Monday, September 09, 2019

Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines

In my post on radio station bombings [LINK] the Rwandan civil war got a single entry: "1994 - (4/18) RPA shelled the RTLM station in Rwanda". Host Noheli Hitimana lost a leg in that bombing. But there is so much more to be said about that one bullet point. To quote Judge Navanethem Pillay:
“You were fully aware of the power of words, and you used the radio – the medium of communication with the widest public reach – to disseminate hatred and violence….Without a firearm, machete or any physical weapon, you caused the death of thousands of innocent civilians.”
The BBC once described the genocide in Rwanda as "100 days of slaughter." But it is true that 800,000 people were killed over a period of just 100 days in 1994. It you are trying to imagine the scope of the tragedy, that's almost 15% of the entire population.  The population curve tells the story: Over a million Rwandans fled to the neighboring countries of Tanzania, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, at the time called Zaire. About 600,000 returned by 1995. Another 1.7 million remained in refugee camps until at least 1996. Many died of cholera. More here.

In any country it takes a lot to pit one population violently against another. There were many factors and many different agitators and the obvious legacy colonial reasons. But in every account I've read, the name of one radio station appears repeatedly: Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). It broadcast from July 8, 1993 to July 31, 1994 or 358 days, just over 1 year. But understanding how it was so effective at inciting so much violence requires a bit of context.

I'll step out of media studies here to point out a key historical cause. Belgian forces took control of Rwanda and Burundi from Germany in 1916. They were much more hands-on colonialist than Germany had been. Though both the Germans and the Belgians were big on Tutsi supremacy, and emphasized that the Hutu and Tutsi different races. In 1935, Belgium introduced identity cards labeling residents as either Tutsi, Hutu, Twa or Naturalized. Prior to that it had been possible for individuals to become honorary Tutsi.  Identity cards effectively ended social mobility for the non-Tutsi.
It's also important to grasp how little radio was in Rwanda even in the 1990s. Starting 1963 (possibly 1965) Germany funded the construction of Radio-diffusion de la Republique Rwandaise a.k.a. Radio Kigali and leased the land. They also gave Rwanda major assistance in setting up it's own 50 kW short-wave service which opened with three studios in 1968 as Radio Rwanda. (This was a trade for the right to build their own Deutche Welle station at Kigali.) 

Note: Some sources also cite a 1961 founding date. I suspect that's actually the founding of the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA).  In his book Broadcasting in Africa, Sydney W. Head wrote that in 1974 that Kigali was still the only domestic service in Rwanda. Even then the station only broadcast 94 hours a week in a mix of French, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili. Regardless, The Kigali lease expired in 2016 and the German government returned even the Deutche Welle station to the Rwandan government in a small ceremony [LINK].

Radio Muhabura was created in 1991 and broadcast from Uganda, but it covered all but the southern end of Rwanda. It promoted armed resistance against the "extremist" Rwandan government and promoted resistance against "Hutu power" and opposed the Habyarimana government. It's reach was significantly undermined by broadcasting solely in English. 93% of Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda and about 6% speak French, and less than 10% spoke English. (This changed much after 2008) More here.
Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines began broadcasting in July of 1993. The DJs spoke in Kinyarwanda and played pop music 24/7. It was designed for mass appeal and it found a large and young demographic.  It developed an audience of young Rwandans, who later made up the bulk of the Interahamwe militia. But when planning for RTLM began in 1992 by Hutu hard-liners, it was to be only the third domestic service in Rwanda. So with Radio Muhabura unintelligible, and Radio Rwanda spouting unappealing MOR programming they didn't have to try too hard  to win listeners. At the time, their claim was that Radio Rwanda was too non-partisan despite the growing popularity of Rwandan Patriotic Front's (RPF) and Radio Muhabura. But even then, Radio Rwanda was still the only national domestic station. More here.

The station was allegedly funded by Felicien Kabuga. [Kabuga is still at large] The ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) coordinated fundraisers with RTLM. But the RTLM wasn't just right-wing, it was completely radicalized. RTLM even railed against the peace talks between the RPF and President Juvenal Habyarimana.  RTLM existed to incite hatred between ethnic groups. Radio hosts referred to the Tutsi people as inyenzi (cockroaches) or as inzoka, (snakes.) Ironically the Rwandan government had committed themselves to a ban against "harmful radio propaganda" in the UN's March 1993 joint communique in Dar es Salaam.

