People have to push back.

I was in and out of sleep most of the morning, and did nothing most of the afternoon, but it's going to be a busy night. 

♦ ♦ ♦

At Free Radio Berkeley yesterday, one of the announcements on the bulletin board said there's a meeting tonight about the hows and whys of pirate radio.

I'm definitely not interested in being a voice on the radio, or volunteering at the station, because I don't like talking and know nothing about electronics. I'm very interested, though, in seeing a bunch of people come together to do the right thing by breaking the law.

And make no mistake, it's absolutely doing the right thing when a small radio station broadcasts commercial-free news and music for a small, local audience. It's illegal, but stupid laws should be broken, it's a stupid law.

Tiny local stations like FRB help people feel connected, empowered, and part of their community. That's why it's illegal, or at least that's part of it.

The only broadcasting that's legal is big-money broadcasting, either for profit or from NPR, a non-profit that's a giant corporation itself. Small stations like FRB might siphon a few listeners from the big-money stations, and that's the main reason it's illegal. 

Anyway, the meeting was in the basement of the Unitarian Church (hey Mom, I went to church!), and I usually hate meetings but this meeting kicked arse.

There were about 200 people, as many as could fit into the room without all of us mashing into a big blob of flesh. Five people spoke, followed by a lively question and answer session.

• Norman Solomon, columnist and author and presumably a pinko, commented on today's megamedia merger of Time-Warner and Turner. The corporations that decide what's newsworthy keep getting bigger, merging together and buying each other out, which means that the 'news' that makes the news is filtered more and more through corporate sensibilities. Nobody remotely like you or me is in that room, deciding what's news and what isn't. That's not news to me, but Solomon said it so well, that's when it occurred to me that I should start taking notes.

• Bruce Anderson, publisher of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and soon to be hosting a show on the pirate station in Mendocino, said zines and rap are encouraging signs that not everybody's been hoodwinked into believing that the evening news is a fair summary of the day's events. In passing he mocked the 'P' in NPR, since there's nobody who's not a millionaire can have any influence at that place. Of the overrated MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, he said, "Corporations are not only killing us, they're boring us to death." He closed by saying, "Anything that monkeywrenches the system in any way should be supported," and I applauded.

• Kiilu Nyasha, a former Black Panther, spoke of the petty infernal politics that got her show canceled on the local and licensed 'public' radio station, and of the joy of continuing her show on Free Radio Berkeley instead. "Without FRB, I would be silenced," she said. "I have the good sense and good manners not to fill my whole show with angry cuss words, but I love the freedom to let one slip out now and then." I applauded again. Everyone did.

• Stephen Dunifer, the technogeek who started Free Radio Berkeley, confused me with the technical part of his talk, but he made great sense when he wasn't talking about boards and amps and heat sinks and harmonic filters. He said 'narrowcasting' tech now exists that could add 30 micro-power pirate stations in every American city, without the pirates interfering with each other or with the commercial or 'public' stations. He's also working on ways to broadcast TV on the UHF bands. "The possibilities are endless," he said, and we applauded again.

• Luke Hiken, the attorney who's (so far) successfully kept Dunifer out of prison and Free Radio Berkeley on the air, mentioned the $2,000+ fee just to file an application for an FCC broadcasting license. Of course, the intended effect of such fees is to keep the rabble quiet, and leave the airwaves only for the rich and powerful. "We do not want to beg millionaires for funding and permission to speak our minds," he said, and we clapped — for a lawyer!

During the Q-&-A, Hiken described the tedium of what happened in the courtroom case today, as the FCC continues trying to unplug FRB and imprison Dunifer. It sounds hopeless to me, but he's hopeful.

Some guy from San Francisco Libre Radio said that his station and Free Radio Berkeley are both swapping tapes with Free Radio Santa Cruz, which sounds great. Pirate radio is about local access and local community, but if a show could speak to a wider audience, yeah, let a wider audience listen.

A lady asked Dunifer what his long-term vision was, and he replied, "The complete overthrow of the world corporate state." More applause, of course.

And I clapped, but... Much as I admire the man's optimism, enthusiasm, and the work he's doing, pessimism is realism, and the complete overthrow of the world corporate state won't be happening. Money rules everything, and will, for as long as there's money — but people have to push back. That's vitally important, and these people are pushing, and that's heroic.

It was an upbeat meeting, lots of good people doing good things, and attending was the best thing I've done since my last protest march, years ago, during the lead-up to the Gulf War. 

♦ ♦ ♦

The equipment to launch your own illegal radio station costs only about $500. That's about $450 more than I can afford, but like I said at the top, I don't like to talk, so broadcasting isn't for me.

If you have a hankering to break the law, let me know and I'll put you in touch with Stephen Dunifer. He sells "instant broadcasting kits," and you could be on the air in a week.

♦ ♦ ♦

When Dunifer's technical talk got too technical for me, I scanned the crowd to see if there were any familiar faces. I was hoping to see my anarchist vendor pal, Umberto, but he wasn't there. 

Amazingly, though, in a room full of people presumably interested in freedom of speech, two rows behind me sat one of the vendors who'd tried to have Jay's book of poetry removed from the fish-stand. She's been weirdly waving at me, smiling at me on Telegraph ever since, like we're buddies.

The scent of her hypocrisy was too enticing to ignore, so after the meeting I approached her and asked, "Are you here representing the FCC?"

She made an astonished face and grunted and said, "Of course not."

"You asked the city to ban my boss's poetry, so you're sure not for free speech."

She made an angrier face and said, "That's a completely different issue, and I'm not going to talk about it here."

I cocked my head in mock confusion, same as I had the last time we'd spoken, but she was already walking toward the door. An argument with an idiot can't be won, so I walked the other way, toward the literature table.

Giving that lady every benefit of every doubt and more, maybe she likes some of the music on Free Radio Berkeley, or maybe her son has a show on the station. I still say fuck her, though. You can't be for free speech, and be complaining about the existence of lesbian poetry.

From that face she made, I'm guessing something good will come from tapping her shoulder tonight: I don't think she'll be smiling and waving at me on Telegraph any more.

From Pathetic Life #16
Friday, September 22, 1995

Addendum, 2022: Free Radio Berkeley is still pushing back against the FCC, and they're still selling reasonably-priced kits and equipment for quick-starting your own pirate radio station. They're at FreeRadio.org.

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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