Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Radio Paranoia's Best & Worst of 2011

"...anybody can do one of these lists. There's no objective standard as to what the 10 best are." --NPR's wimpy way of saying top 10 lists suck.

"Top Ten Lists Suck. A Lot."
--Michael Hodson, Go, See, Write

by Guise Faux
Illustrations by Dea Fauxnette

We already knew we sucked and we're ruining pirate radio. That was our driving force throughout 2011. Just ask Commander Bunny.

But when National Public Radio told us at the end of December, just as we were drafting our Top Ten list for 2011, that our Top Ten list for 2011 already sucked even before we'd published the damned thing, well... it just gave us the excuse we needed to take a few weeks off. After all, if you can't do a thing well, do it late.

Pheme Ossa took an indefinite leave of absence to work the Ron Paul campaign. We suspect she's doing it ironically, especially since she's wearing her Goldwater '64 campaign t-shirt. Last I looked, I spotted at least three of her sockpuppets on the comments sections on the Ron Paul and Alex Jones sites. She claims it's necessary to defend against the NSA and Mosaad sockpuppets. And I thought I was paranoid.

To cover the Consumer Electronics Show, Brown Nose the Pirate requisitioned an El Dorado convertible and a pint of raw ether "for the Caddy's carburetor". On Friday the 13th he Tweeted: "You know what's great about CES? No, seriously, do you? Because I can't remember a thing."

Last we heard from him was a voice message late Saturday night: "Turn it up!" he screamed. "Just as high as the fucker can go! And when it comes to that fantastic bit where the rabbit bites its own head off, I want you to throw that fuckin' radio into the tub with me!"

We hope he has a good attorney. We also hope Vegas hotels all have GFCI's in the bathrooms.

Before we headed off for Umbrage Island for a sanity break, Dea whipped out the "obey" poster for Commander Bunny in the now-classic Shepard Fairey Roddy Piper style. And if you don't grok the original reference (nope, not Obama, although he clearly is a reptilian), then you've never been forced to kick ass because of an unexpected shortage of bubblegum.

Now that we're back and caught up on comments since the December 25th blog, we surmise that you bastards really love gossip, rumors and scandals. And we love our readers for that.

Rather than a Top Ten list - mostly because we can't think of 10 really significant events from 2011 that are relevant to pirate radio - we're going with a Best & Worst list. In the end, most events were both the best and the worst of 2011.

#1 Best & Worst of allll tiiime!
Was there any doubt? The manic meltdown of WBNY's Commander Bunny dominated the North American shortwave pirate scene throughout 2011. To steal a phrase from the late, lamented Passport to World Band Radio, nothing has provided hour after hour of amusement like the Bunnyman's 2011 antics. Commander Coney & His Lost Planet Sockpuppets earn the Tales of Radio Paranoia top spot for being, simultaneously, the best and worst of 2011.

Rampant sockpuppetry. Forgetting which alias said what to whom, followed by frantic revisions on the FRN. Lying about perceived enemies. Fantasizing about pedophiles under every Canadian woodpile like he'd barely escaped the clutches of some bizarre fantasy cult. Manic blurt-blogging with increasingly frantic incoherence (at one point hitting a record high four paranoid blog posts in a single day). Misogynistic cyber-stalking. Harassing and repeatedly dropping dox on "enemy" ops and listeners alike.

Throughout 2011, it wasn't a question of what the Lagomurph would do next; it was what wouldn't he do next? Whether under his two best known pirate radio pseudonyms or his best known "real" name, he left no stone unturned and no bridge unburned in his desperate pursuit of enemies, real or imagined.


Worst of the Worst - Tales of Radio Paranoia
...for noticing #1, and blogging about it.


Worst Waste of Tax Dollars - FCC targets HF pirates again
Confirmed knocks and/or written or oral warnings included WEAK and The Crystal Ship. That follows on the heels of at least three warnings in 2010 (one confirmed by the station operator, two unconfirmed).

