Archive for the Media Category

I made some observations on my “About” page, some years ago, about the relationship between the practice of adoption and the way in which many Americans view the rest of the world. In recent days, that relationship has become quite obvious in the media coverage that has followed the earthquake in Haiti, and the subsequent actions by organizations, politicians, and prospective adopters in this country.

baltimore-sun-website-201001221610Unlike the self-described “bastards” I know, love, and work with, my personal interest in these matters is a little different, as I have no direct personal involvement with adoption beyond the fact that I live with a “bastard.” For me the subject connects with my interests in understanding how people handle information. Having had a tiny hand in popularizing the Internet years ago, how has the ‘net, and the concurrent growth of 24-hour television news, improved, or warped, how people view the world around them? Of course, one of the primary interests of “Bastards” – obtaining unaltered birth certificates that disclose historical facts of their origins – is likewise tightly connected with this issue of how people handle, or mishandle, or can’t handle, information, or construct elaborate structures of misinformation. Recent events are more about the global than the personal, but still these realms overlap, or oscillate from second to second, from the international to the individual.

I summed it up in a recent one-liner: “A city of millions of people leveled, and what’s on ABC tonight? ‘Is the baby I ordered still on its way?’” I was referring to a multi-night series of stories on Nightline, a program that’s been completely worthless ever since Ted Koppel retired. Days later, the habit continues, as with the Baltimore Sun website pictured. It’s all adopters, all the time. From the looks of it you’d think there have regularly been thousands of adoptions out of Haiti every year, and this vital flow was in danger of being interrupted.

Facts are, that’s not the case. There it is, on the U.S. State Department’s website: “The Total Adoptions from HAITI from 1998 to 2009 is: 2712.”  Twelve years, averaging two hundred twenty six every year. That is all.

Throw “haiti adoption” into Google News right now, how many hits do you get? “About 6,102.” That’s not counting the ads for international adoption and adoption agencies that will also show up on the search results. “Adopt from China, Russia, Haiti, Guatemala, and more!”

It doesn’t help that elected officials here in the U.S. don’t seem to have more important things to do with their time, and hop on the adoption bandwagon while it’s in the media spotlight. Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, his Federal judge wife, and U.S. representative Jason Altmire fly to Haiti on a chartered plane to transport over fifty children from an orphanage run by two Pittsburgh suburbanites. It doesn’t matter that the Haitian government hadn’t signed off on letting 26 of those children out of the country. Two American women pitch a hissy fit, Rendell and Altmire work the White House to pressure what’s left of the Haitian government, and the next thing you know all 54 children are on a U.S. military plane.

When those children got to Pittsburgh – transported on the pretense that they were “already in the pipeline for adoption” – the truth comes out: seven of them hadn’t even been matched with adoptive parents. They ended up in a faith-based residential treatment center that had only 24 hours to prepare for their arrival.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of needy kids here in America, and in Pennsylvania. Eventually, that fact merits a small mention, here in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

But social service providers – and the Rendell administration – have a message for the families willing to open their homes and hearts: Don’t forget the 3,000 Pennsylvania children waiting for permanent homes.

“While the plight of the Haitian orphans has attracted much attention, it is important to recognize the many other children for whom we are always working to find a supportive family and safe home environment,” said Harriet Dichter, acting secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare.

Child advocate Cathleen Palm said that when she heard about the rush to adopt the Haitian children, she wished there was a way to assemble all the needy Pennsylvania children in a stadium and have the governor rescue them.

“We want to make sure people aren’t losing sight of the fact that kids are in crisis in Pennsylvania, too,” said Palm.

Why is it, when Pittsburgh has its own share of needy children, many in foster care, that all this attention – and the involvement of state and federal politicians – has been focused on Haitian children, attention that has as its goal, moving large numbers of them out of their country?

Perhaps a small hint of what might actually be going on here comes from this comment I saw go by on Facebook: ”I saw the little boy that Cooper Anderson helped pull from the rubble and he looked good, but you could tell he is still shell-shocked. That’s the one I would take home with me for a while…”

Television provides an illusion of participation, that by simply watching a moving image the viewer feels that they’re somehow involved in events in a far away place. But because merely being a television viewer is unsatisfying in such times, many feel moved to act in some way. The things that an average American can do with respect to such huge tragedies are few; often the only answer is to send money. The popularization of international adoption, even when the practice is overwhelmingly corrupt and may violate human rights, seems to me to fill exactly this void; the impulse to get one’s hands on the children of an earthquake-ravaged country is created by these media portrayals of external calamity interacting with the cultural predisposition that it’s the American national mission to save the rest of the planet.

