Paranoid flock of conspiracy hunters turns shortwave radio far to the right RADIO FREE COVER-UP

July 21, 1995|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Sun Staff Writer

At the time of his death, Vince Foster was under investigation for spying for Israel, which paid him millions that he hid in a Swiss bank account. The Oklahoma City bombing couldn't have taken place the way the government said it did, and seismographic charts prove it. Waco was a "Holocaust," but we'll never know the entire story because the government -- see a pattern here? -- bulldozed away the evidence.

Welcome to Radio Paranoia, where suspicious minds meet every day to churn current events through various conspiracy theories and arrive at the real truth, the one that the government and mainstream media would hide from you. It is talk radio at its most unfettered, with a sort of outlaw quality befitting its place on the shortwave frequencies of radio, that staticky end of the band you can't pick up on common AM/FM radios.

From the recently emerged militia movement to the ages-old conspiracists -- the kind who see sinister forces in the Trilateral Commission, the Federal Reserve and the Freemasons -- they've all found a voice on shortwave radio.

Long the purview of gadgety, quirky hobbyists who would scan these frequencies in search of a broadcast from the BBC or Radio Netherlands, shortwave recently has become the place to tap into the dark and embattled mood that has settled over the country like some sort of weather front.

"The deck has been stacked against the little guy. Shortwave is the voice of these people," says Mike Callahan, whose 3-year-old show urges listeners to buy gold, silver and platinum as a hedge against a coming economic storm.

Other hosts range from self-styled "independent investigators" looking into Whitewater, Waco and Oklahoma City and coming up with the sort of stuff that no congressional hearings would ever come up with, to truly scary figures like William Pierce, the West Virginia-based neo-Nazi devoted to making North America an entirely white continent.

That is the disturbing aspect to these shortwave radio talk shows. Some of it skews so far rightward, beyond Rush Limbaugh-land, beyond mere Democrat-Republican, left-wing-right-wing squabbling, into some sort of seemingly distant territory unexplored by most of us -- but also right in the midst of us. Some shows proved so controversial that they have been pulled off the air recently by the stations that carry them: Mark Koernke, the infamous "Mark from Michigan" militia member, no longer broadcasts his "Intelligence Report." And WINB, a shortwave station in York County, Pa., known for its ultra-conservative programming that sometimes featured Mr. Koernke and other militia officials, went off the air in April.

For some shows, shortwave is the last if not only refuge. They probably couldn't make it on commercial radio. Many advertisers would shy away from them because of their often incendiary content, and their limited appeal would likely make for poor ratings. And, in the view of some of the radio hosts, powerful forces that control the mainstream media and the government simply wouldn't allow them to be heard.

The role of ADL

For Tom Valentine, whose 7-year-old show is believed to be the longest-running shortwave program of its kind, that force is the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish watchdog group.

"The ADL has the ear of the government. Look at the power of Israel. The media does what the ADL tells them to do," Mr. Valentine groused in a recent interview.

Mr. Valentine's show is broadcast by WWCR, a Nashville-based station that airs mostly religious programs -- the call letters stand for World Wide Christian Radio -- as well as more politically oriented shows. WWCR sells time slots to other broadcasters, such as Mr. Valentine, who is allied with the Liberty Lobby, a Washington-based organization considered "a network of hate" by the Anti-Defamation League.

His program is currently on a Vince Foster roll. A recent show featured perhaps the ultimate shortwave radio talk show guest: A journalist whose employer, a major mainstream magazine, refused to publish his piece on Vince Foster.

Well, well, what have we here?

"Who am I, another conspiracy theorist on shortwave radio?" James R. Norman says dourly when reached at his office at Forbes magazine in New York, where he is a senior editor.

Mr. Norman admits his jaw dropped when a source told him that Mr. Foster had been under CIA investigation for espionage. But he became convinced after numerous interviews and wrote the piece.

"We do not believe the story, nor do we find the sources credible," Forbes editor James W. Michaels says. "But Jim Norman has his First Amendment rights."

The story, headlined "Fostergate," found a home in the August issue of Media Bypass, a 3-year-old magazine with the subtitle, "The Uncensored National News."

Mr. Norman, who also appeared on Baltimore radio station WCBM last night on Zoh Hieronimus' show, lauds shortwave for publicizing his piece even if he doesn't necessarily agree with the content of some of the shows.

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