But the programming on RTLM wasn't just rabid racist ranting. The RTLM maintained a thin facade of civility, and substance even airing vile propaganda; a strategy employed by many far right news sources like Afd, FPO-TV, Zur Zeit and Fox News. You can read some transcripts here. Though it was bombed in April of 1994, engineer Joseph Serugendo salvaged equipment and relocated the station to the top of Mount Muhe close to Gisenyi.  There it continued to broadcast through the end of July. More here. Below I list off some prominent staff (management, engineers and hosts) and their current status:

  • Ferdinand Nahimana - 30 years in prison
  • Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza - Died in 2010
  • Gaspard Gahigi - 12 years in prison
  • Phocas Habimana - Assumed dead
  • Ferdinand Nahimana - Life in prison
  • Joseph Serugendo - Died 2006
  • Ananie Nkurunziza - Still At large
  • Georges Ruggiu - 12 years in prison (early release 2009) 
  • Felicien Kabuga - Still At large
  • Valerie Bemeriki - Life in prison
  • Noheli Hitimana - Died 2002
  • Hassan Ngeze - 35 years in prison

There are numerous books about this event. Allan Thompson wrote two actually, titled The Media and the Rwanda Genocide, and Media and Mass Atrocity it's well worth the effort to read more if you made it this far. Thompson gets into the area of media accountability in that vast gray area we live in between censorship and propaganda. Ulrich B. Neumann wrote one on a similar topic but more focused on the aftermath, with a bit more lengthy title Media and Reconciliation: Rwanda's Reconciliation Process and the Potential of Post-Conflict Journalism. The book Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide by Linda Melvern is particularly detailed about the funding of RTLM. There is a lesson here about the power of media. Rather then be ineloquent, I'll quote Judge Navanethem Pillay again:

"We are now are now experiencing the whispers of hate speech in South Africa, it is very important to know that at the highest level, it was declared a crime if it mounts to [incitement]. So, I am recounting these experiences... because I want to inspire you to be resilient and to work hard and to serve the greater good because nothing can be more gratifying than that."

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Telegraph Code Book Cipher Sale!

Yes I am clearing out the archive again!

A century ago, telegraph or cable codes (aka Commercial Codes) were a method for reducing telegraph costs (they charged per word) and increasing what we now call data security. Technically they were non-secret codes, resolving to commercially available books. But many books wee private and as indecipherable as any OTP. At it's peak there must have been more than a hundred unique codes in use. You can see my current list here. Or buy books below!

The Adams Cable Codex (1896) LINK 

Telegraphic Cipher Code (1921) LINK   SOLD!

Jones & Laughlins Limited Private Telegraph Code (1901) LINK  SOLD!

  The Lumberman's Standard Telegraph Code (1896) LINK  SOLD!

The Standard Cipher Code of the American Railway (1906) LINK SOLD!

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Baltic Chain and Radio

Today Hong Kong is trying to "unshackle" itself from China. On August 23rd in 2019 supporters of their pro-democracy movement linked hands across the island, creating human chains on both sides of the city's harbor that they stretched for almost 25 miles.

These protests were inspired a a similar, but much larger historic protest, in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. On Aug. 23, 1989 approximately two million people joined hands forming a chain 419 miles long. (some estimates say 1.5 M) It stretched from Tallinn in Estonia, through the Latvia capital Riga, to Vilnius in Lithuania.

The protest was referred to as the "Baltic Chain" or the "Baltic Way" or even the "Chain of Freedom."  The Soviets called it "nationalist hysteria" driven by "extremist elements" promoting anti-socialist and anti-soviet agendas. Were outsiders were exploiting nationalism with the goal of independence? Well that last bit turned out to be true.

Coordinating two million people is no small feat. They disseminated information through regional organizations like the Latvian Popular Front, the Reform Movement of Lithuania, and the Popular Front of Estonia and via clandestine broadcast services, like Radio Free Europe, VOA and the BBC despite Soviet jamming efforts.

President Gerald Ford strongly supported funding for Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe in speeches in 1974. These broadcasts were elevated to a new status in November of 1983 when they were incorporated into a separate Baltic radio division called the Baltic States Service of Radio Liberty. For more on that please read Jonathan Conde's 2018 masters thesis [LINK].