This self-defined role of planetary savior, that through adoption almost anyone can indulge in, a romantic and ostensibly altruistic myth, is exactly that: role-playing. It exists independent of the actual children and people of Haiti and their realistic needs. It’s the extension of the American exceptionalist myth, expressed through  its military and foreign policy of planetary enforcer and order-keeper (regardless of actual results on the ground after billions of dollars are spent), made accessible to any citizen who’s willing to meet the most basic requirements, and who can afford the fees. It also matches the consumerist mindset, in which by simply acquiring the right things – even your very own “orphan” – your situation, and that of the world, will improve.

The solution for the children of Haiti, created by those who see the world through these lenses, is simplistic, crude and appeals to the acquisitional American who thinks they can buy or trade for anything and by doing so will do no harm, to the point that we now see suggestions like this one: “What if….we could find a plane that had just dropped a load of humanitarian aid and load it up with orphans?” There’s no hiding that the writer of that sentence, a professional promoter of adoption in the Christian context, thinks it’s a fair trade: he drops off  aid, he extracts “orphans” to satisfy the enormous demand he’s been helping to create in his subculture for adoptable children. If the “orphans” don’t actually exist, they would have to be manufactured, through the endless redefinition of the term, “orphan,” which today seldom means what people think it means.

Here again the hiding of information, and the contrast between “orphans” acquired outside the United States, and the reality of children in genuine need who might be available for domestic adoption, becomes clear. The imperative to hide information about the actual origins of children put up for adoption is one of the reasons international adoption exists. With the barriers of distance, international boundaries, and language, the entire history of what happened to these children may disappear, or be made inaccessible. The same goes for their biological parentage.

Couple that need for information hiding to a catastrophic natural disaster, and the resulting chaos and actual elimination of records, the entire history of where these children came from may be destroyed.

Contrast how that history can be hidden or destroyed in this international situation, with the prospect of domestic adoption out of foster care, where past history cannot be eliminated with such ease. This is, I think, why the governor of Pennsylvania isn’t spending the same amount of time and energy doing something for his state’s own needy kids. The facts about those kids’ lives can’t be wiped out with a plane ride, it lives on in files and records and the memories of people who might be neighbors, instead of being physically separated by thousands of miles.

After more than two weeks have passed since the earthquake, two camps have clearly emerged. One is driven by American foreign policy and all its concomitant myths and baggage as I’ve described them. Faced with a bonanza of the newly-opened opportunity to strip-mine Haiti of its children, American politicians are now calling for the State Department to set up a separate office to make sure that absolutely nothing stands in the way between American prospective adopters and Haitian children. Gordon Duguid, a deputy spokesman for the State Department, is quoted as saying, “we will send no child out of Haiti who does not have cleared, vetted and accepted parents waiting for him or her in the U.S.”  Interesting redefinition there of what a “parent” is, equivalent to “adopter,” a redefinition that’s not necessarily shared by the rest of the world. As is to be expected, there’s no mention of how the U.S. will confirm that children arriving in the U.S. from Haiti will be shown to be genuine “orphans” without any parents or family remaining in Haiti, or even relatives here.

All that matters to the State Department is satisfying the needs of prospective adopters, and all the intermediary organizations that stand to benefit by facilitating such a mass migration.

The other camp, of course, is that of UNICEF and other aid agencies that have placed a priority on the reunification of children with their families.

Meanwhile, the government of Haiti has reportedly halted the departure of so-called “orphans” from the country, for among other reasons, concerns that children might be removed from the country while they still have relatives there who could care for them.

As can be expected, the whining of a relatively tiny number of prospective adopters may now be occupying a disproportionate amount of the time of many American politicians. One example of many is this story from Terre Haute, Indiana, where a prospective adoptive family is “on an emotional roller coaster ride.” As usual, such prospective adopters, by whatever means, believe that the child they visited in some far-off country is already theirs, it’s just a matter of finishing the paperwork. Never mentioned is the possibility that the so-called “orphan” they expect to arrive any day now may not, in fact, be an orphan. Inevitably, increased scrutiny of the cases of children about to depart Haiti, on the part of government and aid organizations, will leave some American prospective adopters empty-handed.