Actual impact on shortwave pirate radio activity? Hard to estimate. Available data is biased, although not necessarily deliberately. The traditional bastions for North American pirate radio logs - the FRN and Free Radio Weekly e-mail newsletter - tend to be dominated by ops and listeners from a smallish geographic region. If you stick a compass on the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and draw a 500 mile diameter circle, you've probably encompassed 85% of the pirate stations and listener logs reflected in the FRN and FRW. But does that mean 85% of all N. American ops are within that circle? Don't bet on it.

Reference: DIYmedia: Anti-Pirate Enforcement Plummets in 2011


Worst Toadying to Media Tyrants - Anti-Pirate Legislation
Nope, not anti-pirate radio. But the misguided, corporate-schlong-sucking SOPA/PIPA legislation (temporarily allayed last week) threatened to be even more menacing than anything the FCC might cook up. Because media megaliths have the lawyers and clout to arm-twist the courts into actually prosecuting and penalizing people for pirated media-ware.

SOPA/PIPA and related efforts may rank even higher than renewed FCC enforcement because it potentially affects not only broadcasters but programmers, bloggers and anyone actively involved in free radio. So far FCC penalties are a pittance compared with the potential fines for pirating intellectual property - music, movies, etc.

Relevant references:
Positions of US Representatives (SOPA) and Senators (PIPA):
House: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Oh Internet: The Death of Megaupload, The Beginning of Web 3.0
"Frightening is the fact that Megaupload was hosted in Hong Kong- how did the US government manage to black out a site based in the other side of the planet? Perhaps even more frightening is that the take-down was performed without the help of the SOPA or PIPA bills written specifically for this purpose. It seems that the United States government already has the tools to impose its will upon foreign websites."

Salon.com: Two lessons from the Megaupload seizure
"Less than 24 hours after the SOPA victory, the Government seizes one of the world's largest websites with no trial"
Dimnet Tries To Be A Hedge Against DNS Censorship
Slate: Stop SOPA/PIPA
Motherboard: Dear Congress - It's Not OK to Be Stupid About the Internet
Motherboard: Break in Case of Censorship

Also see stories linked to: “Firefox Add-On Bypasses SOPA DNS Blocking”.


Best & Worst Cruise on de Nile - The FRN Capsizes, Travels Backward in Time.

And nothing of value was lost.

The Free Radio Network, with online roots dating back to the pre-web BBS era, missed opportunities to relaunch and reinvent itself at critical times during 2011. Numerous outages throughout the year could have been taken advantage of to rebuild the venerable site on a more robust platform and more stable servers. Instead the site followed Pat Murphy's lead in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Opportunities were squandered and longtime participants were alienated as Murphy seldom missed a chance to underscore perceptions that the FRN had become little more than his personal vanity site and a roost for the two dominant cliques.

Those perceptions were reinforced in December 2011 when the FRN faithful relocated to Free Radio North America on Google Groups. A quick peek at the group stats told the tale: early membership was mostly the Bowling League, Pat Murphy and a few veteran listeners who'd managed to remain neutral throughout the previous years of nearly continuous bunny-driven drama.

"They've actually sent the FRN further back in time. I honestly had no idea that was possible," quipped a waggish veteran of the US shortwave pirate scene, on the FRN cabal's abandoning ship for the Uselessnet reefs.

Google Groups, for those who haven't visited, is little more than tarted up usenet, one of the oldest and lamest incarnations of the interbutt. Throughout the previous decade uselessnet degenerated from merely a pile of fresh shit that was usually burning due to continuous flame wars, to fossilized dinosaur scat. No topical subdivisions within a group. No way to attach images, let alone the multi-media goodies available with newer implementation of phpBB like the Free Radio Cafe.

Dr. Who-Me? invites you and your socks to board the Fucktardis
for a journey back in time to the ass end of the interbutt.

Usenet manages to be even less secure than the FRN in terms of member privacy, although the Free Radio North America group does seem to manage to mask member IPs. That, at least, is a small improvement over most radio related uselessnet groups. But member e-mails are easily visible (click on the highlighted ellipses, or three dots in the partially masked e-mail addresses). And if those members are using the same nicks or e-mails they've used elsewhere on uselessnet, chances are their IPs have been recorded in the headers on rec.radio.whatever.

