Dinosaur in Trouble: proudly serving Twin Cities music geeks

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Corporate Radio Kills

Today, I was reminded about the last, and final time I listened to corporate radio. If you don’t mind, I’ll tell you about it.

But first, let me set the scene. The Bush Administration, apparently not satisfied with their messy war in Afghanistan, was intent on starting yet another pointless war. George W. Bush had talked about attacking Iraq even before he was “elected” president (thus, 9/11 was not the reason for the war, although it sure was convenient). Not wanting to expose the big oil interests behind his decisions, Bush offered a handful of phony explanations of why we needed to attack Iraq. Every time one of his justifications for war was proved to be completely unfounded, he had to modify his story (and they called Kerry a flip-flopper).

Now, contrary to popular belief, not all Americans are complete morons. Actually, the majority of Americans were not buying Bush’s bullshit. This was very evident in the Twin Cities. Thousands of people - even people who normally shied away from politics – were doing everything they could to knock some sense into the Bush Administration. Minnesotans were working so hard to exercise their voice in our government. It was actually quite beautiful to see our streets and parks packed with passionate people, from all walks of life, all striving toward a common goal of peace.

The stubborn administration made all of our hard work seem futile. Bush even said that he wasn’t going to listen to anti-war protesters because that would be like listening to special interest groups. Whoa. First of all, the peace movement was not a special interest – it was the exact opposite. When over half of Americans are advocating for peace, it’s quite obvious that we’re in the realm of public interest. The leader of a representative democracy is supposed to listen to the public interest – that’s the whole point of democracy. And second of all, since when was Bush opposed to listening to special interest groups? We wouldn’t have been in this mess if he didn’t listen to his friends and lobbyists in Big Oil. Needless to say, it was a very frustrating time for anyone who gave a shit. I’m still very frustrated.

Waging unjust wars was not the only sketchy thing going on in our government. At the same time, the FCC was considering further deregulation of the media. The new proposals would negate laws that prevent one company from owning more than one media outlet in a single market (e.g., under the FCC’s proposal, Clear Channel could own radio stations, TV stations, and newspapers in the Twin Cities). This was bad news, especially considering that the control of our media already was in the hands of a very small group of people.

The FCC’s proposal was the result of hard work done by lobbyists from the big five media conglomerates (News Corp., Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, and Clear Channel). But of course, they wouldn’t get their way if they weren’t willing to return any favors. Thus, the major media conglomerates did everything they could to please the FCC and the FCC chairman, Michael Powell. Who’s that? You guessed it – the son of Secretary of State, Colin Powell. And what better way to win the heart of Michael Powell than to support his dad’s war march? (By the way, George W. Bush was already a big advocate for media deregulation.)

This is why Clear Channel staged their infamous pro-war rallies. What a fucking disgrace. The peace demonstrators were lucky if they could afford a megaphone. But you’d walk past the Clear Channel rallies and see the spineless college Republicans with big expensive sound systems. What made it even worse is that Clear Channel would advertise their rallies on their own radio stations. Peace activists would never be able to get an advertisement on a Clear Channel station (or any other station owned by the Big Five), even if they could afford it. In effect, Clear Channel was making a mockery out of a very serious situation, and only added to the tension leading up to the war.

Clear Channel was definitely not the only media conglomerate embracing the war. (Here’s where I finally get to my story.)

So, I was driving my car one night. My thoughts were occupied with Bush’s proposed war in Iraq. The weapons inspectors had come out empty handed, and Bush was damaging our relationship with the UN. I needed to relax. I needed to escape into some music, so I turned on the radio. Since the sun had already set, Radio K was off the air (due to another law set by the FCC that only serves to disadvantage small radio stations). So I turned to my next favorite station, KFAI. I love KFAI, but that night, I was having some difficulty understanding the Hmong talk show. Desperate for some music, I started to flip through the stations. I stopped on the butt-rock station 93X (note: owned by ABC/Disney) because they were playing a song from my childhood (I think it was the Stone Temple Pilots).

When the song finished, 93X ran a promo for a Godsmack concert they were sponsoring. The promo told me that I could win Godsmack tickets by being the tenth caller after I heard a certain sound clip. I think they were calling the whole deal “Godsmack Iraq.” Naturally, I was starting to get pissed off as my thoughts drifted back to the war. But then things got worse. They said, “Call in when you hear the bomb dropping on the Arab.” Then they played an example of the sound clip. I heard a man speaking in an over-the-top Middle-Eastern accent, saying something along the lines of, “What’s that falling from the sky? Could it be a message from Allah?” And then an explosion. It was the single most racist thing I’ve ever heard on non-talk radio (and I used to have to listen the KQRS morning show). That was straight-up Nazi propaganda. Yes, racism is a great way to drum up support for a war. The us-versus-them mentality never fails. And it’s so easy to do with Iraqis – they speak a different language, they have different customs, they have a different skin color, and they practice a different religion (especially when compared to the 93X demographic). By that time, I was already used to major media being unsympathetic to the anti-war movement, but this was ridiculous. There is never an excuse for racism.

I was fuming. But what they did next drove me to the point of actually screaming at my radio. Right when the bomb exploded, the background music of the promo changed to “Calm Like a Bomb” by Rage Against the Machine. That proved to me that corporate radio has absolutely no respect for the music they play. “Calm Like a Bomb” is a very powerful song that directly speaks out against the type of racism and injustice that ABC/Disney was promoting in that ad. How dare they defile Rage Against the Machine! Rage Against the Machine existed for the sole purpose of educating music fans about social injustice, and then calling them to action. And even though they were broken up at the time, all the members of Rage were vary vocal against the Iraq war.

Many bands have had a significant impact on my life (mostly on an emotional level), but Rage Against the Machine truly changed my life and shaped me into who I am today. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they are one of the most important bands to ever come into my life. Sure, there are many bands whose message is similar to Rage’s, but I definitely wasn’t listening to those bands in high school. At the time, I had a relatively limited musical consciousness. Rage Against the Machine was visible enough to jump into my consciousness.

Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t go to three concerts per week. The very first show I ever saw was Rage Against the Machine. I left from that show a different person. Rage Against the Machine – in front of thousands of people - was standing up for what they believed was right. And here’s the crazy thing: the people actually cared! Suddenly, I realized that I could do the same thing. It’s OK for me to stand up for what I believe. And furthermore, I realized that if I truly care about something, I have to actually do something about it. I have to take action. And as Rage demonstrated, sometimes people actually listen and take you seriously. Even if you can’t change the entire world, at least you can make a positive difference in someone’s life (Rage made a huge difference in my life). Who knows how long it would have taken me to come to that realization if I didn’t go to that concert. I could still be living in a state of apathy.

Is it now clear why I was extremely offended when I heard ABC/Disney using Rage Against the Machine to serve their racist warmongering agenda? That was enough to turn me off from corporate radio forever. If the media conglomerates are so greedy that that they’re willing to offend their listeners and support unjust wars, they don’t deserve my support. There are plenty of independent and public radio stations out there that do a great service to the community – I will always support them. Nowadays, when Radio K is off the air and the other good stations are in a language I don’t understand, I simply turn off the radio and sing my own happy songs.

Perhaps in my next post, I’ll explain why I was reminded about all this today. This post is long enough. I don’t actually expect anybody to read this far.


Blogger solace said...

yet another great post, def going to have to add your blog to my bloglines and link list :)

and that is pretty sickening, but sadly not surprising.

i'm half way tempted to just buy a one way ticket to Europe when i go in May :(

5:16 PM


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