It is in these situations where the fallout from the promotion of the mythology of romantic, altruistic, child-saving international adoption by Americans, will at least be a bit more evident. Children in poor, disaster-ravaged nations are reduced to a mere natural resource, who could easily fill that role if they could only be stacked shoulder-to-shoulder in aircraft headed back toward the United States. Their transport here serves to appease those who never question that myth and who often see their actions as heroic. It’s up to those on the ground without such an agenda to challenge that myth, to put forward the idea that adoption is not a solution to poverty, and to work toward the reunification of families separated by disaster.

For more reading:

Baby Love Child

The Daily Bastardette

Haiti Statement by Adoptees of Color Roundtable

Update: This quote was in the “sidebar” of this blog from February through September of 2008. It’s still relevant when considering the efforts of UNICEF in Haiti today.

If justice comes (and I have serious doubts that it will), it will come from the International community and NOT the United States.

- MichiganGirl, February 5, 2008

baltimore sun selfserviceadvertising-1-DassDIY234This is fascinating. The Baltimore Sun now allows anyone to advertise on their website. And it’s absolutely free!

All you need to do is insert your ad in any comment thread, and it’ll stay there forever.

Every single story I’ve read on their website over the past week or so has at least one ad in the comments promoting a Chinese website selling dubious brand-name clothing, handbags and shoes. In many cases there are no other comments!

Is it still “spam” when the site’s management is doing absolutely nothing to squelch this use of their website? The only thing I can gather from their inaction is that it must be okay.

If they act like the value of space on their website is so low that they let it fill up with crap (whether that be the comments or the spam), why should anyone spend money to advertise on it?

EDIT: It’s gone, but this is the first time I’ve noticed anyone cleaning up.

There are some days when I think it should be obvious, that the whole subject of “meditation” has been pretty much exhausted and is now entirely the realm of quacks and snake-oil salesmen. But, to continue the theme of worthless corporate media that I was working with in the last post here, “meditation” is one of those background puff-piece staples of the media, kind of like how every single PETA stunt or press release will get prominent reporting all over, no matter how gross, nonsensical or just plain stupid.

“Meditation,” of course, could mean almost anything. In a lot of cases, I think it’s just a means by which people get permission to take a break from all the things they think are more important in their lives, if only just to take a short nap, or even close their eyes for a bit.

Certainly “Transcendental Meditation®,” the form of meditation I’m personally most familiar with, sometimes seems to be nothing more than a means by which an exotic authority figure plays the role of cosmic daddy and tells his charges to go take a nap twice a day. It might not be just a nap, with all the fabricated exotica of mantras and mental states and all the rest of that baggage. But it seems to me that somewhere around the core of what TM is about is both the exercise of that kind of authority, and the narcissism of the meditator, who often believes that whatever they’re doing makes them healthy, pure and special. With that narcissistic specialness, and the mystique that meditation still seems to carry in Western culture, comes the need to inappropriately proselytize and advertise whatever they’re doing between their ears to the outside world.

Tonight someone tried to post a comment on my previous blog entry. As you can see, I’d made no mention of meditation, breathing exercises, blood pressure, or any of those topics; it was about as far away from that as I could get. The last time I wrote about meditation here was last May! But that didn’t stop the commenter from attempting to post the entirety of a recent New York Times article to the comment thread, without a link to the source. The article, “Can Meditation Curb Heart Attacks?” is the latest in a very long string of promotional pieces that have appeared in the Western press over the last few decades. The subject, as usual, is a research study or two that supposedly supports the claim that Transcendental Meditation® provides unique benefits.

The problem with these claims is that these research studies inevitably involve individuals from the TM movement’s university, the Maharishi University of Management. Every time I see one of these stories go by, I’m reminded of what a TM movement lawyer, Stephen Druker, once told me in person thirty years ago:

We want to make sure that they’re going to protect the integrity of our subjects, because one’s in a very delicate state when one is practicing these. And also that they’ve designed the experiment so that they won’t disturb the meditative state and test something other than what they’re supposed to test. But once the experiment is designed properly, we’re all for as we’ve been for every other phase of the TM program, extensive scientific research.

The research he was talking about at the time was on the TM movement’s claims that they were teaching a method by which people could levitate at will, but what he said, I think, applies to all research in which the TM organization is involved. What does “test something other than what they’re supposed to test” actually mean in practice? I take it to mean that researchers aren’t allowed to design a study that might in the end cast TM in a negative light, or that might even show that TM isn’t everything its promoters say it is.

