September 26 Dispatch: Crucial NPR coverage of our national predicament/a contested election?/Brian Lehrer hits 31-year mark at WNYC/the radio essay as art form/and a special guest dispatch from Portland, OR

Do strange omens portend a fierce battle?

The campaign to portray Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero/Contested election ahead?

Two NPR pieces heard on WNYC in the last few days highlighted the frightening potential for more bloody political conflict and a contested election. The first dealt with the public relations campaign to paint Kyle Rittenhouse as a champion of law and order. The piece touched on efforts by Rittenhouse’s defense team to shape public opinion about their client. Rittenhouse is the 17-year-old who killed two people during the Jacob Blake protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Video footage of the events surrounding Rittenhouse’s actions has triggered a Rashomon reaction, with viewers drawing entirely different conclusions along ideological lines. I’m not sure why Rittenhouse’s mother thought it was a good idea to drive her son to from Illinois to Kenosha so he could “protect” businesses whose owners he didn’t know and who didn’t request assistance. People don’t generally bring a loaded AR-15 into a tense situation without expecting to potentially fire the thing.

I was hoping some of the conservatives I know, who place such a heavy premium on individual responsibility would question the actions of someone incapable of making rational adult decisions. I’ve watched as much of the footage of the incident as I could stomach, and yes, it does appear that the first of Rittenhouse’s (unarmed) victims physically attacked him first (what led to this confrontation is unclear). The two other people shot by Rittenhouse appear to have been trying to disarm what they thought was a mass shooter. Anyway, this isn’t what this post is about. The NPR segment contains a clip by Rittenhouse’s lead counsel, John Pierce, who opined to Breitbart that the teen “had a God-given right” to have inserted himself into the tense situation. We hear Pierce saying “But I will tell you—and there’s no doubt about this—that if every law-abiding American showed up in the city that they love with an AR-15, the chaos would stop immediately.” It sounds to my ear as if Pierce is calling for mass murder.

The second NPR segment that ties in here was a short profile on Trump campaign manager and senior counsel, Justin Clark. An election lawyer who got his start working for Al Gore during the 2000 election, Clark is a seasoned tactician who helped prevent challenges to Trump during the 2016 Republican primary. Last year, he was caught on tape seemingly instructing a group of Republican lawyers on voter suppression methods. NPR’s Tamara Keith summed it up nicely: “It sounded like he was saying Republicans worked to suppress the vote, but Clark and the campaign have insisted his remarks were misunderstood and he was just talking about false allegations leveled against the GOP. Either way, as Clark said, Republicans are going on offense this year, building an army of lawyers and volunteers to have on hand in key precincts as people vote and as absentee ballots are counted.”

Friday’s Democracy Now (via WBAI) had Barton Gellman of the Atlantic dissecting the Trump campaign’s election strategy and possible outcomes. Gellman reiterates many of the key points in his recent Atlantic article on the topic: President Trump is pursuing a strategy that doesn’t include accepting a loss. Even If he is defeated soundly, Trump may never concede. The point is to throw the legitimacy of the election into question. The Democracy Now segment and Gellman’s Atlantic piece are both worth spending some time with. There is no reason to believe we won’t soon hit a new level of national insanity. A year ago a pandemic shutdown would have been unthinkable. Now an end to the plague feels unthinkable. The unthinkable shifts into the “new normal” rapidly—often more quickly than we can process these things.

Also on WBAI, I caught a short chunk of the Jimmy Dore Show, only to tune out after a few minutes of the host screaming—this isn’t hyperbole, that’s part of his shtick. Dore’s a comedian with a left-populist bent who is actively discouraging people to vote for Joe Biden. Dore’s show is kind of the left equivalent of Curtis Sliwa’s daily stultiloquence on ABC Radio. I could see the appeal of this sort of thing for people who resent the professorial tone heard on much of public radio, but to me, this stuff sounds like so many drunks ranting at a bar. I also think claiming there is no difference between the political parties is reckless and irresponsible.

A warning: WBAI is currently doing one of its fund drives, which entails station management pitching all manner of health cures and self-help motivational claptrap.

