I love radio. Radio is magic. You can build a radio transmitter with one transistor, and power it with a 9v battery. The magic of radio is a natural phenomena. Radio requires a little bit of technology, but the near effortless propagation of radio signals through space is nothing less than a miracle of nature. Nikola Tesla discovered it first, but Marconi patented it as an invention, and sold it as a product.
More than 100 years later, radio still seems like magic. Your smart-phone is as much radio as it is computer, and radio allows all of your “wireless” devices to communicate with each other. If you ask me, radio is still the coolest thing about technology. The internet, on the other hand, is not magic at all.
The internet is all sleight of hand. The internet relies on huge racks of high-tech machines concealed from view in windowless concrete bunkers. These machines, as well as the machines users buy and use directly, are far too complicated for most users to understand. They work millions of times faster than anyone can perceive, and the user has very little control over what they do. The internet would not exist at all if it weren’t for the power of capital and empire working together on their shared ambitions to control, exploit and monetize everything on planet earth, including its human inhabitants.
From inception, the internet has been expensive, sneaky, and dishonest. It is constantly looking for new ways to suck you in and take advantage of you. I use the internet, but I do not trust it, and I do not consider it a friend. Neither should you! The internet was designed for universal surveillance, political oppression, and to facilitate the command and control of military assets all over the world, from anywhere in the world, and that’s exactly what it does today.
The internet is a contrivance, an invention of man that consumes enormous amounts of energy, requires constant maintenance, and generates a ghastly amount of waste. The internet squeezes the life out of you by constantly pushing you to upgrade your equipment and pay for new services. In other words: The internet sucks. It sucks resources and it sucks away your life.
Radio, by contrast, is a gift. Radio shares information, indiscriminately, over long distances and through barriers, at the speed of light, for free. Radio is your friend. Radio exists by the graces of the same forces that put stars in the sky and fish in the water. For local communication, nothing beats FM radio. Cops use it. Firefighters use it. Weather reporting buoys at sea use it. Here in Humboldt County, we depend on FM community radio stations for important and timely information about our far flung rural community.
That’s why I’m very concerned about recent developments at KHSU, the community radio station at Humboldt State University. Recently, the university has taken actions that lead me to believe that Humboldt State University intends to close down, or radically diminish KHSU’s function as a community resource. The firing of Programming Director Katie Whiteside, despite her excellent record of service and strong community support, was the equivalent of putting a bullet through the brain of KHSU.
Humboldt State University recently announced plans to dismantle the organs and bones of KHSU, it’s studio equipment and office space, allegedly for the purpose of seismic retrofitting, but they have announced no plans for a new permanent home for the station. KHSU’s management team also canceled their next pledge drive. A slaughtered animal no longer requires food.
There was no warning to listeners. As in any good slaughterhouse, KHSU stepped around a blind corner and “blam!” Threats from listeners to withdraw support for the station have had no effect on the University’s decision. HSU may no longer care that much about the needs of its host community. After all, HSU is a university, and universities get their money from the tuition that students pay to take classes and learn skills that will help them pay off their student-loans, not from their host community.
Obviously HSU no longer feels that radio offers enough career opportunities to justify the expense of maintaining a station like KHSU. Instead, they will probably focus on their computer science and digital communications offerings, and encourage their students to do the same. Universities no longer offer students a place to broaden their horizons and expand their consciousness. Today’s university is a high-stakes casino where students gamble with their lives, and university administrators always want a bigger slice of the pie.
FM radio may seem arcane and obsolete, but radio is nature, and nature is alive and nature is never obsolete. Radio is still the most reliable and efficient medium for up to the minute information on local conditions in an emergency, and KHSU remains an essential asset to our community. To remain an essential asset to the community, however, KHSU needs to continue to produce local programming and have local people in control of the station at all times.
Radio is a gift, and because it is a gift, it will not offer many financial opportunities that would interest greedy people or those with a heavy debt load. The phenomena of radio propagation is a gift. Radio programming is offered as a gift to listeners, and in community radio stations like KHSU, gifts from the community of listeners keep that programming on the air. It takes a giving spirit to produce good local programming, and it takes a culture of generosity to support that programming and keep it on the air.
People like Katie Whiteside, and dearly departed Vinny DeVany made KHSU a pillar of our community because they gave so much of themselves to this community through that station, as so many of the staff and volunteers at the station continue to do. Radio only works when people give more than they take. That’s the nature of radio.
As the internet continues to suck dollars out of people’s pockets, and people out of reality, apparently Humboldt State University has come to the conclusion that the values that built and supported KHSU for many decades, no longer apply in our modern internet-driven world, and they no longer wish to cultivate them within their host community nor instill them in their students. This does not bode well for this community, or for humanity in general.