If you subscribe to the theory of Environmental Determinism, you know where this is heading. If it looks like uselessnet, farts like uselessnet and talks like uselessnet, eventually it'll degenerate into just another uselessnet pile of poop. For a peek at the fun times ahead, just Google the hilariously rabid-rabbit frothing from Murphy's various aliases back around 2006 - particularly "Bouncer" (bobsmith6955@yahoo.com) from Newport News, VA.

With a little luck, the FRN might be able to offer a work-release parole deal for Italian cruise ship captain Francesco Schettino. Reportedly he's now negotiating for the role of Quint in a remake of Jaws.

How did the FRN become a salvage case? The short version:
  • Failure to upgrade to a more reliable, contemporary platform.
  • Slowpoke servers.
  • Annual outage as domain registration lapsed.
  • Rampant, abusive sockpuppetry by former admin Pat Murphy.
  • Murphy's repeated misuse of access to personal information to harass perceived enemies.
  • Murphy's censorship of unapproved logs.
Meanwhile the HF Underground has offered a genuine sanctuary for free and generally friendly loggings and exchanges of information and opinion since 2008, on a more contemporary and stable platform with reliable servers. Ironically, the single notable flame war on the HFU, a couple of years ago, turned out to have been instigated by Murphy under one of his many sockpuppets.

And John Poet of The Crystal Ship stepped up the game by launching the Free Radio Cafe in the spring of 2011, offering an even more advanced phpBB platform that accommodates Flash videos and larger file sizes for direct uploads of graphics such as SSTV and QSLs. If there's been any rivalry at all between the HFU and FRC, it's been of only the friendliest sort. And Poet launched with a written commitment to respect member privacy, ops and listeners alike - something Murphy repeatedly demonstrated he would never actually do, regardless of his claims on the FRN.

While Cosmikdebris, on the Free Radio North America Google group's "What is this and should we care?" introductory statement seemed to extend an olive branch, he didn't make a convincing case for any real reconciliation. In fact, an objective, detached reader might be tempted to ask why any reconciliation would even be desirable, let alone necessary?

But we're not detached. Unless a detached brainstem counts.

At the risk of seeming to nitpick his good intentions, statements such as
"It's become increasingly evident to me that there are distinct disadvantages associated with the message board mode of operation for a community like shortwave free radio."

"Some people need to have their own board and their own hugbox. I don't have any problem with this. The three message boards have all been to various extents poisoned by the actions of one or more of their members or admins."

indicate there's little common ground. It would require quite a stretch to compare the occasional snarky remarks on the HFU and FRC with the years of abusive tirades and slanders perpetrated by Commander Coney & His Lost Planet Sockpuppets, as well as by the perpetual presidential wannabe's thuggish veep candidate.

So when Cos sez

"...I would love to see some kind of magic software be created that actually linked up the loggings sections of each of these three boards..."

it begs the question "Why?" The web is huge and diverse. For every hobby there are many completely independent and unaffiliated websites and blogs. There are plenty of good networking options for those who want them. But there's usually a very good reason why most participants on hobbyist and niche websites and forums prefer one over another, and may not want to be associated in any way with other sites despite sharing common interests. Murphy demonstrated that by trying to fuck up the HFU with his "RF Burnz" and "lovemyradios" sockmonsters. Same way he alienated virtually the entire European pirate scene.

Fact is, some twains don't need to meet. Rivers run just fine without having to hold hands or cooperate.


Worst Diagnosis - Damn You, Xenu!
The DSM eliminated Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

Crap. There goes another perfectly useful disorder. Maybe L Ron Hubbard was right about psychiatrists.


Best Goodfella News - Ragnar Bounces Back
Downside: In 2011 Ragnar put the popular Pirates Week podcast on hiatus while he recovered from carp 'n' grumble syndrome. I have long personal experience with that malady and sympathize completely.

Upside: In December 2011 Ragnar announced the launch of his new show, spotlighting classic pirate radio. So far I've listened to the first two Hall of Fame Spotlights. While I enjoyed hearing those classic shows, I'd like to hear more of Ragnar's narrative, perhaps some documentary style commentary to put the era into context. If he has time, editing some historical narrative into the existing HOF Spotlight shows would make 'em even better. He has a knack for it, a cheerful, friendly voice and an admirable ability to navigate the treacherous pirate waters and tempestuous personalities. In other words, the antithesis of Tales of Radio Paranoia.