This particular New York Times article, which unlike a lot of articles on the subject does point out that the researcher quoted in the article is associated with the Maharishi University of Management, still avoids pointing out the obvious: the researcher is a promoter of the very product he’s researching! He himself has been a  meditator for almost two decades, probably three! He is not in any way an objective observer! Here he can be seen in the TM movement’s trademarked beige suit, sporting  the TM movement’s trademarked male-pattern-baldness haircut!

So with that in mind, and understanding that when I see reference to yet another fine batch of in-house TM research in the press, I know I’m looking at a form of spam; spam that’s getting reported all over because the average reporter seems incapable of digging up the obvious fact that the TM organization has been trying to make these sorts of claims stick since the early 1970′s. The claims don’t stick because whatever effect they’re claiming exists is down in the noise, and all the studies claiming such effects almost always involve long-term TM devotees, some of whom have likewise been banging their heads against this wall since the early 1970′s.

So, let’s see. I’m looking at an attempted comment which is clearly, technically, a copyright violation, the full text, beginning to end, of a NYT article; the commenter couldn’t be bothered to simply excerpt the story and provide a link; it’s a comment that’s completely off-topic relative to the entry it’s attached to; and the content is yet another article I’ve seen a hundred times or more. If the commenter thought it was so important that I see yet another instance of the TM organization successfully spamming the media PETA-style, they could have e-mailed me. My e-mail address is in the obvious place if you really have the burning need to serenade me with more of the same-old, same-old.

What’s this? The commenter has signed it with a valid name and e-mail address, so off to Google we go, where I find a reference to the commenter, identified as a “retired VP of Microsoft.” The sender’s IP maps to Bellevue, Washington. I do believe we have a match.

I normally don’t reply to such attempts, but tonight was an exception.

Subject: Re: [Mike Doughney] Please moderate: "WTOP Radio's drinking out of the toilet bowl again"
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 22:22:38 -0500
From: Mike Doughney

Somehow I would have thought a retired VP of Microsoft would know better
than to try to post off-topic spam to a blog comment thread. Then again,
maybe that explains a lot about the state of the web today. Then again,
maybe TM just helps you lose your mind. In any case, your submission is
being ignored.

WordPress wrote:
> A new comment on the post #206 "WTOP Radio's drinking out of the toilet bowl again" is waiting for your approval
> Author : Min Yee (IP: ,
> E-mail :
> URL : http://none
> Whois :
> Comment:
> NOVEMBER 20, 2009, 12:47 PM
> Can Meditation Curb Heart Attacks?
> Richard Patterson for The New York Times Recent research suggests transcendental meditation may be good for the heart.
> When Julia Banks was almost 70, she took up transcendental meditation. She had clogged arteries, high blood pressure and too much weight around the middle, and she enrolled in a clinical trial testing the benefits of meditation.

Seconds later, I get a reply:

Subject: Re: [Mike Doughney] Please moderate: "WTOP Radio's drinking out of the toilet bowl again"
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 19:28:57 -0800
From: Min Yee
To: Mike Doughney

I've not done TM but yoga breathing techniques have helped.
And it has brought down my high blood pressures.
Anyways, its your website.



No mention of having spammed, no attempt at an apology, no nothing other than “Look at me! I do breathing exercises and my blood pressure went down! Ain’t I special! I don’t even do TM!”

So I hope you’ll cut me a little slack if my frequent dismissal of all things related to “meditation” gets under your skin. Incidents like this just reinforce my impression that meditation tends to be the realm of the clueless and socially inept. Even among former vice-presidents at Microsoft. Maybe that explains Windows Vista. Or not.

The Palladium-Times, January 19, 1985
The Palladium-Times, January 19, 1985

It’s a new blog, a new beginning of sorts. I thought I would, in a sense, wind the clock back to a point in time where some of my personal experiences that I’ve never before written about were in some way relevant to current events, particularly with respect to the media as we know and experience it today.

It was the fall of 1984, and along with a few other young people, I became involved in owning and managing a small radio station in a small town in upstate New York. A company that had bought a pair of stations, AM and FM, had moved the FM station to Syracuse and sought to spin off the AM to a buyer. We bought the station in December of 1984, moved from the Baltimore-Washington area to the town of Fulton, and tried to make a go of it.

Thus began a period of about a year and a half of learning all about running a small business for the first time, the hard way.

We thought with a few improvements to the programming, beginning by running the station with air talent who were at least listenable, and a consistent “middle of the road” music format geared toward adults, we would make the station viable. We brought on an extra person to do frequent newscasts in the morning, and tried to serve the entire area with a quality product, not just the small town where the station was located.

