Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Look Back: "Subversity" Goes Viral

Rightwing video seeks to tie Obama to Ayers with audio from KUCI's Subversity show.

Anarchism and anarchists are convenient scapegoats in mainstream politics.

Just recently, when the Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackhaukus charged the Irvine 11 Muslim students and former students with conspiring to disrupt Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s 2010 UCI talk, he invoked the specter of anarchy: “We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy,” he proclaimed, giving credence to the widespread belief among activists on campus that he was on a political crusade.

Thus it is no surprise that it was because of the "A" word, back in 2008, when "Subversity" , the KUCI show I host that has often featured controversial speakers, inadvertently got swept up in the presidential race.

On 6 October 2008, knowing it would be newsworthy, I re-aired Subversity interview, originally conducted 12 April, 2002, with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers - who had in 2002 written a biography Fugitive Days, about his life.

Turns out Barack Obama lived in the same Chicago neighborhood as Ayers and had served on a committee with him at a community-based organization after Ayers surfaced. When she discovered that, Sarah Palin, whom Obama's Republican opponent in the race, John McCain, had picked as his Vice Presidential running mate, accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists". As the AP noted in a story then (4 October 2008), this was Palin's attempt at stepping up her campaign's effort to paint Obama as "unacceptable to American voters".

Within days of the re-airing, the right wing media went ballistic, with someone creating a video incorporating audio from that 2002 Subversity interview. That video, subsequently posted on YouTube, assailed Ayers' statement on Subversity: “I mean I am as much an anarchist as I am a Marxist.”

The video even credited me as a source of the audio clip just as Obama's image appeared on screen - - while calling KUCI college radio from the "University of Irvine.” By Election Day, some 80,000 viewers had clicked on the video clip, and Ayers' 2002 interview comments were covered on conservative and such rightwing media as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly Factor, National Review Online.

"Amazing Audio Uncovered from Same Week Obama Worked with him! Extremist Ayers Obama Views Matched Almost Word for Word!" proclaimed the Naked Emperor News, which posted the video on YouTube on 19 October 2008. And Bill O'Reilly boasted: "New Information about Ayers and His Association with Obama" (22 October 2008).

Luckily for Obama, the smear campaign failed. As a counter-point, OC Weekly that same week in October named KUCI Orange County’s "Best Radio Station," while mentioning Subversity as one of KUCI's "long-running programs." [The show first aired in Fall, 1993.]

As for Ayers, whom I interviewed 15 December 2008 after the elections, on educational reform, he laughed at the attempt to portray Obama as an anarchist.

But these days, I wonder whether some other old interview on KUCI might surface in a future political campaign. By the way, the video using the Subversity audio - -without permission I might add -- has now been seen by at least 104,357 viewers, some 24,000 since the 2008 election.

- Daniel C. Tsang, Subversity show host.

Notes: Links to articles mentioned are at the Subversity section [scroll down that page] of the KUCI Full-Text Archive. This essay first appeared in a slightly different form in the current, print KUCI 88.9 fm program guide released earlier this month (February 2011).

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