The Baltics had largely industrialized Post-WWII under the Soviets. They post 1968 moved directly into commercialism. In 1967 the Estonia Stereo was developed at Tallinn Radio-Electronics. It was the first stereophonic radio set in the whole USSR, [model Estonia-005] and it was manufactured at the Red RET plant in Tallinn between 1969 and 1973.  Between 1971 and 1972 car sales in Estonia quintupled. But the media was still strictly controlled, and the internet was decades away.  As Peeter Vihalemm wrote in his paper Media Use in Estonia, "During the period of glasnost, when the multi-party system did not yet exist and the underground centers were weak, the media was the main mechanism of mass mobilization " [LINK].

The Book Estonia Life Stories by by Tiina Kirss and Rutt Hinrikus gives the story of Asta Luksepp. 
"Before leaving I stopped by at home and adjusted the radio to the right wavelegnth for my mother.  We gathered at the market square in Elva... Our assigned place in the chain was between Nuia and Viljandi. We kept driving toward Latvia until it was 7 o'clock. We stopped the buses and joined other folks from Vorumaa. There were so many people that we could not fit in one line, so we formed parallel chains. We were all moved to tears. We had radios along, and thus could follow the orders coming from Tallinn."
So what radio stations broadcast the signals and the events? According to Peeter Vihalemm, most of them.  "...the two-million-person demonstration “Baltic chain”, organised on 23 August 1989, the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, was not only directly broadcast on all radio and TV channels in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but it was also organised and managed with the assistance of the media."  The weakness of the Soviets in this moment and the popularity of the independence movement is hard to overstate. The Estonians, Lithuanians, and Latvians expected reprisals and for the most part... they did not come, not that day anyway.

The reprisals came when Estonia made the big move for independence and started printing up their own Estonian Passports, then declared independence on August 20th 1991. Moscow sent in the tanks.  Thousands of citizens the Tallinn radio and TV tower to prevent it's use for Soviet propaganda. Radio operators jammed the elevator and threatened to turn on the oxygen-removing fire-suppression system on the soldiers. Bullet holes dating from the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 are still visible at the base of the tower.

While the people of Hong Hong fight their own fight, in Lithuania they commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way with a radio art installation. It was conceived of by two young artists, Viaceslavas Mickevicius and Ieva Makauskaite who worked with Lithuanian national broadcaster LRT.
The radio installation, entitled "One Wave" is made up of more than 2,000 old radios that will play a trilingual song known to be the anthem of the Baltic Way entitled "The Baltics are waking up". According to EuroNews, Mickevicius, who was 5 years old in 1989, wondered how they managed to organise the protest. "It appeared that the main role was played by the radio. Special radio broadcasts helped to coordinate the rally," said Viaceslavas Mickevicius, one of the two artists.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Case of the Mysterious Cardigan Radio Script

I recently found a small trove of 1970s radio scripts. But in that pile are some anachronisms. OTR, Digital Deli, and Radio Echos each list most of the known episodes of General Mills Radio Adventure Theater.  Many post the audio. You can refer to that material HEREHEREHERE and HERE. This script purports to be from that series but it is included in no known list; not by author, and not by name and the introductory text is unique compared to all the episodes I can find.

You can easily find the original script's source material. It's the tale of a swashbuckling young American colonialist named Michael Cardigan. He was the eponymous subject of Cardigan, a young adult novel written by Robert W. Chambers published in 1901. You can read those details HERE. Some of his work was serialized in magazines but I don't think this one was. Chambers wrote mostly in the romance and science fiction genres and list one clearly belongs to the former.

The script itself is 40 pages long and bears all the stains and yellow oxidation you'd expect from a 40-year-old typewritten manuscript. The stables and paperclips have rusted which is also consistent with it's vintage. Consistently with other episodes, Tom Bosley acts as host and it would be produced by Himan Brown. The introductory paragraph is structured similarly to that of other known episodes and like those, the text varies slightly to account for the individual story, and it's historical context. If you don't know the gravelly tone of Tom Bosley the radio voice actor, you do probably know him for playing Howard Cunningham on the 1970s ABC sitcom "Happy Days" from 1974 to 1984.

But let's get back to Roberts W. Chambers work. More than a few of his works were converted into radio dramas. Another of his books, The Cambric Mask, published in 1899, was re-worked into the episode "Turning to Marble" in the South African radio horror anthology series Beyond Midnight. It aired September 26th 1969 on the SABC station Springbok Radio.