How to sum up the result of all that effort?

Almost nobody noticed.

Example of a John Birch Society column in the Oswego Valley News, April 1981.
Example of a John Birch Society column in the Oswego Valley News, April 1981. This newspaper published other JBS columns during 1985. (

We’d arrived in Fulton at the end of a period that started in the early seventies, when most radio listening moved from AM to FM. As listeners became accustomed to listening to FM, by means of other changes such as the FM radio becoming standard in new cars, the number of stations in the area effectively doubled. This left many AM stations in a threatened position, with increased competition. We also learned that, for a myriad of reasons, some specific to the town, there was considerable bias against the notion of radio advertising in the area; in fact, historically, this radio station was never really a viable business. Business owners seemed to prefer newspapers, where they could justify their spending on advertising with a clipping out of the paper that they could paste to the side of their cash register. They preferred a physical object; it seemed that the idea of paying for something that couldn’t quite be held in the hand hadn’t yet caught on there.

After awhile, I began to notice other unexpected things. One of the local newspapers, the Valley News, occasionally would run columns furnished by the John Birch Society. I’d previously thought that publications like that were something you had to seek out, maybe find in an obscure bookstore or send away for by mail. Here, all one had to do was open the local newspaper. It was just like any other column, wedged in between plenty of ads for local businesses.

Obviously, some things that I’d probably never see back home were to some degree socially acceptable here.

Portion of USGS map, Fulton, NY, 1960.
Portion of USGS map, Fulton, NY, 1960. From the Maptech historical archive

Another example was probably related to the fact that, in 1980, in a county of 113,000 people, only 445 were counted by the U.S. census as ‘black.’ We learned that the road the station was situated on was once named “Niggerville Road” – it led to a nearby little crossroads that was so named because of the skin color of a landowner who settled there in 1828. The name of the road wasn’t changed to the generic “Lakeshore Road” until sometime in the early to mid-1960′s.

There were many other contrasts with my past experiences, having grown up and lived in an urban area. Basic expectations, that people expected and supported change and “progress,” and that Americans were mobile, were challenged. Some people in this town hadn’t even once visited Syracuse, a city less than thirty miles away.

More generally it seemed that, along with much of that part of the Northeast, many who had mobility had already left town with the jobs and industry long departed. What was left were the brewery, the chocolate factory, and a smattering of other businesses.

One part of the population that was mobile, highly skilled, and employed were the workers who were building the nuclear power plant on Lake Ontario. Our apartment complex was packed full of these residents, so much so that we were on a waiting list for an apartment for some time before moving there.

A year after our arrival, plant construction came to an end, and people began to depart. A rash of business failures followed, including, inevitably, our own. I turned the station off and handed the keys to the seller, since they’d financed our purchase. I headed back to Washington DC and eventually found a job there.

Here this story came close to ending. This “dark” radio station almost disappeared permanently; the company I’d handed it back to was in the odd position of having already bought another AM station in the area. Back in those days, before deregulation, they couldn’t operate two overlapping AM stations – so they couldn’t put the station back on the air. They’d have to find another buyer for it, or hand the license back to the FCC, likely silencing the station permanently.

But some years later – by now, it’s 1988 – another fellow and his wife finally bought the station and put it back on the air. This time, though, the station would sound a bit different: large parts of its broadcast day would be filled with talk programming, delivered by satellite.

In the intervening years, there’d been some advancements in the technology of radio, an ongoing evolutionary process that, in fact, I’d been a part of. Broadcast networks had been gradually moving from landlines to satellites for distribution. At first, the technology was relatively primitive, expensive, and really only available to the major networks at the time: ABC, CBS, NBC, Mutual, along with the AP and UPI wire services. Previously, I’d worked for Mutual – then a subsidiary of Amway – in a multi-million dollar uplink facility specially built for that purpose. But the financial and regulatory boundaries to entry into this kind of business were coming down, largely driven by advancements in technology.

By the late 1980′s, other entrepreneurs were looking to get into the business of network radio. One of these people was a guy by the name of Chuck Harder, a former disk jockey turned radio talk-show host. He started the “Sun Radio Network” from the garage of his home.

From the perspective of an owner of a small radio station just getting by, networks like Harder’s offered a viable option. For the one-time cost of a satellite downlink – which could even be leased – an inexpensive, if not free way of filling airtime became available. One person, or a couple, could operate a radio station all day and do other tasks, since they need not be on the air all that time. After a few hours of “live” programming on weekday mornings, the rest of the day’s schedule could be filled by programs off the satellite, with only the addition of local commercials for a few minutes an hour.