Worst Use of Radio
How important is radio? Important enough even the well financed drug cartels use radio.
"Mexico drug cartel Zetas have their own radio system"

Meanwhile, the murders and mutilations of Mexican journalists and bloggers at the hands of drug cartels should serve as a reminder that internet "anonymity" is not as safe as some may believe. This reinforces the concept of compact low power radio as a tool for regional communication in waging news, views and propaganda wars. In other words, true clandestine radio, not the entertainment oriented pirate radio we can afford to indulge ourselves in throughout N. America... at least until the drug war crosses our borders.

Related NY Daily News story on drug cartels using radio.


Best Occupation of Free Radio?
Unfortunately I was unable to find any specific documentation or names to quote. But reportedly low power FM was used at some "Occupy" movement locations. Besides supporting non-violent anarchy, occupiers also helped contribute to the reminder that radio remains an essential tool of free speech. Whatever your thoughts about the Occupy movement - especially some of the wannabe hippie goofiness and disjointedness - it was a good thing if only because it provided an excellent example of exercising the First Amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Update 1/26/12 - found a few references for LPFM at "Occupy" events:
Occupy Fayetteville Facebook page
"Madison community groups find a voice in low-power FM radio"


Worst Best Move
WBCQ moved from 7415 to 7490, reportedly to avoid QRMing official comms on 7416. On the downside, WBCQ is barely audible now on 7490. On the upside, some pirates are making noises about reclaiming 7415, which has a legacy as a pirate freq predating WBCQ. I still have some old copies of Passport from that era.


Best Worst Prophecy
WYFR and Harold Camping, May 21 and October 21. The world didn't end - OR DID IT? 'nuff said. For reasons I cannot fathom, I just can't bring myself to a proper sense of ire over harmless old Brother Sominex. Besides, his Open Forum provided plenty of fodder for pirate spoofs.

Note: Jennifer Waits of Radio Survivor wrote the most balanced articles on this issue. Read 'em if you're actually interested in the WYFR saga.

Now, excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, thank you for calling and sharing, and shall we take our next call?


Worst Ruiner of Pirate Radio
Propagation. Or, rather, lack thereof. Once again, ManBearPig failed to produce sunspots. I'm super serial. And the year was riddled with Coronary Mess Ejaculations or "solar farts" as the phenomenon are known in the scientific community.


Best Retrospective on Curmudgeonly Radio Personality
Okay, it's actually a rerun of a Slate article from 2009. But it's damned good reading. Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen's excellent retrospective about radio legend Jean Shepherd resonates both humorously and poignantly now in context of a certain US shortwave pirate radio personality.

"Like a lot of fine-tuned performing artists, Shepherd increasingly exhibited the whole range of symptoms common to the aging diva. He became paranoid and resentful of imagined rivals..."
--Donald Fagen, for Slate

Best Creative Radio Paranoia
Just barely edging out Commander Bunny's WBNY "Three Ring Blogger Circus" production for 2011, Gabrielle Chana (aka Gail Chord Schuler), wants you to know that radio is being used to harass and destroy her, and the obscure objects of her desire: Brent Spiner, Hugh Jackman, Matthew McConaughy, Gerard Butler, Judge Terrance Jenkins and Vladimir Putin.

Be warned - the Jesuits have already destroyed Michael Jackson, Billy Mays and Princess Diana; possibly Kim Jong Il as well. (Note: Substitute "the gray aliens" or "the Communists" or "trust-fund bitches" for "the Jesuits" and you'll have a summary of her manifesto, as well as Commander Bunny's.)


Worst Omission - Who The Hell Do I Have To Piss Off To Make This List?
Finally, we are disappointed that neither Tales of Radio Paranoia nor WBNY's blog made Salon's 2011 hack blogger list. Alas, Katie Roiphe edged us out with a year-end blitz of boorish blarging. She even managed to surpass Commander Bunny in misogyny, if not in self-parody.


Okay, your turn. What's your Best/Worst or Top Ten list for 2011?