One of my students had been asking me for a few weeks if I’d appear on his Monday-night call-in show at the college’s radio station, and I have to admit that I was dragging my feet a bit about the whole thing, partly because of the hour (he actually wanted me to DO something at 10 pm. At night. He clearly has no idea how old I am) but partly, if I’m going to be completely honest, just because I was nervous. Given the deep levels on which I really and truly believe that I’m a fraud, and that any day now the smart, sensible people around me are going to Figure It Out,* I was pretty convinced that I’d freeze up on-air, have nothing whatsoever to say, and certainly nothing of any interest.
As it turns out, I think I talked a blue streak. The good news is that, while the station has a live web-stream, that stream is not archived, so there’s no record of the blueness of my streak available to you guys. The bad news is, of course, that it was recorded on something they used to call “tape,” so the possibility that such an online archive might one day appear remains. But I discovered, definitively, that I had Plenty To Say, and some of it might even have made a little sense.
The thing that was most interesting to me about the night, though, was the briefing the show’s two student hosts and alumnus engineer gave me before the broadcast. There were only two points to this briefing: “keep it clean” and “no calls to action.”
No calls to action?
For instance, you can mention that something is happening — hey, there’s a great screening of a documentary called “The Corporation” on October 25 — but you can’t tell people to go to it. You can talk about the election, but you can’t tell people to go vote. And you certainly can’t advocate for any particular candidate.
I find this fascinating, particularly given that the kinds of activism that the FCC is working so hard to prevent — and seriously, these students told me, they might ignore us because we’re small, but there’s a web page on which anyone can file a complaint with the FCC, and one fine would put the station out of business — seem to focus on the left, on those attempting to organize to drive the current administration out.
FCC, I said. Interesting. And who is it that’s in charge of the FCC, who has advocated for these new, more stringent policies?
Michael Powell, I said. Interesting. And he’s related to… who is it again?
*[UPDATED, 10.12.04, 9.09 pm: Forgot to add the footnote, which intended to say something about how such hidden internal conviction of one’s basic fraudulence seems to me the only thing that unites all academics. All of us lie in wait for That Moment, when the dissertation committee calls to say that a terrible mistake has been made, or the tenure review committee passes on the word of the outside reviewers who, not knowing and liking you, have no vested interest in concealing the truth, and who thus say plainly what you’ve known all along, that you are at heart a Moron, that you have merely been faking otherwise, and that all good thinking people should cut ties with you at once. That such a Moment never arrives does nothing to soothe away the inner conviction of its imminence; if anything, it comes to seem more certain, the more time goes by.]