Viewed most cynically, commercial broadcast programming is just a matter of filling in the spaces between commercials, providing ears and eyes for those commercials. Filling those spaces with some guy sitting in his garage in Tampa, saying whatever comes to mind, is a lot cheaper than paying a number of people to play music. In particular, it’s a lot less expensive than a subscription to the Associated Press newswire, which cost hundreds of dollars a month for even a small station.

But as the nature of the players changed, as the programming sources moved from the traditional to the new, so did the content.

Here was one marker of that contrast: the product of a news organization – produced by trained journalists who are paid, ideally, to separate fact from fiction, and who uncover things that are often disturbing, unexpected, and not what the audience cares to hear – costs real money.

Some guy sitting in his garage telling his audience what they want to hear – remember, this is about attracting ears for those commercials – costs nothing.

In this case, it follows that one of the frequent topics of Chuck Harder’s radio show back then was the “black helicopter” myth. Completely fictitious stories, like the allegation that armed federal agents in black helicopters were enforcing the Endangered Species Act, took on a life of their own. Stories like these having little connection if any to reality, propagated by talkshow hosts, were then picked up by politicians who ride the wave of the underlying attitudes embodied in these stories – paranoia, pointless anti-governmentalism, and distraction from more important concerns.

On a visit to the area in the early 1990′s, I heard Harder on the Fulton station I’d briefly owned, babbling with callers about these same mythical helicopters.

Thus began massive changes in the radio business. AM radio became dominated by talk hosts including Rush Limbaugh, whose national show also started in 1988. Talk radio fills up space on the dial – cheaply – and it need not fulfill any traditional expectation of being somehow connected to reality, even while it’s not clearly perceived to be simply “for entertainment purposes only.”

Fast-forward ahead almost twenty years to the present day. Now, it’s not just the little rural radio stations that are undergoing a similar transition.

Today, you have the schedule of CNN Headline News migrating to something filled with things other than news, with trash talkers like Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace.

There was once a time when if you had a half hour and you wanted to find out what was going on the world, you could turn on CNN Headline News and get a summary of current events. Now, I can’t remember when I last watched that channel.

In some ways similar to the transition of AM radio twenty years ago, a similar change is in progress. CNN, faced with more competition as the number of TV channels available by cable and satellite has exploded, along with the Internet, has changed the programming of what was a full-time news channel, replacing large blocks of time with the similar rantings of talk show hosts.

Again, this time in the search for eyeballs, the distinction between fact and fiction becomes blurred in the quest to provide an audience with what it wants to hear.

So I find it kind of quaint, when John and Joe at Americablog call for Glenn Beck’s firing, and then later notice that CNN president Jonathan Klein would rather fire qualified hard news reporters instead. And while Beck is a homophobe, and Grace is – well, out of her mind – they speak to the same background “hum” that all such personalities work to address.

That is where the eyeballs, ears and, consequently, advertising revenue come from. Endlessly repeating a narrative – a portion of the background “hum” – full of retribution against evildoers and violence, direct or implied, against outsiders and transgressors is where the money is. Facts, or the corrosive effect of this kind of narrative on society and governance, are simply irrelevant.

Which brings me to the odd little postscript of this story, which is that one of the sea changes over the past twenty years in American media, and in the broadest sense, culture, is the “mainstreaming” of certain views across media; that elements of articulation of that background “hum” that were always there have moved from relatively obscure to predominant. Rather than having to seek out the back pages of small rural papers, or tiny little radio stations that can barely be heard, to hear certain views that used to be championed by what some mistakenly called “the fringe” like the Birchers, all one need do today is turn on CNN or open The Washington Post.

And as for that little radio station in Fulton? It later went through a succession of owners, one who apparently coupled it to a free local newspaper with some success, and another who attempted to drop the talk format for “traditional country.” Ultimately the station failed again, and went dark for a while last year. Now it’s just a relay of a Syracuse radio station, which in turn runs “Radio Disney.” As broadcast media wholesale adopted the talk radio model, this station was in some ways obsolete, and likewise, Chuck Harder’s program and network have, relatively speaking, declined in recent years. Harder’s website still lists the long-gone Fulton station as his only New York State affiliate.

Photos from my time in Upstate New York can be found at my gallery site,

The man who put the station back on the air in 1988 went on to teach communications and write books about vintage outboard motors.