Brian Lehrer hist the 31-year mark at WNYC

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Brian Lehrer

Friday marked Brian Lehrer’s 31st year on the air at WNYC. Lehrer expressed little enthusiasm when the anniversary was brought up by Bill de Blasio on his “Ask the Mayor” feature. I’m surprised de Blasio still does the segment. It really is a unique pairing of two opposites: the measured, principled Lehrer and de Blasio who is, well de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio is smooth when dealing with non-contentious topics. When pressed, he tends to adopt a passive aggressive, snide tone. If you want to keep up with the dreadful state of the Republic, the Brian Lehrer Show is one of the best things on the radio. Lehrer’s program is an example of what a rational, educated current-events program sounds like. Maybe if major networks had programming like this, the electorate would be a bit better informed. Then again, if a thoughtful, even-mannered host like Lehrer turned up on one of the bombastic talk radio stations, the usual listeners would probably question their hearing abilities.

Reportedly Lehrer will be hosting NPR’s coverage of the upcoming Biden-Trump debate. I can’t think of a better host to steer listeners through the tumult.

Radio essay as art form

Also on WNYC, Sara Fishko’s Fishko Files looked at the live music-audience relationship. This is the audio essay as an art form. WFMU has been running interesting audio essays lately as well, including some by Weird New Jersey editor Mark Moran. I listen to so much radio that I should probably be jaded by the medium, yet somehow I’m continually amazed by some of the innovative things people pull off. Listen to Fischko’s “Concert Piece” here. Appears irregularly on WNYC 820 AM/93.9 FM.

John Schaefer’s Gig Alert highlighted saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s newest trio, set to debut tonight (9/26) at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Lloyd will be playing alongside Zakir Hussain on tablas and guitarist Julian Lange. Listen here. Appears weekday mornings during news coverage on WNYC 820 AM/93.9 FM.

This afternoon (9/26) NTN Radio, which simulcasts on WSNR 620 AM and 89.1 in Georgetown, Guyana had a nice tribute to DJ Frontline, who was killed in a traffic accident in Queens last week. The 40-year old DJ’s mixes often appeared on the NTN Saturday program. NTN plays traditional and popular Indian music as well as Indo-Caribbean rhythms. WSNR 620 AM, Saturday afternoons.

Guest radio dispatch from Portland, Oregon

We bring you this Portland, Oregon radio dispatch, via our friend Morgan Hobart

Xray FM’s (KXRY 91.1 and 107.1 FM respectively) Backroad to Nowhere on Sunday evenings has been pretty tried and true of late. DJ Tom Humphrey always brings insightful curations of striations of his voluminous musical history, always inspiring. On his past show he included a rare Woody Guthrie recording singing about 45’s father Fred, in a rather disparaging manner. They have a whole host of other great programs. Sundays pretty much across the board, as well as plenty of sonic curiosities both new and old, sublime frequencies, bollywood classics, tropicalia, you name it. (Other favorites include Melted Radio, Galaxy My Dear, Optic Echo, Radio Bandolero, Welcome to the Neighborhood, and plenty of informative local resources and information, the list goes on.)

The Numberz 96.7 FM is a really great local station representative of Portland’s Black community, with shows presenting local old school and current hip hop trends, always fresh and engaging material. Run up the Numberz is a great local news source in Portland’s current tumultuous moment.

KBOO as well, for insight into local progressive politics, Democracy Now, jazz and reggae.

Freeform Radio has a host of experimental and varied programming week to week. We’re pretty spoiled here in the Northwest if you are within range of the metro area at least, although I tend to stream them online more often than not, as the reception can be patchy in Northeast.

Salem’s KPAM 860 (formerly News talk 860 and now rebranded “The Answer”) was airing a lot of speculation about Biden’s mental health, churches getting shut down if he wins, and had an interview with Bill O’Reilly regarding to his colonial manifest destiny-pumping revisionist book about Crazy Horse. Apparently Roger Stone was scheduled for an interview later in the day, although I didn’t quite have the wherewithal to stay tuned. (Read our review of Salem’s two NY-area stations, “The Answer” and “The Mission” here—Ed.)

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Published by Frequency and Amplitude, an NYC Radio Roundup

Surveying what's left of the analog NYC-area radioscape.

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