???? ARMED FORCES RADIO AND VOICE OF AMERICA RADIO: “WE ARE YOUR RADIO STATION, NOT YOUR ROLE MODEL!” —-????
By Kevin Stoda, Kuwait
In Kuwait, we receive a wide range of FM radio stations. Many of these are provided thanks to the American-, British-, French-, and Kuwaiti governments. The easiest one of the English language radio stations to find on the radio dial when traveling throughout the country is the VOA (Voice of America Radio). Next in line in terms of reception quality is the BBC. These two stations can be received in car or home most anywhere in the country.
This past year VOA has been using a peculiar radio station identification several times a day—used especially during its music programming. The station ID goes like this: “We are your radio station, NOT YOUR ROLE MODEL.”
NOT OUR ROLE MODEL, HUH?
The same statement—“not your role model”–might be said or claimed to be true by almost any radio station on the planet—whether we are talking about a government-run radio station or an independent radio sender.
Nonetheless, isn’t it a disingenuous or dishonest to claim that? Isn’t it true that when a radio station is playing a certain sort of
(1) musical text,
(2) musical score,
(3) oral text,
(4) carrying out issues discussions,
(5) promoting certain social or political critique, or
(6) providing any other official or unofficial narration on the public radio airwaves,
That radio station’s emission will be translated or interpreted automatically in many shapes or forms, partially as an attempt (directly or indirectly) to reach or to at least assuage peoples’ hearts and minds?
In short, if a radio station has listeners, a message is shared. A message can influence a listener in numerous ways.
That is, one fact of having or offering a radio station program is: A message is shared, and listeners interpret the meaning of these spoken word, music, tone of voice, dialect, and context.
Any study of media—TV, radio, internet, magazines, play station, and other games—demonstrates that roles of the OTHER are interpreted and absorbed over time by the viewer, reader of game player.
This is true regardless of intended message, e.g. “this is just a game” or “we are not your role models”.
AMERICAN RADIO IS LIVING OUTLOUD
This past New Years Eve as I was heading out of my new flat in Fahaheel Kuwait to a New Years Celebration, I was able to receive a broadcast of the Armed Forces Radio out of Baghdad. As an American citizen and as a teacher & ambassador of improving cross-cultural relations, I did not appreciate the “fun” and music I heard that night.
I should note, that at different times of day & in different locations in Kuwait we can sometimes receive at least two different Armed Forces Radio stations. (I now live closer to one of the larger U.S. military bases in Kuwait, so I have better reception than had been the case.)
That particular evening of December 31 I turned to the Armed Forces Radio out of Baghdad and first heard a series of typical advertisements or public service announcements.
Some of these announcements can be rather boring but common sense things like, “Be careful with what you say!!! Don’t unintentionally pass on information and knowledge. Listeners and inadvertent receivers of information are everywhere.”
Such an announcement ends by telling the American armed forces personnel to remember to destroy documents so as not to allow them to get in others hands, etc.
As a radio listener to Armed Forces Radio, the VOA, or to any radio station program locally that does not have a call-in portion for listeners, I am technically a lurker.
As a lurker, I acquire information without being identified or contributing to the media.
As a lurker (and as a human being) who absorbs cultural information all around me each work day, I am constantly processing data. The display that night of inattention to those “lurkers” receiving reception of Armed Forces Radio that New Years Eve is disconcerting to hear—5 years after the occupation of Iraq began.
LURKING ON ARMED FORCES RADIO IN MIDDLE EAST
Here is a short report of what I observed or listened to on the evening of December 31, 2007 and in the early morning hours on January 1, 2008 emanating from U.S. Armed Forces Radio in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Middle East.
First, early in the evening, two female soldiers were running a discussion program. They were giggling and occasional laughing hysterically about some recent news item or some recent discussion. The discussion had to do with exposure of women’s body parts in public displays.
Admittedly, I did not know the context of what was being discussed or joked about—nor what the name of that particular Armed Forces Radio program was.
However, I was immediately aware, though, that as the female radio personalities said things like this and giggled, they were bound to be misunderstood by thousands of other radio lurkers around the Middle East. These laughing talk radio personalities said things like:
“Women should be able to show their stuff.”
“Women are blessed and ought to be able to do that [without hindrances].”
As I strained to believe what I was hearing on my radio dial, I couldn’t tell whether these two female radio personalities were talking about a particular news item, a particular celebrity, the exploitation of women in magazines, or any particular social concept in general.
However, after reading a short article on YAHOO the day before, I assumed I knew basically the topic.
That is, as a listener or lurker, I assumed that the giggling GIs were talking about the YAHOO news item from the weekend about a woman in the USA who had been outraged when asked by stewards and stewardesses on the plane to hike her skimpy skirt back down as she was in a public plane with other passengers. Apparently, as the woman sat in her seat her tiny skirt was no longer at lap level.
I listened for about 5 to 10 minutes but I was unable to gather what the context was. Nonetheless, I had had enough and switched off the station
As I stopped at a supermarket to buy juices for the New Years celebrations, I shook my head and thought, “When will these Armed Forces radio personalities learn that not only will some Americans not enjoy the pointless jabber and culturally insensitive tone, but certainly Kuwaitis, Iraqis, Indians, Pakistanis and others who are sympathetic to American causes around the globe listening to Armed Forces Radio in Kuwait are going to (1) be more than a bit offended and (2) find the insensitive airing of American laundry to be sadly typically representative of the West?”
In short, a very unintended message is spun here in the Middle East.
