This is great for shortwave, because analog operation gives you a much better feel for what’s out there while the digital display gives you an accurate readout of where you actually are on the dial. I’d recommend it as a starter radio for anybody willing to spend 80 to 100 dollars to invest in a decent AM/shortwave receiver that’s easy to use.

Okay, and now to my friend’s front porch twenty miles outside of Albany back in 2004. It was the weekend of the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The porch was well furnished, and the batteries were fresh. Most of the reception I was digging into was from the broadcast bands that are the most lively at night– the 49 meter band (5.9-6.2 MHz), the 41 meter band (7.1-7.35 MHz) and possibly the 31 meter band (9.4-9.9 kHz).

Next week I’ll continue this radio excursion, but I hope to do some DXing in the near future and offer you some current shortwave reception again. I’ve recently purchased a couple of radios that I’m anxious to take for a ride, and perhaps I’ll post some SW unedited band explorations here too, just to offer up some flavor of what a jaunt across a shortwave broadcast band really sounds like– including static, foreign tongues, non-stop loony bible-beaters and everything else in between.

01 – The Voice of Russia – Moscow Mailbag  08:43

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Joe_adamov_1 As long as I’ve been alive, Joe Adamov has been the host of “Moscow Mailbag” on the English service of Radio Moscow, which is now called “The Voice of Russia.” Anybody who listened to the Soviet Union via shortwave from the U.S. over the years has heard Joe answer all sorts of listener’s questions about the goings on in the U.S.S.R. And although it seems a bit quaint these days to hear old Joe respond in detail to a listener’s question about the most popular breeds of dogs in Russia, you have to remember the realities of the cold war era that gave birth to this program. To Americans, much of everyday life behind the “iron curtain” was a big mystery, especially in the grey and repressive Soviet Union. In those days, the jovial Mr. Adamov offered curious listeners a peek behind the curtain that both informed and ultimately served as a propaganda tool of the Soviet government as well.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Adamov spoke openly on his program about what he could and couldn’t say during the Communist era, and his role as a friendly propagandist during that time. Before and after glasnost, Moscow Mailbag was always an entertaining listen, both for Adamov’s breezy warm style and the questions from listeners around the world– from the most mundane topics, to some serious political subject matter. While Moscow Mailbag continues on the Voice of Russia, Adamov is no longer around to give us his insights on Russian life. He passed away in 2005. However, archives of some of his broadcasts can be found on this webpage.

02 – WHRI (World Harvest Radio) – Radio Liberty  14:11

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Dr_stanley_monteith Stanley Monteith does a lot of radio– like five hours a day, five days a week. He’s retired physician, and his show covers some serious topics and some arguably kooky ones as well. With a good-natured yet righteous style, Monteith is more or less a right-wing Christian talk host. However, in the shortwave realm that can mean something much different than the lock-step Republican AM talk radio hosts who pollute the airwaves across America. Listen to Monteith talk some serious common sense with this caller about the idiocy and futility of the Iraq War.

While you’ve heard me speak in disgust regarding the mundane and dogmatic nature of Christian programming all over shortwave, that’s not to say that an avid Christian can’t be an enlightened and spiritually mature broadcaster. In this clip you’ll hear Monteith explain how he was a member of some Christian group who anointed Bush as the official Jesus candidate for the 2000 Presidential election. It’s heartening to hear that he and one other member of that group didn’t buy into Bush then, or his supposed Christianity. In general, it’s refreshing to discover a Christian talk host who doesn’t blindly accept authority and one who talks openly about the horror of war and our current government’s policies of death, destruction and despair. And I have to say I’ve never heard any proselytizing or threats of the lake of fire on Radio Liberty, Instead, in this clip you’lI hear plenty of insight and some important facts about this insane Iraq war.

03  – WWCR – Karen Mortimer  01:45

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Now, here’s some more typical Christian shortwave radio. The manic and rabid Ms. Mortimer is ready to convert the world. And martyrdom? Bring it on baby!

04 – (Unknown Station) Flag Worship  03:11

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Flag_2 Grab a Hostess apple pie, put your hand over your heart. This jingoistic rant on the American flag. Kind of makes you wanna wrap yourself in the red, white and blue and kill some foreigners somewhere. And what’s interesting about this broadcast, and other “patriotic” programming that emanates from Christian shortwave stations in this country is that the FCC considers all shortwave outlets here to be “international radio stations” and the FCC is very specific about the rules for programming on such a station. To be exact– “It should be noted that an international broadcasting station is intended for broadcasting to a foreign country and is not intended for broadcasting solely to the United States.” Look it up.

