My early memories of radio programming are of listening to weekend edition on NPR as I rode to church with my family on Sunday mornings. Playing the puzzle was a weekly family event. These days I drive to church with my own sons. Sometimes I play the puzzle but often tune into the community supported jazz station, KUVO, to listen to Jack Mudry’s show La Nueva Voz, which is on from eight to nine. I have a strange love-love-hate relationship with the show. I love the music and I love to hate the politics.
The music is folkloric tunes from Latin America; cumbias, guarachas, and many other genres spawned from the fusion of cultures; with catchy rhythms that give a hint of tropical warmth on even the iciest Colorado mornings. The set lists follow a theme, either the music of a certain country or artist, often coinciding with national days of celebration. It’s music that is impossible to find on any other stations, and I am grateful that Mudry has found a place for it on community radio.
The non-musical part of the show is where things really get interesting. Mudry, like many white people who graduated with degrees in Spanish and Political Science, fancies himself a Latin American revolutionary. He conducts his radio show bilingually (his Spanish suffers from the slight stiltedness of the non-native speaker, but is still quite good) and uses it as a format to spread the revolution, smash capitalism, and liberate the working class from bondage.
His biography explains a lot about his perspective. A baby-boomer who finished college in 1972, he studied abroad then came to Denver where he worked “with community and non-profit groups, like the Common Market Food Cooperative, and as a substitute teacher.” He was the Director of the Study Abroad Program for the University of Colorado, Boulder and worked in DC for the Independent Press Agency of Central America, before becoming a court interpreter and getting his show on the radio. As anyone who has known anyone who has studied abroad can tell you, the effects of reverse-culture shock can be destabilizing and long-lasting.
Occasionally the show will feature interviews with Left-wing radicals who are supporting various causes, either pressing for war-crimes prosecution for disliked politicians, yelling about the effect of global warming on indigenous cultures, or demanding the expulsion of foreign investment from the countries that could use it the most.
When not featuring the rants of fellow travelers, Mudry provides his own commentary on current events that he thinks the “corporate media” is either burying or misrepresenting. He is very concerned about anything he believes to be supported by the evil “Republicons” (who are sometimes no worse than the “Dummycrats”) and his opinions on every topic are totally predictable to anyone familiar with Mother Jones, Amy Goodman, and the Occupy crowd. Some of his statements so comically parrot the stereotypical armchair Marxist that they appear to have been lifted from an Onion article. Though his show is not archived, here are a few gems taken directly from his Facebook page as I would not want the reader to think I was exaggerating for comic effect:
“Remember that the military industrial corporate pharmaceutical surveillance state exists to sell you more STUFF, and to intimidate you so you won’t question their motives. This crosses party lines and labels !”
“During the last election the billionaire Koch brothers contributed AT LEAST $400 million to attempt to elect far-right wing Republicons and defeat Democrats. If you think they are doing this to help working families, students and seniors, you are OUT OF YOUR MIND !”
“In the corporate misinformation media, there are a hundred reasons for NOT extending unemployment insurance, but they are ALL bogus !”
(Why he puts a space before his ever-present exclamation point is unclear).
An exhaustive review (believe me, it’s exhausting) of his posts suggests that Mudry has never had an original opinion that diverged even slightly from the pre-approved party line. It would be nice to think that most people who are passionate about politics have thought things through, considered the arguments, and arrived at their particular stance with the recognition that ideology does not solve reality, but it’s hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt when there is no evidence that they have considered the arguments. Take his statement about unemployment insurance. Let’s unpack this. He states that ALL (emphasis in the original) reasons for not extending unemployment benefits are bogus. Well, one reason might be saving money. I think people can agree that saving money is a good reason to do things. Often the reasons for doing something outweigh the benefits of saving money, but saving money itself is not “bogus.” Some studies say unemployment benefits prolong the job search and that cutting them would motivate people to find work sooner. Again, motivating people to work is not “bogus,” but it might be outweighed by other factors. The only valid way to make the point is to make the argument.
Though he often goes off on typical lefty topics, where he really out-shines other liberal media types is in his defense of Marxist strongmen. While pretending not to be explicitly supportive of terrorist organizations like FARC or the Zapatistas, he is consistently defending their causes and insisting that they are being demonized and that the full story is not being told. He especially loathes American ally Álvaro Uribe who almost single-handedly wrested Colombia off the brink of disaster and reduced crime and violence to previously unthinkable levels.
Last week, Mudry addressed the growing unrest in Venezuela where a popular movement is in revolt against government mismanagement which has created shortages of basic supplies and turned over state security to the once hated Cubans. Instead of siding with “la gente” he insinuated that the protesters had illegitimate motives and opined that Maduro was democratically elected and thus the country just had to live with him. It doesn’t seem to bother Mudry that Maduro has jailed opposition leaders and continued Chavez’s policy of permitting only state run media to operate within the country. But why would it? David Mamet nailed it in his book The Secret Knowledge when he wrote:
If Fidel Castro and Che Guevara rob a few banks, and shoot a few landowners, they may or may not be considered criminals, but if they put up a flag, and proclaim a new Government, and remember to characterize this Government as ‘For the Workers,’ they become, in the assessment of the Left, immediately worthy of respect. This hides the deep-seated wish of the Left for the existence of a wise and all-powerful State, a State which will Take Care of the individual, saving him from worries not only about health care, but about every other choice in his life.
Mudry always adds a disclaimer to his political rants, saying that, “of course, the views expressed on this program are those of the host and not of the station or its sponsors.” This is true to a certain extent. Mudry would likely be the first to agree that the fact KUVO allows him to inject divisive political discussion into his program suggests a degree of tolerance which is not universal among radio broadcasters. It is great that KUVO does. Unlike Maduro, the racial grievance lobby, the gay rights crusaders, and the global warming cultists, who think speech with which they disagree should be banned, true believers in freedom think all viewpoints (no matter how inflammatory) should have some outlet (no matter how obscure) to maintain the free exchange of ideas that is vital to a free society. Free market ideology embraces not only free markets of goods and services, but also free markets of ideas. Even the most wacko conspiracy theorists offer some benefit to an open society. As Jonah Goldberg put it: “[w]hen I see hipsters wearing Mao hats or Lenin T-shirts, I’m grateful. It’s like truth-in-labeling. For now I know you are: Woefully ignorant, morally stunted, purposively asinine, or all three.”
The same goes for baby-boomers who are still trying to impress their Latin-American studies teachers: at least we know where you stand.