More impressively, his 1906 collection of short stories Tracer of Lost Persons was transformed into series titled "Mr Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons" which aired on NBC Blue then CBS. It ran from October 1937 to April of 1955. The show ran long enough that the protagonist Mr Keen was voiced by three different actors: Bennett Kilpack, Arthur Hughes and Phil Clarke. As far as I know Mr. Keen's sidekick Mike Clancy was always voiced by Jim Kelly for all 726 episodes. The incredibly long-lived series Episode Log was canonized as the book Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons: A Complete History and Episode Log in 2004 by Jim Cox. In 2003 that lineage had also begat a 3-issue miniseries comic book of the same name by Lee Ferguson and Justin Gray. More here.

Chambers full bibliography is 80+ books deep. Some were compilations of his short stories published in magazines such as McCalls or Cosmopolitan but that number speaks volumes to his prolificacy. But in that context Cardigan wasn't particularly notable. It was just one of his four books set around New York state: Cardigan, The Maid-At-Arms, The Hidden Children, and The Reckoning: which are sometimes referred to collectively as "The Cardigan series".  These are historical romances all set during the war of Independence, and do share a few characters. But so far as I know, none of the others became radio dramas. But it's further supporting evidence that any other works by Chambers have been used in radio dramas. It would be anachronistic if Chambers was a total unknown with a small body of unremarkable work, with no other radio texts.

Robert W. Chambers is better remembered today for his contributions to science fiction, in particular a book of short stories entitled The King in Yellow published in 1895. In the 2019 Big Book of Short Stories some of his works were reprinted but comically editor August Nemo referred to The Yellow King as "Art Nouveau." (It's not but the font on the cover arguably was.) But it is a classic in the field of the supernatural, and was influential for early sci-fi writers like H.P. Lovescraft. For that we give our thanks. I have uploaded this script to You can download it for free...

Monday, August 12, 2019

Bird Notes from WHRO

I get up early sometimes for travel and I happened to catch a little 5-minute program on a Sunday morning called Bird Notes. It's a mellow short-form program with a tempo that reminds me of Bob Ross (in a good way). Long segments of the program are comprised of example bird sounds, so it has a very natural spot in the early morning. But for his avian-appreciating ways, he was listed by Elkhart country parks [HERE] as a suggested podcast.

When not in the radio studio, Dwight Davis likes to go afield with his binoculars and watch birds. "Birdnotes" is a result of his long-time interest in birds, a short feature that can be about almost any aspect of bird life, from migration to coloration to birds in art to song. In many ways he is a birder turned DJ, not a DJ who took up birding. His biography on is pretty short:

Dwight Davis has been working in classical music radio since 1973. A graduate of Norview High School and Elon College, he served in the Army, then taught science, until an opening appeared at WGH-FM. With no radio experience, he was, by his own admission, not a particularly good announcer. But his love and knowledge of music held him in good stead. He came to WHRO-FM in 1983, and is the Host of Morning Classics.Though by nature not a morning person, Dwight has been a morning host for most of his radio career. In addition to his "Morning Classics" and the Sunday afternoon "From the Parlor" programs, his "Bird Notes" feature on Sunday mornings has an enthusiastic following.
Despite his educational background Dwight managed to get into a email spat with Karen Davis (no relation) of the website United Poultry Concerns. This is exactly as funny as it sounds and yes you should read about it [here]. Dwight off-handedly disparaged the intelligence of turkeys and Karen, being a completely different kind of birder, took umbrage and felt the need to defend her feathered friends.

Davis is a Program Director at 90.3 WHRO where he also hosts Morning Classics, a mix of bright classical music with breaks for news traffic and weather. IT starts at the staggeringly early 5:00 AM slot running util 9:00 AM. He also hosts From The Parlor, which airs every Sunday at 3 PM with a smooth and slow blend of Pre-WWI popular music, opera, and the odd polka. It's possibly the only program mellower than birdnotes. That's also well-described on the WHRO site:

Dwight Davis takes us back to a more genteel time, when music was made in the home. Enjoy songs that were sung around the piano after dinner, works played on the old upright in the parlor, and great singers from the past. Pour a cup of tea, settle into the horsehair sofa and enjoy an hour of music from times gone by