Kind of a strange rule, I know. But if some moron is going to be SO blatant about breaking the law, maybe somebody should turn him in.

05 – Radio Prague  03:40

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A Czech doctor had bet a bunch of money that George Bush was going to win the upcoming 2004 election. Maybe he has some friends at Diebold. This little clip features the end of the Radio Prague news and the beginning of a news magazine program. Nothing amazing, but fairly representative of the standard European shortwave broadcast you might hear in English– chatty, upbeat, and focused on regional issues and people.

06 – WBCQ – Radio Timtron Worldwide  08:49

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A while back, there was a comment left on one of these posts asking why doesn’t a station like WFMU start a shortwave service. Well, there’s about 245 reasons, but if there is any equivalent to WFMU on shortwave it would have to be WBCQ, every once in a while..and just a little bit.

I’ve talked about WBCQ here because it is (at least potentially) the most interesting shortwave radio station in America. They feature a wacky live talk show from Brooklyn, a program that features old Edison cylinders, reruns of old Jean Shepherd shows and a number of other strange and eccentric radio shows. They also feature a lot of crap. Why? Money.

While WBCQ has a few self-produced shows, just like the Christian shortwave stations they sell their broadcast time to pay their bills and perhaps make a small profit. For better or worse, most of the people who are interested in broadcasting on American shortwave are crazy Jesus people, or just plain crazy.

Timtron_2003_1 Radio Timtron Worldwide comes the closest to freeform radio than anything else I’ve heard on WBCQ. It’s nice to know that his program is reaching the jungles of Africa and South America and the frozen shores of Greenland, as well as other exotic locales like Florida and San Marino. I wish there was more programming like this on WBCQ. Go ahead and check the current schedule for all four of WBCQ’s transmitters here.

More of this collection of shortwave reception from September 2004 will be featured here in the next installment.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 4

Monday, January 9th, 2006

Radio_post_1 Indulging in television or FM radio may be recreational behavior, but it isn’t a hobby like listening to distant stations on medium and short wave. The main reason is that DXing and broadcast band listening takes a little work– as well as some curiosity and patience not necessary when tuning into clear, predictable and popular local VHF signals.

And it’s kind of a sport. Like fishing. The propagation of radio waves changes from month to month and day to day, and besides the local stations that are always there it’s always a bit of a mystery what you’ll find on the dial on any given evening. But perhaps the biggest draw for many of us who scan the AM & SW dial by night is the allure of novel and exotic broadcasting.

While I admit that hearing news and commentary from Atlanta, Havana or Moscow on the radio is still a little exciting to me (even in this era where you can almost do the same thing via internet streaming), it’s the fringe broadcasting, especially on shortwave, that I continue to find compelling and often humorous. And this is where the epidemic of Christian broadcasting on shortwave in the U.S. can actually get interesting for a minute.

Bcl2000 Most of audio samples I’m offering in this post are programs broadcast on the monster U.S. Christian shortwave stations. The big ones that come to mind– World Harvest Radio, Family Radio and WWCR (World-Wide Christian Radio) are really more networks than stations, with multiple frequencies broadcasting simultaneously and covering the entire country and much of the world with Christian propaganda, as well as a few shows focusing on listener fan letters and the DXing hobby, AND a startling number of programs that specialize in fear, suspicion and raw paranoia.

While shortwave doesn’t appeal to very many Americans, there’s a significant portion of the existing audience that does exist who are isolated and disenfranchised out in the heartland. And they are afraid of a lot of things most of us don’t spend a lot of time worrying about– like the U.N., Freemasons, homosexuals and space aliens. Much of this consternation is lumped together in overwhelming concern over the coming "New World Order."  I’ve never been quite sure of what that the heck that is, but from what I’ve heard it’s going to be a lot less pleasant than the old world chaos we’ve enjoyed over all of these years.

There’s a wide variety of these kinds of programs. The content of these shows range from deeply Christian to secular, from tangible alternative news to the ravings of disturbed individuals, and everything in-between. The common thread is a distrust of authority, and a concern that the world scene is spinning out of control… and maybe Jesus can help.

Beyond the questionable credibility offered by these programs, you gotta give these right wing type broadcasters credit for creating the exact opposite of mainstream AM conservative talk radio. Shortwave paranoia broadcasting almost never takes the side of power and privilege (unless you count the ultimate power of the baby Jesus and his dad the cloud being). It’s the sound of self-appointed visionaries and the worried voice of the little guy you hear amid the static and whining noises. These marginal media figures appeal to the fearful and umpowered huddled around their radios looking for guidance and truth. As I’ve said before about shortwave (and some AM broadcasts as well) it’s radio that still isn’t just about money– it’s about power and identity. And somtimes it’s about being really apprehensive about the future.