Recently, one columnist in the last FRIDAY TIMES–my favorite and Kuwait’s most wide-ranging, liberal, and in depth newspaper—one columnist, Ahmad Al-Khaled had written an article denouncing the usage of songs by 50 Cent being played in the City’s Malls when his children are out with him.
Al-Khaled stated, “In fact, if the government censors were to read some of the lyrics contained in the many songs played so freely in local malls [and if I was to have] written [the text] here on the pages of this publication, the editor of this paper and myself would be in a good deal of legal trouble, (i.e. behind bars).”
I, Kevin Stoda, haven’t lived in the U.S. for about fives years, but Al-Khalid has. He went on to write in his editorial, “In many years of living in the US, I never heard songs with filthy lyrics in public places like malls. It just wasn’t done. Even in the USA, where free speech reigns supreme, there are limits.”
While I doubt that music in American malls in 2008 are as clean as Mr. Al-Khaled claims, I do get the gist of what he is stating. He is saying there is a time and place for every type of music and every type of speech. On the other hand, there are times and places where certain words and music are not appropriate.
Are radio station airwaves any different than the internet, whereby the Australian government is considering implementing some sort of internet censorship to reduce children accessing porn?
After midnight that New Years 2008, I traveled back to Fahaheel City, and during my 30-minut drive decided to lurk again a bit to Armed Forces Radio.
There was a rock concert being aired between public service and GI educational announcements. I believe the music was possibly heavy metal—but may have been an older rock band, like REO Speedwagon of the 1970s..
The recording (or monologue) of the singer-guitarist speaking to the audience that New years morn went like this:
“Is there a Bad Mother F— here?”
“Where is that Cun…?
“What about those tit— she’s got?
I thought of the Bedouins and other local Arabs who spend their holidays and weekends camping in the desert. These are the young men who might be listening to this American Radio station’s demonstration of how to share its own culture and its own free-for-all attitudes about free speech OUTLOUD (on a radio station self-identified as U.S. Armed Forces Radio).
I shuddered, “What are the young people here in the Middle East learning or interpreting of the American laisse faire attitude towards talk and jabbering on air?”
These are easily influenced young men who one day may turn from doing what teenagers out in rural Kansas do, i.e. sit outside at night drinking and smoking under the expansive open sky in some secluded countryside. Next year, they might be influenced by others in or outside their peer- or family group to recant the errors of there ways and become conservative, righteous indignant towards the West. (These Arabs will base their ideas of the West on the music and experiences they shared with their cohorts during those long desert camping trips in the night.)
After working five years in the Gulf countries of the Middle East, I have observed that some of the currently most liberal young people who might be of the cohort group listening to Armed Forces Radio concerts while showing off their snazzy automobiles are just as likely as anyone else to grow up as less liberal and more critical of west as the years.
Does experiencing the Worst from the West have its greatest effect on youth or on older folks?
I believe it is the former.
These same young peoples watch legal- and pirated- American films and soon pretend they know all about THE WEST after viewing those action thrillers and the over-the-top narrations and cuss-language of film and music culture—a cultural world often left unedited by teachers or in-the-know adults (like myself) who might give these youth a more effective means to read and interpret culture from music and film.
PARENTING IN KUWAIT & THE GULF STATES
While I don’t agree with a lot that Hillary Clinton has stood for in recent years, some fifteen years ago she wrote a book, saying “It takes a village [to raise a child].” She was right on. We all need to work together to raise better children and better societies. We must see ourselves as role-models and act accordingly. We must advise, train, talk with and educated children and youth.
For example, reading, social science, and writing teachers such as myself can help young people interpret culture, language, and ways of life more even-handedly and effectively than can a radio station playing in the nigh skies over the Gulf States.
Sadly, effective parenting is too often missing in developing countries, such as those in the Gulf states. The average population here is fairly young compared to U.S., East Asian, and European. The parents have depended too much on government restrictions and not on common sense to teach youth about the rights and wrongs of society.
Another FRIDAY TIMES editorialist bemoans the lack of common sense in Kuwait in terms of both parenting and enforcement of existing laws and codes in a Kuwait that has become a bit more laisse faire economically in the past decade. The authors name is Nawara Fattahova and she claims, “We don’t ban kids from entering any type of movie we show. Even if it was written that the movie is for ages 18 and above, we can only advise them that it’s not suitable for them.”
This is because in Kuwaiti cinemas attempts to mimic the West as much as possible—despite censorship of portions of most any film—they only see fit to advise youth under certain ages not to go into a movie. It is much like American states that advise gamblers not to gamble and to get treatment but simply continue to allow the addicted gamblers to do so.
Laisse Faire economics is not the answer to everything Kuwait?
Isn’t that so America? (Look at the economic mess laisse faire bankers have got you in recently!)
We need to be wise educators. By we, I mean ALL HUMAN BEINGS—not just lifelong educators, such as myself.
Teaching of common sense should be manifested in radio stations, too.
Let’s use our government supported and sponsored radios and media more wisely in 2008!
Radio stations and other media DO PROVIDE ROLE MODELS to all peoples—but especially to younger and more impressionable peoples throughout the globe.
This applies not only to Kuwait and Iraq radio—but to U.S. government sponsored propaganda at home.
If the message is wrong or inappropriate, hold the people in charge responsible—even with loss of job and or jail (if necessary and when false information is criminally liable)
Fattahova, Nawara, “No Age Limit for Kids in Kuwait’s Theaters”, FRIDAY TIMES,
December 28, 2007, p.5.
Al-Khaled, Ahmad, “’PEEP SHOW’ in Kuwait’s Malls”, FRIDAY TIMES,
December 28, 2007, p.5.
Stoda, Kevin, “Discussing the N-Word, the B-Word, the F-Word…”