So here’s a few MP3 clips of radio trepidation I’ve picked up on assorted shortwave sets over the last few years. The reception varies as does the credibility of the claims and concerns you’ll hear in these pieces. However, nothing you’ll hear in these MP3’s is less believable than anything Scott McClelland might offer in a typical White House press briefing.

 01 – The Mystery Religion – rebroadcast 10-18-05  54:54

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Pale_horseThis is the late William Cooper with a discussion of the unknown (or little known) religion of the power elite of the world– The Mysteries. According to Cooper, it’s the secret religion of the movers and shakers of the world, and it’s all about keeping us dumb and productive. Apparently, it has something to do with some powerful being known as “Mithra.”

William Cooper was one helluva character. His strange life came to an end in a shootout with the cops at his home in November, 2001. His book, “Behold A Pale Horse,” he outlines his assorted conspiratorial theories and concepts. Cooper used to make a big stink about the government UFO cover-up. Yet in later days, including this broadcast (originally from 2000 or 2001 I believe) he considers UFO believers to be a “looney tune fringe element.” I think he always had a freshly arranged bouquet of opinions at any one time.

I personally was always taken by his "sound"– a paced and emotionally-steeled voice of doom that always made me stop and listen for a while as I was slipping across the dial. In the end, Cooper might best be summed up as a disturbed contrarian who loved attention and had a driving sense of mission. William Cooper said a lot of stuff, and while I doubt it was ALL fantasy, what’s still amazing to me is how SERIOUS he always seemed to be. He was a colorful and strange guy. I miss his show and was happy to come across this rebroadcast.

This was recorded in my Brooklyn apartment in the late afternoon. There is a little fading and another station is chewing on the signal. And I had problems with the recorder I was using. However, it is most of an entire “Hour of the Time” program, with a chunk of 3 or 4 minutes missing in the middle. But if you do listen, you’ll get the idea(s).

02 – The Silent War – 10-07-05  16:17

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Pastor Pete Peters is a controversial guy. The author of a pamplet entitled “Death Penalty for Homosexuals is Prescribed in the Bible,” and renowned as someone more in favor of white Protestant Americans than other types of folks. Pastor Peters pisses a lot of people off, and has been cited a number of times as a dangerous broadcaster.

But listen to his dramatic metaphors for the ongoing cultural war against the devout and disenfranchised. “They” are firing on the common folk– shooting situations instead of bullets, using data instead of gunpowder and computers instead of guns. How can you defend yourself from that?

Peters isn’t very specific about what’s at stake or how to defend yourself, but even if you think he’s full of shit you still get an urgent sense of needing to so something after hearing this moving call to arms. “If you wanna win you better believe that we’re going to gain the victory.”

03 – Man-Made Diseases 12-30-02  16:37

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HIV and other nasty viruses were invented by human beings to kill other human beings. That’s the theory here.  Depopulation. Dr. Boyd Graves will tell you all about it.

04 – The Parasite Issue – 11-22-02  6:43

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Wet_parasite_1 This is a scary one. It’s a problem escalating out of control, and nobody is talking about it. Some kind of nasty little-known critters are camping out in our digestive tracts. Are they worms? Blobs? Republicans? They’re not specific about the nature of these parasites, but they are supposed to be pretty darn gruesome. Why haven’t we heard about this before?

Listen at your own risk. If you’re curious, drop a string down your gullet and see what you might catch, or take a long lingering look in the toilet before you flush next time. It’s all new information to me. It’s like the most unappetizing infomercial I’ve ever heard.

Also on this clip, a Bible show host concerned that Jesus broadcasters may end up facing prosecution if they don’t promote and condone homosexual sex, and a little bit of Catholic confessional confession.

05 –  Nukes From Mexico, Yahweh Not Gay – 04-23-05  7:21

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Lastly, here’s the current king of shortwave conspiraciesAlex Jones. This is a very short and unrepresentative clip, but at least you get to hear the gruff voiced Jones (who sounds quite a bit older than his 31 years) squawking darkly from his shortwave pulpit. Jones is always extremely controversial, and has plenty of fans and a number of detractors. Either way, I don’t think there’s another broadcaster out there more worked up over this New World Order problem. He has several websites, a bunch of videos, and a reputation as one of the most pessimistic voices in broadcasting. And watch out for those suitcase atom bombs sneaking over the Rio Grande.

Also, in this segment a some hard-core Christian kookiness. Stop the madness and pick up an orgone generator today! And just a few carefully placed magnets may be enough to protect you from being a mind control slave. Elvis Presley is NOT God! Like I said, some of these people are very very serious.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)